Coaching Today

NFHS Rules Changes – Winter Sports

Winter Sports Rules 

As the winter sports season gets under way, check out the latest rules revisions in the sports of basketball, wrestling, swimming and diving, and ice hockey.  


[Basketball Rules Changes]    [Ice Hockey Rules Changes

[Swimming Rules Changes]   [Wreslting Rules Changes]   


High School Basketball Continues Without Shot Clock   

Participation and fan interest in high school basketball remain strong throughout the nation, and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Basketball Rules Committee voted to retain one aspect of the sport that makes it unique from other levels of play.  

At its April 16-18 meeting in Indianapolis, the committee considered a proposal to add a shot clock to the high school rules but agreed that the sport played by about one million boys and girls in approximately 18,000 high schools is functioning well without it.  

Although a shot clock has been employed at the college level for many years, results of the questionnaire that is sent to coaches, officials and state association administrators across the country did not indicate a strong desire to use the clock at the high school level. 

“In addition to the fact that there is some concern about the costs associated with the use of a shot clock, the committee also expressed a belief that the game is typically played with an up-tempo style even without a shot clock,” said Kent Summers, director of performing arts and sports at the NFHS. “In addition, the committee believes that coaches should have the option of a slower-paced game if they believe it makes their team more competitive in specific situations. This could be especially true for smaller schools with limited budgets, which comprise a significant number of the 18,000 basketball-playing schools. Since the NFHS writes rules for all sizes of schools and teams, it has to consider what is best for the masses.” 

The committee did approve one rule change and two major editorial changes, which subsequently were approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.  

Rule 2-12 will now require the official scorer to wear a black-and-white vertically striped garment. Previously, this was a recommendation for schools.  

“The players, coaches and officials need to be able to quickly and easily identify the official scorer, and making this a requirement should assist in that regard,” Summers said.  

One of the editorial revisions approved by the committee concerns changes made last year in a team-control foul. The following language will be added to Rule 4-19-7: “ . . . including a member of the throw-in team from the start of the throw-in until player control is obtained inbounds.” 

The committee noted that the team-control rule change last season introduced an unnecessary level of complexity to a number of rules. This additional language will allow all rules affected by the team-control definition change last season to revert to previous verbiage.  

The other editorial change is Rule 2-2-4, which expands the timeframe for state associations to intercede in the event of unusual incidents from after a game, to before and during a contest.   In addition, the Basketball Rules Committee approved four points of emphasis for the 2012-13 season: 1) closely guarded situations, 2) contact above the shoulders, 3) intentional fouls and 4) guidelines to enforce illegal contact. Points of emphasis are specific rules that need more attention by players, coaches and officials.  

Basketball is the second-most popular sport for girls and third-most popular for boys at the high school level, according to the 2010-11 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the NFHS, with 438,933 girls and 545,844 boys participating nationwide. The sport ranks first in school sponsorship of girls and boys teams with 17,767 schools sponsoring the sport for girls and 18,150 sponsoring the sport for boys. 


High School Ice Hockey Rules Changes Focus on Penalties for Hits from Behind   

In an effort to promote safer play and minimize the risk of injury, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Ice Hockey Rules Committee approved changes that will strengthen the language for checking from behind. 

Rule 6-7-1 states, “No player shall push, charge, cross-check or body-check an opponent from behind in open ice,” and a violation would result in a minor and misconduct penalty. Rule 6-7-2 also states, “Hitting from behind into the boards or goal frame is a flagrant violation,” and a violation calls for a game disqualification. 

The checking-from-behind change was one of five rules revisions approved by the rules committee at its April 23-24 meeting in Indianapolis. The changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors. 

Dan Schuster, NFHS staff liaison to the Ice Hockey Rules Committee, said that player safety was the main factor in the rules change. 

“Because of the attention being given to dangerous play, the committee really took a hard look at the severity of injuries caused by these hits,” he said. “The reason behind the rule is more about addressing a change of culture in high school hockey, and players, coaches, officials and fans need to understand the consequences of these hits.” 

Two additional rules changes will affect the goal crease. First, the high school goal crease will now have a different look, matching the crease used by both the National Hockey League and National Collegiate Athletic Association.  

Also, Rule 6-23-4 now states, “no attacking player shall stand on the goal-crease line or in the goal crease if, in the opinion of the official, the player physically prevents the goalkeeper from defending the goal.” 

According to Schuster, this rule is meant to eliminate unnecessary whistles that stop play when a player is in the crease but has no effect on the goalkeeper. 

“As long as a player isn’t physically disrupting or visually impeding the goalkeeper, he or she can stand in the crease,” he said. 

Additional rules changes were: 

Rule 5-2-3: Officials will now be required to wear a half face shield on their helmets, effective in the 2013-14 season. All other official uniform requirements remain the same. 

Rule 3-3-4: If a team challenges the opposing goalkeeper’s equipment, the official should not stop play to measure but should report the challenge to the state association. This rule was amended to limit stoppages of play. 

According to the NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, ice hockey is the 14th-most popular boys sport at the high school level with 36,912 participants in 1,612 schools. An additional 9,022 girls participated in the sport at 578 schools. 


Breaststroke Rule Clarified in High School Swimming 

New language was added to the breaststroke event in high school swimming that will help officials judge the initiation of the arm stroke permitted by rule on the start or turn. 

The revised rule will state that “the initiation of such arm stroke shall be accomplished by a discernible horizontal separation of the hands.” 

This clarification of the breaststroke event was one of five rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Swimming and Diving Rules Committee at its March 25-27 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.  

“By stating that there must be a discernible horizontal separation of the hands, it should more clearly define the initiation of the arm stroke,” said Becky Oakes, NFHS director of sports and staff liaison to the Swimming and Diving Rules Committee. “This change will help officials in more fairly judging the beginning of the arm stroke.” 

In the backstroke, a slight change was made to Rule 8-2-1f to permit a swimmer to lift the head to begin the rotation necessary to start a flip turn. The addition of the word “upward” provides clarification for legality of the turn. Oakes said this change should help avoid unwarranted disqualifications.  

In Rule 3-3-2, it now clearly states the penalty for wearing illegal attire, such as an illegally marked swimming cap. Previously, a specific penalty was not associated with illegal attire.  

When an official discovers a competitor wearing illegal attire as described in Article 2, the official shall, when observed prior to the start of the heat/dive, notify the competitor to make legal the attire before becoming eligible to compete. If the competitor cannot comply without delaying the start of the heat/dive, the competitor is disqualified from the event/dive and shall not be eligible for further competition until in legal attire.  

If the illegal attire is discovered after the heat/dive officially begins, the official shall disqualify the competitor at the completion of the heat/dive, nullify the competitor’s performance time/score and the competitor shall not be eligible for further competition until in legal attire.  

One change in diving rules was approved by the committee. While rules provide two options for establishing the order of divers in championship meets (by lot or by seeding), the default method for determining the order of the diving competition shall be by lot in those cases where there has been no action by the meet director.  

Swimming and diving ranks No. 10 in popularity among boys sports with 133,900, according to the 2010-11 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the NFHS. The sport ranks eighth among girls programs with 160,881 participants. 


Stalling Penalty Increased in High School Wrestling  

High school wrestlers who are called for a third stalling violation will receive a stiffer penalty beginning with the 2012-13 season. In addition to the two-point penalty assessed for a third stalling violation, the opponent will now have his or her choice of position on the next restart.  

The stalling penalty revision was one of eight rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Wrestling Rules Committee at its April 9-11 meeting in Indianapolis. The changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.  

“The change to the third stalling penalty resulted from the committee’s desire to encourage wrestlers to wrestle aggressively by providing a greater incentive not to stall,” said Dale Pleimann, chair of the Wrestling Rules Committee and former assistant executive director of the Missouri State High School Activities Association. “No one likes to see a wrestler disqualified for stalling. The hope is that by increasing the third stalling penalty, a wrestler who has been penalized twice will be encouraged to pick up the pace and wrestle more aggressively.” 

In other changes, the committee adjusted the current dual meet weigh-in procedure to align with the random draw. 

Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine and staff liaison to the Wrestling Rules Committee, said this change would provide maximum preparation and warm-up time for the first contestants scheduled to compete in a dual meet. 

Three new rules were approved by the committee, including Rule 4-3-5, which states that wrestlers “may not wear wristbands, sweatbands or bicep bands during a match.” This rule was enacted in an effort to minimize risk of injury from wrestlers getting their fingers caught in an opponent’s wristband or sweatband.  

Another new rule for 2012-13 is an exception to the 30-second tiebreaker. The new exception (8-2-1h) will read as follows:  

“If the second injury time-out is taken at the conclusion of the first 30-second tiebreaker period and the opponent already has the choice at the beginning of the second 30-second tiebreaker period, the opponent would then have the added choice at the first restart after the beginning of the second 30-second tiebreaker period.” 

This provision was a rule change last year for the regulation match and will now apply to the overtime as well.  

Rule 10-2-9 will be added to next year’s rules to address what happens when two wrestlers in the championship bracket simultaneously cannot continue a match.  If both wrestlers cannot continue because of disqualification for stalling or having their injury or blood time elapse, the wrestler who is leading on points at the time the match is terminated will continue in the consolation bracket. If the match is tied at the time of termination, neither wrestler will continue.  

Following are the other three changes approved by the committee: 

4-1-1a: Language has been updated to describe the wrestler’s singlet, and the change will also allow the T-shirt with no sleeves to be worn under the one-piece singlet when approved by the referee. 

5-11-2i: Rules language was expanded to complete the near-fall and penalty sequence.  

10-3-6 and 10-3-7: The tournament bracket format was revised to allow more flexibility in conducting a tournament.  

“The NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee confirmed that the sport of high school wrestling is in great shape overall by making only a few changes to the scholastic rules,” Pleimann said.  

Wrestling is the sixth-most popular sport for boys at the high school level with 273,732 participants in 10,407 schools during the 2010-11 season, according to the NFHS Athletics Participation Survey. In addition, 7,351 girls were involved in wrestling in 1,215 high schools.  



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