We know it can be heartbreaking when the referee blows the whistle for a penalty against your team. It is even more devastating when you are not sure what caused the penalty.
Flag football is a sport enjoyed by millions of people all over the world, but it can be confusing for newcomers to understand all of the rules and regulations.
In flag football, penalties affect the team rather than just individuals like in basketball. This usually means yardage and downs are either gained or lost. Because of this importance, it is crucial that coaches and players understand how each penalty impacts the team as a whole.
In this article, we will explain some of the most common flag football penalties, so you can avoid them in future games.
The Rules For Penalties In Flag Football
The penalties in flag football are really easy to understand if you know the basic rules of the sport. Players and coaches must understand the rules before going out and competing.
First and foremost, the object of flag football is to score points by carrying the ball into the opponent’s end zone.
The team with the most points after two halves or four quarters wins the game.
Teams can score points in a number of ways: by kicking a field goal or an extra point through the uprights, by scoring a touchdown (worth six points) or two-point conversion after a TD, or two points for a safety via stopping an opposing player in their own end zone.
Touchdowns can be achieved in one of three ways- running the ball into the end zone, recovering a fumble in the end zone, or catching a pass in the end zone.
Flag football is usually played on a rectangular field measuring 70 yards long and 30 yards wide. However, this varies drastically based on age group and available space.
At each end of the field, there are two vertical posts called goal posts, which are used for scoring field goals and extra points. Some fields may not have field goal posts, which means teams will be required to go for a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown.
The playing field is divided into two halves by a line at midfield. There is also a line across the field that denotes each team’s end zone.
This line is where the team must cross to score a touchdown.
There are also yard lines marked every 5 or 10 yards on the field, which are used to help players and referees keep track of how far the ball has been moved.
Now that we have reviewed the basic rules of flag football, let’s take a look at some of the most common penalties in the sport.
Offensive Spot Fouls in Flag Football
This contact is not allowed in flag football hitting an opposing player to help a teammate is not allowed and will result in a penalty and loss of yardage from the spot where the foul was committed.
When you are playing offensive flag football, you are not allowed to screen or block defenders in order to help your teammates run the ball. If you do so, you will be called for a screening penalty, 10 yards will be marked off, and your team will lose the down.
This rule is in place to prevent offensive players from physically harming defenders and to keep the game fair.
Similarly, you are not allowed to block defenders when you are on offense. This is because blocking can lead to physical contact, which is not allowed in flag football.
If you block a defender, 10 yards will be marked off, and your team will lose the down.
Running With The Ball:
Running with the ball is one of the most important aspects of flag football, but there are a few rules that you must follow.
You must keep the ball in your hand at all times. If you drop the ball, it will be considered a fumble, and the other team will take possession.
Only one offensive player is allowed to run with the ball at a time. If two or more players on the same team run with the ball, it will be considered a penalty, 10 yards will be marked off, and your team will lose the down.
Additionally, a teammate cannot push a runner to help them advance the ball.
No player is allowed to charge into another player, regardless of whether they have the ball or not. This is because charging can lead to physical contact, which is not allowed in flag football.
If you charge into another player, 10 yards will be marked off, and your team will lose the down.
The flag football sport is based on the concept of “tagging” or “tackling” the ball carrier by pulling their flag to stop their forward progress.
However, ball carriers are not allowed to protect their flags with their hands or arms. This is called flag guarding, and it is not allowed. If a ball carrier commits this infraction, 10 yards will be marked off.
Defensive Spot Fouls in Flag Football
When you are playing defense in flag football, you must be careful not to commit any spot fouls, as they will result in the other team being awarded a first down.
Defensive Pass Interference:
This is the most common defensive spot foul in flag football. It occurs when a defender tries to prevent an offensive player from catching a pass by making contact with them.
If this happens the opposing team will automatically be awarded a first down.
This rule is in place to keep defenders from physically harming offensive players and to keep the game fair.
As a defense, you are not allowed to hold onto offensive players in order to slow them down or stop their progress. If you do so, 5 yards will be marked off, and the team will automatically be awarded a first down.
Stripping the ball from an offensive player is a common way to cause a turnover, but it is also a spot foul.
When you try to smack or grab the ball out of an offensive player’s hands, you are committing a stripping foul. If this happens, 10 yards will be marked off, and the team will automatically be awarded a first down.
Offensive Penalties Fouls in Flag Football
You’ll find that offensive penalties are more common than defensive ones, simply because there are more opportunities for them to occur. With that said, here are some of the most common offensive fouls in flag football.
Flag football is a non-contact sport, which means that there is no tackling or physical contact allowed between players.
However, accidental contact does happen from time to time. If the contact is deemed to be unnecessary or excessive, then the team will be penalized 10 yards, and they will lose the down.
Sportsmanship is an important part of any sport, and flag football is no different.
If a player on the offensive team commits an act of unsportsmanlike conduct, such as taunting or trash-talking, 10 yards will be marked off, and the team will lose the down.
Both of these penalties are fairly self-explanatory. A false start occurs when an offensive player moves before the snap, and an offside occurs when a player is on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap.
Both of these penalties will result in 5 yards being marked off.
This is the offensive equivalent of defensive pass interference. It occurs when an offensive player impedes a defender’s ability to catch a pass or creates space for the receiver to get open for a catch.
A pass interference penalty results in 5 yards being marked off from the line of scrimmage, and the team will lose the down.
This is a fairly self-explanatory penalty. It occurs when an offensive player is in motion at the time of the snap. Doing this will result in 5 yards being marked off from the line of scrimmage.
Delay Of Game:
This penalty straight leads to 5 yards being marked off from the line of scrimmage. It occurs when the offensive team takes too long to snap the ball, or if they fail to snap the ball within the allotted time.
Impeding The Rusher:
The rusher from the defense is responsible for getting to the quarterback and putting pressure on them.
If an offensive player impedes the rusher in any way, 5 yards will be marked off from the line of scrimmage.
This is a fairly common penalty that can occur for a number of reasons. It might be because of illegal snaps from the center, illegal substitutions, illegal motion, or a false start.
Whatever the reason, 5 yards will be marked off from the line of scrimmage.
Defensive Penalties Fouls in Flag Football
Like the offense, there are a variety of different defensive penalties that can be called in flag football. Here are some of the most common ones.
When pulling flags, defenders are not allowed to make any physical contact with the offensive player. If they do, it will be considered unnecessary roughness, and the team will be penalized 10 yards. It will also award automatic first down to the offense.
As already mentioned, sportsmanship is an important part of any sport. If a player on the defensive team commits an act of unsportsmanlike conduct, such as taunting or trash-talking, 10 yards will be marked off, and it will also award an automatic first down to the offense.
Sometimes, players cross the line of scrimmage before the snap. When this happens, it’s called being offside, and the team will be penalized 5 yards.
In flag football, the rusher has to be lined up at least seven yards from the line of scrimmage before the snap. If they’re not, it’s called an illegal rush, and the other team will be awarded an automatic first down.
Illegal Flag Pull:
The flag can only be pulled when the player is possessing the ball. If the flag is pulled before then, it will be considered an illegal flag pull, and the team will be penalized 5 yards.
Roughing The Passer:
This happens when a defender makes contact with the quarterback after the ball has been thrown. It doesn’t matter if the contact is intentional or not; either way, it will be penalized 5 yards and an automatic first down.
Play Safe Within The Rules!
In conclusion, there are a variety of different penalties that can be called in flag football. It’s important to know what they are so that you can avoid committing them.
Remember that these fouls and penalties exist to keep the game fair and safe for all players. So as long as you play within the rules, you should be fine. Just have fun and enjoy the game!
Vance J has played flag football since he was a boy. Since then, he has become a coach and a huge advocate for growing the sport. He loves to write and talk about flag football!