CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – With the start of the new school year comes varsity and junior varsity sports in high school. 22News has compiled all the rule changes that have been made this year in several high school sports.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NSHS) meets several times a year to discuss changes to rules in high school sports. This year, there will be some changes in basketball, wrestling, soccer, swimming, football, softball and more.

High School Soccer rule changes

Changes this year will help clarify several rules regarding fouls and misconduct. Here are some of the changes:

  • Four criteria have been added to consider when determining if a goal-scoring opportunity was denied:
    • The distance between the offense and the ball
    • The general direction of the play
    • The likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball
    • The location and number of defenders
  • A new section on Fouls was created, which defines the seven direct free kick fouls and provides consistency for officials when interpreting misconduct. 
  • Determining when an injured player must leave the field of play was addressed this year. If the referee stops play for an injured player, the player must only leave the game if a coach or health-care professional is beckoned from the sideline.
  • A player being replaced shall exit the field on the bench side unless an injury prohibits it.
  • Clarification that players must re-enter a game from the official area after being beckoned in. 
  • Accidental handling will be called by the attacking team inside the attacking penalty area regardless of intent. Further, No goal can be scored from any handling by the attacking team.
  • A new rule defines the criteria for deliberately playing the ball when determining an offside infraction. A player must have the time and space, and sufficient sight of the ball, to control the ball and have the possibility of passing the ball to a teammate or gaining possession of the ball.
  • A new language will help officials when a goalkeeper illegally handles the ball both inside and outside the penalty area.
    • If a goalkeeper handles the ball inside the penalty area when not permitted to do so, an indirect free kick is awarded but given no disciplinary sanction.
    • However, if the violation is playing the ball a second time (with or without the hand/arm) after a restart and before touching another player, the goalkeeper shall be cautioned if stopping a promising attack.
    • The goalkeeper is ejected if denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity while improperly handling the ball.

High School Football rule changes

Changes this year address excessive penalty enforcement for offensive fouls behind the line of scrimmage. Here are some of the rule changes:

  • A team on offense at its own 40-yard line that is called for holding 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage at its own 30-yard line, would be faced with first and 20 from its 30-yard line rather than the almost insurmountable task of first and 30 from its own 20-yard line. 
  • Additional criteria were approved to help identify players who should be defined as defenseless receivers related to application of unnecessary or excessive contact.
  • Rule adjusted as another example of a defenseless player includes a receiver, as previously defined in the rule, including the person intercepting the pass, who is forcefully contacted by an opponent that is not:
    • Incidental contact as a result of making a play on the ball
    • Initiated with open hands
    • An attempt to tackle by wrapping arm(s) around the receiver
  • Clarification to the intentional grounding rule change implemented last year. The change permits the exception for intentional grounding to the first and only player to possess the ball after the snap ends.
  • Player towels may contain one manufacturer’s logo and/or one school logo, neither exceeding 2¼ square inches. Towels must be a solid color, but now do not have to be the same color for each player. Towels may not, however, be the color of the ball or penalty flag.

High School Basketball rule changes

Beginning next year, high school basketball teams will shoot two free throws once the foul bonus has been reached. The bonus qualifications will also be changing. A bonus is reached when a team commits five fouls in each quarter. Team fouls will reset each quarter as well.

Previously, teams would be given a “one-and-one” bonus when the opposite team reached seven fouls in a half and two foul shots when ten fouls were reached each half. A “one-and-one” foul shot is when the first free throw is a live ball if missed and a second free throw is given if the first shot is made.

Throw-in procedures for front-court violations have also been adjusted. When a ball is in the team’s control on the offensive side of the court and the defensive team commits a violation or the ball becomes dead, the throw-in by the offensive team will be at one of four designated spots determined by where the violation took place. The designated spots are either the nearest 28-foot mark along the sideline or the nearest spot three feet outside the lane line on the end line.

However, if the defensive team causes a ball to go out of bounds, the throw-in will continue to be where the ball went out of bounds.

Other changes to high school sports include establishing a place for the shot clock operator and allowing players out of bounds in some situations. The full list and details can be found below:

High School Wrestling rule changes

Beginning this year, wrestlers will be able to compete in six matches in one competition. This is an increase from five in the previous season. Last year some states tested the changes and found no reported injuries. Also changing this year, no contestant can wrestle in more than 10 matches over two consecutive days. Other changes this year:

  • Wrestler’s feet will now be considered supporting points while in a near-fall situation.
  • Facial hair is permittable
  • Language on uniforms was altered as modern uniforms do not ride up the wrestler’s leg and cause a disadvantage.
  • Competitors can wrestle in two consecutive matches with a 30-minute rest, previously a 45-minute rest.
  • White or gray trim on the referee’s shoes will be allowed.
  • Referees can announce the winner by raising the winner’s hand or raising the color wristband of the winning wrestler while the wrestler raises their own hand.

High School Softball rule changes

The rules committee will now allow jewelry to be worn while playing this year. Other changes to softball rules this year include:

  • Language in the rules emphasizes that electronic devices are only to be used in the dugout during games to prevent teams from utilizing them as an on-field signaling system under the new jewelry-friendly regulations.
  • There will be no limit on the number of colors for a player’s glove/mitt as long as no part of it – including lacing and seams – is the same color as the ball; has markings that give the appearance of the ball; or is made in a manner that is distracting to the umpire.
  • All baserunners involved in a game-ending home run will be scored and credited to the winning team. Previously, only the number of runs needed to win the contest were officially counted in the final score.
  • A rule that deals with batter-runner interference, was reformatted to address the infraction in fair territory – “with a fielder attempting to make an initial play on a fair batted ball” – and in foul territory – “with a fielder attempting to field a fly ball over foul territory.”
  • New language clarifies that a batted ball will be ruled a fair ball and a dead ball in the instance an offensive player interferes with a defensive player while the ball is in fair territory. 

High School Baseball rule changes

Similar to softball rule changes, the rules committee will also allow jewelry to be worn during a game. Other rules this year include the following:

  • Added a definition for a lodged ball, which is when a ball remains on the playing field, but becomes wedged, stuck, lost or unreachable causing it to stop abruptly or not fall or roll immediately. The ball is declared a dead ball. 
  • Language clarifies that eye shields attached to a catcher’s mask after manufacture are prohibited. Eye shields that are attached at the time of manufacture must be clear.
  • Rule was adjusted to only use the pivot foot to determine whether a pitcher is delivering a pitch from the wind-up or set position. Previously, the position of both feet on the pitcher’s plate determined either the wind-up or set positions, prohibiting a “hybrid” position where the pivot foot was in the wind-up position and the non-pivot foot was in the set position.

High School Swimming and Diving rule changes

Several technical rules were made for breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. Here are the rule changes coming this year:

  • Backstroke swimmers are now permitted to submerge at the backstroke flags and be completely underwater at the finish.
  • A penalty will now be imposed if the diver’s head is too close to the diving board.
  • Removed dives 104A, 304A and 402A from the Diving Table, they were considered too dangerous at a high school level.
  • Requires the separation of hands and a simultaneous touch with the hands during the turns and finish.

Other High School sports rule changes this year

Local News

WWLP-22News, an NBC affiliate, began broadcasting in 1953 by providing local news, network, syndicated, and local programming to western Massachusetts. Follow 22News on X @WWLP22News, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.