New rules announced for prep sports nationwide

High school baseball, softball, track and field and cross-country all will be played under a slightly different set of guidelines in 2016.

The National Federation of State High School Associations recently approved a short list of changes recommended at committee meetings last month in Indianapolis.

Here are the rules that will start next season:

Baseball

Beginning in 2016, umpires must issue a warning to coaches before ejecting them or restricting them to the bench or dugout. In recent years, a warning was optional before penalizing a coach.

Now, a warning must be issued to coaches who have committed a minor offense. Coaches can still be ejected on a first offense if an umpire deems it major.

“Well, I don’t plan on getting thrown out of game anytime soon,” Mt. Vernon coach Ryan Carr said. “But this rule seems good for both parties. The umpire doesn’t want to hear someone complaining, and the coach now knows where he stands if he does. Plus, this will give both sides a chance to cool down. It kind of puts everyone on equal footing.”

An addendum to this rule is that coaches who are issued a written warning will be confined to the bench or dugout for the rest of the game.

The other change approved by the federation’s board, according to its website, is that “a coach, player, substitute, attendant or other bench personnel shall not have any physical contact, spitting, kicking of dirt or any other physical action directed toward an umpire.”

Violators of this rule will be ejected from the game.

Softball

The lone rule change here “prohibits the use of a projected substitute, which is now defined in the new article as ‘a player who does not immediately participate in the game.’”

Track and field

There were a few rules changes approved for this sport, the foremost of which was that the head starter will now inspect the running blocks used in running events instead of the implement inspector.

The other significant change to the sport is that the head event judge will now have both a white and red flag to signal whether a throwing attempt was fair or foul. The idea, a federation official said in a news release, is to increase efficiency in field events and to improve communication between coaches, officials and fans.

A few minor amendments were made to redefine the rules for trials/attempts in throwing events and equipment standards.

Cross-country

The most significant change in this sport was the revision of a rule to recommend the use of a video or photograph to verify a race’s finish “in which the timing system indicates a differential of one-tenth of a second or less.” A federation official said the idea here is simply to have a secondary or backup source for results in case the timing system fails.

Another small change allows for implementation of double painted boundary lines and/or “natural or artificial boundary markers as an alternative method to mark the course for both runners and spectators.”

On the Web

Visit nfhs.org for more information and expanded explanation on all rule changes related to high school sports.