(Reprinted by permission of NFHS, June 2009)
The NFHS is considered the nation’s pre-eminent authority in writing and publishing playing rules for 17 sports. These publications set the rules for more than seven million participants in high school sports in the United States.
High school students participate under playing codes developed by representatives of education-based groups throughout the nation. These individuals represent the nation’s best and most experienced rules-writers.
Rules committees are comprised of 11 members, eight of whom represent the geographic sections of the NFHS. One representative of both the NFHS Coaches Association and the NFHS Officials Association, as well as a chairperson, serve on each committee. The term of committee members is four years, and service is staggered to ensure a level of experience within the group.
Each committee is supported by one NFHS staff member, who serves as the committee liaison and editor of the rules publications. The staff liaison serves to facilitate the meeting but has no voting privilege. Immediately following the rules committee meeting, the staff liaison begins the rules publications editing process.
Each year, the NFHS prepares a rules questionnaire for 15 sports, seeking potential rules changes from state associations, high school coaches and officials. Results from the questionnaires provide the NFHS rules committees with important feedback regarding the previous year’s rules changes, circumstances that may be occurring in their respective areas and proposed rules changes.
Proposed rules changes may be submitted through member high school associations, or they may come from rules committee members, NFHS sports rules committee staff liaisons or the NFHS Board of Directors. All proposed rules changes are shared in advance of the rules meetings with committees and member state associations.
The system provides for experimentation, and occasionally, such requests will be made. When experiments are authorized, the results serve as testing components for rules changes and are made available to the appropriate committees.
The resources and expertise of the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee are available to all rules committees, and communication among the groups is ongoing.
Immediately following all rules committee meetings, the NFHS rules review committee meets to consider the proposed rules changes. All NFHS sports rules staff liaisons serve on this committee. The proposed rules changes are reviewed to be certain there are no implementation concerns for schools, high school associations, officials and coaches, as well as manufacturers.
With approval from the rules review committee, the proposed rules changes are presented to the NFHS Board of Directors, which has final approval. Next, the NFHS announces new rules revisions with press releases to the media and state associations. Articles about the changes are also published in the NFHS Officials’ Quarterly and posted on the NFHS web site at nfhs.org.
By working with member high school associations, professional associations and related relevant groups, the rules-writing process provides opportunities for input and feedback.
In all rules changes, the focus is on sportsmanship, minimizing risk and maintaining both the sound traditions of the sport and the balance between offense and defense. The NFHS rules-writing process contributes significantly to the success of high school sports.
Here’s a short summary of the process. First, there is the annual rules questionnaire, providing suggested changes for the rules committee. Next come comments from state associations, rules committee members, NFHS sports rules committee staff liaisons or the NFHS Board of Directors. Then, there is the rules committee meeting, where proposed rules changes and other appropriate revisions for the upcoming year are examined, discussed and determined. Proposed rules changes are reviewed by the NFHS rules review committee to be certain they are sound and practical. From there, the suggested changes are reviewed by the NFHS Board of Directors, which provides final adoption. Publicizing the rules changes follows these procedures. Finally, the rules editor edits the rules publications, and the material is distributed nationwide.