Since the start of July, the National Federation of State High School Associations has introduced several rule changes and adjustments that are set to begin starting with the 2023-24 school year.
At the NFHS Baseball Rules Committee meeting from July 4-6 in Indianapolis, committee members voted to allow the use of a one-way communication device between a coach and the team’s catcher for the purpose of calling pitches.
The new rule stipulates that coaches can only use the device to speak with their catcher on defense when an opposing player is batting. Coaches cannot talk with any other field players, and they must remain in the dugout when they use the communication device.
The change could have an effect on the pace of play starting next spring. Teams typically employ a wristband strategy with their catchers to communicate what pitch to throw, often throwing out three seemingly random numbers to their catcher that correspond to a certain pitch/location on a premade chart. This system was similar to how a football coach would call in plays to his quarterback on offense.
Another change made at the rules committee meeting had to do with an umpire’s decision to forfeit a contest. Under the new rule, the umpire-in-chief is not allowed to take spectors’ behavior into account when deciding to forfeit a game. Instead, “only infractions by players, coaches or team/bench personnel are under the umpire’s jurisdiction.”
The conduct of spectators has long been a point of debate for high school athletics officials. Several viral videos that have emerged over the past several years have shown umpires canceling games because of unruly parents. Now, under the rule changes, game administrators will have to deal with spectator misconduct.
The following week at the NFHS Girls Lacrosse Rules Committee meeting, members voted to start playing quarters instead of halves beginning in 2024.
Formerly, girls teams played two 20-minute halves, but now there will be four 12-minute quarters. This change presents some consistency across boys and girls lacrosse, as now both sports will play the same number of minutes in each game.
There are only two high school girls lacrosse teams in Chatham County at present — Northwood and Seaforth. The Chargers made it to the 1A/2A/3A state semifinals this past spring before falling to eventual state champion Croatan.
Seaforth, meanwhile, went 3-11 overall and 3-9 in a tough Mid-Carolina Conference.
The Hawks had three players make the all-conference team at season’s end: Renee Rizvi, Mia Moore and Jessica deBerjeois.
At the same time the NFHS Girls Lacrosse Rules Committee was going on, the NFHS Track and Field Rules Committee voted to make changes to its false-start rule in both cross country and track and field.
The changes were made to more clearly define false starts in high school events. Now, according to the committee, a false start will be called:
“If a runner leaves their mark with a hand or foot after the ‘set’ command but before the starting device is fired,” and “if a runner leaves their mark with a forward motion without the starting device being fired.”
The committee offered further clarification by stating that “extraneous motion before the device is fired does not necessarily require a false start to be charged unless the criteria in the rule are met. If the starter thinks the movement creates a situation of unfairness to any of the competitors, the starter may cancel the start with the command ‘stand up,’ or if the device has been fired, recall the race as an unsteady or unfair start and redo the starting procedure.”
These changes will go into effect beginning with cross country season, which starts in August and runs through November.
Another change introduced at the meeting has to do with field events. Now, athletes will be allowed to tape their fingers as long as the fingers aren’t taped together and each finger can move independently. Athletes who compete in the discus throw, shot put and javelin will benefit from these new changes.
According to several sources, applying a solid tape job to an athlete’s wrist/hands can help prevent injuries brought on by the repeated throwing of objects in these events.