Beginners Guide to Flag Football

Beginners Guide to Flag Football

7 Reasons to Play Flag Football: Benefits of Playing Flag Football

For most people around the world, playing Flag football is the closest they’re going to come to playing an all-out game of tackle American Football.

This makes Flag Football widely popular and by far the most accessible version of the game available.

Why? Well, here are a few reasons;

#1: Cheap Equipment and Kit

Flag Football can be played with a set of cones or markers, some flags and a football. If we do a quick search on Amazon you start a game of Flag Football for under $50 using the following equipment;

#2: Smaller Space Requirements

Tackle football requires a large space to not only fit all players on the pitch at the same time with adequate space for health and safety reason but also to allow the game to flow as freely as possible – flag football however is different.

Flag football can be played on fields and pitches much smaller than that of tackle football which as we mentioned before makes the game even more accessible.


#3: You Don’t Need as Many Players

Less Players means less barriers to participation – less barriers means a higher participation rates – but that’s not all.

By needing less players and increasing participation all round – flag football provides an ‘extended’ experience for everyone which prolongs and increases retention in the sport longer.

It’s a perpetual cycle that keeps giving.


#4: Reduced Risk of Injury

This alone, makes the sport extremely accessible for younger players and those with disabilities. It allows players to enjoy the sport whilst simultaneously increasing their confidence levels too.

Restrictions on the game such as; no tackling, low blocking and low contact greatly reduces the risk of players (of any age) picking up an injury.

You can check out a list of sports first aid kits here.


#5: Continued Participation

Simply put flag football offers the chance for both long term players and recreational participants to keep enjoying the sport into later life. This of course has many health benefits as it offers a way to keep fit while still having fun.


#6:  Shorter Games

Shorter games not only means you don’t have to be super-fit to play the sport, but it also means multiple fixtures can be played in a shorter period of time.

Again, this also keeps participation and enjoyment levels high.


#7: Additional Variations in Rules

This is especially useful for participants who may struggle in understanding the rules of tackle football all in one go due to age, disability or the fact that they’re new to the sport.

While most conventions of the game stay the same throughout, some forms of flag football take on different rules to suits the needs of the participants.


7 Ways Flag Football Can Be Played: Beginners ‘Pocket’ Guide to Offensive & Defensive Options


If you’re new to coaching flag football and want to get to grips on some very basic ideas and concepts then this small ‘pocket’ guide should help push you in the right direction.

Flag Football, played up and down the country by millions of participants each year can;

  • Help your players understand the basics rules of the game
  • Introduce them to simple systems of play
  • Simplify positional understanding
  • Teach teamwork
  • Teach good sportsmanship
  • Build confidence through non-contact play

In simple terms, flag football is a non-contact sports, but still needs the same focus, concentration and teamwork skills the full contact game requires.

Flag football is an exciting and fast-paced game that can support the development of your players without damaging their confidence in the process.


Generally flag football is played by fewer players than your average full contact game. Because of this and, the simplification of the game to make it easier to understand, not all positions are used.  At any one time depending on who has the ball the teams can be split into two;

The Offensive Team

The offensive (or attacking) team’s objective is to attempt to move the ball forward to score a touchdown in the opposition’s end zone.

The Defensive Team

The defensive teams objective is to stop the attacking team from scoring by tackling the player with the ball, intercepting passes or causing the other team to fumble or drop the ball.

Now that’s cleared up – here’s a few ways or options each side has when playing football;


By Keeping Possession

By keeping possession of the ball, the opposition team have very little chance scoring. Of course, keeping possession is one thing, being effective in possession is quite another.

If for example the offensive team are on their 4th down usually, to avoid losing possession closer in their own area, they’ll kick the ball into the oppositions half resulting in the possession of the ball being turned over to the other team.

So while keeping possession is of paramount importance in Flag Football (and full contact Football for that matter) being able to progress effectively down the field goes hand in hand.


By Attacking End Zone

Of course, the ultimate goal in flag football is to be able to score a touchdown in the opposition’s end zone.

The way you do this is by setting up your players to attack the opposition’s area through various different strategies or plays. The key to these plays are the Quarterback (or QB)– the lynchpin of the team.

There are of course plenty of ways to gain an advantage on your opponents through clever plays – what’s important here is that all your offensive players know the plays inside out and are able to adapt to match the changing shape of the game.

Creating Space

The skills and quality needed to create space for players to exploit on the football field has seen a sharp increase in recent years.

As interestingly state – ‘the NFL has seen a dramatic rise in the number and quality of skill players who do their damage not just by moving the pile or outrunning defenders, but also by working the flats and soft spots on the football field.’

Again like attacking the opposition end zone, there are numerous ways to create space through plays.


Using Space

Again, as we mentioned above, creating the space is only half the job in the football. Effectively using that to your advantage is what really counts.

The task of attacking space quickly and effectively usually falls on the shoulder of the receivers who tend to be smaller in stature and faster than other players on the team.




Defending Space

If the offensive team is attacking space then the defending team will need to defend that space.

Being able to train and learn defensive plays, read the game quickly, and maybe notice patterns in the oppositions attacking plays will help tremendously in stopping the offensive team attacking your end zone – or worse yet scoring a touchdown.

Defending Your Goal Line

Defending against a relentless and competent offensive can hard – especially if you’re pinned back on your own goal line.

While the space between your opposition and the end zone is much smaller – the offensive team still have a few options.

Again, practising high pressure defensive plays in training will prepare your team when the situation arises in a real game.


Winning the Ball

Something that not only can provide your with touchdown out of nowhere but give your team a huge psychological advantage is the ability to win the ball.

The defensive team can win the ball by tackling the opposition’s players or causing enough contact to make the other player fumble or drop the ball.



In short, while all of the above is essential to actually play flag football, you’ll have probably noticed by now that these options needs to be combined with different systems of play that have been learned, practiced and refined in training.

Different plays will affect these options in different ways.

Participant skill base is also something worth factoring into your training. Having your slowest player out wide isn’t going to do you much good when attacking space quickly – similarly handing the Quarterback role to your worst thrower will probably lose you the game before your players even hit the field!


American Football: What forms does the game take?


American Football comes effectively in many ‘shapes and sizes’;

  • 11 v 11 Padded Football
  • 11 v 11 Unpadded Touch Football
  • 9 v 9 Padded Football
  • 8 v 8 Padded Football
  • 8 v 8 Flag Football
  • 7 v 7 Unpadded Touch Football
  • 5 v 5 Padded Football
  • 5 v 5 Flag Football
  • 3 v 3 Flag Football
  • Wheelchair American Football


Choosing the right form of American Football for the right players is extremely important. Choosing the correct football ‘prescription’ as so to speak will support th development of players properly and will create a smooth learning curve in the process.

For us to be able to get our players to play the game at the correct level, we need to take into consideration things such as;

  • Individual needs of players
  • Space available
  • Time
  • Facilities
  • Previous knowledge of the game

It’s also important to consider;

  • Contact levels allowed in each form
  • Eligibility of linemen
  • Any rules and restrictions involving the Quarterback (i.e: rushing and movement)
  • And scoring rules

Many organisations and leagues around the world tend to use the same foundational rules across all the forms but depending on; country, participant needs, and things such as equipment available, rules and regulations can and do vary.

If you’re ever in any doubt about the rules of the league or organisation your team or players are part of – your best bet in getting some clarity would be going straight to governance of that affiliation.


6 Simple (But Highly Effective) Flag Football Coaching Tips


Use Age Specific Equipment

Using equipment that’s too big, too complicated or just not suited for the age group your coaching make no sense at all. It’ll not only confuse your players (especially younger ones) but it might also cause them to have a negative experience resulting in them giving up before they’ve given the sport a real ‘crack at the whip’.

For younger players, keeping things simple from the onset using the bare minimum such as flags and age specific sized footballs will go a long way to ensuring your young players experience flag football in a positive light.

For players with disabilities, using bright color cones and markers can help tremendously. And for older players you might consider using machines and other more complicated equipment.



Keeping on trend with simplicity, using the S.T.E.P acronym can help you not only structure your training better from the beginning but will also give you a platform to modify your training quickly and easily as you coach.

Here’s what it stands for…

S = Space

What does the space your using look like? Is it big? Small? Can you modify the space to progress or regress the session?

T = Task

Can you modify the task by changing the demands, the rules, direction, activity?


E = Equipment

We went through this above. What equipment can you use? Can you change the target, the size or the level of the equipment? Do you need any equipment at all?


P = People

Can you change who your player’s partners are? Can they work alone? Can they work in smaller or bigger teams? Can you nominate a peer leader for the session?



Break Skills Down into Manageable, Easy to Digest ‘Chunks’

Most skills are made up several smaller movements.

While older players can usually grasp a skill with a good understanding and application on less coaching points, younger players may need to have the skill broke down into smaller ‘chunks’ of information.


Use Games to Inject More Fun into Training

No one likes to do drills all day – especially young players. Keep drills short, precise and to the point then move on to conditioned games that ideally reinforce learning from the drill section of your session.

A Balance of drills and games in your training and session is needed so your players can learn the correct technique whilst also having fun.


Modify Drills and Games Appropriately

Being able to read a group of players takes experience and practice – but it’s an essential skill all coaches should have. If you notice the ‘temperature’ of your session changing and your players are getting bored it might be time to progress the drill to increase the challenge.

Sometimes you don’t have to progress the drill for everyone…

You might notice some of your players are quicker in picking things up than others – that’s the time you might want to progress the drill for those players only.

Learn to Adapt – Quickly…

Another essential skill for Flag Football coaches is the ability to be able to adapt quickly. Change of weather? You’ll need something in the ‘locker’ to keep your players engaged and your training as effective as possible.

Don’t have the equipment you thought you’d have? What’s plan B?

Writing down every possible thing that could go wrong is poor use of time, but through experience and a little bit of forethought you’ll start learning how to adapt under pressure.

Adapting your training at last minutes’ notice can be brought into real game scenarios too – which can develop you as a coach and your players on the field.


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