An onside kick in American football occurs when the kicker on the kickoff team intentionally kicks the ball in a way that makes it possible for the kicking team to recover it. An onside kick is accomplished by kicking it a short distance, but several strategies can be employed to make it easier for the kicking team to recover the ball.
To qualify as a legal kick, the ball must travel at least 10 yards after the kicker kicks it in order for the kicking team to recover it. If it travels less than 10 yards before the kicking team recovers it, possession is awarded to the receiving team. The receiving team does not have to wait until the ball travels 10 yards. However, if a member of the receiving team touches the ball before it travels 10 years, but does not hang onto it, the kicking team can recover it before the required 10 yards.
A member of the kicking team is not allowed to block a member of the receiving team before the ball has traveled the required 10 yards. If the 10 yard blocking rule is violated, possession is awarded to the receiving team.
After the kickoff travels 10 yards, the receiving team is allowed to catch the ball and run with it just like any other kickoff. However, if it is recovered by the kicking team, the ball cannot be advanced, unless a member of the receiving team had possession of the ball and fumbled it while trying to advance the ball.
In professional football, during an overtime period, if a kicking team recovers an onside kick and scores on its ensuing possession, the game is over. Although normally each team is allowed to have a possession during the overtime period, the receiving team, in that case, is considered to have had its opportunity. The rule does not apply to college football because kickoffs aren't used during overtime at the college level.
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