The Fundamentals of Football


Football is the world’s most popular sport, played by millions of people around the world and watched by more than a billion. It is a game of many moving parts, with 22 players on each team and numerous coaches shouting instructions. All of this pushing and shoving to move a cowhide-covered ball has one aim: to score a touchdown.

Teams get four attempts – called ‘downs’ — to move the ball ten yards up the field. If they do not make it ten yards in that period, the downs reset and they must start again. Depending on the situation, they may opt to kick a field goal (goals are worth two points) or else punt the ball downfield, which ensures that the opposing team gets possession close to their own end zone.

The most important part of any play is the offensive line, a human wall of five men that protects and blocks for the quarterback and ball carriers. They consist of a center who snaps the ball to the quarterback, two guards and two tackles. The quarterback can then either hand off the ball to a running back, throw a pass to a wide receiver or run with it himself. The tight ends are also part of the offensive line, and they block the defense while catching passes.

On defense, there are a number of different positions: strong safety, free safeties and cornerbacks. Strong safeties and free safeties usually play deep, while cornerbacks play further out. The safeties are the last line of defense, and they must defend both the deep pass and the running game.

It is very important to keep focused on your role. With so many players running around and so many coaches giving instruction, it can be easy to lose your way or forget what you are supposed to do. Focusing on your job and believing in the rest of the team will help you perform at a high level.

Most of all, you must remember that football is a cruel game. Unlike cricket, athletics or both codes of rugby, it is rare for the team that plays the best to win. That inversion of reality is what makes it so exciting – that moment of despair at conceding a late equaliser is followed by the joy of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in the blink of an eye, and then seeing those same jaws shut on someone else. It is a strange and beautiful thing, and it has made football the most compelling of all sports to watch.