How to play flag football and make your way to Olympic games
If we are talking about the numbers we can say that only in the USA flag football is played by more than 1 million kids! And solely in Europe, we have around 600 clubs, in Slovenia alone, we have 8 flag football teams. And we hope the number will rise in the next few years.
The best part is: anyone can learn how to play flag football. You don’t need a certain build, skill set or prior experience. It's the most equal sport where boys and girls, men and women can play together on the same field at the same time! The first biggest tournament will be the World cup in Israel, December 2021. 22 teams will be focused on winning the biggest World cup yet! Did we forget to mention that the sport will be at the World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama, in the USA? And it's rapidly coming toward the Olympic games which will be held in 2028 in Los Angeles, the USA!
FLAG FOOTBALL FIELD
Field of play: length 50 yd (45,75 m), additional end zones 10 yd (9,15 m), width 25 yd (22,90 m). Total required space for one field including safety area: 76 yd (69,55 m) x 31 yd (28,40 m). Width of lines: 4 inches (10 cm).
BASIC RULES OF FLAG FOOTBALL:
The quarterback isn’t allowed to run with the ball unless it was handed off first. They can run behind the line of scrimmage, but they can’t gain yardage.
All passes must go forward and be received beyond the line of scrimmage.
Laterals and pitches aren’t allowed—only direct handoffs are permitted.
Centre sneak plays aren’t allowed.
There are no fumbles. Instead, the ball stays in possession of the offence and is spotted where the ball carrier’s feet were when the fumble occurred.
The ball is dead when: the ball carrier’s flag is pulled, the ball carrier steps out of bounds, a touchdown or safety is scored, the ball carrier’s knee hits the ground, or the ball carrier’s flag falls off.
Players can’t obstruct or guard their flags.
For the details flag football rules click here.
Every game starts with a coin toss (there are no kickoffs). The starting team begins on its own 5-yard line and has four downs—essentially four plays—to cross midfield for a first down. If the offence fails to advance after four attempts, to get to the middle or to the endzone that means they turn over the ball to the opposing team, which then starts from its own 5-yard line. Or they can go for a first down, but if they fail, the opposing team takes over possession from the spot of the ball.
Once midfield is crossed, the offence has four downs to score a touchdown. A touchdown is 6 points and safety is 2 points (1-point conversion from the 5-yard line; 2-point conversion from the 10-yard line). Safety occurs when the ball carrier is declared down in their own end zone. This happens when their flag is pulled by a defensive player, their flag falls out, their knee or arm touches the ground, or if a snapped ball lands in the end zone.
When players run with the ball, their feet can’t leave the ground to avoid a defensive player. In other words, players can spin to avoid their opponent, but they can’t leap, jump or dive.
The quarterback can run only if there is a double handoff, which means if the centre is snapping the ball to the receiver who gives the ball to the QB. Only direct handoffs are permitted—there are no laterals or pitches.
Once the ball has been handed off, all defensive players are eligible to rush. And the person who takes the handoff is allowed to throw the ball from behind the line of scrimmage.
So while you’ll see a designated quarterback on the field, several plays actually rely on other teammates to pass the ball. This changes up plays, keeps the defense on their toes, and makes the game even more exciting. And all players who rush the passer must be a minimum of seven yards from the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.
Flag football rules aim to prevent power plays and avoid short-yardage situations, so you’ll find no run zones located 5 yards from each end zone. In this designated area, the offensive team must complete a pass play. Lastly, if an offensive player’s flag is pulled when they’re running with the ball, their feet determine where the ball is spotted, not the flag.
One rule that makes flag football unique (and that much more competitive) is that everyone can receive a pass, including the quarterback, after the ball has been handed off behind the line of scrimmage. This allows coaches to include a variety of flag football plays into their playbooks and helps players develop fundamental offense skills. Plus, it makes the game more engaging. Keep in mind that when making a catch, players must have one foot in bounds, just like tackle.
Flag football rules state that all passes must go forward and be received beyond the line of scrimmage. Shovel passes, which are short passes to forward receivers, are allowed, but also must be received beyond the line of scrimmage. Quarterbacks have a seven-second pass clock to get rid of the ball. And if they don’t, the play is dead and they lose a down.
Additionally, centre sneak play—where the quarterback hands off to the centre as the first handoff of the play—is no longer allowed.
Interceptions are allowed, but look a little different in flag football. They change the possession of the ball at the point of the interception. So if an interception occurs, the play is dead when the offence player pulls the flag on the defender who intercepted the ball. If the defender carries the ball to the end zone of the opponents the result is 6 points. Interceptions are the only change of possession that don’t start on the team’s 5-yards.
RUSHING THE PASSER (or blitzing)
Players who rush the passer must stand at least seven yards off the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped, while players who aren’t rushing the passer may start on the line of scrimmage. The seven-yard rule no longer applies once the ball is handed off—all defenders are allowed to go behind the line of scrimmage at that point. A sack occurs when a defensive player pulls off the quarterback’s flag(s) behind the line of scrimmage. The quarterback, or anyone in possession of the ball, is down when their flag(s) are removed.
FLAG FOOTBALL PLAYS
To set up teams for success, coaches teach a variety of formations, routes and 5 on 5 flag football plays throughout the season. And with every player being eligible to receive a pass, including the quarterback, coaches can get creative and tailor their plays to their team’s strengths—or their opponent’s weaknesses.
Some plays are complex, while others are more basic. Some go for long yardage, while others aim for short gains. In every scenario, these plays determine the flow of the game and teach players the basic fundamentals needed to succeed. In other words, it teaches them how to play flag football.
That’s why we always recommend that coaches start with the basics, helping players establish a strong foundation first, and then mix and match new and more challenging plays as their team gains confidence. More info www.ljubljanafrogs.si