Spring Sports Rules Information 2014

By on January 08, 2015 officials Print


Changes to high school baseball rules will include an additional example of how a batter can interfere with the catcher’s ability to field or throw.


This year’s rules changes were approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Baseball Rules Committee at its June 2-4 meeting in Indianapolis. The rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

“The committee felt that the game is in a very good state,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and educational services and staff liaison for baseball.

The committee voted to added “including backswing interference” to Rule 7-3-5c to address that specific type of batter interference. The rule now reads, “A batter shall not interfere with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by making any other movement, including backswing interference, which hinders action at home plate or the catcher’s attempt to play on a runner.

The committee also revised Rule 6-1-3 to state that the pitcher’s entire pivot foot must be in contact with or directly in front of and parallel to the pitcher’s plate.

The committee also established several points of emphasis for the 2014 season, including malicious contact, coaching attire and umpire authority and enforcement.

“These are topics that I get calls and e-mails about during the course of a season,” Hopkins said. “I share those with the committee and if they are seeing the same types of problems, then the red flag goes up.”


Contact or a collision is considered to be malicious if:

  1. The contact is the result of intentional excessive force;
  2. The contact occurs close to the bag or home plate or above the waist of the receiving player; or
  3. There was intent to injure.

Malicious contact can occur without these conditions if determined by the umpire, but these provide a starting point.

Even with cutbacks for uniform funds, coaches should still be dressed in a similar fashion to the players as a means of helping umpires recognize members of the coaching staff.

The final point of emphasis deals with umpires’ authority. The committee noted that coaches must set the example of appropriate behavior so the team and its fans can follow.

Disputing the umpire’s calls, failing to comply with an umpire’s command, exaggerating the time for offensive conferences, gamesmanship and challenging the umpire’s authority cannot be tolerated, the committee stated.

“We want coaches to be role models for civility,” Hopkins said. “The umpire has to make a final decision and the coach has to handle it with class and character.”

Baseball is the fourth-most popular sport for boys at the high school level, according to the 2011-12 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey, with 474,219 participants nationwide. The sport ranks third in school sponsorship with 15,838 schools offering the sport.



Two new rules regarding the use of electronic devices in high school softball were among the five changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Softball Rules Committee at its June 10-12 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

With the addition of Rule 1-8-6, team personnel are permitted to use electronic devices to transmit or record information pertaining to their players or team’s performances. This is to be done only in the team’s bench or dugout areas, and the information obtained may be used for coaching purposes during the game.

“The committee felt that with the advancement of technology, it was time to allow electronic devices to be used,” said Theresia Wynns, NFHS director of sports and officials education and staff liaison for softball. “It focused on what was good for softball and that the devices could be a useful tool to aid in coaching.”

According to Rule 3-6-11, information obtained by electronic devices shall not be used to review decisions made by the umpires.

Wynns said that the committee strongly opposed the use of information obtained by the electronic devices to dispute an umpire about a specific call on the field.

“The committee did not want to give teams a competitive advantage,” she said. “It also did not want to hamper the progress of the game.”

In other changes, the committee established definitions for “team members” and “team personnel.”

Team members are players listed on the team’s roster and lineup as submitted to the umpire at the pregame meeting. Team personnel consist of all school representatives located in the team dugout, including but not limited to coaches, managers, certified athletic trainers and scorekeepers.

The committee also revised Rule 1-5-2c by eliminating “smooth” from the description of the taper, noting that not all bats have smooth tapers.

Fast-pitch softball is the fifth-most popular sport for girls at the high school level, according to the 2011-12 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey, with 367,023 participants nationwide. The sport ranks fourth in school sponsorship with 14,142 schools offering the sport.


Track and Field 

The installation of pole vault planting box padding permitted under Rule 7-5-24 will be a requirement in high school track and field beginning with the 2014-15 season.

This was one of 13 rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Track and Field Rules Committee at its June 10-12 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

“Several of these major rules changes are areas the committee has discussed and monitored for the past two or three years,” said Becky Oakes, NFHS director of sports and staff liaison for track and field.

Pole vault planting box padding that meets ASTM specification standards was allowed this past season and will be permitted in 2013-14 before being required in 2014-15. The padding can be incorporated into the design of the planting box or can be an addition to an existing planting box.

“The committee viewed this as one of the areas of pole vault where padding meeting the specific ASTM specification standard has the potential to prevent or minimize the severity of an injury that may occur to a vaulter landing in the plant box,” Oakes said.

Another change in the pole vault will limit a competitor to one minute to initiate a trial after being called for the attempt (more than three entrants). If two or three competitors remain, the allowable time is three minutes; if only one remains, the time limit is five minutes. The time limit for consecutive trials remains unchanged at three minutes.   

With an increasing number of track and field participants wearing compression-style garments under their uniform shorts as foundation garments, Rule 4-3-1c(7) was modified to require only those visible garments worn under the uniform bottom that extend below the knees to be unadorned and of a single, solid color. Current NFHS rules regarding logos and insignias apply to knee-length or longer garments. There are no longer restrictions to visible garments worn under the uniform bottom if they terminate above the knees.

“The committee is continuing to address uniform rules to ensure that they are practical for today’s high school athletes,” Oakes said. “It is also working to make the penalties for non-compliance fit the severity of the violation and preserve the integrity and spirit of the rule on uniforms.”

Rule 3-2-8 now permits the use of electronic devices in unrestricted areas and coaching boxes, providing the location does not interfere with progress of the meet as determined by the meet referee. With this allowance, some supporting rules have been established.

Electronic devices shall not be used to transmit information to the competitor during the race or trial, nor are they permitted to be used for any review of an official’s decision. However, state associations may also have policies in place to further address the use of electronic devices.

Violation of these rules will result in competitor disqualification from the event and team personnel disqualification from further participation in the meet for unsporting conduct.

“This rule clarifies that coaches can use electronic devices and share information with their athletes as long as the devices are being used in accordance with the stated rule,” Oakes said. “This is an opportunity for coaches to use available technology as a coaching tool and increase the opportunity for good coaching.”

Two rules were added to the “Meet Officials and Their Duties” section. Rule 3-1-2 states that the meet referee, other meet officials or the jury of appeals shall not set aside any rule. Additionally, Rule 3-2-7 permits official communication equipment to include wireless communication devices, among officials, for aiding in matters related to the meet.

In another rules change, vaulting poles are no longer inspected by the implement inspector. They are now to be inspected by the field referee or head field judge prior to warm-ups, according to changes made to Rules 3-19-3 and 7-5-5. The committee believes that implement inspectors have more expertise in throwing implements, and this change ensures a more efficient and practical process for inspections of vaulting poles on site.

In the javelin (Rule 6-6-1 Note), specific diameter dimensions of the rubber tip were removed from the rule to align with the current process of manufacturing the equipment.

Finally, Rule 6-2-9 requires a pass to be communicated to the event judge by the competitor before the start of the trial clock.

Outdoor track and field is the second-most popular sport for boys at the high school level with 575,628 participants, and the most popular sport for girls with 468,747 participants, according to the 2011-12 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey. The sport ranks second in school sponsorship with 16,218 schools offering the sport for boys and 16,143 sponsoring the sport for girls.


Boys Lacrosse 

Major changes in substitution procedures in high school boys lacrosse will take effect with the 2014 season. For stoppages of play due to an out-of-bounds ball, a horn will no longer be sounded to allow time for substitution. Instead, players may substitute “on the fly” as they can during normal play. 

This was one of 19 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 rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

While substitution may occur during playing action, Rule 4-22 lists the various conditions under which substitution may occur. In addition, substitution may take place while play is suspended as follows: end of a period, scoring of a goal, injury time-out, equipment adjustment, after a time-serving penalty and during a team time-out.

A new article was added to Rule 7-2 to reduce congestion in the penalty area. A maximum of three players from the same team can be in the penalty area serving penalties at the same time. The penalty time of any additional players(s) shall not start until the penalty time of one of the three players in the penalty area expires.

Kent Summers, NFHS director of performing arts and sports and liaison to the Boys Lacrosse Rules Committee, said any additional penalized player(s) shall wait in the bench area immediately next to the scorer’s table but not in the table area. A team shall not be required to play with fewer than seven on-field players solely because of players serving penalties. In addition, a player’s penalty cannot be released by a goal until he is in the penalty area and the time on his penalty has started to elapse.

“The Boys Lacrosse Rules Committee believes this change should minimize risk for participants and clarify procedures for administration of penalties and substitution,” Summers said.

In another change designed to minimize risk, the committee added a fifth example of an illegal body-check. Rule 5-3-5 will state that an illegal body-check is one that targets a player in a defenseless position. This includes but is not limited to: a) body-checking a player from his “blind side”; b) body-checking a player who has his head down in an attempt to play a loose ball; and c) body-checking a player whose head is turned away to receive a pass, even if that player turns toward the contact immediately before the body-check. A minimum of a two- or three-minute non releasable penalty is assessed for this violation.

“Intentional player-to-player collisions with players in a defenseless position are a concern, and this revision will reinforce the need to eliminate these collisions from the game,” Summers said.

In Rule 5-4 – Checks Involving the Head/Neck – the penalty for a violation was strengthened by dropping the possibility of a one-minute penalty. Thus, a minimum two- or three-minute non releasable penalty will now be enforced for this violation. Summers said this increased penalty will reinforce the need to eliminate hits to the head/neck from the game.

Besides the substitution procedures changes, the committee altered three other rules in Rule 4 – Play of the Game. In Rule 4-4-3, during the faceoff in all penalty situations, there now must be four players in the defensive area and three players in the offensive area. An exception is when a team has three players in the penalty area, a player may come out of his defensive area to take the faceoff but must remain onside.

In Rule 4-10 regarding offside, a team now is considered offside when it has more than six players in its offensive half of the field, including players in the penalty box, or more than seven players in its defensive half of the field, including players in the penalty box.

“The unfair advantage in an offside situation is created by too many players on one side of the field – not too few,” Summers said. “This change lets the foul reflect the unfair advantage and minimizes risk by allowing officials to ‘count forward,’ keeping their attention on the active side of the field.”

In Rule 4-12, Article 4 and Article 5 were deleted to address confusion with enforcement of the offside rule.

As with other NFHS rules committee, the Boys Lacrosse Rules Committee revised the rule regarding use of electronic devices. Rule 1-10-2 will now allow the use of electronic equipment by coaches and players on the sideline. However, Rule 6-6-3 still prohibits the use of electronic devices to communicate with any of the 10 on-field players.

Rules 2-6-1 and 2-6-7 were revised to state that the officials’ authority concludes when they leave the “immediate playing facility” rather than when they leave the “field of play.”

“Officials should continue to have some jurisdiction if there is an incident after they step off the ‘field of play,’” Summers said. “This revision is consistent with the language that gives state associations the ability to address situations that happen before, during and after the game.”

In Rule 2-5, it is now recommended that a minimum of three officials be used to control the game (referee, umpire and field judge). While not a requirement, Summers said this change in philosophy is indicated in order to better control play, especially with the increased speed of the game.

Following are other changes approved by the Boys Lacrosse Rules Committee:

Rules 1-2-7, 8, 9: Increases the size of the substitution/table area to allow more space for players to get on and off the field and create better sight-lines for table personnel.

Rule 1-7-5: Any crosse used in a faceoff may not have tape on the plastic throat of the head. 

Rule 1-9-1: Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, legal numbers are 0-99. This would prohibit double-digit numbers from zero through 9 (00, 01, 02, etc.).

Rule 1-10-1h: Eye shade that is not a solid stroke or includes words, numbers logos or other symbols within the eye shade is prohibited.

Rule 2-5-2: Part (e) of the recommended uniform for officials was changed as follows: “black stirrup socks with white over-the-calf crew socks on top or knee-length one-piece white with 4-inch black top or short black socks that cover the ankle.”

Rule 2-6-1Note: Clarifies that the officials maintain jurisdiction of interrupted and/or suspended contests.

Rule 2-10-1: At the start of each period, a minimum of four balls should be spaced equidistant from each other five yards beyond the end line and four on both sidelines. On the bench side, balls should be placed at the scorer’s table.

Rule 7-8-2k: During a Flag Down situation (Slow Whistle), the officials will now stop play to enforce penalties on a second defensive foul “during the final two minutes of regulation play with the team that is ahead and possessing the ball in the goal/attack area, unless a scoring play is imminent.” 

According to the 2011-12 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey, 2,338 schools sponsor boys lacrosse at the high school level with 100,641 participants nationwide.