Physical skills needed to play football

A variety of physical skills are needed to play the sport of football. What skills are necessary often depend on what position a player wants to play. The physical skills required to be a wide receiver, for example, differ greatly from those that offensive linemen need.

Strength, speed and agility are all valued on the football field, with other skills coming into play frequently.


The most important physical skill needed for a quarterback of a football team is a strong throwing arm. Quarterbacks need to be able to throw the ball to the receivers with enough speed so that the ball does not remain in the air long enough for defenders to react and intercept the pass. Being able to throw the ball down the field is important in the passing game. A strong arm is vital for the position, and other physical skills such as speed can allow a quarterback to avoid would-be tacklers and gain yards when a play breaks down. Quick feet are also an asset as quarterbacks must go back and set up rapidly to throw the ball; any delay gives onrushing linemen a chance to tackle them. Excellent vision allows a quarterback to scan the field and get rid of the ball to the open man as well as avoid defensive players intent on bringing him down. Strong hands will make it easier for a passer to hold onto the ball and be able to fake passes before releasing the ball downfield.

Running backs

The running back takes a pounding on the football field and needs many physical skills to withstand and avoid such punishment. Speed and agility are requirements. Running backs have to hit a designated hole on running plays so they need to have both quick feet and physical speed to get to that point as the play develops. Most running backs are fast, allowing them to break away from tacklers once they get into the open. Strength is also a plus for a running back as they are called upon in many cases to either block for other backs or to protect the passer from blitzing defensive players. Upper body strength lets a running back shake off a tackler and strong legs can make tacklers bounce off as they run through the line. Like the quarterback, a running back with good vision can make quick decisions as they see the field and the play developing. Fumbles can be caused by defenders ripping at the ball, so a running back must have powerful hands with a strong grip.

Receivers and defensive backs

Receivers need to have a combination of physical skills to be a success. Speed allows them to outrun pursuers and to get open. Quick feet let them make cuts during a pass pattern to lose the defenders covering them. Hand-eye coordination is crucial to be able to catch the ball. Strong hands can be a great weapon for a receiver as he wrestles the ball away from defensive backs. Strength is also helpful when they have to block downfield on running plays and after passes to other men are completed. The defensive backs have to have speed and uncanny quickness as they have to react to what the receivers they are attempting to cover are doing. These players also must tackle ball carriers, so strength in the upper and lower body is also highly valued at this position. Both receivers and defensive backs rely on their leaping ability when the football is in the air as they vie with each other to catch it.


The football players that are on the offensive and defensive lines are always the strongest and heaviest on the entire team. Offensive linemen must be very strong in both the upper and lower body as they block defenders. Quick feet allow them to react to onrushing linemen and to get out on running plays to clear the way for the ball carrier. Defensive linemen must be able to hold off blockers and tackle the runner as well as charge the passer. This needs strength and quickness. Speed at this position gives a player a distinct advantage since offensive linemen are traditionally the slowest players on a football team.


The linebacker is the most athletic defensive player since he must combine speed with strength to get the job done. Linebackers frequently must rush the passer, which makes speed a necessity. Most defences are designed to let the linebacker make a majority of the tackles, so strength is also a must as he sheds blockers and homes in on the football. Linebackers must be able to rapidly read where a play is going, so excellent vision gives them a chance to do so.


A strong kicking leg is the most obvious need of a punter or place kicker. The players that possess the most powerful legs are the ones that kick off, as they need to be able to reach the opposing end zone with a kick so the other team does not get good field position. Punters need to be able to not only kick the ball far but high, so lower body strength and a strong leg will be called upon during the course of a contest. Place kickers need to be both quick and have a strong leg as they must approach the ball in the face of a fierce rush and get enough on a kick to clear the goalposts. Place kickers with a strong arm make a player even more valuable as sometimes a coach will send in a trick play where the kicker fakes a kick and then passes the ball.