power of playLast night I went to an event for a local charity that helps kids participate in sports. The event was a girls-only football clinic, so all the women could learn the game.

A little sexist? Yes. A little accurate? Yes.

I don’t mind watching football on the weekend when it means drinking beer and grilling out. But every single day, when it’s just the TV, the living room, and a football game- I get bored. Especially when I don’t know what’s going on.

girls guide football

The clinic was lead by former NFL and college football players. It was a great idea in theory, but they did a poor job of actually teaching us about the game. I mean, you get a bunch of football players together and what are they gonna do? Play football. Not teach girls.

football game

So here’s my version of football 101, a sad side effect of the TV constantly being tuned to ESPN.

(And though I will never admit it to the husband, a 4 hour game is much more bearable when you know what’s going on.)

football 101

Football 101

Before we start, let’s get one thing clear: football is not like soccer or hockey where the offensive & defensive players of the same team are on the field at the same time.

In football, the team that has possession of the ball (trying to score) has their offense on the field. The other team has their defense on the field and is trying to stop the other team from scoring. To add to the confusion, there’s a whole other set of players called “special teams”- they do stuff like kick field goals and punts.

How to Score

The way to get the most points at one time is to get a touchdown (6 points). A touchdown happens when the scoring team runs the ball into the end zone or catches a pass in the end zone.

After a touchdown, the team has 2 choices: kick the ball between goals posts for an extra point, or line up at the two yard line and run or catch the ball in the end zone.

You can score 3 points by kicking a field goal- an option teams might go for if they don’t think they’ll be able to get the 10 yards in their 4th attempt at a 1st down.

football goal post

(You can also get 2 points by getting a safety, but I don’t think it happens much. It’s when the opponent has the ball and gets tackled in their end zone.)

What’s a Down?

A down is essentially a play. The team with the ball has 4 chances to move the ball 10 yards. (Sounds easy, right? Apparently not so.) Each time a play ends, it’s a down. If they get to 10 yards, they start over with a first down and get another 4 chances to move the ball 10 yards.

When you hear stuff like “3rd and 8” or “2nd and 3”, it means the down they’re on and the number of yards they need to go. (So 3rd down and need yards, or 2nd down and 3 yards.)

On each down, the players line up just like they do at the beginning of the game: offense on one side, defense on the other, and the center snaps the ball to the quarterback. What happens next depends on what play they’ve decided on. (More on positions below.) Where the ball starts is called “the line of scrimmage”.

If the team doesn’t move 10 yards in 4 downs, the other team gets the ball, so on the 4th down, the usually do 1 of 2 things: kick a field goal (if they’re close enough) or punt the ball down the field (so it’s farther from the end zone when the other team gets it.)

The Players

football positions

There’s 11 guys allowed on each team on the field at one time. Here’s some of them:


Center: He’s literally in the center of the offensive line- he starts the play by “hiking” the ball to the quarterback. (You know, the one that bends over with his butt in the air & has the ball on the ground between his legs.) It’s called the “snap”.

Quarterback: If you can only stand to know one player, know this one. He’s the guy that catches the snap from the center. He can either run with the ball, throw it to a player down the field, or pass it to another player. He’s the ringleader- he executes the plays the coach decides, or calls an “audible” if he thinks he needs to change the play on the field.

Offensive guard: The 2 guys that line up on either side of the center.

Offensive tackle: The 2 guys that line up either side of the guards.

Tight end: Plays next to the tackle. (This series of players makes up the “offensive line”).

Wide receivers: Their job is to get open to receive a pass down the field.

Running back: Runs the ball down the field.

Fullback: They run, they block, they receive. They do it all.


Nose guard: Across from the offensive teams center; blocks plays down the center of the field.

Defensive tackle: Linemen that rush the passer.

Defensive ends: Block plays on the outside edges of the defensive line.

Linebacker: Rush the passer, cover receivers, do what needs to be done.

Cornerback: Block the wide receivers.

Safety: The last line of defense. There’s 2: the strong safety is stronger and blocks runs; the free safety is faster and blocks passes.

Special teams

Just know they come out for kicks, punts, extra points, field goals, etc.

That’s enough football for now.

*Disclaimer: Don’t blame me if this is not entirely accurate. It comes purely from osmosis- I can’t help what goes into my brain after endless hours of football on my TV at home. Nobody tell the husband that I know what’s going on- it’ll only encourage him to watch even more. If that’s possible.