Continuing the tread of recreational sports, last week was bicycling. Today we'll concentrate on football. These remarks come from "Outdoors: A Book of Healthful Pleasures" ©1894
BY WALTER CAMP.
Secretary Advisory Committee Inter-Collegiate Foot Ball Association.
IN the bright, crisp days of late October, when the air has in it a bracing exhilaration that tempts one to almost any belief in athletic strength and prowess, when the wheelman finds not his endurance but the day too short, when even the horsa under the rider seems to gather power from the air he breathes, when the wonderful and bewitching autumn of the year has given all her wealth in lavish display of colors, then is the season of the sport of foot ball.
The game is a too sharp and sturdy one for the hot days of summer, and winter renders the ground unfit for the hard tumbles of the players; but during the two months of October and November, the season is at its height and the gridiron field is covered with the hardy young players.
It is now nearly twenty years since the Rugby Union game of our English cousins was introduced in this country. Previous to that time American foot ball amounted to but little. Some indiscriminate kicking and bunting, a very poor, mongrel attempt at the old Association style of play, was all that could be brought out here. No more than a few score people would come to a match, and even they would hardly find a reward for coming. To-day, thirty-five thousand psople will sit, unprotected, through the heaviest rainstorm to see the final match of the American Inter-collegiate season, while other matches draw ten or twenty thousand. Schools and colleges from Maine to California all have foot-ball teams, and wherever there are two rival schools, colleges, or universities within travelling distance of each other, there is now an annual foot-ball contest, fraught with the greatest intensity of interest. And for all this, foot ball is still an undeveloped sport. Each year brings forward new lines of skill and tactics, each season witnesses some marked advance in the play, and ffom the last match in November until the opening of the next season in September, the busy brains of captains, coaches, and players are studying up new strategies, unusual and brilliant manoeuvres, many of which, it is true, come to naught when put to the test, but there are always a few of the best that succeed beyond all expectations and mark out still further lines of progress.
The fundamental theory of the game "is of the simplest character. Two teams of eleven men each meet upon a field 330 feet long and 160 feet wide, and each team endeavors to put the ball over the goal, or past the goal line of the opponents. The ball may be kicked, carried, or passed by the players, but by only the two former methods can it be advanced, for all passing or throwing the ball must be directly across the field or else toward the players' own goal and not toward the goal of the opponents. There are but two scoring places and those are at the ends of the field, and called the goal lines. They are the end boundaries and in the centre of each stands the goal itself, composed of two upright posts, set eighteen and a half feet apart and crossed by a bar at a height of ten feet from the ground. To score a goal the ball must be kicked by the player over this bar and between the two posts which project above it. There is but one kind of a kick that cannot score a goal, and that is what is technically termed a "punt." In a punt the kicker drops the ball from his hands and kicks it before it touches the ground. This style of kick is the most common one for advancing the ball in the field of play, but when a team is near enough to try for a goal their kickers either attempt a drop kick, that is, kicking the ball just as it rises from the ground on the bound, or a place kick, where a second player holds it on the ground for another to kick. In addition to kicking goals, points may be scored by gaining touch-downs. These are of two kinds, ordinary touch-downs and safeties. The former are made by carrying the ball over, or securing it behind the line of the enemy's goal, the latter are made by members of a hard pressed side carrying the ball behind their own goal line as a measure of protection. An ordinary touch-down entitles the side making it to a try at the opponent's goal by a place kick, but, even though the kick be unsuccessful, the touchdown itself counts four points. If the goal be kicked the two together count six points. A goal kicked in any other way than from a touch-down, counts but five points. Finally, a safety counts two points for the opponents; and the entire match is decided by the number of points scored in two halves of forty-five minutes each. The laws under which the game is played may be summed up briefly as follows : —
Any player may run with or kick the ball, and any opponent may seize him when he has the ball in his possession and stop him or try to secure the ball. The only limitation to a player's running with the ball or kicking it, is, that he must have received it when '.' on side," that is, without being between the ball and the opponent's goal. The only limitations to the tacklers are that they must not seize the runner below the knees or trip him. There are two judges under whose rulings the game is played, one known as the umpire, who sees that the players are guilty of no unfair acts, and the other called th2 referee, who judges the position and progress of the ball. The game is begun by placing the ball in the centre of the field, in the possession of one of the teams, [decided by toss,] and then follows the attempt to advance the ball either by kicks or runs. In order to prevent a side continually holding the ball and never relinquishing it to the opponents, the rules provide that whenever a man is caught and held with the ball, his side must at once place the ball on the ground and make another attempt to advance it. If in three of these attempts they have not gained five yards, or lost twenty, they must, either by kicking the ball or surrendering it, give the other side a chance to try their skill at advancing it.
The remarkable development of the game in America has rendered the division of players even more specific than in England. The line in front, consisting usually of seven men, is called the rush line, or forwards, while the man who stands just behind this line and passes the ball for a kick or run, is termed the quarter back. Next behind him are two half backs and a back or goal tend. The forwards are still further classified as ends, tackles, guards, and centre, as will be seen by reference to the accompanying diagram.
The best advice to give to a man who desires to become a successful player is, to begin by putting himself in good physical condition, by engaging in any or all of the out-door sports of the summer season, being careful, however, not to overdo the matter by running any risks of overtraining, which is rather more liable to result from immoderate fatigue in the heat of summer than later in the year. In the early fall the teams begin work upon the field and the candidate for honors, who has spent some little of his summer in keeping in condition, at once finds himself better able to endure the violent exercise than those of his fellows who have devoted the summer to high living and little exercise. The man who tries foot ball for the first time is now, thanks to the popularity of the sport even among the younger schools and classes, so unusual, that one need only say to him, "Look on for a week, ask questions, and then put on a canvass jacket." To those who have had some experience, but who are ready to go up higher, to young school boys who want to get on the first team from the second, to preparatory school graduates just entering college who want to get on the freshman team, or to those who have aspirations for the 'Varsity, let me say that nothing will bring you so close to the object of your desires as-making a study of the particular position you wish to fill. A man must not be content with going through the daily routine of practice, doing merely what he has seen others do before him, thinking of none but the ordinary regulation work. He must begin by thinking, after his day of practice, just what plays were made during which he stood unoccupied, and lending no assistance. Then he must ask himself the question whether, without jeopardizing the play in any way, he could not perform some act that would add to its efficiency. For instance, a man is playing the position of left tackle, and the play has been that of sending the half back through between right end and tackle. As left tackle the mal* has merely blocked his opponent, and then psrhaps taken a step or two up the field, and looked on open-mouthed to see his runner making a fine gain on the right, but eventually brought down by the opposing full back. It occurs to the player who is really ambitious and thoughtful, that there was a possibility of the left tackle checking his man, and then, by fast running, getting over to the spot where the full back stopped the runner, and interfering so that the run might have yielded a touch-down.