Free, Fun, Educational… Football?
What some may think is only for diehard fans or a way to gamble, is also a fun way to practice math, strategy, and social skills.
What is fantasy football?
Fantasy football is a game where family and friends compete against each other. While some gamble, most players seek bragging rights, not money. In some games, the loser will need to perform an embarrassing act. Betting who has to do the dishes for a month or chores for the week can be much more of an incentive than money.
It starts off with a draft system where each person acts as a team manager. Each manager will choose quarterbacks, kickers, running backs, tight ends and wide receivers, as well as choose a team’s overall defense.
Offensive players earn points for your fantasy team by their performance on a real team: moving the ball down the field with carries, touchdowns, extra points and completed passes. Defense will earn points with interceptions, blocked punts, sacks, and keeping the points-allowed close to 0.
Each week managers will go through their teams and fill out their ‘roster’ for that week. These rosters will face each other and compete for points that are calculated in real time as the real games are played by their “fantasy team” athletes. At the end of the week’s games, all the points earned by their players will be added up and the winner will be decided between the two teams.
How can this be educational?
Strategic Skills: Strategy plays a key role in fantasy football. After the initial draft where you acquire all your players, you need to decide which player for this week’s roster. For example, you may have 3 quarterbacks on your team. If your superstar quarterback is playing a strong defense in a real game that week, you may decide to go with QB #2.
Figuring out the right combination of players is key to winning games. To successfully manage a team, you may have to ignore being a fan, since picking players from your hometown team, is not always wise. I am a Giants fan myself, but currently have zero Giants players on my fantasy teams.
Math Skills: There is a lot of math involved fantasy football. During a draft, looking at a player’s previous season’s percentages can help determine how they will perform this year. Studying player averages and calculating projections could take up a whole unit of math in school.
It can be as in-depth as you like. Everything from the average amount of yards a running back earns each carry, to a quarterback’s interceptions (negative points), and a kicker’s field goal range is a factor. You will also need to calculate how many points your team is going to earn and compare them to your opponent, not to mention you can drop or trade players, to ensure that you have an advantage. The NFL has expressed interest in even adding Fantasy Football to the school curriculum.
Social Skills: Getting together to do drafts can be as simple as an online pick and choose, or an event where you and friends get together for a live draft. Leagues can have from 4 to 20 people. Each week managers face a different team, so knowing who you are up against can be competitive but very fun. Because this is an online tool, you can play with a league made up of neighbors, or you can start a league with friends across the country or the world. I am involved in one league with friends from the US, Canada and Norway, and this allows us to keep in touch.
If you are new to fantasy football, don’t worry! There are many tools that aggregate all the information you need to make an informed decision. Also there are plenty of ‘open leagues’ where anyone can play. Many teams can have two managers so it’s easy for a parent and a youngster to ‘team up’.
The 2014 regular season starts September 4th, and it only takes about an hour to hold a draft. You can start a league for free today on some of the most popular fantasy football sites including Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.