NFHS Fall Sports Rules Changes 2016

NFHSLogoEach year the National Federation of State High School Associations and its rules committees present changes for the upcoming year, and send out a release. The rule changes will be included in the latest rule books when they are produced, but it’s nice to know about any changes in advance. CIAC does its best to share rule changes with its membership, but things can get lost in the shuffle. To try and prevent that, we’ve included all the released rule changes for fall sports (as well as changes for the 2016-17 gymnastics season) that will go into effect in the fall of 2016 in one place. Hopefully this will be easier to follow and to find than doing a separate post on each sport. Of course coaches, ADs and officials are encouraged to check out the NFHS website itself to get complete information and explanations of the changes.

Click on any of the sports below to read the press release from the NFHS outlining the rule changes for those sports.


The “long-hit procedure” in high school field hockey will be replaced by a 25-yard free hit effective with the 2016 season.

This revision in Rule 7-3-2 was one of eight rules changes recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Field Hockey Rules Committee at its January 13-15 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

Beginning next season, the attacking team will be awarded a 25-yard free hit instead of a long hit when a defender unintentionally causes the ball to go across the end line or if the ball glances off the stick/person of a defender in this area and goes across the end line. Play will be re-started with the ball on the 25-yard line that is in line with where it crossed the end line, and all procedures for taking a free hit will apply.

Mark Koski, NFHS director of sports, events and development and liaison to the NFHS Field Hockey Rules Committee, said the new procedure for awarding the attacking team a 25-yard free hit will eliminate the need for the long-hit mark on the field. As a result, the long-hit line will be eliminated from the field diagram in the NFHS Field Hockey Rules Book.

With the requirement for field players to wear eye protection that meets the current ASTM standard, the committee eliminated language that permitted other protective devices such as face masks. Koski said that the face masks do not meet any safety standard for ball or stick impact, nor do they offer any shatter resistance.

A change in Rule 10-3-2 last year dealing with restarts for extended-play penalty corners eliminated the clear definitions for when a penalty corner, during regular play, is considered to be completed. The committee noted that the exception to the rule added in 2015 should apply to an injury during regulation play as well as extended play.

Effective with the 2017 season, the home team shall wear white socks/sock guards only, thus eliminating the “light-colored” option. The committee noted that since the home team is required to wear single solid white uniform tops, it should wear only white socks to match the uniform top.

In another equipment change, Rule 1-7-1 will now permit the goalkeeper’s uniform top to be multiple colors to ensure contrasting uniforms with field players. In addition, effective with the 2017 season, a visible number should be on the front and back of the uniform top.

Regarding penalty strokes, the committee eliminated the final option (Rule 11-1-1e) for when a penalty stroke is awarded – “The defending team continues to deliberately cause the ball to go over the end line” – since the rules have evolved to allow umpires to better manage this situation if it occurs.

The committee approved an additional penalty in Rule 1-5-6, which addresses an entire team wearing illegal uniforms: “When an illegally uniformed team is unable to correct the situation or cannot verify state association approval of the uniform, the game shall be played. The referee must, however, notify the state association following the game.”

A complete listing of all rules changes will be available soon on the NFHS website at Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page, and select “Field Hockey.”


A new interpretation of the offside rule in high school soccer is among the rules changes approved for the 2016-17 season.

The new language regarding offside in Rule 11-1-4 is one of two major changes recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Soccer Rules Committee at its January 25-27 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

“The rules are in fairly decent shape,” said Theresia Wynns, NFHS director of sports and officials and liaison to the Soccer Rules Committee. “The committee wasn’t looking to make wholesale changes. They were looking at existing rules and making sure they reflected today’s trends in the playing of the game.

“Offside is one call in soccer that was identified in the annual NFHS survey as being incorrectly administered,” Wynns said. “This change makes offside more understandable and should result in better administration of the offside rule.”

Previously, an attacking player who was in an offside position at the time that the ball was played by a teammate, could be penalized and ruled offside when the ball was deflected by or rebounded from a defender to the attacking player even though the defender tried to play  the ball.

The new rule changes this situation as the attacking player in an offside position when the ball was kicked by a teammate who gets a rebounded or deflected ball after it was deliberately played by the opponent (except from a deliberate save), is no longer offside and  is not considered to have gained an advantage.

“An example of this new rule would be if attacking player A1 kicks the ball to teammate A2 who is in the offside position behind defender B, and defender B jumps to play the ball but is unable to control the ball as it touches the top of his/her head and deflects to Player A. In this situation, since B played the ball, A2, although in an offside position, is not offside,” Wynns said. “One important point to remember about offside is that being in an offside position does not mean that a player is offside. To be offside, a player must be involved in active play, interfering with play or an opponent, or seeking an advantage.”

A change in Rule 14-1-4 now mandates a penalty for a violation by the kicker prior to taking a penalty kick to be the same as a violation by any other member of the attacking team. Previously, a violation by the kicker prior to taking the penalty kick resulted in the kick being retaken. The rules committee felt that all attacking team violations during a penalty kick should be treated equally.

“An example of a violation by the kicker in a penalty kick situation is an interruption of movement in the approach to the ball,” Wynns said. “Previously, this violation would result in a verbal warning and a rekick. Under the new rule, the ball can be kicked and the result is the same as any other attacker violation. One result might be that the goalkeeper saved and held the ball. In this case, play will now continue, where previously a rekick would occur. The committee wanted to be a little more consistent with penalty kicks.”

A complete listing of all rules changes will be available soon on the NFHS website at Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page, and select “Soccer.”


The elimination of clipping from high school football is the latest attempt to reduce the risk of injury made by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee.

The decision to eliminate clipping in the free-blocking zone (Rule 2-17-3) was the most significant of three rules changes recommended by the NFHS Football Rules Committee at its January 22-24 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

“With very few major rules changes approved by the NFHS Football Rules Committee for the 2016 season, it indicates that the committee feels that the rules of the game are in pretty good shape,” said Bob Colgate, director of sports and sports medicine at the NFHS and staff liaison for football.

Clipping, as previously stated in Rule 2-17-3, was permitted in the free-blocking zone when it met three conditions; however, clipping is now illegal anywhere on the field at any time. According to the rule, the free-blocking zone is defined as a rectangular area extending laterally 4 yards either side of the spot of the snap and 3 yards behind each line of scrimmage.

“The NFHS Football Rules Committee’s action this year on making clipping illegal in the free-blocking zone once again reinforces its continued effort to minimize risk within the game,” Colgate said.

“I look forward to ongoing conversations about how best to limit exposure to harm within the free-blocking zone and in situations involving defenseless players,” said Brad Garrett, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and assistant executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association.

Other changes for the 2016 season will include those made to football protective equipment and gloves in Rules 1-5-1d(5)a and 1-5-2b.

“The committee expanded the options on what can now be worn as a legal tooth and mouth protector and also football gloves,” Colgate said.

Tooth and mouth protectors that are completely clear or completely white are no longer illegal. Rule 1-5-1d(5)a continues to require that tooth and mouth protectors include an occlusal (protecting and separating the biting surfaces) portion and a labial (protecting the teeth and supporting structures) portion, and that they cover the posterior teeth with adequate thickness.

In Rule 1-5-2b, football gloves are now required to meet either the new Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) specifications or the existing National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) test standard at the time of manufacture.

“I give my compliments to the voting members of the NFHS Football Rules Committee as they continue to put the health and safety of student-athletes at the forefront of all committee discussions regarding the future of the game,” Garrett said.

A complete listing of all rules changes will be available soon on the NFHS website at Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page, and select “Football.”


The process for submitting lineups in high school volleyball has been revised for the 2016-17 season.

In addition to the revision in Rule 7-1-4 regarding lineup procedures, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Volleyball Rules Committee recommended eight other rules changes at its January 4-6 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

Following each set, coaches will be required to submit a numeric lineup to the scorer before one minute remains in the timed interval – or intermission when used. Rule 7-1-4 now states that if a player’s number is duplicated in more than one starting position (including the libero), the clerical error shall be corrected by either changing the libero’s number to another legal number or by substituting a player into that starting position with a legal number.

“The committee wanted to provide greater clarity in the wording and organization of Rule 7-1-4,” said Becky Oakes, NFHS director of sports and liaison to the Volleyball Rules Committee. “In addition to correcting clerical errors as addressed within the rule, the libero is now included as a possible option when a player’s number is listed twice.”

An emphasis on rule clarity was also applied to Rule 11-2 Penalty 2, which the committee altered to offer consistency in the application of unnecessary delay penalties. Oakes said if a team has used its allotted number of time-outs and requests a third time-out, “the resulting penalty would be an unnecessary delay and no longer carry the automatic loss of rally point for the opponent.”

The penalty of unnecessary delay for the request of a third or subsequent time-out can be applied regardless of whether the second referee acknowledged it with a whistle and time-out signal.

Another change approved by the committee includes “a new procedure in protocol” used by the first referee to begin the prematch conference, as is covered by Rule 5-4-1h. When the referee sounds a double whistle and raises a coin in the air, each team’s head coach and captain(s) are expected to meet at the official’s table.

“The committee believes this will eliminate the need to track down those individuals who are required to participate in the prematch conference,” Oakes said. “It will assist the officials in consistently and efficiently getting the conference started and beginning the match.”

The committee also revised Rule 11-5-1, which clarifies that if a team is going to use an intermission between sets two and three, it can only be used for promotional or special recognition activities and not solely as an extended time interval.

A complete listing of all rules changes will be available soon on the NFHS website at Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page, and select “Volleyball.”


The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Girls Gymnastics Rules Committee, at its recent meeting in Indianapolis, focused on adding clarity to the rules for a sport ever-adapting to new trends.

Among the new rules that will take effect for the 2016-17 season are ones that will refine scoring and identify how high school gymnasts can incorporate new elements into their routines. The recommended rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

Several options for series were eliminated to remove value adding from scoring.

“You’re awarding extra credit for putting two elements together in a series and that extra credit really is a function of the bonus category, so that’s why the committee eliminated a lot of the rule references to series,” said Becky Oakes, NFHS director of sports and liaison to the Girls Gymnastics Rules Committee.

An example of this change in Rule 1 is the definition of an acro pass, which now consists of two, not three, “directly connected acro elements.” Part of the rationale now also includes language that is tied into other events requiring elements of value.

“This change very concisely eliminates some inconsistency with the wording of value part credit as it currently exists,” Oakes said.

Another change was made to Rule 8-3-3c, which impacts the Artistry category where gymnasts are not as likely to perform a routine featuring originality.

“Originality isn’t going to be as prevalent in high school. Gymnasts do not need to come up with something unique as part of their exercise,” Oakes said. “In revising the expectation for originality, [the committee] tried to make it more realistic for judging high school gymnasts – recognizing athleticism but also recognizing how originality can be better applied for the high school gymnast.”

Oakes said the intent for the rule change is to reduce subjectivity in scoring. Rules 9-3-3c, 4-1-2C and 4-1-2D are each impacted by the change, in addition to scoresheets.

The committee introduced several elements in an effort to “keep up with the current trends and elements for high school gymnasts,” including No. 6.503, a round-off, flic-flac with a 180-degree turn on – salto forward tucked off (Ivantcheva) 10.0, located in Rule 6-6-6.

Also added was a 0.3 deduction for routines performed on bars and beams that do not finish with a dismount. The new rule, 7-3-6a, counts a deduction when a gymnast intentionally terminates a routine, performs a valueless dismount, falls without starting a dismount, or performs a dismount that fails to result with the gymnast first landing on the bottom of her feet.

“The majority of rule changes were to add clarity to existing rules for more consistent application,” Oakes said.

A complete listing of all rules changes is available on the NFHS website at Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page, and select “Gymnastics – Girls.”


Sorry, comments are closed for this post.