American football is played very similarly to the English game of rugby. While most of the world defines football as what Americans would call soccer, both sports are worlds apart from each other. For purposes of clarity, when we say football in this article, we are referring to American football. Learning how to play American football takes years of training, hard work and practice. However, everyone has to start somewhere, so here are a few of the basic concepts you will need to know if you are going to learn how to play American football.
First, orient yourself with the playing field. Regulation football fields are a hundred yards long and a hundred and sixty feet wide. Midfield is designated at the fifty-yard line, and the field is divided every ten yards from the midfield in both directions. Both teams start on their respective halves of the field, and switch sides every fifteen minutes. At the end of each side of the hundred yards is the end zone. The goal of either team is to bring the football into the end zone as many times as possible so that they can score more points and win the game. This is called making a touchdown. The end zone also includes H-shaped metal posts on either end. These goal posts are used when teams decide that they would rather kick a field goal into the end zone rather than running the ball through it, or if they would like to score extra points after making a touchdown. You cannot bring the ball out of bounds on either side of the field. If this does happen, play will resume from about sixty feet from either sideline.
The game starts with a coin toss to find out which team gets possession of the football. The offensive team is the one carrying the ball, which naturally makes the opposing team the defense. Games are timed at about an hour per game, divided into fifteen-minute quarters. However, due to timeouts and various legal stoppages to the game clock, a typical game will last about three hours. Every first and third quarter, the teams will change which sides of the field they are playing on. Halftime is called thirty minutes into a regulation time, and each team gets a twenty-minute break from the action. Play resumes with the team who initially lost the coin toss as the ones with possession of the football.
The other team will get possession of the ball after every touchdown or field goal. Play is started with a kickoff, wherein the offense will place the ball on a tee on their thirty-five yard line and kick it towards the opposing team. That team's job is to catch the ball and run it as far back as possible. The receiving team can also opt to signal for a fair catch. A fair catch is when the kickoff occurs, and the receiving team tries to catch it. During this time, the player who catches the football cannot advance from his position when he catches the ball, likewise, the opposing team cannot tackle him once he has signaled for a fair catch.