There are two basic ways of earning points in football: Scoring a touchdown, which entails getting the ball into the opposing team's end zone by passing it or running it across the goal line, or scoring a field goal by kicking the ball through the opposing team's goal posts.
The team in possession of the ball has four chances, called "downs," to move the ball 10 yards (9.14 meters) farther toward their opponent's end zone. If they achieve this 10-yard objective, they then get four more downs in which to move 10 more yards down the field. However, if they do not move the ball 10 yards, they lose possession of the ball. The opposing team then has four downs in which to move the ball 10 yards in the opposite direction. The objective is for the team in possession of the ball to score a touchdown or a field goal in the other team's end zone. If a team is willing to give up possession of the ball, they may punt the ball to the other team after three downs. This moves the ball many yards away from your team's own end zone and may put your team in scoring position if the other team loses possession of the ball [source: Pasqualoni and McLaughli].
Each team is made up of linemen, who play at the line of scrimmage, and "backs" -- a quarterback, running backs, and so on. Most plays begin with the center (a lineman) snapping the ball -- or moving it a quick, continuous motion -- through his legs to the quarterback. The quarterback may then run the ball or pass the ball to another player who runs with it toward the opposing team's end zone. The other linemen are responsible for blocking the opposing team's players as they try to interfere with this process [source: McCarthy].
In "full contact" football, or tackle football, a play ends when the player holding the ball goes out of bounds or is forced to the ground by a player on the opposite team. In flag football, or "no contact" football, a play ends when the player holding the ball runs out of bounds or has his flag removed from his uniform by a member of the opposite team [sources: NFL Youth Football, Rice Recreation Center].
For information on the equipment needed to play youth football safely, read on.