Flag Football Rules, History, Tips & Equipment

A history of Flag Football, how to play, tips for improvement & necessary equipment

How to Play Flag Football

Flag football is a version of American football, but instead of tackling players to the ground, the defensive team tackles a player by pulling their flag or flag belt. The object of the game is to score touchdowns by advancing the ball up the field by running or throwing the ball, and crossing the end zone line.

Flag Football History

American football has been played since the mid-1800s. The first college game of football occurred between Princeton and Rutgers in 1895. The game of flag football has been around for as nearly as long as tackle football. Flag football was played as a recreational activity for American military personal in the 1940s. Recreational leagues began in the 1940s and 50s. Currently, the sport has a strong amateur following, with several national and international competitions each year. Flag football is popular among college and adult recreational leagues.

Flag Football Rules

There are many different variations of flag football. It can be played by four, five, seven, eight, or nine players to a side. The field size can vary from 120 yards long to 53 1/3 yards wide, to fields that are a third of that size. Games are composed of four 15 minute quarters. However, the time of the quarters may also vary. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

A team scores a touchdown for catching or running with the ball into the end zone. A touchdown is worth six or seven points. Some variations of the game include the option to kick the extra point, or go for two points. On a two point try, a team is given one play to get the ball into the end zone from two to five yards out. The field is split into different zones. The offensive team has four downs (plays), to advance the ball. When a team successfully advances the ball to the next zone they receive four more downs. If a team fails to advance to the next zone after four downs the other team gets possession of the ball. An offensive team can choose to punt after three downs. During a punt, one team kicks the ball to the other team who has the option to run the ball back.

A down begins with one player on the offensive team (the center) hiking the ball to another player on the offensive team called the quarterback. Varying rules require different number of players to line up with the center on the line of scrimmage, and serve as blockers. After the ball is hiked, the quarterback has the option to throw the ball to a receiver, hand the ball off to a running back, or choose to run with the ball. Depending on the rules the defense can go after the quarterback as soon as the ball is hiked, or they have to wait an allotted amount of time. If the defense crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is hiked, or before the allotted time, "off sides" is called, and the offense gains a certain number of yards, and gets to redo the down. The play is over when a player drops a forward pass, has their flagged pulled, runs out of bounds, or scores a touchdown. The referee blows their whistle to signal the play is over.

If a defensive player catches a pass in the air, it is ruled an "interception", and the defensive team gains possession of the ball. Similarly, if the offensive team drops the ball after demonstrating that they have control of it, or pitches the ball backwards and it bounces on the ground, it is ruled a "fumble." If a defensive team recovers a fumble their team gains possession of the football. With an interception or fumble the defense can try to run to the end zone to score a touchdown.

Flag Football Tips

Good flag football players can start, stop, and change directions quickly. Players can work on their agility by running round cones, and jumping rope. Before playing, teams should practice six to eight offensive plays that can be used in the game.

Receivers should work on running routes to create chemistry to the Quarterback.

Flag Football Equipment

Flag football requires each player to have a flag or flag belt, an American football, and cones to designate the end zones. An American football is made of leather, and has a spheroid shape. It is 11 inches long and 22 inches in circumference in the middle. No helmets or shoulder pads are allowed.