What makes a great family touch football game
November 20, 2012 9:37 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to organize a family touch football game on Thanksgiving. None of us have ever played touch football, as far as I know. Including me. How does it work? What makes a great family touch football game?

There will be 10 to 12 adults (including a few seniors who'll probably sit it out/referee) and 6 kids aged 2-17. This going to be a decidedly non-physical group.

I might've actually played touch football once as a kid - I remember something about counting Mississippi. I watch an NFL game every week or two, which will probably make me the expert on the field.

We have a lawn to play on and I just ordered a Nerf football. Forecast looks good at the moment.

What rules should we use? How can I best encourage people to play, have fun, and turn this into a tradition repeated in later years?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total)
The best way to encourage people is to get the kids excited for it and have them pressure their parents to play. Maybe have a trophy or prize for the winning team?

Keep the game short since everyone isn't very athletic.

But I must warn you against getting your hopes up. Traditions aren't something that can be mandated. Traditions are things that are fun or normal that become institutionalized because they come back every year. You really can't force it.
posted by inturnaround at 9:41 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need first down rules since you aren't gonna measure. I've played two receptions = first down. You could also make a reception by a kid under 12 a first down as well.
posted by advicepig at 9:48 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd just mark off a section of the yard as the end zone. Each team gets 4 downs to try to get from the the opposite side for a score. If they don't make it in 4, switch and the other team tries.

Make a rule that defenders have to wait 5 seconds before rushing the quarterback. Everyone on offense is a receiver, so no blocker on offense. No running plays except the quarter back scrambling if they can't find someone to throw the ball to.

Simple and quick, and you agree to 4 or more possessions depending on how long you want the game to last.
posted by Eddie Mars at 10:01 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does anyone else in your family want to do this? If you have 5 people sold on the idea, you might get some contagion going. On the other hand, if it doesn't catch on then let it go. Not everyone enjoys even a friendly physical competition.

What clothing do people normally wear to Thanksgiving? Do you need to give people a warning so that they'll have athletic shoes?
posted by 26.2 at 10:16 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, definitely better if it's kid centered and very simple (I like Eddie Mars' rules).

Also, definitely wear a belt. Ask me how I know.
posted by Sara C. at 10:18 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

To make for a more friendly game, I recommend flag football. You need some cloth (handkerchiefs, old socks, hand towels, etc.) to stuff partially down the back of a person's pants, with plenty sticking out. It makes for a more challenging "tackle" and doesn't lead to any pushing or accidental face swipes when playing touch football, especially when playing with adults and kids.
posted by perhapses at 10:19 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We play siblings vs. inlaws touchfootball every year. There is a trophy, and losers have to clean up thanksgiving dishes. Winners have to set the table.

If any kid under 14 catches the ball, it is a first down. If anyone over 60 (we have a 63 year old, a 69 year old and a 72 year old that play every year) catches the ball, it is a first down. We play 10 possessions, and most of the focus is on making sure each kid carries the ball.

Each "score" is 10 points, we play to 30

Pre game points: 5 points given to the "best dressed" (usually won by kids who have pinwheels duct taped to them). 5 points given to best team name (judged by the oldest dinner attendee). These points make it fun to look forward to.

If you tackle and hurt someone, you lose 10 points.

We bought the little belts with the velcro tapes, they're great.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 10:27 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My family does this every year on Thanksgiving. I second Eddie Mars' rushing rule (everyone counts "One one thousand, two one thousand... to 5 before rushing) and advicepig's 2 receptions is a first down rule.

Marking off end zones is simpler (and more fun) if the end zone is "past the big tree" or "past this cone" rather than drawing a line.

Make it fun, and make sure that no one is rough. Scoring is really not that important unless the kids are super competitive. And most importantly - Play BEFORE dessert!
posted by Red Desk at 10:28 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll second perhapses idea of flag football. It serves two purposes - you have a definite waist-high target, which avoids desperate dives that lead to one or both people getting injured. And there is no question of what is or is not a "tackle." All it takes is one overly competitive person on either side of the play that makes it zero fun for everyone else claiming they did or didn't get touched.

It will also lead to more scoring, always more fun.
posted by shinynewnick at 10:31 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A couple things:
No extra points-- everything is a 7 point touchdown.
If someone is real competitive or also a sore loser (this was me growing up), they can be all-time qb.
Shirts or other balls make good endzone 'cones'.
The field shouldn't be too big-- a yard is plenty, but if you have more than 5 a side it can get crowded
Everyone on defense should pick someone around their same height, physical ability, etc. Zone doesn't work in touch football.
posted by sandmanwv at 10:35 AM on November 20, 2012

Best answer: According to all the videos we shot in the '80s, the fun part is watching people getting hurt. Watching my uncle with his high and mighty doctorate in such a pedantic field as chemistry cut the shit out of his foot when I throw a horribly angled fade route never ever gets old.

Make sure the teams are aligned correctly. Each team should have an older player or two and the one family member who is overtly athletic should be put up against the oldsters as often as possible.

Nobody throws a tendon ripping chop block like your fifty year old uncle who played football back in his day. Sure, he'll deliver that block on the asphalt of your local street, but it's fun as hell to see it happen live.
posted by Sphinx at 12:06 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

We used to allow the defense the option to blitz one player once every series. The rusher had to yell "blitz" immediately after the snap and had to cross the line of scrimmage into the offensive zone, chasing the QB/RB/WR/whoever had the ball. Failure to both announce the blitz and rush across the line resulted in spotting the ball halfway to the goal line, plus an automatic first down for the offense.

And yes, flag football is the better option with the age range you have playing in your game. Save touch football for when it is adults on adults or kids on kids.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:14 PM on November 20, 2012

Response by poster: Game was a ripping success. Thanks all.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 3:35 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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