Player Equipment


By:  John Van de Vaarst – National Clinician

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer Referee. However, any soccer Referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.

All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance.  This month’s article will focus on player equipment and the differences between intercollegiate and interscholastic soccer.

This month the focus will be on what many seem to be very basic.  However each year there are problems with officials at the intercollegiate and interscholastic level with regard to player equipment.  Rule 4 in the NCAA and NFHS Rule Books provide detailed information on player equipment.  The rules begin with what is mandatory and then explains what is prohibited.  The rules are very clear yet there are games when equipment becomes an issue.

The first area to look at is shin guards.  The NCAA Rule Book indicates that shin guards are to be professionally manufactured, age and size appropriate, and not altered to decrease protection.  These guards must meet the standards established by the National Operating committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).  The NFHS Rule Book is similar but goes on to indicate that the shin guard must be no higher than 2 inches above the ankle and the NOCSAE seal must be permanently marked on the shin guard.  Players are not to wear the shin guard on the side of the leg.  It is worn to protect the shin and must meet the standards of the rule book.

The NCAA Rule Book indicates that a player shall not wear anything dangerous.  Knee braces are permitted as long as there is no exposed metal.  Casts must be covered and permissible if the referee feels it is safe.  Headgear, headbands and hats for goalkeepers are legal as long as they are not dangerous.  Prostheses may be worn as long as they are padded.  Players wearing anything dangerous must leave the game and not return until it is corrected.  The NFHS Rule Book indicates that illegal equipment shall not be worn by any player.  There are eight specific examples of dangerous equipment including projecting metal, pads containing any unyielding material, hard or unyielding items unless covered with foam padding no less than 1/2 inch thick, shin guards with sharp edges, spectacle guards, knee braces which are altered, altered ankle braces helmets, hats, caps or visors.  The exception on head protection is for goalkeepers.

For intercollegiate games the home team has the choice of what color uniform.  All uniforms must comply with logo restrictions as specified.  In interscholastic games, the home team must wear solid white jerseys and solid white socks.

For both levels, jewelry is not permitted.  The only exception at the intercollegiate level is medical alert jewelry and it must be taped to the body.  For interscholastic games medical alert and religious jewelry must be taped to the body.

The above equipment items are not all inclusive.  Rule 4, Player Equipment, should be reviewed on a regular basis.  The game officials have a responsibility during the pregame to ensure players are not wearing anything dangerous.  For intercollegiate games the player should be inspected without disruption to their warm up activities.  The officials should walk around the players and do a visual inspection.  For interscholastic games the referee must ask the head coach if their players are properly equipped.  During the game if a player is found wearing illegal equipment they are to be sent off and not allowed to return to the equipment is corrected.  In interscholastic games, for the first offense the head coach is to receive a caution.  Should additional offenses occur, the player is cautioned.

Ensuring player safety is a paramount responsibility for officials.  No official should allow a player to participate in a game with illegal equipment.  This includes players who protest, or their coach protests, that they were allowed to play in the past with the equipment.