What is the Definition of Hashmarks in American Football?

In the game of American Football, one of the primary features on the field is the visible mark-up of numerous lines and dashes. Among these lines, the hash marks, or small white parallel lines running across the field, play a significant role in ensuring proper game organization and maintaining gameplay structure. In order to comprehend the functions of hash marks, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the basic rules and layout of a football field.

Fundamentally, hash marks are utilized for spotting purposes, such as ball placement and measurements, by fans, referees, and players. They assist in determining distances and alignment of players for each play, while also serving as a visual aid to measure players’ on-field positions. Additionally, hash marks come in two separate configurations depending on the American football code: NFL and NCAA. This distinction is crucial in understanding how different levels of the game employ hash marks to create distinctive gameplay strategies.

Key Takeaways

  • Hash marks aid in ball placement and measuring distances on a football field
  • Integral for aligning players and determining on-field positions
  • NFL and NCAA football codes use distinct hash mark configurations

Hashmarks in American Football

Hashmarks are an essential component of American football fields, as they serve multiple functions during gameplay. These small dashes run in two rows down the center of the field, each one a yard apart, and are positioned parallel to the yard lines. The primary purpose of hashmarks is to align the players at the start of each play and assist them in understanding their running lanes and timing.

In the NFL, the distance between hashmarks and the closest sideline is 70 feet, 9 inches. This measurement differs from college football fields, where hashmarks are noticeably closer to the sidelines. In professional leagues such as the NFL and most indoor football versions, hash marks are in line with the goalposts. In the NFL, both the hash marks and goalposts are 18 feet, 6 inches apart, while in indoor football, they are between 9 and 10 feet (2.7 and 3.0 meters) apart.

During gameplay, the position of the ball on the hashmarks can play a crucial role. For instance, kickers may have preferences for certain hashes, such as a right-footed kicker preferring the left hash for game-winning situations. The location of the hashmarks may also affect the strategy and play calling for both offensive and defensive teams.

In conclusion, hashmarks are a vital element of American football. They provide structure to the field and serve as reference points for players, coaches, and officials. By understanding the function and positioning of hashmarks, one can better appreciate the intricacies of the sport.

Purpose of Hashmarks

Establishing Field Position

Hashmarks in American Football play a crucial role in establishing field position. They are small lines, spaced a yard apart, that run in two rows parallel to the sidelines and down the middle of the field. They help referees, players, and coaches accurately measure distances on the field and determine the location for the ball to be placed at the start of each play. By providing a visual reference of field position, hashmarks ensure the game is played fairly and consistently.

Determining In-Bounds and Out-of-Bounds

Another important function of hashmarks is to assist in determining whether a play is in-bounds or out-of-bounds. Since the hashmarks run parallel to the sidelines, they create a clear distinction between the playing field and the area outside the field of play. This distinction is crucial for referees to determine if a player stepped out-of-bounds during a play or if a pass was caught in-bounds. Proper hashmark placement helps maintain the accuracy and fairness of the game by enabling quick and precise decisions on in-bounds and out-of-bounds calls.

Hashmark Measurements

Distance Between Hashmarks

In American football, the distance between the hash marks varies depending on the level of play. In the NFL and indoor football leagues, the hash marks are 18 feet 6 inches apart, aligning with the goalposts. Conversely, high school, college, and the Canadian Football League have slightly wider hash marks that do not align with the goalposts. High school hash marks are 53 feet 4 inches apart, while NCAA hash marks are 40 feet apart.

Distance from Sidelines

The distance of the hash marks from the sidelines also differs between various leagues. In the NFL, hash marks are 70 feet 9 inches away from the sideline. In college football, they are placed at 60 feet from the sideline, creating a wider playing field for collegiate games. For high school football, the hash marks are even closer to the sidelines, being 53 feet 4 inches away.

Role in Gameplay

Spotting the Ball

The hash marks in American football play a crucial role in gameplay by determining where the ball is placed during each play. They serve as reference points for alignment and ball placement, ensuring consistency in positioning. Each hash mark is one yard apart, and they run parallel to the sidelines at 70 feet and 9 inches (21 yards, 36 inches) from each sideline, narrowing down the field. When the play is over, the ball is placed on the nearest hash mark, ensuring that the offense always starts a play from a hash mark.


Hash marks also have a notable impact on kickoffs. In American football, the kickoff sets the stage for the start of each half and occurs at the beginning of each possession after a touchdown or field goal. When a player kicks off, he places the ball on a kicking tee along the same yard line as the hash marks run. The kickoff creates a marked boundary within which the kicking team sends downfield to receive the kick, effectively commencing a new series of plays.

Field Goals

In addition to spotting the ball and kickoffs, the hash marks serve a key function in executing field goals. When attempting a field goal, the kicker lines up directly behind the spot where the ball placement is made. This spot is usually at one of the two hash marks towards either sideline, delineating the kicker’s approach angle and affecting the perceived difficulty of the kick. The decision to place the ball on either hash mark typically depends on the kicker’s preference, as right-footed kickers may favor the left hash mark and left-footed kickers the right hash mark. By dictating the ball placement during field goal attempts, hash marks play a crucial role in the outcome of critical scoring situations.

Comparison to Other Football Codes

Canadian Football

In Canadian Football, hash marks are situated 24 yards apart, which is wider compared to the 18 feet 6 inches distance in the NFL. This difference in width changes the angles for kicking and affects the offensive play strategies.


Rugby, unlike American Football, does not utilize hash marks. Instead, it has five-meter lines, parallel to and at a five-meter distance from the touchlines or sidelines on either side of the field. These lines are used to position the defending players during a scrum or lineout – similar events to the scrimmage in American football.

Association Football (Soccer)

Association Football, commonly referred to as soccer, does not have hash marks on the field. The field is divided into two halves with a center circle and a penalty area near each goal post. The only significant marks on the playing surface include the centerline, the penalty arc, and the corner markings.