By:  John Van de Vaarst

The NFHS Rules Committee met in January 2015 and made minor adjustments to the NFHS Soccer Rules Book and recommended several points of emphasis.  This year only two rule changes were instituted by the committee.  The intent of the NFHS Rules Committee is to encourage participation in soccer and ensure player safety.

The first rule change is to Rule 3,, Substitution.  Article 3 has been revised to add section “e” which indicates that either team may substitute an unlimited number of players, provided they have check in per Rule 3-5-1(d) when bench personnel is cautioned or disqualified.  Previously , there was no provision for substitutes to enter the field of play during this type of stoppage.  The clock is stopped to administer the caution or disqualification so allowing the substitutes is consistent with other opportunities to substitute.  This also allows for more player participation opportunities.

The second change is to Rule 4-1-1(h)3 and deals with the goalkeeper uniform.  The first portion of the change is wording.  The word either  has been replaced with opposing so the first sentence now reads “the jersey of the goalkeeper shall be distinctly different from that of any teammates or opponent, except the opposing goalkeeper.”  An additional sentence has been added into the rule that reads  “the socks of the goalkeepr are not required to be the same color as his/her teammates but shall differ in color from their opponents.  The rule book required the jersey of the goalkeeper to be distinctly different in color from his/her teammates and opposing field players.   Socks were added to ensure the goalkeeper can be differentiated from opponents.

The NFHS Soccer Rules Committee also included five points of emphasis for the upcoming season.  The first two deal with safety related matters.  The first is heat acclimatization and safety priorities.  Coaches and even officials must recognize the Exertional Heatstroke (EHS) is the leading preventable cause of death among high school athletes.  Coaches must know the following:

  • Importance of a formal pre-season heat acclimatization plan.
  • Know the importance of having and implementing a specific hydration plan, keeping athletes well-hydrated, and encouraging and providing ample opportunities for regular fluid replacement.
  • Know the importance of appropriately modifying activities in relation to the environmental heat stress and contributing individual risk factors (e.g., illness, obesity) to keep athletes safe and performing well.
  • Know the importance for all members of his coaching staff to closely monitor all athletes during practice and training in the heat, and recognize the signs and symptoms of developing heat illnesses.
  • Know the importance of, and resources form, establishing an emergency action plan and promptly implementing it in the case of suspected EHS or other medical emergency.

The second point of emphasis deals with fighting/reckless play.  Players, coaches, game officials and spectators must work together to model and demonstrate sportsmanship and fair play, to minimize risk and to maximize participation.  Fighting and playing in a reckless manner has no place in interscholastic soccer.

The next point of emphasis deals with player equipment.  If tape or a similar material (stays/straps) is applied externally to the socks, it must be of similar color as that part of the sock to which it is applied.  In other words the home team may have white material and the away team a color similar to the color of the socks.

Communication is a point of emphasis for officials.  Game officials are encouraged to effectively communicate with one another as well as with players and coaches throughout the game.  Several articles have been written about professional communication.  The most successful interscholastic officials are the individuals who can communicate effectively with players and coaches.

The last point of emphasis deals with the goal kick.  Players opposing the kicker shall remain outside the penalty area until the ball has cleared the penalty area.  The ball is not in play until the ball clears the penalty area so opponents should not interfere with the restart.

This is the complete summary of the 2015 – 2016 NFHS Rules Changes.  Every official should spend time on an regular basis reviewing the entire rule book to ensure thorough knowledge of the rules.

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