History of Football

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11658

Football is football, right? Well, it depends on what country you are in! Although in January it seems football has been around forever, check out the history of the old pigskin for some surprises!



learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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1-2-3 Hike! Football has become one of the most popular sports in America and has begun to spark interest around the world.

  • Why has football become such a beloved sport?
  • What makes football different from other sports?
  • Where did football come from?

Football is one of the most successful and popular sports in America.

Over one million high school students play the game, and another 20,000 to 30,000 continue on to the college level annually. Even more, football has become America's premiere spectator sport. The National Football League (NFL), the top professional football league in the world, was projected to earn over $13 billion in 2016.

That's not so bad for a sport that was started in muddy fields by a bunch of scrappy players in the northeastern United States. The name of the sport is a strange one — football — considering the feet don't have that much to do with the ball.

In the rest of the world, outside the United States, football is the sport Americans call soccer. By studying the origin of these names, we can learn a lot about America's most beloved sport.

Read Why Americans Call Soccer 'Soccer', by Uri Friedman for The Atlantic Monthly Group, about the origins of the words football, rugby, and soccer. As you read, write down information and ideas to answer the following questions:

  • What was the original sport from which all three of these modern sports came?
  • Why did different sets of rules develop?
  • Why did Americans continue to use the word soccer, while the rest of the world dropped it?

Write down the answers to the questions above. Then, reflect on the following questions:

  • What is one difference between American football and rugby? Between American football and soccer?
  • Would it be accurate to suggest that American football developed out of soccer? Why or why not?
  • What do you think are some differences in the way people thought about sports back in the 1800s and now, based on what you read?

You have gathered some information about the pre-history of our modern sport of football.

In the Got It? section, delve into the details to see how the rules changed, and why the early dangers of the game forced modifications to literally save lives!

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