Touch football is an alternative to tackle football in which the play ends with the defensive team touching the offensive player running with the ball. Some touch football games require one touch, while others require two touches. Learning how to play touch football is great for family reunions where there are a lot of smaller children, or for guys who are on the wrong side of 30 and whose bodies might not stand up to full-on tackle football anymore.
Touch Football Basics
When playing touch football, you’ll need to come up with the touching rules. One touch makes it much easier to “tackle” the ball carrier, because you only need to stretch out and get one finger on the player. Two touch is a little bit harder, because you’ll have to manuever your body into position to reach out with both hands and touch the opponent. It goes without saying that tackling is illegal in touch football.
Otherwise, the rules of touch football are much the same as tackle football or flag football. You divide the players into two teams. Each team gets possession of the ball an equal number of times. The point of the game is to pass or run the ball beyond a certain point on the field, called the goal line. When crossing the goal line (called a touchdown), you get points and possession of the ball passes to the other team.
Touch Football Field
Picking out a good touch football field is relatively easy. The field doesn’t need to be as large as a standard football field and, in fact, you probably want it much smaller. The back yard or front yard of some houses will work, provided you have a clear area some 25 yards across.
Finding a nearby field is probably a better option, so you won’t be as apt to run into fences, over walkways and into trees. Some people play touch football in the street near their house, if the street is in a residential area and isn’t trafficked often. (I would suggest finding a safer location to play touch football, even accounting for the fact that no one should be falling to the asphalt.)
Remember when picking out a touch football field: avoid fields with big obstructions. People are going to be running full speed and needing to look for the ball, so if you pick a place with lots of obstruction, or one solid obstruction, you’re asking for someone to run full speed into a tree or wall. That’s no fun.
Touch Football Rules
Most of the time, possessions in touch football are a maximum of 4 plays. You can’t get a first down in the game. Teams have four plays to get a touchdown and then possession changes to the other team. If a team scores a touchdown in less than four plays, that scoring teams add to their total score and possession goes to the other team. If the defense gets a fumble recovery or interception at any point, possession changes hands.
Also, teams can choose to punt the ball on their fourth down, if they have been unable to move the ball on their first three plays. This happens much less than it does in organized football, since teams are more likely to move the ball and field position is less important on the shortened fields of touch football. Also, punts are more likely to be returned for touchdowns. Still, if it’s 4th down and you’re 5 feet from your own end zone, teams have the option of punting the ball down the field.
Because there are no goal posts, field goal kicking is almost never allowed in touch football. For the most part, a touchdown counts 1 point and there is no other way to score. For those who like high-scoring games, they might count touchdowns as 7 points, instead.
Touch Football Plays
It was mentioned that teams get four “plays” per possession. A play occurs when one team tries to score by moving the ball past the goal line. A play ends when the ball carrier is touched by an opponent, an incompletion occurs on a pass attempt, the ball carrier runs out of bounds or their is a turnover. Therefore, the offense gets four attempts to restart play, before they must hand the ball to the other side.
Most of the time, teams can choose to run or throw in touch football. Throwing the ball is the generally used method of advancing the ball, since this allows you to isolate players on one part of the field better, as well as throwing the ball over the defenders heads. Running the ball in touch football can be done, but the player running the football has to be fast or evasive, or both. Otherwise, the defenders can hem the ball carrier in.
Often, there are no blockers in touch football, given the lack of manpower. For a game with 5 or less players per side, I would suggest there be one quarterback and the rest fill the role of receivers. If you want to pressure quarterbacks to throw quicker, install a pass rush based on the “One-One-Thousand Rule”.
1-1000, 2-1000, 3-1000
The “One-One-Thousand Rule” lets the defense rush the passer, but only after a certain number of seconds have passed. Seconds are counted off by the defense out loud, by saying “1-1000, 2-1000, 3-1000…” and so on. Generally, a pass rush can occur after either 3 seconds or 5 seconds.
If this rule isn’t in place, the quarterback can simply stand back until the defense gets tired, then deliver the ball to an open receiver.
If you install a “rush the passer” rule, you’ll need to decide whether the quarterback can run with the ball once rushed. That usually is allowed, which makes the quarterback a dangerous scoring option on his own. Having a mobile quarterback might be as important as having a throwing quarterback.
I’ve seen where the quarterback can’t pass the line of scrimmage and rush with the ball in touch football. In this case, the quarterback can scramble to avoid sackers, but he must still throw the ball downfield.
Touch Football With Larger Teams
When using 6-7 or more players per team, you might want to ditch the One-One-Thousand Rule and instead use a more standard form of football, with blockers and pass rushers. In this case, certain players on the offense will “stay in to block”; that is, these players will not cross the line of scrimmage and run a pass receiving route, but instead protect the quarterback while he tries to find a receiver.
At the same time, the defense will devote a certain number of players to rushing the quarterback and forcing him to get rid of the ball. In this case, your worst catchers or receivers will fill the role of linemen, whose main job will be to get in the way of the blockers. In some games, these people must keep their hands behind their backs, to avoid the wrestling and physical play that often characterizes blocking in football.
How To Play Touch Football
That’s are pretty much the standard way to play touch football. Every group of football fans will have slightly different rules, according to the needs of the game. Touch football allows adults to play with kids. Touch football allows men and women to compete (and grope one another). Because the game doesn’t involve tackling, touch football tends to highlight speed, skill and elusiveness over physical strength, though endurance is still a key.
For those reasons, though, learning how to play touch football lets you include more people in your love of gridiron football, which is great for family reunions, cookouts and summer get-togethers.