Composed of 22 starting offensive and defensive players, football offers a position for just about every type of young athlete, ranging from big and strong to small and fast. This team sport presents an opportunity for every child to contribute his skill and effort to the game. Learning football can be a bit overwhelming for some kids, but with the right coach, explaining the rules and playing the game becomes fun.
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Watch a football game. When it comes to learning football one of the best introductions to the sport for a child is watching a game in person or on television. Children become exposed to the pace and tempo in addition to the roles of some of the most pivotal players on the team, such as quarterbacks, linemen, running backs and kickers.
In addition they also become aware of the physicality of the sport and how athletes behave on the field.
Clarify the objective. Explain that the purpose of the game is to move the ball down the field, in 10-yard increments. Teams score six points every time they reach the end zone (touchdown) and the team with the most points at the end of the fourth quarter wins the game.
Review the basics. Discuss the rules in the simplest terms. Inform kids that a football game consists of four quarters and each quarter lasts 15 minutes. Players get a 20 minute break after the second quarter called halftime.
Discuss first downs. Talk to kids about the four opportunities (or downs) that teams have to advance the ball 10 yards. If their team reaches a first down, they keep possession of the ball and continue advancing until they reach the end zone and score a touchdown or kick a field goal.
If a team falls short of a first down, the other team gets the ball. Usually this happens with a punt or kick on fourth down.
Review the importance of referees. These are the officials that monitor the game and make sure players follow the rules. If the referee believes a player committed a violation he throws a yellow flag in the air and penalises the offending team.
Show kids how to catch and throw a football. Explain how to grip the football when players throw a pass. If kids are a little older, keep their pinky and ring fingers off the laces and place the other two fingers on the laces, about two seams apart. They should bring the throwing arm back and take a step forward as they release the ball. If they are younger, with smaller hands, it's best just to show them how to hold the football securely for a pass.
Demonstrate how to catch a ball by cradling it with your hands and grasping it when someone throws it at you. .
Set parameters. Explain that football is a contact sport and there are proper and illegal ways of making contact. Kids should never tackle someone with the intent to injure them.
Demonstrate how to tackle another player with possession of the ball. Warn them about the dangers of clipping another player in the knees or grabbing their face mask.
Take kids onto a football field. Gather into formation, with offensive players on one side and defence on the other. While in position, explain the job of each player and why the team relies on him.
Explain that members of the offensive line are supposed to protect their quarterback. The quarterback runs the offence and the wide receivers and running backs usually carry the ball forward. The defence’s job is to stop them by tackling the person with the ball.
Run drills. Sometimes it’s better to separate offence and defence in order to work on particulars for each position. Practice throwing drills and running patterns for quarterbacks and wide receivers, while lineman practice blocking and strength training.
Bring teams together for a light scrimmage at the end of practice. For some kids the best way to learn something new is by doing, not reading about it or listening to instructions. As the kids play, explain what each player needs to be doing.
Tips and warnings
- As with any contact sport involving children, injuries do occur. Although kids wear helmets and pads coaches must inform kids and their parents of the risks involved with football, such as ankle sprains or broken arms.
- In addition, coaches must warn kids that unsportsmanlike conduct can physically hurt another player.
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