2016 – 2017 NFHS Rule Changes

Published on March 11, 2016


By:  John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

The NFHS Rules Committee met in late January to discuss the necessary rule changes for the 2016 – 2017 seasons.  While the number of changes are minimum, they are highly significant and every soccer official working NFHS games needs to review them thoroughly.

The first rule change is in Rule 4, Player Equipment.  A new rule 4-2-9 is added to the rule book that allows for soft-padded headbands to be worn.  This allowance was previously in the play situations and now has been incorporated into the rules.  Soft padded head gear was permitted but not required in play situation 4.2.2.

The most significant rule change deals with Rule 11, Offside.  A new sentence has been added which indicates that “a player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent, who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save), is not considered to have gained an advantage.”  The NFHS Rule Book is now the same as the NCAA Rule Book and FIFA Laws of the Game.  Every interscholastic official must be clear on how to interpret this change.

The Penalty Kick, Rule 14, has been modified in 14-1-4.  “Once the kicker starts his/her approach forward toward the ball, he/she may not interrupt his/her movement.  Failure to kick the ball as specified will be considered a violation by the attacking team, and the appropriate penalties shall apply.”

This eliminates the attacking team from being allowed to retry the kick.  Once the ball moves forward, it is in play.  This change makes the rule more consistent with other NFHS rules.

For 2016 – 2017, there are several new definitions added to Rule 18, Definitions.  The first definition added deals with gaining an advantage by being in that position.  ” A player who plays a ball that rebounds to him/her off a goal post or the crossbar after having been in an offside position or a player who plays a ball that rebounds to him/her off an opponent after having been in an offside position.”

The next definition deals with interfering with an opponent. “Preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movement of challenging an opponent for the ball. ”

Continuing with the terminology in the Offside Rule, the next definition provides guidance in interfering with play.  “Playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate.”

These three new definitions are part of Rule 11, Offside but were not previously defined.  This should help the interscholastic soccer official with the interpretation of Offside.

There are several proposed editorial changes to the NFHS Rule Book.  It is important that when an interscholastic soccer official receives his/her rule book he/she studies it carefully.  The editorial changes do not change the intent of the rule but do make the rule clearer and/or remove redundant language.

Although these are the only changes to three rules this year, they are significant and require that every official interpret the changes properly.  A misapplication of the rule could result in situation where the official must defend him/herself before a chapter or state association.  Every official must thoroughly review the entire NFHS Rule Book before the season begins.  During the season, every official should attend clinics and review the rules on a regular basis to ensure he/she is up-to-date on all interpretations.

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