HOW TO PLAY FOOTBALL





The various positions and how to select men for them--Team, work and

signals--The rules





Football is usually played in the fall of the year because the

exercise that it involves is so violent that to attempt it at any

other time would probably result in injury to the players. The cool,

frosty days of October and November make baseball out of season, and

such weather is ideal for football.



So much has been said and written about the dangers of football as a

sport that many parents have strong objections to permitting their

sons to play. There is no question that it is a hard game and not

suited to weaklings, but a strong, healthy boy can play football under

proper conditions and with proper training quite as safely as he can

do many other things to which parents raise no objections, such as

wrestling, climbing trees, playing hockey, or even performing

difficult feats of gymnastics or acrobatics in a gymnasium. Every

year there are a number of serious accidents from football, but there

are also injuries from other games, and people are injured who play no

games at all, so it simply is a question whether we are willing to

take the chances of a sprained ankle or broken bone for the love of

one of the best of outdoor sports.



[Illustration: The lineup]



The recent changes in rules have made football a much safer game than

it was in the early nineties, when such plays as the "flying wedge"

and line bucking were practically all there was to the game. To any

one who does not understand football it seems as though it were played

with practically no science and with but few rules. As a matter of

fact a well-coached college team will sometimes have sixty or seventy

separate plays each of which has been carefully practised and which

requires each man on the team to do something to help make the play

successful, while on the other hand each man on the opposing team is

doing his best to cause the play to fail. The result to any one not

understanding the game is simply a confused mass of struggling men and

a final tumble with a pile of legs and arms flying about.



The American game of football called Rugby is a development of the

English game, but the present game is very different from the English

game of soccer or association football, in which kicking predominates

and where a round ball is used instead of the oval-shaped American

football.



Numerous efforts have been made to introduce the game of soccer into

this country, but the long popularity of the American game and the

strong support that has been given to it by the colleges have

prevented soccer from gaining much of a foothold.



Football is played by two opposing teams of eleven men each. The

positions are right and left end, right and left tackle, right and

left guard, centre rush, quarter-back, right and left half-backs and

full-back.



The manner in which they line up is shown in the accompanying

diagram.



0 0 0 0 0 0 0

l.e. l.t. l.g. c. r.g. r.t. r.e.



0

q.



0 0

l.h.-b. r.h.-b.



0

f-b.



The weight and size of the men on a football team largely govern the

positions where they play. The centre rush and the two guards are

usually the heaviest men on the team, as extra weight in the centre of

the line is important to prevent what is called "bucking the centre."

The two tackles should be strong, stocky players, not too tall, but

still with sufficient weight to enable them to keep their feet in a

mass play and to offer strong resistance to a united attack on their

position. They should also be quick and agile and be able to advance

the ball by rushing when called upon. The two ends must be fleet of

foot and quick, sure tacklers. With the constant changes in football

rules the position of end has become more and more important, until

now a team with weak, slow ends is almost like a baseball team with a

poor pitcher.



Many people regard the position of quarter-back as the most important

on the team. He is virtually the field captain. A good quarter-back

must be an all around player of the highest order. He must first of

all have a good head and be able to run off the plays of his team

without confusion. He must keep his head under the most trying

circumstances. He must watch for weak places in the opposing team and

direct the play of his men against them. He must offer encouragement

to his own team and be always on the alert to capture a fumbled ball,

stop a runner who has eluded the tacklers or to catch a punt that may

come within his reach. In nearly all the big college games the

quarter-back is one of the star players. The nature of his many duties

is such that he is forced to be a grand-stand player and to be

conspicuous even though he may not desire to. In running back punts

the quarter-back will often be used because he is sure in catching

them, which is a matter of the greatest importance. And all of this

work is required of a man who is usually the smallest, lightest man on

the team and who alongside of the giant guards and centre sometimes

looks like a pigmy. There is no higher honour in football than to be a

good all around quarter-back.



The half-backs are chosen because of their speed and their ability to

advance the ball and to elude the tackling of the opposing team. They

come in for a very large share of the work and must be boys of

superior strength and agility.



Next to the quarter-back the player of the greatest importance is

full-back. His duty first of all is to attend to the kicking end of

the game. For that reason he must practise constantly both with punts

and drop kicks and be able to put the ball between the goal-posts from

all angles and distances within reason. A great many games are won by

a good drop kicker making a field goal at a critical time, and such a

man is of the highest value to a team. As drop kicking, like pitching

in baseball, comes largely from practice, the captain or manager of a

team should see to it that any member of his team who shows any

ability at all in this department should be given every opportunity

and encouragement to develop his skill. A good drop kicker can be used

temporarily from almost any position in the line, whether he be guard,

tackle or end. As a rule, however, the full-back is the player who

does most of the kicking. He must also be a good line bucker and be

able to gain the required distance when called upon.



In general, then, we choose the three centre men because of their

weight, the tackles and ends for speed and ability in tackling, the

quarter-back for his all around ability and his generalship, the

half-backs because of their skill in rushing the ball, and the

full-back for the kicking department. Any man on the team may be

chosen captain. As his work is largely done in practice and in

perfecting plays, unless a team is in the hands of a coach it is

better not to add the duties of captain to the already overburdened

quarter-back. Otherwise he is the logical and ideal man for the

position.



[Illustration: A football gridiron]



There is no game in which team work is more important than in

football. Eleven boys of moderate ability and comparative light weight

who can execute their plays with skill and precision can beat a team

of heavier boys or superior players who may lack their skill and

organization. In the case of a school team it is almost always

possible to secure the services of a coach from among the graduates.

If such a one has had experience on a college team so much the better.



A football field is 330 feet long by 160 feet wide. At each end are

goal posts set 18 feet 6 inches apart, with a crossbar 10 feet above

the ground. The field is marked off in chalk lines similar to a tennis

court, these lines being 5 yards apart. The centre of the field where

the play starts is 55 yards from either end. It is usually customary

to run lines parallel to the sides of the field, also 5 yards apart,

but as a field is but 160 feet wide the first and last of these lines

are but 5 feet from the side lines instead of 5 yards. The lines on a

football field make a checkerboard effect and have given to the field

the name of "gridiron."



Football is a game where eleven men try to force the ball back of the

opposing players' goal line by various efforts in running with it or

in kicking, while the opposing team meanwhile, by throwing the runner

or by pushing him back, try to prevent any gain being made. Each team

is allowed a certain number of attempts to make a certain distance

and, if they fail to do this the ball becomes the property of the

other team to make a similar attempt. Each of these attempts is called

a "down," and, according to the rules, after three attempts, if the

runners have failed to gain the required distance, the ball is given

to their opponents. In practice it is customary for a team to kick the

ball on its last down and thus to surrender it just as far from its

own goal line as possible. The distance that must be made in three

downs according to the present rules is ten yards. Sometimes a team

will not kick on its last down because the distance remaining to be

gained is so little that the quarter-back feels sure that one of his

men can make it, but this is an exception. When ten or more yards are

gained the ball becomes at first down again and the team has three

more attempts to make another ten yards figured from where the ball

was finally downed.



The ultimate object of "rushing the ball," as this play is called, is

to place it on the ground behind the enemy's goal line, which is

called a "touchdown." Sometimes a team will succeed in getting the

ball almost over the goal line and then because of the superior

resistance of its opponents will find that it can advance it no

further. It is then customary for one of the players who has had

practice in drop kicking to attempt to kick what is called a "goal

from the field" or "field goal." This play counts less than a

touchdown in the score, counting but three points, while a touchdown

counts five, but many a game has been won by a field goal.



Football scores between evenly matched teams who play scientifically

are usually low, one or two scores in a game being all that are made.

It frequently happens that neither side will score, but, unlike

baseball, the game does not continue after the time limit has expired,

but simply becomes a tie game. The game is divided into four periods

of fifteen minutes each. There are resting periods of three minutes

each between the first and second and third and fourth periods, and

fifteen minutes between the second and third periods.



At the beginning of the game the two opposing captains toss up a coin

and the winner of the toss has the choice of goals or of the ball. His

decision will be governed by the position of the sun and the wind

conditions, two very important things in football. After each score

the sides change goals, however; so the choice is not so important

unless the game happens to be scoreless.



At the first play the ball is placed in the centre of the field and

is kicked off, a man on the opposing team trying to catch it and to

run back as far as possible before he is tackled and the ball

"downed." The next lineup takes place at this point and the game

proceeds until a score is made. After each score the ball is put in

play just as at the beginning of the game.



The quarter-back calls out a series of numbers and letters called

"signals" before the ball is put into play. These signals will tell

his team what the play is to be, whether a run around end, a kick, or

a mass play on centre, for example. The matter of thorough coaching in

signals is very important and must be practised by the team until it

can tell in an instant just what the play is to be when the play

starts. The centre stoops low and holds the ball in an upright

position on the ground between his feet. The quarter-back is directly

behind him with outstretched hands ready to receive it. After the

signal is given the team must be ready to execute the play, but must

not by look or motion permit its opponents know what the play is to

be. At a touch or word from the quarter-back, the full-back snaps the

ball back and the play starts.



The position of the men on a team is generally as the diagram shows

but for various plays other formations are used, provided that they

do not violate the rules, which specify just how many men must be in

the lineup and how many are permitted behind the line.



The first requirement of signals is to have them simple. In the heat

and stress of a game the players will have but little time to figure

out what the play is to be, even though it may all have seemed very

simple on paper.



To begin a code of signals each position on the team is given a

letter. The eleven positions will require eleven letters and no two

must be alike. It would be possible of course to simply start with the

letter "a" and go to "k," but this system would be too simple and

easily understood by your opponents. A better way is to take a word

easily remembered in which no letter occurs twice, such as

"B-l-a-c-k-h-o-r-s-e-x" or any other combination. "Buy and trade"

"importance," "formidable," and many others are used. The same

principle is used by tradesmen in putting private price marks on their

goods.



Take the words "buy and trade" for example. Their positions right and

left end, abbreviated (r.e. and l.e.), right and left tackle (r.t. and

l.t.), right and left guard (r.g. and l.g.), centre (c.),

quarter-back (q.), right and left half-backs (r.h. and l.h.), and

full-back (f.b.), would be assigned letters as follows:



l.e. l.t. l.g. c. r.g. r.t. r.e. q. l.h. f.b. r.h.

_B U Y A N D T R A D E_



The letters denote not only players but holes in the line, as the

spaces between the players are called. The quarter-back always adds to

his signal a number of other letters or figures which have no meaning,

simply to confuse the opposing players. For example the signal given

is "24-E-N-72-X." The figures 24 and 72 mean nothing, nor does the

"X." The signal says "E will take the ball and go through N," or right

half-back through right guard. Any number of other plays can be

denoted by letters or numbers, for example all punts by figures which

are a multiple of ten, as 10-20, 150-300, and so on.



The beginner in football should first of all be provided with a

suitable uniform; there is no game in which this is more important.

The game is rough and many and harsh are the jolts we receive;

consequently we must use whatever padding and guards we can to provide

against injury.



The custom is to wear a tight jersey with elbow pads, a tight-fitting

canvas jacket and well-padded canvas khaki or moleskin trousers. The

appearance of our uniform is of little consequence, as football

players are not noted for the beauty of their costumes. Heavy woollen

stockings and football shoes complete the outfit. The shoes are the

most important part of the uniform. They should lace with eyelets and

be well provided with leather cleats to prevent slipping.



[Illustration: Football shoes]



A beginner at football can gain a lot of valuable points by carefully

watching the practice of his team from the side lines. He is then in a

position when called upon to fill a given position which he may be

trying for, without obliging the coach or captain to give him

instruction in many rudiments which he can just as well learn from

observation. He must also be thoroughly familiar with the rules and

their interpretation. A violation of the rules in football carries

with it a severe penalty for the team, provided of course that the

referee sees it, consequently, a beginner must be especially careful

not to permit his anxiety to make a good showing to result in being

offside when the ball is put in play, interfering with a man about to

make a fair catch or in doing many other things which the excitement

of the game may occasion.



The moment of putting the ball into play is called a "scrimmage" and

the scrimmage continues until the ball is downed. A ball is "down"

when the runner is brought to a standstill or when he touches the

ground with any part of his body except his hands or feet. At this

point the referee will blow his whistle and a lineup for a new

scrimmage will take place.



[Illustration: The football uniform]



When the ball is kicked, a member of the opposing team who raises his

hand and stands in one spot is entitled to make a catch without

interference, which if successful gives his team a free kick. In a

free kick his opponents may not come within ten yards of where the

ball was caught and some member of his team may kick either a drop

kick, punt or place kick as he sees fit. After a touchdown, which

counts five, a place kick for goal is attempted. If the ball goes

between the goal-posts and above the crossbar it counts one point

additional for the team making the touchdown, or six in all. A score

of one alone cannot be made in football, as the attempt for goal

cannot be made until after a touchdown. This of course does not apply

to a field goal, which may be attempted at any time while the ball is

in possession of the team and which counts three.



The smallest score is from a "safety," which results when a member of

a team is forced to touch the ball down behind his own goal or is

downed there by the opposing team. This play counts two for his

opponents and is an evidence of weakness of the team. It has the

advantage, however, of permitting the ball to be brought out

twenty-five yards to be put into play.



The rules of football were practically unchanged for a number of

years, but the game developed so many dangerous features that nearly

all the colleges recently agreed to certain important changes

especially directed to abolishing mass play and line bucking. For that

reason the rules for the present game may be changed considerably

within a few years. A boy taking up football should therefore

acquaint himself with the latest rules governing the sport.



Football requires careful training, but the best training will come

from actual play itself. In the beginning of the season a period of

ten minutes' hard play is all that a boy should be called upon to do,

unless he is in excellent physical shape. After that the time of

practice should be lengthened until a candidate can go through a game

of two full halves without being exhausted. One reason for many

football injuries is that the players become so completely winded that

the ordinary power of resistance is lost.



Besides actual play the best training is in taking long runs to

improve the wind, one of the most essential things in football. In the

colleges training for nearly all athletic events is done in this way

and a candidate who cannot go out with his squad and run four or five

miles at a stiff dog trot will have but little chance of making his

team.





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