Prior to the initial kick-off, a coin is tossed to determine which team will kick off first and which goals the teams will defend. The change of teams concludes at halftime. At the start of each half and after a score, play begins with a kick-off. Playing the Ball: Players can move the ball along the field by kicking, carrying, or throwing it. A player can be touched by an opposing player while he has the ball; however, he is not out of bounds until he is hit by a member of the other team. A player can advance the ball by himself or with help from teammates. He may carry the ball or throw it long distances. A player can also score points by plunging his hand into a forward-moving pile of players (called a "pocket"). This is called a "field goal" and requires a direct snap from the center.
After each touchdown, the teams switch ends of the field. If the ball is spotted at the one yard line or closer, the team with it can attempt a field goal. Otherwise, the team needs a conversion for each point after 10. A conversion is defined as any action beyond the requirement of going into the end zone. Examples include running with the ball, passing, or receiving a punt return. A team that fails to convert loses two points instead of one.
There are two ways to win: be the first team to reach seven touchdowns or less or force your opponent into three turnovers (fumbles or interceptions).
Prior to the first kick-off, a coin is tossed to determine which team will kick off first and which goal teams will defend. Flag football has no free kicks; all kicks are made by punting. A fair catch is required when returning a punt.
The American Football Association was founded in 1892. During that time, there were no rules against kicking at the end of a quarter or during extra periods. In 1906, the rule was added prohibiting any player from lifting his foot higher than his shoulder. In 1987, the rule was changed to allow for one knee lift per period. In addition, the rule was modified so that if a player's foot makes contact with the ground before it reaches the opposite end zone, the kick is deemed illegal and can be returned for a touchdown.
In modern football, a team that possesses the ball on its 25-yard line with less than ten minutes left in the game may elect to punt the ball away. This is called "taking a penalty." The opposing team receives the ball at its own 20-yard line and has 10 minutes to score a touchdown or lose by default. Puntting is not an option if the team that does not have the ball scores a touchdown or reaches the 50-yard line.
Players can advance the ball up the field by kicking, carrying, or throwing it. A defender may intercept a pass in the air. If the player in possession of the ball gets his flag withdrawn or is out of bounds, he is declared "down," and the ball is dead. He can either take a penalty or hand off to another player.
There are two types of penalties: automatic and discretionary. Automatic penalties occur when a player is penalized for foul play. These include holding, illegal contact with an opponent, and face masking. The referee determines if a player has committed an illegal contact penalty by pointing to the spot on the field where he believes the violation occurred. Discretionary penalties are those that can be called by the referee at any time during play. These include false starts, late hits, and unsportsmanlike conduct. The referee calls for a free kick by raising his arm while giving a signal with his other hand; then the players line up for the kick.
A game of flag football consists of eight 10-minute periods. At the beginning of each period, the team that isn't kicking off receives the ball and advances it downfield until it loses it by failing to advance it past its own end zone (or safety zone). At this point, they return to their end zone for a new opportunity. They can also elect to punt the ball away from them if they believe it will give their opponents a better chance at scoring.
You can pick up and run with the ball if it falls to the ground during a kick off. The first down begins where the person sprinting with the ball had his or her flag drawn following the kickoff. The team gets three more downs to cross the midfield line. If they do, they will have four more downs to try to score. If they fail, then they will get another chance after the opposing team has had their turn.
The person with the ball does not have to go all the way into the end zone to earn a new possession. If they manage to advance the ball past the 25 yard line, then they will receive another opportunity to score. However, if they go over that line then they lose, even if they manage to return to under the line before time expires.
There are several variations of this game that may be played during flag football season. The most common one is called "Kickoff." In this version, two seven-member teams take the field at the same time. One team goes first, kicking off the ball to the other team, who must catch the ball and return it in order to win. There are no rules regarding how far you must carry the ball in order to gain a new possession; you can run any distance within your own 20-yard line.
However, there is one rule that may cause confusion for new players: You cannot pull the ball down from behind your own goal line and run with it.