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How to Make a Backyard Football Game Fun for the Whole Family

family playing backyard football

Fall is in full swing, which means it’s football season once again — but not just for the Titans and Volunteers. A backyard pickup football game is a fun way for your family and friends to spend quality time together.

You don’t need to be a football fanatic (or even an athlete) to be your party’s starting receiver. Backyard pickup games are meant to be easy on kids and fun for parents. So, huddle up and learn what you’ll need to get started, and how to make the game safe for players big and small.

Relax the Rules, But Count Your Players

Don’t worry about sticking with all the rules and positions you see on television. After all, a simple backyard pickup football game isn’t as complicated as a four-quarter game of tackle.

Keep things lighter by playing two-hand touch, but make each play as simple or as in-depth as your group wants. Just make sure to establish guidelines before you start playing, so no one gets confused.

You can have as many or as few people on each team as you want, as long as the teams are even. If you have an uneven number of players, one person can opt to be quarterback who plays offense for both sides. You might also take turns letting one player make calls as referee or sit out and get some rest.

Mark Your End Zones, But Simplify the Score

Next, you’ll need to define your end zones. If you don’t have fences to mark off natural boundaries, mark off your end zones with cones or lawn chairs instead.

Keeping score in backyard games is almost as easy. Depending on what your group decides, teams can earn seven, six or one point for touchdowns. Because most backyards don’t have goal posts, pickup games usually don’t need extra points, so don’t worry about losing the ball to a rogue field-goal kick.

Make It Family-Friendly

Backyard pickup games don’t just have to be for the big kids and grown-ups. Try these simple tips to help your little one get in on the fun, too:

  • “Touch” instead of “tackle.” Instead of ending a play when a knee touches the ground, finish each play like a game of tag instead. It’ll give little kids a chance to learn the ropes without the risk of getting hurt.
  • Get excited about uniforms. Although you don’t need uniforms for a backyard pickup game, a cool, colorful outfit can turn up the fun factor on a challenging activity.
  • Shorten the game. Kids under six years old often focus on one thing for just 20 minutes, according to Parents Magazine. Not sure your youngsters will have the stamina or attention span to keep up with everyone for an hour? Try cutting your game down to a half hour instead.
  • Let kids coach. Allow even the littlest ones to take charge by giving them a chance to organize plays.

Who Won?

As for determining the winner, your group can do one of two things: play until one team reaches a predetermined score, like 21; or play for a predetermined amount of time, like an hour and the team has the higher score at the end wins.

Just be sure to celebrate the youngest victors, too. Congratulate the entire winning team on a game well played with homemade certificates or trophies. It’ll work wonders for their interest in sports later in life.

Marygrace Taylor

Marygrace Taylor is is an award-winning health, wellness, and nutrition writer whose work has appeared in Glamour, Redbook, Prevention, and Women’s Health. You can follow her on Twitter @mgtylr, or at

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Marygrace Taylor is is an award-winning health, wellness, and nutrition writer whose work has appeared in Glamour, Redbook, Prevention, and Women’s Health. You can follow her on Twitter @mgtylr, or at


WellTuned provides inspiration and practical advice for healthy living.
WellTuned does not offer medical advice. Any personal health questions should be addressed to your doctor.

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