Football may be the country’s most popular sport but it is certainly not the cheapest, as only a pair of Nike football cleats can cost over $100, not to mention the rest of the equipment. Even so, thousands of high school and college students train for hours to enhance their performances, looking to receive a football scholarship and a chance to enter the professional league, the NFL.
The stakes are huge, as a rookie can earn up to $500,000 per year, without accounting for the additional sponsorships and publicity contracts.
However, no sport comes without sacrifice, and professional football players don’t have it easy. Aside from hard gym workout sessions and watching their diet, ballers also train on the field, doing hundreds of laps. And, if you ever wondered what’s so special about football fields or who came up with their dimensions, here is everything you need to know about the subject.
What is the standard size of a football field?
In American football (also known as football in the country), the standard field dimensions are 120 yards long and 53 ⅓ yards wide. The last 10 yards on both ends of the field are considered “end zones”, in which the player scores. The dimensions are consistent for most types of football played – high school, college, and professional (NFL), although there are slight adjustments.
Generally speaking, the total length of any football field is 120 yards, while the actual playing field is of 100 yards (300 feet). Each end zone is 30 feet deep. The field is marked with a yard line for every 5 yards, and by a field number for every additional 10 feet.
You’ll also encounter hash marks on the football field that mark every yard. It is an additional measurement line for balls between the yard lines.
What are the differences between football fields?
As we previously mentioned, slight differences between football fields are encountered for high school, college, and professional NFL fields. Although the total length of the field remains the same, some measurements change, according to the football category you play in.
The standard football field measures 160 feet (53 ⅓ yards) in width, and the main difference among the various levels of play is the space between the two sets of the hash marks. Therefore, for high school players, the space measures 53 feet and 4 inches, while for college students, the same space narrows down to 40 feet. Finally, professional NFL players only have a space that measures 18 feet and 6 inches, which makes it harder for them to score.
It is worth mentioning that all plays begin between or on the hash marks, depending on where exactly the previous play ended. For instance, if the former play ended along the left sideline, the ball will be placed on the left hash mark.
The goal dimensions also vary depending on the type of football you’re playing. The general measurements count for a crossbar that is 10 feet high, while the posts are 20 feet high, leading to a total height of 30 feet.
However, the NFL goal posts are smaller, measuring 18 feet and 6 inches in width. By comparison, the high school goal posts measure 23 feet and 3 inches in width. The goalposts are the most important places in the field as this is where the ball should be to score.
Other components of a football field
Apart from the length and width of the football field that remains the same on all play levels, the hash marks, and the end lines, there are other regulated components of a football field.
The player benches must also have the same dimensions and must be placed from a safe distance from the playing field. Each bench is six feet outside the border of the field or 6 feet apart from the sidelines.
The additional broken white line you’ll see on the field marks the area in which only substitute players and coaches are allowed to stand. Six feet behind the broken white line is where the bench area starts.
The area is used to gather all players and coaches and discuss strategies but it is also the place where trainers and team doctors examine players and treat them before or after they get on the field.
The playing surface
Similar to other sports like soccer and tennis, the playing surface can be either artificial or made of natural grass. Each of these surfaces has its pros and cons, and it depends on which players are used to playing.
Generally speaking, natural grass is the same from your backyard lawn or a random baseball outfield. It is green, cut to perfection, soft, but needs to be constantly replaced and treated to remain healthy. Natural grass is more expensive to look after in the long term and its quality varies on the type of grass used, as well as the climate conditions on the field.
When it’s raining, the field can get muddy and slippery, which may pose an additional challenge to football players who need to focus on keeping their balance and not falling or tripping on the grass.
On the contrary, artificial surfaces are made from synthetic nylon fibers that somewhat resemble short blades of grass. As you would have guessed, artificial turfs are easier and cheaper to look after and don’t require constant mowing or watering. Some other fields are made of tightly woven fibers that resemble a cushioned carpet.
Artificial surfaces are mainly used for training purposes and are better for players as they don’t have to worry about patches and muddy spots on the field when it’s raining. Another downside of artificial fields is that the fibers used to manufacture them retain the heat better than natural grass.
Consider the inconvenience of having to play football on a hot, summer day, when there are already 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
As a professional baller, you’ll have the protective equipment that easily adds another 20 pounds, not to mention the physical effort you’re enduring from running from one end to the other. An artificial background on a hot day may increase the playing surface temperature by 5 degrees, which makes it even harder for players to focus and perform.
Finally, artificial grass is often laid over cement, dirt, or blacktop, which makes it harder than regular grass. Even though you may think this adds stability and allows you to better keep your balance while running, you’ll find out that falling on it takes a toll on your body, and you may end up injured.
Another aspect to take into account when playing football is the size of the ball. It differs to accommodate athletes of various ages. Younger athletes will use smaller balls that are designed to fit into their hands and, as they grow up, they will exchange the footballs for bigger ones, similar to the ones used by NFL players.
Wilson, the company responsible for manufacturing all footballs in the country, says that no matter the size of the product, players will have the same experience when touching and throwing it. You may use a ball in a different size in various stages of your football career but this doesn’t mean you’re using a different ball.
The standards for high school, college, and NFL footballs are the same, which means all players starting the age of 14-15 will play with a ball that has the same dimensions – 11 inches in length, 7 inches in width, and 21 inches in circumference.
The dimensions significantly decrease to accommodate youth and junior players. Young children (12-14 years old) will use a ball that measures 11 inches in length, 6.5 inches in width, and only 19.5 inches in circumference, while juniors (9-12 years old) will play with a ball that is 0.5-inch smaller in length than regular ones and only measures 6 inches in width and 18.5 inches in circumference.
The football fields for smaller athletes are naturally smaller to meet their physical standards without forcing them too much.
If you’re excited about the new football season, you’ll have to wait until the weekend that follows the first week of September or the weekend right after Labor Day.
There are 11 players from each team on the field at one given time, and each team is allowed to have up to 45 players to match different skills and roles.
The average game lasts for about three hours, even though the official game clock only counts for 4 quarters of 15 minutes each (a total of 60 minutes).