Coaching Today

NFHS Rules Changes – Spring Sports

 

As the spring sports season gets under way, check out the latest rules revisions in the sports of baseball, boys lacrosse, softball, and track and field. 

[Baseball Rules Changes]     [Boys Lacrosse Rules Changes] 

[Softball Rules Changes]     [Track and Field Rules Changes] 

 

Baseball Rules Committee Addresses Altering of Bats 

New language has been added to the high school baseball rules to re-emphasize that non-wood bats cannot be altered. 

This additional note in Rule 1-3-2 was one of four rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Baseball Rules Committee at its June 3-5 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors. 

The new note in Rule 1-3-2 is as follows: “The NFHS has been advised that certain manufacturers consider alteration, modification and ‘doctoring’ of their bats to be unlawful and subject to civil and, under certain circumstances, criminal action. 

“Not only is it a violation of NFHS baseball rules to alter a non-wood bat, this new language emphasizes that an individual could be subjected to a civil or criminal lawsuit for tampering with a bat,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and educational services and staff liaison to the NFHS Baseball Rules Committee. 

Two other changes deal with the use of new technology. Rule 3-3-1f prohibits the use of video monitoring equipment for coaching purposes during the game, and Rule 3-3-1i prohibits the use of any electronic devices in the coach’s box. 

“Technology has improved to the level that mobile devices can accurately video different aspects of the game, which provides an unfair advantage to a coach by replaying the footage in the dugout during the contest,” Hopkins said. “The committee also agreed that there was no reason to have any electronic devices in the coach's box.” 

The final change approved by the Baseball Rules Committee deals with the warm-up criteria for a pitcher who replaces an ejected player during an inning. If a pitcher is ejected, an incoming pitcher will be afforded the same warm-up criteria as a replacement for an injured player. 

Under normal circumstances, a relief pitcher is allowed eight warm-up throws; however, the umpire may allow additional pitches because of an injury, ejection or inclement weather.  

A complete listing of all rules changes approved by the committee is available on the NFHS Web site at www.nfhs.org. Click on “Athletics & Fine Arts Activities” on the home page, and select “Baseball.” 

Baseball is the fourth-most popular sport for boys at the high school level, according to the 2010-11 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey, with 471,025 participants nationwide. The sport ranks third in school sponsorship with 15,863 schools sponsoring the sport. 

 

Boys Lacrosse Rules Changes Focus on Sportsmanship, Risk Minimization  

A focus on sportsmanship and risk minimization highlighted many of the rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Boys Lacrosse Rules Committee at its July 16-18 meeting in Indianapolis. All 16 rules revisions were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors. 

With the recent concentration on reducing head injuries in high school sports, the committee added new language to Rule 5-4 which states that “a player shall not initiate an excessive, violent or uncontrolled slash to the head/neck.” In addition, the rule now prohibits an offensive player in possession of the ball from blocking an opponent with the head or initiating contact with the head.  

Kent Summers, NFHS director of performing arts and sports, said if the contact to the head/neck is considered deliberate or reckless, the penalty shall be a minimum two- or three-minute non-releasable foul.  

“In light of the potentially devastating, long-term effects of head injuries, it remains a priority to eliminate or minimize the frequency and impact of violent checks and collisions,” Summers said. 

The committee addressed sportsmanship issues with changes in Rules 4-3-6 and 5-10-1d. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty will be assessed if a player deliberately uses his hands or fingers to play the ball, or if a player grabs an opponent’s crosse with the open hand or fingers. 

“These revisions were made in response to situations where players attempt to deceive officials by using their hands or fingers to strip the ball from an opponent’s crosse on the faceoff,” Summers said. 

Summers noted that inadvertent touching of the ball when the hand is grasping the stick should not be called as an unsportsmanlike conduct foul. 

In other changes, an addition was made to Rule 4-3-5 stating that “the official shall vary the cadence of sounding the whistle for each faceoff.” In another risk-minimization change, a new article was added to Rule 1-9 recommending a protective cup for all players. 

The committee also provided schools another option to mark the center faceoff spot on fields. In addition to the traditional “X” at the center of the field, schools can opt for a 4-inch square that is a contrasting color. Summers said this option will enable schools to play in college facilities without making changes to the fields.  

Following is a summary of the remaining rules changes approved for high school boys lacrosse:  

Rule 1-5: White balls shall be used unless both coaches agree prior to or during the game to use a yellow, orange or lime green ball.  

Rule 1-6-2: If a ball stop is used, only one may be used, and the dimensions shall be a maximum of 2 inches in length, 1½ inches in width and ¼-inch in thickness. 

Rule 1-8: Any strings or leathers are limited to a hanging length of 2 inches.  

Rules 1-2 and 6-5-2s: At the beginning of the game, the home team is required to provide a scorebook, a timing device, a table and a working horn.  

Rule 2-5-2: The recommended uniform for officials now provides an option for black or white shorts. Also, all officials working the game are to be dressed the same.  

Rule 4-15-2: The requirement for advancing the ball into the goal area is met when the ball touches anything within that area or a player in possession of the ball touches the line or is inside the goal area.  

Rule 6-5-2v: Another example of illegal procedure was approved: “When no player from the team awarded possession picks up the ball and moves to the position of the restart within five seconds of when the officials are ready to restart play.” (Note: This only applies to situations in which Rule 6-5-f does not apply.) 

Rule 6-6-3b: A coach or player may leave the bench/coaches area to exchange a crosse with a player on the field in the opposite end of the field from that team’s bench during a live ball or dead ball.  

Rule 7-3 Exception: Deleted “live-ball” from the exception.  

Rule 7-13: Regarding inadvertent whistles, the team with possession or entitled to possession when the whistle was blown shall retain possession.  

Rule 2-6-1: Clarified the rule regarding state association authority as follows: State associations may intercede in the event of unusual incidents that occur before, during or after the officials’ jurisdiction has ended or in the event that a contest is terminated prior to the conclusion of regulation play. 

According to the 2010-11 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey, 2,192 schools sponsor boys lacrosse at the high school level with 95,683 participants nationwide. 

 

“Hit By Pitch” Procedure Revised in High School Softball   

Batters in high school softball no longer will have to make an attempt to avoid being hit by a pitch in order to be awarded first base.  

This revision to Rule 8-1-2 was one of four rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Softball Rules Committee at its June 11-13 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.  

A batter will be awarded first base if “a pitched ball is entirely within the batter’s box and it strikes the batter or her clothing. No attempt to avoid being hit by the pitch is required; however, the batter may not obviously try to get hit by the pitch.”  

Theresia Wynns, NFHS director of sports and officials education and staff liaison for softball, said this rules change clears up the gray area of whether the batter made an attempt to get out of the way of the pitch.  

“Since a batter is penalized for prohibiting a pitch from entering the strike zone, the committee thought there should be a penalty when the pitcher hits a batter when the pitch is completely inside the batter’s box,” Wynns said.  

In Rule 6-1, the committee approved the following exceptions to the penalty for an illegal pitch:  

  1. If the batter reaches first base safely and each other runner advances at least one base, the illegal pitch is nullified. All action stands and the illegal pitch is canceled.   
  2. If the batter does not reach first base safely or if any base runner fails to advance at least one base, the coach of the team at bat shall have the option of the result of the play or the penalty of the illegal pitch.  
  3. If the batter is hit by an illegal pitch out of the strike zone, the batter is awarded first base and each base runner is awarded one base.  
  4. If ball four is an illegal pitch, the batter is awarded first base and each base runner is awarded one base.  

A change was approved by the Softball Rules Committee regarding the color of gloves/mitts. As a follow-up to the change last year that required the color of all softballs to be optic yellow, the committee revised language in Rule 1-4-1 to state that gloves/mitts must not be entirely optic yellow or have that color of marking on the inside or outside of gloves/mitts that would give the appearance of the ball.  

The final rules change was Rule 3-6-10, which will allow stopwatches to be used in the coach’s box.  

A complete listing of all rules changes approved by the committee is available on the NFHS Web site at www.nfhs.org. Click on “Athletics & Fine Arts Activities” on the home page, and select “Softball.” 

Fast-pitch softball is the fourth-most popular sport for girls at the high school level, according to the 2011-12 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey, with 373,535 participants nationwide. The sport ranks fourth in school sponsorship with 15,338 schools sponsoring the sport.  

 

Relay Exchange Zone, Penalty for Illegal Uniform Among 16 Track and Field Rules Changes  

New requirements for passing the baton in the exchange zone, and the penalty for wearing an illegal uniform highlight changes in high school track and field rules for next season.   

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Track and Field Rules Committee approved 16 rules changes at its June 6-8 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors. 

Rule 5-10-7 will now state that the baton shall be handed from the incoming runner to the outgoing runner within the exchange zone. In addition, a new note will state that “the incoming and outgoing runners shall not simultaneously touch the baton outside of the 20-meter exchange zone.” 

“This change will provide consistency in enforcement and will minimize a judgment call,” said Becky Oakes, NFHS director of sports and staff liaison to the Track and Field Rules Committee. “The new language fits the current technique of exchange method in high school track.”  

Beginning next season, a competitor wearing an illegal uniform will first be issued a warning and will be required the make the uniform legal prior to further competition. A subsequent violation during the competition would result in disqualification from the event. Previously, the competitor was automatically disqualified for an illegal uniform. 

“This adjustment of the penalty for an illegal uniform is more appropriate for the severity of the actual violation,” Oakes said. “The rule has been loosely enforced during the regular season and more strictly enforced at state tournament time. The responsibility remains with the coach to have his or her athletes in legal uniforms for competition.”  

Among the changes in rules for field events, the most significant perhaps is a revision in the pole vault. The standards or uprights shall be set to position the crossbar from 18 inches beyond the vertical plane of the top of the stopboard, instead of the previous distance of 15.5 inches. The maximum distance remains 31.5 inches.  

“This change will help vaulters land more in the center of the pad, providing a better range of placement of the standards and positioning the crossbar for risk minimization,” Oakes said. 

Two additional changes approved by the rules committee focus on reducing the risk of injury. Rules 3-19-2 and 6-2-16 will be revised to state that only legal implements used in throwing events will be allowed in warm-ups. Also, a new article in Rule 5-1 will recommend, when feasible, an obstacle-free zone on the inside and outside of the track at least 1 meter in width. 

Five other changes in throwing events were approved by the committee:  

  • Rule 6-2-2 requires the three preliminary trials to be taken in flights of no less than five in the order in which the competitors are listed for competition. 
  • In Rule 6-2-3, with no action from the games committee, one more competitor than places scored will advance to the finals. 
  • In Rule 6-4-2, a range of ¼-inch will be allowed in the rim thickness of the discus (.472 inches to .512 inches).  
  • In Rule 6-5-9j, it is a foul if the competitor uses the “cartwheel” technique in the shot put.  
  • In Rule 6-6-9, if the javelin breaks during the throw or in the air, it shall not count as a trial provided the throw is in accordance with the rules. A replacement throw shall be awarded. 

Among the most significant changes in Rule 7 (jumping events), the committee approved the following revision to Rule 7-4-6 in the high jump: “In addition to the commonly used four-sided flat crossbar ends, the use of a crossbar fitted with alternative ends (semicircular) is permitted.” 

In addition, the rules committee added time limits for consecutive attempts in field events which had not been addressed previously.  

A complete listing of all rules changes approved by the committee is available on the NFHS Web site at www.nfhs.org. Click on “Athletics & Fine Arts Activities” on the home page, and select “Track and Field.” 

Outdoor track and field is the second-most popular sport for boys, with 579,302 participants, and most popular sport for girls, with 475,265 participants, at the high school level, according to the 2011-12 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey. The sport ranks second in school sponsorship with 15,954 schools sponsoring the sport for boys and 16,030 sponsoring the sport for girls. 

 

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