Field & Boundary Terms In Football Explained

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

Field and boundary are two terms often used by offensive and defensive coaches in football. What do the terms mean, and why are they important?

Field and boundary refer to the spacing on the football field. The field is the wide side of the field, and the boundary is the short side of the field.

This article will show you why field and boundary matter and why coaches stress spacing.

Field & Boundary Meaning

These two terms are used by offensive and defensive coordinators to describe the space on the football field. It’s important to understand the field and the boundary, as offenses and defenses will strategize each part of the field.

Field and boundary play a major role in understanding field spacing and where big plays are more likely to happen.

When the offense can get their athletes into space, the defense has more opportunities for yards gained and missed tackles.

Let’s learn more about what field and boundary mean and how you can identify them.

What Does Field Mean?

Field & Boundary meaning in football

Field means the part of the field that has more space.

For example, if the ball is on the left hash. That means there is more space on the right side of the field. More space for the offense means more room to run and more opportunities for explosive plays.

To counter this, the defense will often put more players toward the field to stop the offense from getting their fast players into space. More space means more opportunity for the offense.

Teams that run 4-2-5 defenses will often have their 5th defensive back lineup automatically to the field. This helps the defense in runs to the field and has an extra body to cover the pass to the field.

Because the football field is an uneven 53.3 yards wide, there will always be a field and boundary. Meaning, there will always be one side wider than the other, even if it seems as if the ball is directly in the middle of the field.

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What Does Boundary Mean?

what does boundary mean in football

The boundary is the short side of the field. For example, if the ball is on the left hash, the short side of the field would be to the left side.

Identifying the boundary is important because there is less room to pass or run the football for the offense. There is less opportunity for the offense to have a big play simply because players have less room to run.

Defenses will often put fewer resources into the boundary, as there is less room to run and throw the football.

The offense will seldom use the boundary for explosive plays, but rather quick passes and quick-hitting runs to keep the defense honest.

If offensive coordinators are always running to the field, the defense can easily pick up on this and blitz the offense from the field.

Identifying Field & Boundary

Coaches can have their players identify the field and boundary as soon as the play is over. If the ball goes out of bounds outside of the hash marks, the ball will automatically be reset on the hash.

This means the defense and offense will know right away where the field and boundary are.

If the player is tackled inside the hash marks, the ball will be set right where the ball carrier landed. This is the fastest way to identify the field and boundary before the play even starts.

What If The Ball Is In The Middle Of The Field?

There may come a point in the game when the ball is located directly in the middle of the field. Technically, with the width of the field being 53.3 yards, the ball will hardly ever be in the true middle of the field. So it will always be slightly shaded to one side. See our complete football field dimension guide here.

Coaches who play their defenses based on field and boundary will typically use the adjustments if the ball is in the middle of the field:

  • Formation run strength
  • Formation pass strength
  • Quarterback’s throwing arm

All of these adjustments can be made based on the game plan and where the coach feels comfortable putting the strength of his defense.

Keep Learning

Field and boundary are important to remember because they will impact the offense and the defense. If an offensive coordinator is always running to the field, defenses can easily pick up on this and blitz from the field.

This will make it more difficult for the offense to get explosive plays, which is why offensive coordinators will often be running to the boundary more often than not.

Offensive coaches will stress spacing because of this reason. The offense needs to be able to get open space to create explosive plays.

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About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.


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