Basic Youth Flag Football Rules: Part 2

flag football

Youth flag football rules made simple so you can get a game going in no time. See Part 1 for the basics about object of the game, playing area, equipment, starting play, playing the ball, and scoring.

In Part 2 learn the rest of the basic rules below along with some easy ways to modify the rules so anyone can learn how to play flag football.

Flag Football Rules

The game lasts 44 minutes and is split into two 22-minute halves. The clock runs continuously during the entire first half and during the first 20 minutes of the second half. During the last 2 minutes of the game, the clock is stopped when the ball is dead.


flag football rules

If the game is tied at the end of regulation time, an overtime period is played.There is another coin toss called by the home team to determine who will get the ball and which way each team will go.

Each team will have a chance to score from the 10-yard line with a series of 4 downs. If the score is still tied after each team has had an attempt to score, the process is repeated until there is a winner.

Flag Football Rules
Fouls & Penalties

Pass Interference

A player may not contact a pass receiver in an attempt to keep him from catching the ball. Also, a pass receiver can't be touched or have his flag pulled before he catches the pass.

It isn't pass interference if 2 players make a simultaneous and genuine attempt to catch or knock down a pass. If the pass interference by the defense is intentional, the defense is penalized 10 yards.

Personal Fouls

Players are not allowed to:

  • punch, strip, or steal the ball from the player who has it
  • trip an opponent
  • make contact with a player who is on the ground
  • tackle the runner
  • hurdle over a player
  • make contact with an opponent either before or after the ball is dead
  • deliberately run into a defensive player
  • clip an opponent by hitting them behind and below the waist

Screen Blocking

how to play flag football

It is legal to obstruct an opponent without using any part of the body to make contact. The blocker must have their hands and arms at their sides or behind their back.

Screen blockers cannot use their arms, hands, elbows, legs or body to initiate contact. If they do, they are called for a personal foul.

Screen blockers may not:

  • set a block closer than 1 step behind an opponent who is stationary
  • make contact with the opponent when setting a block in front or to the side of a stationary opponent
  • set a block so close to the opponent that contact can't be avoided by stopping or changing direction

Stiff Arming

Stiff arming (extending your arm rigidly in order to fend off an opponent) is not allowed and is considered a personal foul.

Obstructing the Runner

A defensive player is not allowed to hold, grab, or obstruct the forward movement of a runner with the ball when attempting to pull the runner's flag.

Dead Ball

flag football rules

A dead ball marks the end of a down. The ball becomes dead when:

  • the ball carrier is downed.
  • a pass is incomplete.
  • the ball or ball carrier goes out of bounds.
  • a team scores.

Out of Play

When a ball is kicked out of bounds, it is placed at the point where it crossed the sideline.

If a player with the ball runs out of bounds, the ball is placed in the center of the field at the point where he went out of bounds.

Flag Football Rules

Depending on the number of players you have, the age and skill level of the players, the type of equipment you have, and the playing area that's available, you will probably need to modify the flag football rules to fit your needs. 

If you have players with disabilities, Special Olympics has a wonderful Flag Football competition for players of different skill levels. Click here to find the flag football rules for their events.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Decrease the size of the field.
  • Increase or decrease the number of players on each team.
  • Have one player be the permanent quarterback for both teams.
  • Adjust the length of the game or play until one team reaches a certain number of points.
  • Allow the defensive team to cross the scrimmage line after they count out loud to "10 Mississippi."
  • Don't allow the defensive team to cross the line of scrimmage.
  • Don't allow running plays – teams must pass to advance the ball.
  • Have a mercy rule where the game is called when one team gets a 20-point lead. At that point, start the game over or adjust the teams to make them more even.
  • Choose the size of football appropriate for you - they come in regular, intermediate, youth or junior sizes.
  • Use a softer or nerf-type football.
  • Don't use kickoffs – each team starts with the ball on their own 5-yard line.
  • A team only gets 3 plays to cross midfield and then 3 more to score a touchdown. If they don't, the ball goes to the other team wherever the ball is.
  • If you don't have flags, play touch football – determine whether the defense has to touch the runner with 1 or 2 hands and whether the touch needs to occur above or below the waist.
  • Adjust the size and length of the flags to make them easier or more difficult to grab.
  • You don't need an official flag football belt – use scarves, cloth strips, or whatever material you have available to make your own flags.

< Previous Rules page

These are just a few of the ways you can you can modify the basic flag football rules to fit your circumstances. I've had plenty of fun pick-up football games with just a handful of players on the street in front of my house.

That's one of the great things about learning how to play flag football. The rules can be as flexible as you need them to be!

Find more fun kids sports activities that include modified football games. 

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