The beginner's guide to touch footy
Touch football is one of the most popular and fastest-growing sports in Australia and NZ, and it’s easy to see why. Originally developed as a rugby league training technique, touch football is a limited-contact sport that’s fun and social. Plus, people of any age and ability can give it a shot!
With more than 500,000 registered members across Australia and New Zealand, and at least the same number of children participating in school programs, touch footy is here to stay. Plus, there are hundreds of touch football teams from social lunchtime games to high-level comps.
The rules are quite simple and, according to the NSW Touch Football Association, you’ll quickly pick up the basics from the first time you play.
“The beauty of touch footy is that you can play it for fun or be as competitive as you like, it’s also a great way to socialise with like-minded people.” says exercise physiologist Neil Russell. You can join an official competition or play casually on the weekend with family and friends.
How it works
Depending on how seriously your team takes the competition, you may or may not stick to the formal rules. Officially, a touch team consists of 14 people with a maximum of six or seven players on the field at any time. The game lasts for 45 minutes, divided into two 20-minute halves with a five minute break in the middle.
The aim is to score touchdowns (which are just like tries) by getting through the opponent’s part of the field without being touched by them, and placing the ball down in the touchdown zone. Each team scores as many touchdowns as they can to win the match.
Who can play?
While anyone can play touch footy regardless of age, gender, experience or ability, it’s important to play at a level that suits your fitness. “Playing with people of a similar skill level makes the game fun and also reduces the risk of injury,” says Russell. “It is recommended you have a moderate fitness base before playing, so check with your physician if you’re new to exercise or have any concerns before playing.”
Training for play
“Touch footy is a stop-and-start sport so interval training is great – you’re doing a lot of jogging and some sprinting, so working out on a cross trainer, bike or treadmill will help boost your fitness for the game,” says Russell. If you’re playing touch footy once a week, Russell advises incorporating other physical activity into your weekly routine. “Combine cardio based activities with strength training to improve your stamina during the game,” he says.
The best way to get in the game is to visit the Touch Football Australia website or Touch NZ where you can access the competition locator and find contact details for your area. With regard to equipment, comfortable clothes and a decent pair of sports shoes are all you need. “Most people wear sneakers, but if you’re really serious about it you can invest in moulded soccer or footy boots,” says Russell.
“Touch footy covers all the bases; it’s interval training, which is a great tool for increasing cardio fitness and boosting your energy levels.” says exercise physiologist Neil Russell.