Rules of the game Kenny Henderson, Executive Director LHSAA

Allison B. Hudson

In last week’s column, I discussed the role principles play in the regulation of interscholastic athletics by the LHSAA and our parent organization, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). I would now like to delve more into the process by which the NFHS institutes the rules of the game for particular sports and how the LHSAA implements these rules.

The rules-writing program was inaugurated by the NFHS so schools could have a direct voice in developing playing rules that adhered to the education-based principles I mentioned previously. The rules committees operate on a rotating appointment basis through which the 50 state associations and the District of Columbia may participate. The NFHS Board of Directors makes rules committee appointments for all sports, except football, upon recommendations by state executive officers.

The NFHS membership is divided into a number of “election sections” for rules-making and other purposes. Each section is afforded representation on the rules committee for each sport. This allows states to have their representatives take turns on committees and also enables the NFHS to benefit from insight from across the country. Committee terms are staggered on a four-year basis, with two new representatives chosen each year. The committee chairperson does not rotate for the sake of continuity and stability. The Football Rules Writing Committee is unique in that it has always operated on a one-vote-per state basis.

In addition to voting on specific rules suggestions and changes for particular sports, each committee maintains a liaison with that sport’s other major rules-writing bodies in order to keep interscholastic rules in line with the standard regulations. The NFHS rules committees, however, are completely independent from similar committees within other organizations.

State associations like the LHSAA are not required to utilize NFHS-established playing rules, but most do. In order to have representation on a rules committee, a state must follow the NFHS playing rules for the sport. Typically, the rules place a major emphasis on risk management and efficiency in administration of contests. Also, the NFHS provides a wide range of companion services (rules interpretation meetings, videos, examinations, etc.) which encourage adherence to its rules.

Ten LHSAA-sanctioned sports abide by NFHS rules: baseball; boys and girls basketball; boys and girls cross country; football; boys and girls soccer; softball; boys and girls swimming; boys and girls track and field (indoor and outdoor); volleyball; and wrestling. Boys and girls bowling, boys and girls golf, boys and girls gymnastics and boys and girls tennis adhere to regulations established by those sports’ respective national governing bodies.

LHSAA member schools and student-athletes benefit from the stability the NFHS rules process offers, as well as uniformity with interscholastic athletics throughout the rest of the United States.