Football Information

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dotMonday night is a sacred night for U.S. football fans. During football season, they gather around TVs or in stadiums to watch the pros tackle and score.

But sometimes football fans do more than watch. They participate on high school or university teams, or in junior varsity or minor leagues. Sometimes, amateurs just take to their own backyard.

dotIn U.S. football games, there are 11 players per team on the field that play four 15-minute quarters with a half-time break in between. In Canada, there are 12 players per team and they play on a wider and longer field.

Although there are other differences between the two games, the goal is the same: to score a touchdown.

Since football is a game of territory and strategy, each team needs good offensive players to score and good defensive players to protect territory. While the players move, run and tackle, they carry the revered pigskin football with them.

dotThe Super Bowl is the game of all games. It pits two of the nation's best teams against one another. This game takes place each year in January. In Canada, fans brave the cold weather to cheer at the Grey Cup championship every fall.

Although formal games of football are played exclusively on football fields, you can get a group of friends and play in your backyard, in a park or on a quiet street.

Some play flag and touch football, which hurt less than full-blown tackle football. In touch football, the player grabs the other player instead of "tackling" them. In flag football, the opponent must remove the flag from another player's pocket.

dotFootball evolved from the sports of soccer and rugby. The first football game between McGill University and Harvard took the appearance of a rugby game, according to the National Football League.

There are too many football fans to count. For example, the Super Bowl regularly attracts 130 million TV viewers in the U.S. alone.

But there are many players and fans that don't belong to a formal organization. There probably aren't many people in North America who haven't heard of football.

dotBy and large, football is a game played mostly by men. There are no professional women football teams, although females do play on junior varsity teams and in amateur leagues. However, only 33 of the 53,611 amateur tackle players are women.

The majority of women play the non-contact sport, says Robillard-Johnston. She is the coordinator for a football association. Of the 5,000 female members, 3,500 are into non-contact football, 500 are officials or coaches, and 942 are listed as other.

Wayne Chorney is president of the National Capital Amateur Football Association. He says women are not too common in the sport after a certain age. "Both boys and girls play in our league. The tendency is that more girls play at the younger levels than the older levels, as boys become bigger and stronger," he explains.

dotFootball is extremely popular, although Chorney admits hockey and soccer have stolen some attention away from the sport.

Bill Vasko is a coach at an Ohio university. He says football is gaining popularity at the college and professional levels because it's entertaining. "However, it is losing popularity at youth and high school levels because kids have too many alternatives and don't have a level of commitment that is needed," he explains.

dotA good football player is intelligent, fast, strong and "able to develop technical skills that will advance him beyond the physical attributes that he may have," says Chorney.

There are, however, different skills necessary for different positions. For example, quarterbacks must be able to throw well and make good decisions quickly. A defensive lineman needs to be big and strong to stop others from scoring.

dotFootball is no different than other contact sports: injuries happen. Mostly, says Chorney, there are bruises and cuts and scrapes. The more serious injuries are pinched nerves, muscle strains and pulls, dislocations and separations, and broken bones.

To reduce your chances of getting hurt, wear protective equipment. Warm up before the game and become flexible with special exercises. Chorney says proper nutrition is also important.

Jason Clermont says you should be physically fit to play. "We do a lot of weightlifting when we're not playing and keep in shape by participating in other sports," he says. Of course, he highly recommends that you know the basic rules of the game.

Getting Started

dotIf you play on a team, says Clermont, the club or team supplies most of the equipment. The only thing you might need to buy is a mouth guard. However, if you want to give football a try in a nearby park, you will need to buy a football and protective gear, such as a helmet.

In the U.S., a football costs from $20 to $40 and a helmet goes for $50 to $75. Special cleats will cost about $60. Other investments include protective pads and gloves.

In total, Chorney says it costs about $500 to outfit a player. Registration fees for the player can be anywhere from $70 to $175, depending on the age group and financial position of each club.

dotFor those extremely talented in football, millions can be made as a professional player. If you don't have what it takes to make the pro cut, many football lovers go on to coach junior varsity, high school or university teams. Others may work as coordinators and organizers for football associations.

If you are interested in football, Chorney suggests watching a football practice or game first. After that, if you think you want to play, talk to a coach for further advice. Football requires routine and discipline, Chorney says.

Vasko says get involved early. It is a good idea to attend camps or begin practicing at a young age. "It is difficult to start playing in high school with no prior experience because of the skills and physical demands," he says.

Vasko started earlier, but didn't play organized football until junior high. "I was totally unprepared for the speed and contact of the sport."

dotThe first step to playing is to contact your local sports administrator, who can put you in touch with minor football leagues in your area.

Don't get discouraged. Clermont reminds people that even Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team the first time he tried out.


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