2016 NFHS Points of Emphasis

Published on June 23, 2016


By: John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

Each year the NFHS Rules Committee includes various items as points of emphasis for officials in the NFHS Rules Book. These are reminders to officials on various topics that the rules committee feels need careful review. For 2016 – 2017 there are five major items that were added as points of emphasis.

Rough play should be eliminated in the interscholastic game. Officials should deal with rough play by issuing appropriate penalties immediately when the play occurs. This type of play, if allowed, could result in injury or retaliation and more severe situations. There are many games by rival schools throughout the season. Officials must be prepared in advance to handle any situation that may develop during these games. A good mechanic is to deal with the first foul that occurs so that the players quickly realize that the style of rough play will not be allowed.  Consistency is another key element in preventing rough play. This type of play must be dealt with each and every time it occurs. If the official deems that a caution or ejection is warranted, then it must be administered.

The NFHS Rules Book indicates that the coach is responsible for ensuring players are properly equipped. This year the rules committee is recommending that the officials are encouraged to informally check players’ equipment prior to the game. This will help prevent equipment violations during the game. One way of accomplishing this task is to walk around the players while they are warming up. It is relatively easy to see if the players are wearing proper size shin guards, have legal shoes, etc. through this method. If a problem is observed the coach should be notified immediately so the problem can be corrected before the game begins.

Dealing with a potential injury after a goal is scored is another point of emphasis. A referee may check a player or goalkeeper for a potential injury after a goal is scored and the player or goalkeeper does not have to be replaced. The clock is already stopped since a goal was scored. However, if the referee requests the coach or medical personnel attend to the player or goalkeeper, the player or goalkeeper must leave the field. If the team elects not to substitute, another field player must become the goalkeeper and wear a distinctive uniform. The referee has time to check the player prior to requesting the coach or medical personnel to enter the field. Remember the clock is already stopped. If there is any reason why the referee feels that the player or goalkeeper needs medical attention, the coach or medical personnel should be called on to the field. Safety is paramount. Decisions on a player’s condition should always be based on the protection and future health of the player.

Ball holders are essential for all games. The clock is running when the ball goes out of bounds. it is most important that ball holders are available and ready to provide a ball and retrieve the other so that the game can continue as quickly as possible. Home teams are responsible for providing at least two ball holders. Note – these individuals are under the jurisdiction of the referee. If the ball holder is not performing his/her duties or creating a distraction to the game, the referee may request a replacement. Also, ball holders, which usually are younger individuals, should be instructed by the officiating team prior to the game about the duties and responsibilities of the position.

There is still a problem with uniforms that do not meet the requirements as set forth in Rule 4, Player Equipment. Referees must remember that teams may play the game if the uniforms are illegal. However, it is critical that the officials report these situations immediately to the state high school association through whatever means are established by the local chapter and state association. This procedure should be reviewed by all officials prior to the season to ensure there is familiarity. Once reported it is up to the state association to correct the problem.

Points of emphasis are placed in the NFHS Rules Book to ensure that all officials deal with continuing problems. Officials must be a student of the rules as well as the points of emphasis.

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