NCAA & NFHS Philosophy

Published on September 14, 2015


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 the importance of taking a break from it all. The intercollegiate season ended in November and interscholastic seasons ended either in November or May. Spring intercollegiate soccer games are completed so officials have an opportunity to several things. This article will focus on the philosophies of the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS).

The various NCAA divisions each have statements about their individual philosophy.  For example Division II indicates that “members of Division II believe that a well-conducted intercollegiate athletics program, based on sound educational principles and practices, is a proper part of the educational mission of a university or college and that the educational well-being and academic success of the participating student athlete is of primary concern.”

NCAA Division III philosophy statement includes the following: “Colleges and universities in Division III place the highest priority on the overall quality of the educational experience and on the successful completion of all students’ academic programs.  They seek to establish and maintain an environment in which a student-athlete’s athletics activities are conducted as an integral part of the student-athlete’s educational experience, and an environment that values cultural diversity and gender equity among their student-athletes and athletics staff.”

The NFHS philosophy statement is somewhat different and focuses on another important matter in amateur athletics.  The following is a summary of the statement:

  • “The NFHS is the recognized national authority on interscholastic activity programs.
  • Interscholastic activity programs enrich each student’s educational experience.
  • Participation in education-based activity programs promotes student academic achievement.
  • Student participation in interscholastic activity programs is a privilege.
  • Interscholastic participation develops good citizenship and healthy lifestyles.”

While the philosophies of the NCAA and the NFHS have some similarities, there are also two distinctive differences.  The NCAA focuses on the extension of the educational experience and the NFHS focuses on participation.  This is clearly evident in the NFHS Soccer Rule Book under substitution.  The NFHS allows unlimited substitution and players allowed to reenter the game during multiple dead ball situations.

Intercollegiate soccer is becoming more and more competitive.  The highest caliber of players are hoping to be considered for an opportunity to play at the next level.  During highly competitive games it is easy to forget the overall philosophy of the NCAA divisions and forget that the players are student athletes and not playing at the professional level.  The players are part of the game for 90 – 110 minutes.  The next day the student athlete is back in class studying and working toward a degree in a professional field.  Officials must recognize this and officiate the game so that players safety is a key component and the game is played under the rules and interpretations of the NCAA.  In the highest level of NCAA soccer this can become difficult since the coaches and players are striving to win the conference and advance in the NCAA tournament.

As previously mentioned, the NFHS focus is on participation.  The NFHS Soccer Rule Book allows for unlimited substitution and in some cases mandatory substitution.  Roster sizes are not limited so as many players as possible can be a part of the team.  Allowing as many players to enter the game as possible is encouraged by many school administrators.  As in intercollegiate soccer the players are students first.  Safety of every player is a critical component for the officials.  At the interscholastic level, the officials must allow the substitutes to enter the game as long as they have met the requirements of reporting to the scorekeeper and it is a proper substitution time.  Officials must be aware that coaches can abuse this part of the game in order to waste time to conserve a lead and an eventual victory.  The referee has many discretionary powers that are described in the NFHS Rule Book.  The critical one during substitutions is that if the official feels the coach is wasting time, the official has the power to stop the clock.  The official should then advise the coach that in his/her opinion the coach is utilizing substitutions to waste time and the official will continue to stop the clock when he/she feels that this is occurring.

While substitutions and participation is encouraged, gamesmanship to waste time is not.

In summary the NCAA philosophy focuses on athletics as an extension of the student athletes’ educational experience.  The NFHS philosophy encourages participation.  Officials must maintain an awareness of this and officiate accordingly.

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