American football has become a popular sport in the United States. Its origins come from soccer. Soccer is called football internationally, which tends to confuse American sports fans. American football oddly enough began in the 19th century in Great Britain. There their is a game known as rugby, which would later become American football. A soccer player in Great Britain at a school in Rugby picked up a soccer ball with their hands. This is prohibited by the rules of soccer and from that one rule violation came a new game. The game of rugby reached the United States in 1871. This game from the British transformed into football. Now it is an American tradition being played in universities, public schools, and in professional sports leagues. This sport at first glance appears to be completely male dominated. However, there are women and organizations who are getting involved. While women’s football teams do not get exposure as the mainstream NFL league teams, it is a great development for the sport. Women are also becoming football fans in large numbers. This development has been happening for the past two decades. Despite domestic abuse cases, paid patriotism, and racism in league circles there are still loyal fans. These issues can be addressed with reform in sports organizations.
The history of women in American football starts in 1974. The Women’s Football League was formed with seven teams formed. The pay was low with players only getting $25 a game. Despite this, teams formed and came to play. These teams included the Los Angeles Dandelions, Dallas Bluebonnets, Detroit Demons, Columbus Pacesetters, Fort Worth Shamrocks, and the California Mustangs. Since the 1970s the number of women playing tackle football has increased. The unfortunate reality is that there are not established professional leagues. Women’s amateur leagues have been growing in number over the past two decades. There are about 4,000 women who play tackle football in the United States. Local leagues can be expensive to join, but that does not stop dedicated players. Women come not for the financial rewards, because there no opportunities like in the National Football League.
There still remains a cultural bias that football is a man only game. The game continues to be male dominated, however women began organizing to play a sport they also enjoy. As the years progressed women became part of high school and college football teams. Although small in number this was a testament to breaking barriers. Kathy Klope was a place kicker for the University of Louisville in the 1990s. At the time she was the only woman to play on a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I-A football team. Title IX stipulates that girls and women should be allowed to try out and play on boys and men’s teams if there is not a division for girls. This would be sex discrimination and so girls were given opportunities to play on boys teams.
A news clip showing a girl in Junior high playing on a football team
This change did not come until the 1980s to 1990s. The Beth Balsey case in New Jersey ruled that she had a right to play on her high school football team. The judge ruled in her favor in 1986. By 1994 it was reported that a total 328 girls were playing on US high school teams according to the National Federation of the State High School Athletic Associations. The girls who have the athletic talent do not have professional leagues to go to as adults, so they may switch to another sport. The thousands of women now take part in amateur leagues. There is a possibility as time progresses professional leagues will be more prevalent. There is the challenge of exposure and the decline in viewership of American football. The loss of viewers could be attributed to bad publicity surrounding domestic abuse and CTE injuries. It could be that being more inclusive with women can repair the damage from such negative incidents.
It will take some years before women’s teams emerge to a level in which they are viewed as widely as the NFL games. There is progress. The Independent Women’s Football League was established in 2000 with a mission to “making the sport available to all women and girls who dream of playing the game. ” This non=profit organization helps with funding teams and organization. The IWFL wants to also “foster an environment of goodwill and sportsmanship.” The IWFL has been a helpful avenue for rising women football players attempting to play at elite levels.
American football just like any other sport has rules. The teams consist of a total of eleven players, which can be alternated. Each team has the responsibility of starting a play on their side of the ball. Players can either be defensive or offensive in terms of position. The offensive players must be lined up in scrimmage. They are seven offensives, but the four of these must be lined up one yard behind the line scrimmage. One to four backs can move parallel to the line of scrimmage. The team that maintains the ball will be called the offense. The defense has the task of preventing the offense from scoring. The offense then has the task of advancing the ball 10 yards every four plays. If they are successful they will achieve a first down. The objective is to score and make touchdowns. The offensive team can lose possession of the football by fumbling (or dropping the ball), missing the field goal, getting tackled in the end zone for safety, kicking the ball to the defensive team, scoring, not getting 10 yards in four downs, and throwing the football to a defensive player for an interception.
If players violate rules, they face penalties. Yards can be lost depending if the violation was by the defense or offense. Personal fouls can result up to 15 yards, while a majority are between 5 to 10 yards. There are numerous violations that can happen in a football game. The false start is when the offense moves prior to the snap. The snap is the moment in which movement is permitted. Offside violations happen when the offense or defense is on the wrong side of the scrimmage line at the time of the snap. A defensive player cannot make contact with an offensive player, because this would be encroachment. Holding another type of violation is when a player grabs another without the ball. It is also illegal to grab a player’s facemask. Kickers and passers are not allowed to be run into after the ball has been kicked.
Intentional grounding happens when a passer throws the ball away from a receiver to avoid possible sacking. Other cases such as ineligible receiver downfield occurs when an offensive player is not eligible receiver and happens to be five yards downfield from the line scrimmage during a forward pass. These are some of the common football infractions that can occur during a game. There are more possible penalties and violations, but these are the basic ones. The point of these rules is to maintain player safety and have fair competition. The referee must be extra vigilant to make sure all rules are enforced. Football has become a major element in US culture. Americans spend millions in total on products and memorabilia of their favorite football teams. A common Thanksgiving tradition is to watch football and play some with family as well as friends. The sport has become part of American identity and a cultural icon.
Iwflsports.com: History. N.p., 6 June 2000. Web. 23 May 2017. <http://www.iwflsports.com/theiwfl/history/>.
Sherrow, Victoria. “Football.” Encyclopedia of Women and Sports. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1996. 104-05.
Garcia, Ahzia. “Inside the World of Women’s Tackle Football.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 13 Feb. 2017. Web. 23 May 2017. <http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/02/news/womens-tackle-football/>.