Fall Sports 101

Fall is here and cooler temps means fall sport season! Whether your kiddos are diving into these sports this year or if you’re spending more time with your main man that loves sports, we’ve got you covered with the basics. We’re coming at you with an at-a-glance guide to football, ice-hockey, and soccer so you can watch the games as an expert! We hope knowing the basics will make the games even more enjoyable (and maybe impress a fellow parent or that boy you’re crushing on). 

F O O T B A L L

American football is all about making points. You receive points by passing, carrying, or kicking the football into your opponent’s end of the field (endzone). When two teams oppose each other on the playing field (gridiron), the positions they take depend on whether the team is playing offense or defense. The team who starts with the ball is on the offense, while the team preventing the ball from moving forward is the defense. The game begins after what’s called kickoff (a free kick that puts the ball into play, typically used at the start of the first and third  quarters & after every touchdown and successful field goal), which determines where the ball will be placed on the field. Each side lines up facing the other with the football in the middle in order to start the game.

Offensive Positions:

The offensive side is the team with the football (has possession of the football). Their main job is to move the ball down the field to the opposing teams’ endzone in order to score. They can either run or pass the football in for a touchdown, or they can kick a field goal. When on the offensive side, here are the key positions to know/watch out for…
Quarterback: This guy is the leader of the team. He calls plays in the huddle, shouts signals at the line of scrimmage (the defensive lines the players form at the beginning of each play), and receives the ball from the center. He is in charge of handing off the ball to a running back, throwing it to a receiver, OR to run with it!  
Center: This is the guy who kneels down + snaps the ball to the quarterback. He’ll be the one to handle the ball on every play. 
Running Back: Now let’s talk about the guy who runs with the football like there’s no tomorrow! If you hear the terms tailbacks, halfbacks, and rushers during superbowl parties or Thanksgiving day – they’re all running backs. They run as far as they can before the opposing team tackles them. 
Fullback: Typically a job for bigger and intimidating guys, it’s their job to protect (or block for) the running back. But they can also protect the quarterback for those sneaky passes or runs. These guys are also short-yardage runners, meaning that they’re fast for a smaller distance.  
Wide Receiver: Up next is the guy who uses his need for speed to avoid the other team and catch the football right out of the air. Most football teams use 2-4 wide receivers on every play. Once the ball is caught, they run for the endzone like their life depends on it. 
Tight End: Now here’s a Jack of all trades. This guy is a receiver AND a blocker. He lines up beside the offensive tackle (we’ll get to him in a minute) to the right or left of the quarterback. His job is to protect his teammates OR to get the ball and run with it. 
Left + Right Guards: Say hello to our two guys on the offensive line whose jobs are to protect the quarterback and ball carriers.    
Left + Right Tackle: Last but certainly not least are the two guys who make up the outside of that offensive line. Their job? To stop the other team in their tracks so they can’t get to the ball (or the guy carrying it). 

Defensive Positions:

The defensive team’s main goal is to keep the offense from scoring ANY points. That means they’re all about intercepting the ball, tacking the other teams players, and overall just stopping the opposing team from moving the football closer to their endzone. When on the defensive side, here are the key positions to know/watch out for…
Defensive Tackle: There are two guys up for this job! They’re part of the defensive line and their main goal is to stay where they are in order to stop opposing team members from running through a gap. They can also put pressure on the opposing quarterback or disrupt the formation on the back of the field. You’ll know them when you see them. 
Defensive End: These are the two guys who are on the outer sides of the defensive line. Basically, their job is to break through the offensive blocking and tackle the quarterback or really anyone who’s carrying the ball. If the opposing team runs with the ball, these guys are responsible for forcing the ball out of bounds. You’ll see this plenty of times throughout the game. 
Linebacker: These players line up behind the defensive tackles and ends. They’re usually the team’s BEST tacklers. Depending on the line formation, most teams use 3-4 linebackers for every round (play). 
Safety: The guys who are our last line of defense. They MUST defend their endzone at all costs, so they defend deep passes and runs. There are free safeties (weak side of the field) and strong safeties (strong side of the field). The free safety is typically smaller, slightly faster, and must be able to easily read the quarterback. However, the free safety is “free” to double cover another player. The strong safety is generally bigger, stronger, and is used more for run defense. They’ll stay closer to the line of scrimmage and tackle anyone running the ball. 
Cornerback: Last up on our roster are the guys who line up on the wide parts of the field. They’re main job is to cover the wide receivers from the opposing side and prevent passes from being caught.  
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These are just the basics of how the game is played and what players you’re looking at. But in order to truly understand American football, you’ve got a little bit more reading to do. There’s so much more to learn about football penalties and other football terms, so if you’re really looking for a deep dive, click here for the basics! 

I C E  H O C K E Y

Hockey is all about using a hockey stick to get a rubber puck into the opposing team’s net. Simple enough, right? Wrong! In order to play hockey or understand the game, you need to know your way around the rink, how shooting and passing the puck works, and what positions you’ll see throughout the game. In ice hockey, players need to pass and shoot the puck quickly to make the most of their team’s offense. They keep their passes  on the ice whenever possible but can elevate the puck to get it to their teammates. The trick is getting the puck flat on the ice so it’s easier to receive. Players also don’t tend to pass to their teammates directly – the puck is passed to where their teammates are headed, right on the blade of the recipient’s stick. 

The Hockey Rink:

The “field” for ice hockey is a 200 feet long rink that is divided by a red line but also includes two blue lines, five face-off circles, as well as goalie trapezoids and creases. The center red line not only divides the two sides but also enforces the icing rule. The icing rule means that the player in possession of the puck must cross the center red line BEFORE sending the puck into the offensive zone. Goalies are not allowed to cross this line at any time during the game. The blue lines divide the rink into three zones: the neutral zone, the defensive zone, and the offensive zone. These zones are used to judge if a player is offside. If an attacking player crosses the line into the other team’s zone before the puck does, he is offside. Face-off circles are used to put the puck into play. Face-offs begin any new period of the game. Players will circle  around the face-off circle while one player from each team goes in to face-off for the puck (dropped by the referee). Goalie creases are where goaltenders stand during the play. Goalie trapezoids are behind the goal cages and are a restricted area. The goalie trapezoid is where a goalie can play with an active puck - but if he handles the puck outside of the trapezoid, penalties will be given. And the last thing you need to know about on a hockey rink is the penalty box, the glass box where players sit if they receive a penalty. 

Basic Positions

Each ice hockey team has six players out on the ice and they all have a specific job. Similar to football, the job of the offensive team is to score goals while the defense is there to protect their goal. Take a look at the hockey positions you’ll need to know…
Goalie: Our guy here has the toughest position in all of sports. The goalie is often the guy who controls a team’s confidence by keeping the puck out of the net, taking their team a long way. In ice hockey, great goalies win championships. 
Defensemen: When a team is at full strength, they’ll have two defensemen, one on the left side and on the right. A defenseman can be creative and offensive-minded, preferring to handle the puck and lead the team up the ice without getting too physical. Another type of defenseman is more defensive-minded, preferring to stay close to their goalie and play a physical game without chasing the puck. And then there’s the mix of the two, who make up the third kind of defenseman you’ll see out on the ice. 
 Right Wing: This is the guy who takes care of the right side of the ice, for the most part. They definitely need to be a physical player who can stop the opposing team’s defenseman on their left in the defensive zone. 
Left Wing: It is helpful if this guy can make a left-handed shot, but you’ll see plenty of right-handed players taking care of the left side of the ice. This guy needs to be able to get the puck from the corners and battle in front of their net/goal. 
Center: This is the hockey-equivalent of the quarterback. They must be good at face-offs, passing, as well as being a great shot. You need a lot of creativity to be a Center and tons of hockey smarts.

Basic Rules

Hockey is an exciting game but won’t be easy to follow without knowing the rules. Here are some things you’ll need to know in order to understand what’s happening in the game. 
Closing hand on puck: any player, except for the goalie, who catches the puck must immediately knock or place it back down to the ice. Any violation of this will result in a two-minute minor penalty. 
Faceoffs: All players take a position around one of the five face-off circles but only two players are allowed inside the circle. The location of the face-off is decided by the cause of the last stop in the play. 
Delay of Game: Certain actions will result in a two-minute minor penalty for delay of game: Deliberately shooting the puck outside the playing area; deliberately displacing the goal from it’s normal position; failing to provide the proper number of players on the ice after a warning from an official (or for making an illegal substitution). 
Playing the Puck with a High-Stick: When a player bats a puck out of the air with their stick above shoulder height, the game will be stopped + a face-off will start. If a goal is made from a high-stick, it won’t count. 
Icing the Puck: Icing is when a player on his team’s side shoots the puck all the way down the ice and it crosses the red goal line at any point (other than the goal). Icing is not allowed when teams are at equal strength (have the same number of skaters on the ice) OR on the power play (when one team has more players on the ice since one on the other team is serving a penalty). When this happens, play is stopped and the puck is returned to the other end of the cie for a face-off. 
Offsides: A team is offside when any member of the attacking team puts the puck over the defending team’s blue line. The skates are the issue here. If both skates are over the blue line before the puck, the player is offside. BUT if he has one skate over the blue line and one on it, he is onside. 
Penalties: When you violate the rules of the game, penalties are given at the discretion of the officials. You can receive a minor, major, or misconduct penalty. Minor penalties typically require players to serve two minutes in the penalty box  whereas major penalties mean they serve five minutes. Misconduct penalties vary in length depending on the severity.
Penalty Shots: A penalty shot is awarded when a player is pulled down from behind on a breakaway scoring opportunity OR when the goal net is moved on purpose by a defenseman. 
Shootouts: Any regular-season game that ends in overtime with a tied score gets to do a shootout. This is a series of penalty shots where each team is allowed to try and score three times, alternating between each team. If after three shots the teams are still tied, the shootout will continue to alternate shots until one team fails to make their shot. The winner of the shootout is awarded one goal. 
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Well there you have it! The basics of Ice Hockey. It’s a really exciting game to watch, but is not for the faint of heart. If you do find yourself watching it in person, consider bringing ear plugs and a blanket. 

S O C C E R

Last on our list of fall sports is soccer, also known as football on some continents. Soccer is a game played by two teams with 11 players on each team. Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world, is a fast paced game with very few breaks, and is all about scoring goals. Soccer is much simpler than football or ice hockey, but you’ll need to understand what the field looks like in order to really understand what’s going on in the game. 

Soccer Field:

A soccer field is sometimes known as “the pitch” and is at least 100 yards long, with a goal centered on both ends. You’ll notice that there are many markings on the field, these include penalty areas, penalty spots, a center spot for kick-offs, and the corners. Like most fields, you’ll see that a soccer field is divided into two halves by the halfway line. In the middle of this said halfway line is the center mark, which was just mentioned as the center spot. Around that spot you should see a 10-yard radius circle, known as the center circle. The field can be made up of grass or turf, but it must always be green. 

Soccer Positions:

Like we mentioned above, you’ll find 11 players on the field for each team - one goalkeeper and ten field players. Each member of the team works to help their own team score goals, and can be found playing an offensive or defensive position. Take a look at the role of each position on the field: 
Goalkeeper: This is the player (and only player) that is allowed to use their hands on the ball since they’re the ones stopping it from going through the goal. However, they can only use their hands in a restricted penalty area (18 yards from each side of the goal). 
Defenders: These are the players who remain in front of the goalkeeper. Their job is to stop the ball from reaching the goal, so the other team doesn’t score. Defenders fall into four main categories: center-back, full-back, sweeper, and wing-back. Outside full-backs play on the left and right flanks and rarely move from their sides of the field. Center-backs play in the middle of the field and usually cover the opposing teams’ leading scorer (or center forwards). Sweeper and wing-back roles are more specialized for certain formations depending on the team’s style.   
Midfielders: These team members must be physically fit as they end up running most of the game. They are the link between the defense and attack. They should be able to make their way into “enemy territory” and make the transition to defense when the opposing team regains possession of the ball. 
Forwards: Their job? To score! The forwards need to score goals or to create the opportunity for their teammates to score. A center forward is also known as a striker and is their team’s leading goal scorer. They should be the most dangerous player in the attacking third of the field. 

Basic Rules:

No Hands - With Soccer, you’re not allowed to use your hands to play. The only exceptions are if you’re the goalie or are attempting a throw-in. 
Throw-ins - When the ball crosses the sideline and goes out of bounds, a throw-in is taken by a member of the team who didn’t kick it out. The player will plant both feet on the ground, using both hands to throw the ball straight overhead and back into play. 
Goal and Corner Kicks - These are taken when the ball is kicked out of bounds, but only behind the goal line. If the offensive team is the one to kick it out, the defensive team will take a goal kick from inside the goal box. If it’s swapped and the team on defense kicks the ball out, the offensive team will take a corner kick from the corner nearest to where the ball exited the field. 
Direct and Indirect Kicks - Every kick is an indirect kick unless it comes from a foul or hand ball. Indirect kicks must be touched by another player before you can score. If it is a direct kick, the team can score by kicking the ball directly into the goal. 
Game in Play - When the ball is on the field + inside of bounds, the game is “in play.” There is one exception to this rule: if the referee calls for an infraction or offside (which is only applicable to 11 and older). 
Fouls - The point of soccer is to go for the ball, not the player. You cannot kick, trip, jump at, charge, push, or hold another player. However, it is the referee’s (or coach’s) responsibility to monitor safe playing and fouls. If a foul does occur, the team who was fouled gets a free direct kick at the location of the foul. 
Offside - A player is caught offside if any part of their body is in the opponents’ half OR if any part of their body is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and second-last opponent. The offside rule is apparently the most debated soccer principle in the game so we won’t dive too deep into it today. 
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Soccer is a fantastic game to play and to watch, but you do need to understand the basics. It makes the game much more enjoyable when you know what's happening before you. Snacks at Soccer games don’t hurt the fun at all either. 
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Hello fall sports experts! You made it through all the basics and are ready to comment on and cheer for your teams! Which sport did you learn the most about? Which sports do you think you’ll watch this fall? Or better yet, what did we miss? Let us know in the comments so we can keep our fall sports 101 updated!
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xoxo
Kortni + Team
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