Football Basic Rules For Kids: A Beginner’s Guide

John Rizzo

Football Basic Rules For Kids

As children grow, their enthusiasm for sports and physical activities often blossoms. One of the most popular and exciting sports they might be drawn to is football. 

American football, with its adrenaline-pumping plays and strategic teamwork, captures the imagination of kids and adults alike. For young players stepping onto the gridiron for the first time, understanding the basic rules is essential to enjoying the game while staying safe. 

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll break down five frequently asked questions about football rules for kids, helping parents, coaches, and young athletes embark on a journey into the world of this captivating sport.

Football Basic Rules For Kids

There are a lot of rules regarding youth and kids’ American Football. The most essential rules for beginners are described below.

Field Dimensions

The field dimensions in kids’ American football are often scaled-down compared to the standard adult game. This adjustment is made to suit the physical capabilities and stamina of young players. 

A smaller field allows for more manageable running distances and encourages more participation. The dimensions might vary, but the objective is to provide a setting where kids can play comfortably and effectively.

Team Size

Unlike the adult version of American football, which features 11 players on each team, kids’ football teams generally have fewer players on the field at a time.

This reduction in team size allows for more playing time for each child and increases the involvement of all team members. 

With fewer players to coordinate, kids can better understand their positions and roles, leading to a more immersive experience and skill development.

Safety Equipment

Safety is a paramount concern in kids’ football. All players are mandated to wear the appropriate safety equipment, which includes helmets, shoulder pads, and other protective gear. 

Ensuring that players are properly equipped minimizes the risk of injuries during the game. Coaches and parents play a crucial role in making sure that the safety equipment fits correctly and is worn consistently.

Blocking and Tackling

To create a safer environment for young players, certain blocking and tackling techniques that involve excessive force or unnecessary risks might be prohibited or restricted. 

Coaches prioritize teaching controlled, safe contact to prevent injuries and promote good sportsmanship. By focusing on proper technique, kids can learn the fundamentals of these aspects of the game while minimizing the chances of accidents.

Kickoffs and Punts

Kickoffs and Punts

In kids’ football, the rules surrounding kickoffs and punts might be adjusted to minimize the potential for high-speed collisions. Kickoffs, which often involve running full speed to tackle the receiving player, might be eliminated or modified. 

Instead, teams might start possessions from a designated yard line. This change reduces the likelihood of injuries while still maintaining the flow of the game.

Running Clock

Running clocks are employed in kids’ football to ensure that the game remains engaging and manageable for young players. Unlike traditional football, where the clock stops after every play, a running clock continues to tick down even during plays. 

This helps keep the pace of the game brisk and prevents prolonged breaks between plays, which can be challenging for younger players to maintain their focus on. 

By maintaining a running clock, kids’ football aims to enhance the overall flow of the game and make it more conducive to the attention spans of young athletes.

No Blitzing or Limited Blitzing

Blitzing, a strategy in which additional defenders rush the quarterback to disrupt the passing play, is often limited or even prohibited in kids’ football. 

This restriction is primarily implemented to prioritize the safety of the young quarterbacks. Since youth players might not have the same level of physical development and skill as adult players, exposing them to intense blitzing situations could lead to injuries. 

By minimizing or eliminating blitzing, kids’ football leagues aim to create an environment where quarterbacks can develop their skills and confidence without unnecessary risk.

Playing Time

In youth football, the emphasis on equal playing time is a crucial aspect of fostering a positive and inclusive experience for all players. Regardless of their skill level or experience, coaches often implement rules that ensure each player gets a fair amount of time on the field. 

This approach helps to build the confidence of less-experienced players, encourages teamwork, and prevents any sense of exclusion. 

By giving every participant an opportunity to contribute, kids’ football promotes a supportive and growth-oriented atmosphere.

No Overtime or Modified Overtime

To prevent games from becoming excessively long and exhausting for young players, kids’ football leagues might modify the overtime rules. This can involve using shorter overtime periods or even declaring a tie after the regulation time has ended. 

The intention is to strike a balance between competitive play and the well-being of the players. Since lengthy overtime periods might lead to fatigue and potentially disrupt the overall experience, these adaptations ensure that the games remain enjoyable and suitable for the players’ age and physical capacities.

Coaching Emphasis

Coaching Emphasis

Coaches in youth football have a distinct emphasis on education and character development. While winning is certainly a goal, it often takes a backseat to impart the fundamental skills of the game, instill values of sportsmanship, and foster a strong sense of teamwork. 

In kids’ football, coaches understand that the primary objective is to nurture a love for the sport and provide players with valuable life skills such as discipline, respect, and perseverance. 

This coaching philosophy encourages players to focus on personal growth, building relationships, and enjoying the process of learning and playing, rather than solely fixating on outcomes.


Scoring remains largely consistent with the standard game. Touchdowns are worth six points. 

After a touchdown, teams have the option to attempt an extra-point kick for an additional point or a two-point conversion attempt, which involves advancing the ball into the end zone again from a short distance. 

This allows kids to experience the excitement of scoring and strategizing on offense.

Field Markings

The field markings might be simplified to help young players grasp positions and boundaries better. Simplified markings could include larger yardage numbers, markers at key points, and visual aids that clearly indicate where players should line up. 

This assists kids in understanding the layout of the field and their respective positions.

No Rushing the Snap

Some kids’ leagues implement a rule that defensive players cannot immediately rush the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. 

This adjustment gives offensive players more time to make plays, reducing the risk of aggressive collisions at the line of scrimmage. This rule encourages a focus on developing offensive skills and tactics.

Position Variety

Youth football often emphasizes player development and learning. As such, kids are encouraged to try different positions on the field. 

This not only helps them understand various roles and responsibilities but also lets them discover where they feel most comfortable and confident. 

It promotes a holistic understanding of the game and can lead to a more well-rounded skillset.

Sportsmanship and Fair Play

Coaches and leagues place a strong emphasis on sportsmanship, fair play, and proper conduct on and off the field. This includes respecting opponents, officials, and teammates, even in the midst of competition. 

Kids are taught the value of playing the game with integrity and treating everyone involved with respect. These lessons extend beyond football and contribute to their personal growth.

Incorporating these modifications and considerations into kids’ American football ensures that young players have a positive and educational experience. 

By focusing on development, safety, and character-building, these rules contribute to a well-rounded introduction to the sport. 

Common Penalties for Violating Basic Football Rule for Kids

Common Penalties for Violating Basic Football Rule for Kids

In kids’ American football, just like in the standard game, penalties are used to enforce rules, maintain fair play, and ensure the safety of the players. 

However, penalties in kids’ football might be adjusted to match the developmental stage and the emphasis on safety and learning. 

Here are some common penalties that can be applied in kids’ American football:


A player crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. The penalty usually results in a loss of yards and a replay of the down.

False Start

An offensive player moves before the snap. This penalty also results in a loss of yards and a replay of the down.


A player uses their hands to hold or obstruct an opponent, whether on offense or defense. This penalty usually results in a loss of yards from the spot of the foul.

Illegal Blocking

This includes illegal blocks in the back or below the waist, which can lead to injury. Penalties often result in a loss of yards.

Pass Interference

A defensive player interferes with a receiver’s ability to catch the ball before it reaches them. This penalty usually results in a significant gain of yards for the offense.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Any behavior that goes against the principles of fair play and sportsmanship, such as taunting, trash-talking, or aggressive behavior, can lead to this penalty. 

Coaches and leagues might stress the importance of sportsmanship more in kids’ football.

Personal Foul

A more severe form of unsportsmanlike conduct includes dangerous actions that can harm opponents or violate the rules’ spirit. Penalties for personal fouls are usually substantial.

Roughing the Passer/Runner

In kids’ football, where safety is a priority, penalties for roughing the passer (hitting the quarterback after the pass) or the runner (tackling too aggressively) might be strictly enforced to protect young players.

Delay of Game

The offense doesn’t snap the ball within a specified time, usually resulting in a loss of yards.

Illegal Formation

The offense lines up in an illegal formation, which could include having too many players in the backfield or not enough players on the line of scrimmage.

Illegal Motion

Offensive players are moving when the ball is snapped, indicating confusion or disorganization.

It’s important to note that the specifics of penalties can vary based on the league or organization running the kids’ football program. In many cases, the emphasis is on teaching and learning rather than strictly enforcing penalties. 

Coaches might use penalties as teachable moments to help kids understand the rules better and make safer choices on the field. The primary goal is to ensure that young players enjoy the game while developing their skills and understanding of sportsmanship.


What are the fundamental rules of football for kids?

Football rules for kids are built upon the core principles of the sport, emphasizing safety and enjoyment. These rules mirror the standard game but may feature modifications like reduced field dimensions, limited blitzing, and running clocks. 

By adjusting these elements, young players can engage in the sport while learning essential skills in a controlled environment.

How is scoring handled in kids’ football?

Scoring in kids’ football closely resembles the standard game. Touchdowns are worth six points, and after a touchdown, teams can choose to kick an extra point or attempt a two-point conversion. 

Field goals also count for three points. This scoring system introduces kids to the thrill of reaching the end zone while encouraging strategic decision-making.

Are there special field markings for kids’ football?

Yes, to help young players grasp the field’s dimensions and positions better, field markings might be simplified. 

Larger yardage numbers, clear markers for key areas, and visual aids are often used to create a more accessible playing environment. These modifications aid in player orientation and understanding the game’s layout.

What is the focus of sportsmanship and fair play in kids’ football?

Sportsmanship and fair play hold significant importance in youth football. Coaches and leagues prioritize teaching kids to respect opponents, officials, and teammates. 

This emphasis on ethical behavior extends beyond the field, imparting valuable life lessons about integrity and cooperation.

How does kids’ football encourage position variety?

Youth football promotes a holistic understanding of the game by encouraging kids to try various positions. This allows them to explore different roles, responsibilities, and skills in the field. 

By experiencing multiple positions, kids develop a broader perspective on the game and can discover where their talents and interests lie.

Wrapping Up

As children take their first steps onto the football field, understanding the basic rules tailored to their age group is essential. The modifications made to accommodate their developmental stage ensure that they can learn, enjoy, and excel in the sport while staying safe. 

By delving into scoring, field markings, sportsmanship, and the benefits of position variety, we’ve shed light on the exciting and enriching journey that kids’ football offers. 

As young athletes embrace the thrill of the game, they’re also absorbing invaluable life lessons that extend far beyond the gridiron.

Have a nice day and best wishes to you.

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John Rizzo

I am a professional rugby player in the Washington DC-Baltimore area. I have been playing rugby for over 10 years and have had the opportunity to play in many different countries. I am also a coach for both youth and adult rugby teams. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. I am currently working on my MPA from American University and plan to pursue this career path after graduating next year. LinkedIn