Football Activity Ideas for Recreation Therapists

As the air cools and the NFL’s preseason enters its final week, many people are getting excited about football. According to a USA Today article, between 13 and 27 million viewers tune in for each broadcast football game. Over 111 million viewers check out the Superbowl each February. People love football. How many of your participants are invested in the sport?

As Recreation Therapists, we could harness participants’ love for football and turn it into programming gold. There are a number of ways to incorporate football into programming while addressing several need areas. Here are a few football activity ideas that don’t require hard hitting, protective equipment, and concussion protocols.

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Physical Activity/Gross Motor

Throwing/Target Activities

It doesn’t take much to set up an area for participants to work on their arm strength, coordination, decision-making, and much more. Make an engaging target area (different point values, sizes and types of targets etc.) to motivate participants to play and replay this football activity idea. Sure, there are pre-made targets to purchase, but items in your storage closet work fine. Some hula hoops, cones, garbage cans, or an old tarp you wouldn’t mind cutting holes into could easily be made into inexpensive targets.

Mini-Camp Stations/Relays

Late summer is generally the time football teams start practicing at training camps. Make an activity where participants engage in different stations or relays using the basic skills of football. The stations and exercises you use will depend entirely on your participants’ needs and ability levels. Here are some ideas:

  • Run around cones with ball to simulate dodging tackles.
  • Catching and throwing passes.
  • Push an empty garbage can (or one with some weight in it) to simulate being an offensive lineman.
  • Kicking and Punting exercises. Kick for distance and/or accuracy.
  • Have wheelchairs? No problem. Do a two-person passing drill. Hand the ball off to one participant and have them go around cones to simulate dodging defenders. The participant without the ball does a wheelchair sprint to a specified location to get open for a pass. Once the passer gets around the cones, he throws it to the open receiver. Switch roles and repeat.

Those are just a few football activity ideas for mini-camp Stations/Relays. The key is to make fun, engaging stations so your participants forget it is physical fitness (isn’t that the point of Recreation Therapy?).

Fine Motor Skills

Make Paper Footballs

Maybe you remember them from grade school. Those footballs made by folding paper so the end product looks loosely like a triangle football. If you’re not sure what I mean, Google “making a paper football” or check out this resource. Not only is the process of making the paper footballs a great fine motor activity, playing with them is also great for hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The goalposts for the paper football game could made with simple materials or another participant’s hands.

Paper footballs are inexpensive (providing you could get into the office supply closet) and easily customizable. Think of ways to add a new dimension to the paper football game. For example, write a leisure category (social, physical, etc/) on each football. For each paper football the participant flicks through the goalpost, the participant must name seven different activities based on the category written on the football. That will earn them a 7-point touchdown.

Football Dice Game

In brainstorming ideas for this article, I had the idea to for using dice to simulate a football game. I am not sure if I saw this football activity idea somewhere else before or not. Make a game board that looks like a football field and something to use as a place marker. Make sure the yard lines are marked. This game is ideally for two people or small teams.

The team starting as offense has two dice while the other team (defense) has one. Both teams spin at the same time simulating a play. The offence adds up his dice total then subtracts whatever the defense rolled. That number is how many yards the offense gained for the play.  For example, if the offense rolled a 2 and a 6, and the defense rolled a 5, the offence earned 3 yards for the play (2+6=8 – 5 = 3). Like football, the offense must make ten yards in 4 or less tries to earn a first down. Their goal is to make it to the end zone and score a touchdown. If the offense does not make a first down the players switch their roles and the other team becomes offense.

Modify the game as you see fit. This football dice game would make fun addition to any football-themed game night.

Creative Expression

Make Your Own Logo/Uniform

Let your participants get creative and develop their own uniform and/or logo. Have the logo/uniform incorporate things that are important to them. Use colored pencils, markers, paint, cutouts from magazines, or, if available, design it digitally.

Football Craft Projects

A quick search through Google or Pinterest will give you many ideas for football crafts. As I glanced through Pinterest–I am kind of an amateur at that site–I found a great activity idea incorporating football and horticulture. Checked out my Horticulture Therapy Activity Ideas article to learn more about the benefits of using plants and nature in Recreation Therapy.

This mini turf project is like a fairy garden for football lovers. Here is a link to the article.


Parking Lot Tailgate

Depending on your setting, a little party in the parking lot might be a welcomed change of pace for your participants. Some music, tailgate food, games like bean bags or washers, a cool breeze, and the ambiance of your facility’s parking lot may be all you need for a nice early fall outdoor party.

Fantasy Football

If you know people who love football, chances are at least some of them participate in fantasy football. Fantasy football involves choosing players for your “fantasy” team. Points are awarded to your team based on the player’s real life performance that week. For example, if the running back you chose gets a touchdown in real life, then your fantasy team will receive six points.

Thanks to sites like Yahoo and ESPN, setting up a fantasy league is fairly easy and free. If your participants have access to computers/tablets, and are tech savvy, setting up your facility’s private fantasy football league is a great football activity idea lasting all season.

Don’t worry if your participants don’t have the resources or abilities to maintain a fantasy football team for an entire season. Make it a simpler activity.

Have each participant pick one player in a certain position. Quarterbacks and running backs are good positions because they generally get a lot of action during the game. Then post each participant’s pick on a bulletin board. Update the board as each football game is completed. For example, if each of your participants chose one running back, update how many yards they ran and touchdowns they scored. By Monday, everyone will be talking about the board and the results.

Football Viewing Parties

Why wait for the Superbowl to have a great football themed party? Check out your participants’ favorite team(s) schedule(s) and plan a party. Make the theme appropriate for the specific game. Bears versus Lions–an animal theme with animal trivia. Packers versus 49ers–have participants discuss the origins of the team names.

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Football Outings

If making it to an NFL game isn’t an option, consider finding a local college or high school team for your participants to view. Depending on your location, some pro football teams offer training camps for free.This is a great option for your participants to see football action up close and possibly get a few autographs. I have taken my participants to the Chicago Bears training camp for years, and it is always a great experience. Calling ahead may secure your group great seats and extra bonuses–especially if accessibility is an issue.

Cognitive/Leisure Education

In addition to some of the activities mentioned above that could also be considered cognitive–the Football Dice Game and Fantasy Football–here are a couple other Cognitive/Leisure Education football activity ideas.

“As a Coach, I would tell my team…”

This simple activity works great if you are trying to teach your participants about sportsmanship and teamwork. Participants in the the group pick three qualities they feel are most important for a successful team. They then describe how they would convey those qualities to the team.  It could be used for a football team, but I made an ambiguous worksheet that could work for any sport or team activity. Here is a link to the worksheet, and I’ve also included a viewable pdf at the bottom of this article.

Football Trivia

Trivia is a great way to teach participants and get them interested in a particular subject. There is no one-size-fits-all trivia sheet, so it is best to make your own based on their abilities and cognitive levels. Use multiple choice answers, picture answers, or anything you find appropriate to make the activity challenging yet still accessible. Offer prizes or recognition for those getting the most trivia questions correct. Football Trivia is easily incorporated into other football activity ideas and parties to add another dimension to your programming.


Football is one of the most viewed and talked about sports. Chances are your participants have some experience or knowledge about it. Use their love for football to motivate them to participate in your quality programming.

This only scratches the surface of football activities ideas. Also, many of these ideas will work for other sports. Please comment below with your experiences incorporating football into programming. The TRRT community loves to hear fresh ideas.

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I started this blog early in the spring, and I am happy to say it is gaining popularity. I want to thank everyone that liked the Facebook Real Reaction Therapist Page and shared it with others. If you find any of TRRT’s articles helpful, please share them with others on your favorite social media platforms. It helps others and creates a strong community where all of us Recreation Therapists and Activity Professionals can share ideas and insights.

Looking for great Labor Day bargains? Interested in incorporating therapeutic concepts into your participants’ movie night? Find out more in my Cinema Therapy article. In addition to the article’s information, Danny Pettry offered 20% off of his Cinema Therapy continuing education course AND free delivery of the reading materials and his exclusive Cinema Therapy Card Game. Time is running out for this offer, so if you are interested, consider using that money you saved on all your other Labor Day bargains to invest in a great programming idea and getting a jump on completing those necessary CEUs for your recertification. Learn more about this Exclusive Offer!

Do you use Pinterest to find activity ideas? I’m interested in writing an article on the best ways to use Pinterest for Recreation Therapists. As mentioned earlier, I am an Pinterest novice, so I would love to hear your ideas and advice about using this popular social media platform to get great programming ideas. Send me an email, message me on the Real Recreation Therapist Facebook page, or contact me through this website.

Thank you all for being a part of The Real Recreation Therapist Community. I look forward to writing and collaborating with others to give the best possible information for Recreation Therapists and other Activity Professionals.

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