Football for Player and Spectator/Chapter 6

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It is useless to attempt the construction of a successful football machine until the raw material in the form of the individual players has been thoroughly developed in the fundamentals of the game. The work on each player must include a thorough course in the rudiments of the game. Each man must be quick and accurate in passing and catching; like a sprinter in starting; sure in kicking and tackling; certain in his ability to carry the ball; capable in blocking and making holes: swift in breaking through; adequate in the knowledge of how to use the straight arm and how to avoid it; certain in interference and quick to fall on the ball.

When the individuals have mastered these details and not until then can the material be collected and the whole machine be assembled for successful work. The illustrations and advice which will follow are given to aid in the development of the players along these rudimentary lines.


Passing the ball properly from one player to another is very essential for a successful offense. The ball cannot be handled by the receiver of the pass unless it comes to him at the right time and in the proper form. More of the fumbling in a game is due to poor passing than to any error of the one receiving the ball. There are several forms of passing in practical use; the underhand pass, the underhand spiral, the full-arm throw or pass around the end, the spiral throw or pass, the pass from the quarter back in the nature of a toss to a half back on a run around the end and the handing of the ball to a player for a line plunge. There are six illustrations used in connection with this article to show the proper form necessary to execute these passes properly and accurately.

Passing is like any other department of the game in that it requires constant and painstaking practice for one to become proficient. In making the pass the player must be sure that it is not too hard nor too slow. Especially is this true when the pass is a short one. One of the main causes of fumbling by the recipient of the ball is the fact that the pass did not come at the proper height. It is very hard to handle a pass that comes about knee high or at the point of the shoulder. The proper place to receive a pass and the point where it can be easily handled is at the waist. Every man who is a candidate for a football team should master all the forms of passing and receiving the ball. By this work he will become familiar with the ball and will learn to handle it with ease and accuracy.


Position to hold the ball just before making under-hand pass.

For the under-hand pass, place the ball in the hand as above, fingers well over the end; swing the arm forward and, as the ball leaves the hand, cause it to turn end over end rapidly, as it can be controlled much better. As in every pass, learn to make the ball go just where you wish it. Never pass indifferently.


Position to hold ball for around end throw.

In passing the ball by a round-arm throw, take the end of the ball in the palm of the hand, ball extended up and down the arm as shown in the illustration; bring the arm around horizontally and, at the same time, turning the body around on the left foot as the ball leaves the hand, cause it to revolve rapidly on its shorter axis. In making this pass, select the place to which the ball should go and make it go where you wish. Control is an essential in all passing.


Positions to hold ball for spiral throw and pass.

For the spiral pass, take the ball in the hand as shown above and swing the arm forward as the pendulum of a clock. As the swing is about finished, pull the hand around and over the ball, causing it to revolve on its axis on the same plan as does a spiral kick. This pass, with practice, can be made quickly and accurately. Its value lies in the fact that it can be passed through, with and against the wind and is very easily handled by the receiver.


In executing the spiral throw, place the ball on the hand as in the illustration. The ball should lie diagonally across the palm from the base of the thumb to the end of the little finger. The arm should be brought around forward in a horizontal line and, just as the ball leaves the hand, it should be caused to revolve on its axis by suddenly jerking the hand around under the ball and to the left. The oval will thus be made to rotate like a spiral kick. The end of the ball that is shown ahead in the picture must be kept ahead all the time. The ball in this manner can be thrown with ease from 30 to 40 yards. The revolution of the ball on its axis should be rapid. This pass can be made with, against or across the wind and, with practice, the player can control its distance and direction almost as well as if the oval were a baseball.


Pass to half back for straight plunge through line.

The quarter back in passing to the full back for a line plunge through the center should, if the full back is going through on the right side, bring his right foot back almost behind his left. This will give the full back an opportunity to go straight at the point of attack and the quarter back will not he in his way, as he would be if he brought his left foot around. The ball should be placed low, in the pit of the stomach with the right hand.

No player can buck the line as he should if the ball is given to him high. It must come to him low and be carried low after he receives it. The full back should not reach for the ball with his hands but should carry them almost by his side and grasp the ball instantly as the quarter back places it against his body. If he reaches his hands and arms out for the ball he will often interfere with the quarter back's placing the ball properly.


The quarter back in making the pass to the half back for a straight plunge into the line, on his left side, should turn around and take a full step to the left, at the same time making the pass to the half back. The pass should be made in the nature of a toss. This can be done with one or two hands, whichever way the quarter finds he can do it the better. The toss must be made quickly to avoid a forward pass. The ball should be passed low, a little lower than the waist. No player can buck the line low if the ball comes to him high. The runner must straighten up to get a high pass and before he can get down he will be in the line. The quarter should look at the runner in making the pass.


Passing to half back for run around end.

On the work of a quarter back in his passing to the other players for a run outside of tackle or around the end depends largely the success of the play. No player can get away rapidly when the passing is erratic. The ball should always be passed at the outside hip and just ahead of the runner. If the pass is at the inside hip it will slow the runner up when, instead, the main purpose should be to keep him coming hard all the time. The pass should be made by a quick toss. The quarter should get the ball to the runner instantly and then get into the interference himself. As the pass is made he should lock at the player who is to receive it. The ball should not be passed under-handed but quickly and with a round-arm motion.


Good catchers are scarce in the game of football. This is because they do not devote the time and attention necessary to become proficient. The oblong shape of the ball and the fact that it is inflated with air makes its flight uncertain to some extent, yet with practice a player can learn to judge just where the ball will fall and to be there in the proper place to receive it. Until the members of a team become reliable and steady in handling punts and passes the eleven will be uncertain in all its play. Football is a game that is full of passes and punts and each time the ball is passed or punted it must be handled accurately or the play will fail.

In catching punts or long passes the direction of the wind must be taken into consideration. If the ball is coming with the wind it is sure to go farther than it promised in the first of its flight. The height of the kick and the force of the wind will determine how much to allow for this additional distance. Then again, the kind of kick, spiral or floater, will have much to do with its distance and direction. When catching a spiral, if the front end of the ball is watched closely, its direction and distance can be easily judged. The player wishing to make the catch should be back of the place where the ball will alight on the ground. He should never be too far under the ball as it comes down, for if it gets over the head of the catcher it will probably roll a great distance. If the player is just back of where the ball will fall he can easily move forward at the last moment, make the catch on the run and be going toward the opponents' goal.


Position One - Form for catching a punt.

Position 1.

Position 1 shows the proper form of the hands and arms as they are first extended to receive the ball on a punt or pass. The lower or right hand is to form the bottom of the pocket into which the ball is to fall.

Position Two - Form for catching.

Position 2.

The ball should be so judged that it will fall into a pocket, formed by the two hands and the body. The right hand will form the bottom, the left hand the outside, and the body the inside. The arms are not used in making the catch. The hands and body do the work. The ball must be watched closely. The hands should come in toward the body from Position 1. This will help bring the ball to the right place.

Position Three - Just as the hands, body and ball should be when ball is caught.

Position 3.

This illustrates exactly how the ball should be caught. This same form can be used to catch the ball at either side of the body, merely by shifting the hands. It can be used to catch the ball when it is high or low. The one hand must always be under the ball to keep it from passing through, while the other hand must be used to prevent the ball from rebounding as it strikes the body.

The player bent on making the catch must so meet the ball that it will come into the hands properly and against the body at the right height. The ball will often change its course quickly and it will be necessary for the catcher to shift just as readily to meet it.

A careful study of the illustrations will show the proper form to use in catching the ball. This form will be found sufficient to handle all kinds of kicks and high passes. The same principle can be used in receiving passes that come straight toward the catcher, with the exception that the hands are held lower and directly ahead, instead of upward.


Showing two forms used by backs in starting.

The two illustrations which accompany this chapter show better than any detailed description the position to be assumed for starting by the regular backfield men or the members of the line who may be called into the backfield on any formations. In attaining the proper form the football player should guard against the two common faults in this respect. Either the hips are held too high or the body is not thrown far enough forward, with not enough weight on the hands. In the former case there is a lack of driving power to the start which is often fatal. In the latter the speed of the start is impaired for the player, for when his body is not well forward he loses the benefit of this marked aid to the momentum which he should attain in the first two or three strides.

No general rule can be laid down for the exact pose in starting. This is occasioned by the differences in the build of the men who are playing the game. The player can find out by actual experience the plan which best suits his physical makeup, guarding against placing his feet too far apart laterally, or one foot too far ahead of the other. Generally speaking, the position of a sprinter on his mark is the proper form for the player to assume, except that the feet should be wider apart and the rear foot brought up farther forward. The weight of the body should be principally on the hands, so that the instant the hands are removed from the ground the weight of the body will assist him in getting under rapid motion. All this requires an immense amount of practice before perfection can be attained. Only by continual and conscientious effort can speed be attained in this respect.

The linemen, generally speaking, will find that their position for starting will be a modified form of that in use by the backs. The proximity of their positions to their opponents requires that the men in the line take a position considerably modified from that of the occupants of the backfield. Here, in addition to time necessity for a quick advance straight ahead or to either side, the player must guard against a sudden jerk forward from his immediate opponent. The weight of his body must therefore be less on his hands and more on his feet in order to guard against being over-balanced. The proper position for starting in the line is thoroughly indicated in the illustrations used to show the different offensive formations and the positions assumed for starting at the charging machine.

Proper form in starting is half the battle when the time comes for actual play, as no player can expect to handle an opponent of equal skill unless he is well up in the art. Further, if the occupants of thie backfield are not taught to get under way rapidly and together a large share of the momentum on offense is sacrificed by the failure. The acquisition of a quick, strong start is well worth the trouble that is necessary to attain it.


Form for holding ball just before it is dropped to the foot.

Kicking is one of the most interesting features of football. To attain success in this department of the game requires considerable skill. One cannot become proficient as a kicker without constant and careful practice. The oval shape of the ball requires that it be dropped to the foot at the proper angle and time.

The value of a good and reliable kicker to a team cannot be estimated. The difference between two good teams, which gives one the victory over the other, is often the difference in the abilities of its kickers.

Three kinds of kicks are used in football: The punt, drop and place kicks. Six illustrations accompany this chapter; three of them show the proper form to use in punting. Of these, one shows how to hold the ball so that it may be dropped to the foot in the proper manner. Another demonstrates just how the ball should reach the foot, at what distance from the ground and just how far it should be out in front of the body. The other one shows how the kick should be finished.

Two of the other pictures show the form for proficiency in place kicking, one giving the proper position just before the kick, and the other just after the kick is started. The last illustration shows the best and easiest manner of holding the ball before dropping it to the ground for a drop kick.

How the foot should meet the ball.


A punt is made by letting the ball drop from the hands and kicking it just before it touches the ground. There are two kinds of punts now in use,--one, the spiral, which all try to acquire, and the other the end-over-end kick, which is very valuable when used with the wind. It is almost useless when used against the wind, however, as it cannot be driven into the face of a breeze nearly so far as the spiral.

The first faculty to be acquired in order to become a good and reliable punter is the proper form. This is often overlooked in order to get distance at once. With form once mastered, speed and distance will be sure to follow.

The position of leg, foot and body just after ball has left the foot.


The following is the form for a spiral: Standing in the position illustrated in Figure 1 on punting, step forward and to the right with the right foot for about two feet and follow this with the left foot which is carried about one yard and slightly to the right. Then drop the ball to the right foot as it is swung forward, toe turned down as in Figure 2, and finish the kick as in Figure 3. The leg should be rigid as the foot strikes the ball. The knee joint should be locked and straight. The ball should come to the foot in almost exactly the same position in which it is held in the hands in Figure 1, and should be laid out on the instep as it is kicked. Do not throw it. The ball must come to the foot in this way and at the right time, or the punt will be inaccurate. There must be no fluke kicks in the games.

Another reason why the ball should he practically laid out on the foot is the fact that, when kicking on a wet or windy day, there is not much chance for the ball to change its position between the time it leaves the hand and reaches the foot. In kicking, the ball must be watched all the time, for no one can hit the object at which he aims unless he has his eye on it. The ball must not be kicked from a point too near the kicker, for that will yield a result very much in the nature of a throw. It should be a little above knee high to the kicker at the moment when it meets the foot.

It must be struck by the foot near the center and the foot driven straight ahead for an instant with a quick finish toward the point of the left shoulder. This will give the ball the rotary motion of the spiral.

Practice this form for some time, gradually putting more and more speed and force into the kick.

The direction of the kick, as well as the height of the ball, should always be kept in mind. It is not the force that is put into the whole motion of the kick that will give it distance, but the snap that is put into the leg at the moment it strikes the ball. The steps taken just before the ball is kicked must not carry the kicker much forward toward the center. If this is the case the kicker will be up against his own line and in a position where the kick can be easily blocked by the opponents.

The steps should be short. There is no necessity for running a foot race before the ball is kicked. It is the force and energy put into the kicking leg at the moment of contact that will give distance to the kick, not the two steps before the final swing of the leg.

The same general directions may be followed when learning the end-over-end punt, with the exception of the manner in which the ball is dropped to the foot.

Position to assume just before ball is touched to the ground.


The place kick is made by placing the ball in position on the ground and kicking it from this location. The value of a good place kicker to the team cannot be estimated for, by his work, the game may be won or lost. Place kicking has almost entirely taken the place of drop kicking, because it is more accurate. It is used to convert touchdowns into goals, to kick goals from the field, to kick off, and is often used to kick out after a touchback, instead of punting.

There are two illustrations used in connection with this article to show the form and style necessary in order to become a proficient and accurate place kicker. The skillful execution of a place kick depends almost as much upon the holder of the ball as upon the kicker himself. Great care should be used by the former in placing the ball upon the ground in the exact position desired by the kicker. The holder of the ball must not change its position in the least in removing his hands or fingers from under it. He must not remove his top hand but must permit the kicker to kick the ball while the upper hand is yet in place. The holder of the ball must be steady and cool.

In making the place kick, the kicker's position should be about four feet behind the ball. He should draw an imaginary line directly through the center of the goal bar, through the center of the ball, and the kicking leg should be in a direct line with the center of the ball and the center of the goal bar. In other words, a straight line, drawn from the right or kicking toe through the center of the ball, should pass directly across the center of the goal bar.

The kicker's position on short kicks should be not over four feet behind the ball. If he stands too far away it is harder for him to approach and kick exactly as he should, and he acquires no advantage by being so far back. After the kicker has assumed his proper position and the ball is ready, he should step forward about six inches with his right foot and then step forward with the left foot until the toe is practically on line with the rear of the ball, but a little to the left. The right toe should then come forward, toe turned down, the kicker's eye in the meanwhile glued to the spot on the ball which he wishes the toe to hit. The right foot should be brought forward along the original line. The kick is made more by the swing of the knee than of the hip. Follow the kick through after the ball has been struck as in Position 2. The feet should travel along the line which the ball is to take. Do not finish as in a punt, but follow the kick through.

As the ball is kicked from the ground.

When distance is wished, as in an attempt for a goal from the field at the 40-yard line, the distance of the kicker behind the ball should be increased and more of the swing of the leg from the hip should be put into the kick, to add force and distance. The same observations in the line of kick should be followed when a kick is to be made from any position on the field, whether from near the center or near the sidelines. The holder of the ball and the kicker should work together enough to become thoroughly in touch with each other. Some kickers require that the ball should be almost vertical in its position on the ground; others that the top be tilted back toward the kicker. What is best suited to the individual kicker can be learned only by constant practice.

In kicking goals from touchdowns there is no necessity for hurry. Take plenty of time, observing carefully the condition of wind and weather. There is much difference in kicking a dry, new ball and a wet, heavy one, that has been used perhaps throughout the greater part of the game. More care is necessary when the kick is against the wind, then when with it.

Summed up, the important points in a place kick are to see that the ball is placed correctly on the ground; that the kicker observe the ball closely in making his kick, instead of directing his attention to the goal bar; that he kicks the ball with the toe turned down, and that the kick is made on the straight line to the center of the goal bar.


A drop kick is made by letting the ball fall from the hands and kicking it the instant it strikes the ground. Although this kick is not in very common use, a team may possess someone who can become very accurate in kicking goals from the field by this method. Any team which includes a good and accurate drop kicker has an advantage over one using a place kicker, in that there is one more man who can be used to protect the kick.

The ball just before it is dropped to the ground for a drop kick.

The form of holding a ball is shown in an accompanying illustration. It is immaterial how the ball is held in the hand but it is very important that it should come to the ground in the proper position. This position is one that varies with the different kickers but the one suited to most players allows the ball to strike the ground in an almost vertical position with the top slanting toward the kicker. As in place kicking, the ball must be kicked by the toe and closely watched as the kick is made. The direction of the goal should be fully known before the player receives the ball. The ball must be hit the instant it reaches the ground. Do not wait until the ball has rebounded and catch it on the instep. No one can be accurate who kicks with the instep.

To become proficient as a drop kicker will require long, faithful practice. Care should be taken in learning the art to acquire height and direction, as practically all the drop kicking must be done from behind a scrimmage line and, unless the ball rises instantly, there is much danger of the kick being blocked or at least interfered with.


Proper tackling form.

Proper form in tackling is a necessity to the football player. The player on the opposing eleven who is carrying the ball must be firmly grasped and thrown to the ground or he will keep up his progress toward your goal. Tackling, generally, can he separated into two divisions--long tackling and short tackling. In each case, however, the aim of the tackler should be directed at a point midway between the hips and the knees. He should get both arms securely round the legs of the runner and should grasp firmly and with a determination not to be shaken off.

The long tackle is employed in the open field, when the runner has an opportunity to dodge to either side. In such a case the tackler should aim first of all to get in the direct path of the man with the ball. When within diving distance the tackler should launch himself into the air as a swimmer leaps into the water, giving every possible speed of spring to his effort and wrapping his arms round the runner's legs below the hips. He should guard against diving too low, for this may enable the runner to elude him, either by hurdling or wriggling out of his grasp. The tackle should always be how enough, however, to pin the legs of the runner together, thereby bringing him to earth. The resistance of the runner as he falls will protect the tackler from any possible injury from striking the ground, as the runner will act as a buffer.

The flying tackle from behind.

If the tackler finds it impossible to get in the path of the runner he should get within reaching distance from the side and then make his dive from a distance of about his own length. In this case the tackler should always aim to get his head in front of the runner, thus making the tackle more secure through the added impediment that is offered to the progress of the man with the ball.

The short tackle is largely confined to the tackling of runners in the line. In such case, the runner is usually within reaching distance and the tackler under less rapid motion. As the two come together the tackler should go into his man low, grasping him between the hips and knees and launching himself forward and upward toward the opponents' goal at the very moment of the tackle, the purpose being the securing of an added impetus which will carry the runner back. If it is possible, the tackler should launch his weight from a position which will allow him to strike the runner in a position which will lift him off his feet. This will make the tackle all the more effective.

An effective tackle, shown in one of the illustrations which accompany this chapter, is one made from behind. This is frequently possible when a forward has broken through the line just behind the path of the play. It is also employed in the open field when a runner has passed the first line of defense and is going down the field.


Two forms for holding ball on plunges through the line.

The art of taking a secure hold of the ball when called upon for a gain and retaining its possession from the time it is received from the center or quarter back till the play is ended is an important feature of football, but one often overlooked. How many times, by one disastrous fumble, is a team that has apparently won been forced to see its colors trailed in defeat! How many backs, fast, strong and brilliant have been tried again and again only to be discarded because of this one fault!

Regardless of its ground-gaining ability, little is gained by any team unless its members know how to keep a firm grasp of the ball throughout the progress of a play, for one fumble is usually enough to hand over the coveted pigskin to the opponents and with it an opportunity to punt it back again for many yards, necessitating a second fight over ground previously battled for and won.

There are three correct methods of carrying the ball, all of which are accurately shown in the accompanying illustrations. Two of these are for use when the play is designed to pierce the opponents' line, while the other is for running in the open field or circling the end.

In all plunges into the line the ball should be held tightly against the pit of the runner's stomach, both hands and arms being used. There are two positions in which the ball can be held, some runners preferring to carry it straight across the body, while others find the vertical position more secure. Regarding a choice, each player should suit himself. He should always bear in mind, however, at all stages of the play, the absolute necessity for maintaining the firm grasp by both hands and arms on the ball. Often, after a plunge into the line, a runner, when being thrown, will throw out one arm to save himself and thus he often loses his hold on the ball or allows an opponent to steal it. The player should school himself never to forget his duty to this extent, for it not only places the ball in serious jeopardy but increases, rather than diminishes, his liability to injury, as the arm, thrown loose from the body, is very liable to fracture in the mass of men that is piling up on him as he is tackled.

Proper position to hold ball on runs around end or in open field.

For a run round the end or for one in the open field, the runner should grasp the ball with the outside arm, leaving the other to assist him in stiff-arming tacklers. The ball, as the illustration shows, should be held tightly against the body, the rear end securely pressed against the body and well under the upper arm, while the forward end is grasped by the fingers and wrist. The fingers should be well over the end and should assist in pulling the ball back into the pocket formed by the body and elbow. If the ball is held in this way, with plenty of strength exerted all the time to keep it rigidly in position, fumbles or loss of the ball by any attempted theft will be entirely obviated. It is always best, however, for the runner to make doubly sure against a fumble when tackled, by clasping the top of the ball with the free hand, as he is thrown to the ground. This also prevents possible injury to the free arm, bringing it up under the runner where it will be protected by his body.

Frequently a combination of the line-plunging and open-field holds of the ball is desirable, this being especially effective on such occasions as when an attempt at the line has proven so successful that the runner is entirely clear of the first line of defense. In this case he will be wise to shift his hold of the ball to that employed in a run round the end, thus bringing his free arm to a position where it can be used in the run through the open field which is to follow.

The secure grasp on the ball which must be the acquirement of every successful ground gainer should not be a matter of thought. He should learn to take it intuitively the moment the oval is passed to him, and this requires practice and patience. It is only by repeated trials in actual play and by faithful application to his work that the player can reach this stage of efficiency; but the art once learned will not be forgotten and is well worth the pains needed to acquire it.


Upper - blocking with hip. Lower - blocking with shoulder.

The first duty of the forwards of a football eleven is to learn thoroughly and be able to put into practice sure methods of blocking their opponents, in order that the latter may not be able to break through the line and tackle runners before plays can be fairly set in motion. The object of football is to score points and no team is able to do this unless the backs receive the protection they have a right to expect from the men who are playing in the line.

There are two methods of blocking an opponent, although these two permit of numerous variations. Opponents can be blocked with the shoulder or with the hip. Blocking with the arms is attempted at times, but this comes dangerously close to holding and is, as well, less effective for the purpose desired.

Generally speaking, the blocker should keep as close as possible to the man whom he is to keep out of the play. He is thus all the better enabled to watch his every move and be ready to anticipate it. He should study the position of his opponent in each play and follow him in his every move. While the opponent has the advantage in one sense, being able to use his arms in getting through, the blocker has one marked superiority over him, in that he has secured, through the signals of his quarter back, an accurate knowledge of the play that is to come and the direction in which it is to travel. Accordingly, he knows best which side to guard and the length of time which he will have to detain his opponent. Usually this is but a fraction of a second. The blocker should, the moment the ball is snapped, jump into his opponent, striking him squarely with the shoulder, if possible. He must keep his feet well under him to avoid a possible sudden jerk which would throw him forward on his face. In case the shoulder compact should be avoided by the opponent in any way, the blocker should endeavor to stop his man by interposing his hips. Often a player can wrap himself about an opponent by this method, so that the motions of the latter are completely checked for a moment, which will be time enough for the play to have gotten well under way.


Closely allied to, and in fact almost identical with blocking, is the making of holes in the line, through which to allow the backs to travel toward the opponents' goal. In this, as in blocking, the main purpose rests in so charging the opponent that he is momentarily put out of the play. The added necessity here is, however, that he shall be put out of the play in a certain direction, thus requiring more finesse and more certain strength and rapidity, in order not only to prevent the opponent from tackling the runner, but also to get him out of the way of the man with the ball, who is coming to a certain point.

The forward who is on the offensive, keeping as close as possible and making use of every inch of room allowed him, should, as before, act instantly and with all the strength at his command. He knows where the play is coming and should maneuver to get all the advantage of position for use in the crucial moment. He should watch his opponent's eyes and, the moment the ball is snapped, should charge forward, rising the moment he meets the enemy and endeavoring to get his own shoulder against the opponent's breast, if such be possible. The impact should carry the opponent back and to the side, the idea being the opening of a lane through which may come the runner with the ball. Aim to get under the opponent always, if this be possible. If he plays very low, aim to get him in such a way that he may first be turned aside and then forced back. Constant study of an opponent will assist in determining the methods by which he may most effectively be put out of a play. If he is found to be more vulnerable on one side than on the other, the quarter back who is directing the play of the team of which you are a member will become cognizant of the fact and will send the plays at the point where the hole is easiest to obtain.


The hands must be used freely on the defense to jerk the opponent aside.

The most effective method of breaking up the play of an opposing team is illustrated when a team possesses forwards who are able to penetrate the opposing line, starting the moment the ball is snapped and either tackling the man with the ball or so throwing his interference into such confusion that the runner is tackled the moment he reaches the line of scrimmage or even before. Trouble without measure can be meted out to an opposing team in this manner, when there is a forward or two capable of breaking through, and every play directed by the opponents should be a signal for instant effort to this end on the part of the defensive team.

The ability to break through an opposing line is not one inherent on mere brute force by any means. It requires mental ability in sizing up the opponent in the way, skill in avoiding his attempt to block and, above all, rapidity in thought and motion. A mere beefy man will be made to appear a novice at the game by a strong, resourceful player, well versed in the art.

The tackle should keep the end away from him, also the tackle.

The forward whose line is on the defense should aim to keep his opponent at arm's length until the moment the ball is snapped. The team on the defensive has the use of hands and arms and should employ this advantage to the utmost. The standard method of breaking through the line is to charge forward immediately, the moment the ball is snapped, arms out stiff and body how down. The opponent should be pushed to one side and the runner is very likely to be at the mercy of the man who has gotten through. Another method is to catch the opponent by the outside arm. When this grasp is secured the opponent will jerk back, which will often pull you through. It may also be possible to pull him to one side, which will enable you to pass by. Still another plan is to strike the opponent on one side, immediately shifting the attack to the other. The same purpose is often attained by making a feint at one side and then changing the line of attack. If the opponent is playing very low he may be hurdled, caught by the head and pushed or pulled in either direction.

All methods of breaking through, tried with success in the early stages of the game, may fail as the opponent learns to anticipate them. The forward should then vary his style, always producing some new trick which will constantly keep the enemy guessing.

Get the jump on the other fellow. Don't let your opponent get to your body. Don't go through too high. Don't forget to use hands and arms whenever their use will assist in getting through. Charge forward all the time.


Showing the use of the stiff arm to avoid being tackled.

The proper use of the stiff arm by a runner in the open field is an acquisition which will be found well nigh invaluable to a back who is carrying the ball in a dash down the field. As the runner sees that he is about to be tackled he can suddenly shoot out his free arm, palm open, meeting the charge of the tackler with the arm stiff and rigid, often turning him aside to such an extent that he either entirely misses the tackle or is sufficiently foiled in his purpose to allow the runner to free himself without stopping and to continue on his way toward the opponents' goal. The straight arm can be directed toward the opponent's breast, if the latter is coming high, or toward his head or shoulder, if he is making his effort in a crouched position. Continual practice will develop a proficiency that will enable the runner to escape many tackles which, without the stiff arm, would certainly have brought him to earth.

In delivering the stiff arm the runner should always aim to conceal his intention as far as possible from the tackler, avoiding the habit of carrying the arm in an advanced position before the tackler gets close enough to permit its use, and shooting out the arm at exactly the moment when the opponent attempts the tackle. If the runner's purpose is divulged in advance, the tackler will be ready to ward it off and the stiff arm will be of little use.

This picture illustrates how the stiff arm can be thrown aside.

Use of the stiff arm is confined entirely to runners in the open field. It is a hindrance, rather than an aid, in line plunging, where there are possible tacklers on all sides and the runner's purpose must be, first of all, to force his way through. When a runner, however, succeeds in getting through a line into the open field, the stiff arm may enable him to dispose of a tackler and thereby convert his effort into a touchdown, as there may then be but one tackler between him and the opponents' goal.

The tackler, in approaching a runner with the ball, should always bear in mind the possibility of a sudden stiff arm and should be on his guard against it. He should meet it with a parry like that which a boxer would employ against a straight jab from an opponent, brushing the arm aside and out of his way, generally upward, in his effort to get close to the runner and bring him down. The tackler should not wait for a hint that the stiff arm is to be used but should anticipate it on every occasion when it would be possible for the runner to employ it. He will thus be enabled to get close to his man and cannot be brushed to either side, out of the runner's path or to the ground in front of him, there to be hurdled or side-stepped.

The two illustrations which accompany this chapter should be of great value in demonstrating the use of the stiff arm and the way in which a tackler should be able to avoid it.


Effective interference, or the warding off of tacklers from the runner with the ball by the members of his team, is one of the absolute necessities to success in any offensive plays not directed as plunges into the opposing line. Any attempt to carry the ball which in any way develops a contest between the two forces in the open field must be supported by capable interference or it will signally fail.

The interference whereby possible tacklers are thwarted in their purpose is accomplished by the knees, body or shoulders of the interferer, the purpose being to so cast the person of the interferer between the tackler and the runner as to put the former out of the play. The portion of the interferer which can best be used for this end varies with the attitude in which the contemplative tackler is making his attempt to get at the runner. If the tackler is coming low he can be warded off by the interferer's knees; if coming in the medium position he can be checked with the hips; if still higher up, he can be met with the shoulder.

In every case the interferer must aim to meet the tackler with all his might and must prevent the latter at all events from forcing him back into the path of the runner with the ball. If he fails in this he is merely an impediment, instead of an assistance to the progress of the ball. When an interferer and a tackler meet, it is one or the other that is going to be put out of the play, and the interferer should see to it that the opponent is brushed aside and the path of the runner cleared of the man whom it is his duty to take care of.

An interferer should always aim to do his work intelligently. He should not wait for the man he is assigned to watch but should anticipate the rush of the opponent. He should never brush by the man but should charge him energetically, to prevent his slipping behind and dragging down the runner. The interferer must see his man and keep him in sight all the time till he is put out of the play.

Out in the open an interferer can frequently save his man from being tackled by a long dive, if it is impossible to reach him in any other way. This form of assistance to the man with the ball is often very effective.


Upper picture illustrates how to fall on ball that is coming toward you. The lower one, when it is going away.

A football player is often called upon to fall on the ball as it lies on the ground or rolls along over the field. If the ball is in motion it may be coming toward the player, going away from him or traveling directly across his front.

If the ball is moving away from the player he should dive for it, lighting on the knees first and falling forward on and around the ball as in Figure 1. The hands and arms should draw the ball securely against the body to prevent any of the opponents obtaining even part possession of it. This they will always try to do. If the ball is bounding so that it can easily be caught off the ground, then the player should catch it. Never pick the ball up if it is lying on the ground, however. Always fall on it or someone else will do so. If the ball is rolling along slowly on the ground, the player can still use his hands or arms to gather it in under the body.

When the ball is bounding it must be watched closely, as it will bound irregularly.

If an opponent is about to fall on the ball it is sometimes possible to push him so that he will miss it, and the oval can then be secured for your side. The ball may also at times be successfully kicked out from under an opponent just as he is about to fall on it. If two men are racing for the ball with one of the opponents it is often best for one man to block, off the opponent, allowing his own team mate to secure the ball.

In falling on the ball, do not fall with your weight directly on it, as this is likely to produce injury, but break the fall with the knees and elbows. The player must make sure of the ball first and foremost, and must not try to pick it up if there is any chance of losing it to the other side.

The above illustration shows the proper manner to fall on a ball that is fumbled at a player's feet or is rolling towards him. The player should throw his feet directly back and practically curve up in front of and around the ball. If the ball is moving, the legs and body together with the hands and arms can be used to pocket it up. The upper part of the body should come to the ground, the left side first if falling as above. If on the other side of the ball, the conditions would be reversed.

The player should practice falling on the ball while it is moving in every conceivable way. Practice should consist of diving and falling on the ball quickly. If the ball is to be secured in a game on a fumble before the opponents, no time can be spent in quietly lying down around it.