How to Play Flag Football

Flag Football vs. Touch Football 

Flag football is an excellent way to enjoy the game of football while minimizing the risk of injury.  The rules of flag football are very similar to football, with the main difference being that players must remove a flag from the belt of the ball carrier, which is known as deflagging, instead knocking the player down with a tackle.  In this article, I’ll examine some of the finer points of how to play flag football as well as outline the differences between flag and tackle football.  

When teaching how to play flag football, begin by sitting all players down and asking what they already know about the game.  Correct them lightly when wrong, and encourage all players to contribute something to the discussion.  Once players have exhausted their knowledge of the game, it’s time to review the rules.  

One thing to keep in mind with regards to how to play flag football is that there is no one definitive set of rules, since the game has many incarnations.  Use the following as general guidelines only and make sure to check with the sanctioning body in your region for their official rules.  

The Rules and Regulations  How to Play Flag Football

Flag football is played on a field that is 80 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide, with two 10-yard end zones on either end of the field.  Each end zone contains a metal goal post with two upright posts 23 feet apart.  In some cases, the field is marked with white paint in 20 yard intervals.  The four corners of the field are marked by orange plastic cones.    

Players on each team must wear standard football jerseys without padding.  Players’ shoes cannot contain cleats or spikes.  Each player must wear a flag belt which holds two flags, one for the left side and one for the right.  Flags cannot be tied to the belt and must be at least 3 inches wide.  

A flag football game lasts 60 minutes, with game play being divided into four fifteen minute quarters.  The game time is kept by an official or coach, and the clock only stops at the end of a quarter, following a touchdown, and when a time-out is called by either team.    

Before the game begins, a coin toss decides which team will be kicking off.  The team that wins the coin toss gains first possession of the ball, and receives the kick off from their opponent.  The third quarter also commences with a kick off, this time by the team with the lower score.  Players switch goals at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters.      

During game play, each team is allowed eight players on the field.  Substitution of players is only permitted during dead ball situation, and any substituted player must remain on the field for the duration of at least one play.    

Deflagging your Opponent 

Once the ball carrier is deflagged by a member of the opposite team, the ball is declared dead.  The play resumes from the location of the ball carrier when the flag was removed.  While tackling is illegal in flag football, blocking is permitted as long as it is between the opponent’s waist and shoulders.  If a ball is fumbled, it remains live and in play for either team to recover and retain possession.      

To earn a first down, a team must gain 20 yards on the field in four downs.  Touchdowns earn a team six points, field goals three, and safeties two.  After a touchdown, a team has the opportunity to earn an additional point, which is awarded for a kick through the goal posts or a completed pass in the end zone.  Two points go to the team that is able to complete a running play that reaches the end zone.  

 Football Drills and Practice Plans

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