Sector Size, Event Limits Top List of NFHS Changes

By Staff

Coaching Management, 13.1, January 2005, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1301/bbnfhschanges.htm

High school throwers may need to exhibit greater control in 2004-05, thanks to the National Federation of State High School Associations’ approval of a narrower throwing sector for the discus and shot put. That revision was among the rules changes made at the annual Track and Field Rules Committee meeting in June.

The new sector size, 34.92 degrees, will join 40 degrees, 60 degrees (for discus only), and 65.5 degrees (for shot put only) as acceptable options for events governed by NFHS rules. "The 34.92 sector is already the standard in college and international competition, and now high schools will be permitted to use it as well," says Cynthia Doyle, NFHS Assistant Director and liaison to track and field and cross country.

Doyle says in addition to encouraging more controlled throws, the tighter sector makes the measuring process easier for officials. "And since high school teams often compete at college venues, many already have access to the 34.92 size," she adds.

For throwers who will be competing with the new sector, the main impact will likely be an increase in the number of out-of-bounds throws, so coaches should find out ahead of time which sectors will be used at the meets on their schedules. "Especially for kids who are just learning to throw, it will definitely be more difficult to avoid fouls in the smaller sector," says Tamra Strano, Head Coach at Leavenworth (Kan.) High School and a member of the Rules Committee. "So a coach might want to focus more on teaching control and accuracy if they know they’re going to see the smaller size."

Another change clarifies that athletes are limited to four events in a meet, including both track and field events. The committee noted that some states haven’t been counting field events toward competitors’ totals. "We felt that for educational purposes, student-athlete safety, and competitive fairness, no one should take part in more than four events," Doyle says. "That was already our rule, and now we’re clearly specifying that every event counts."

In another change, penalties were added to the rule which prohibits athletes from warming up for an event without coach supervision. A first offense results in a warning, followed by disqualification from the event for a second offense and removal of the athlete from the meet for a third infraction.

"If meet officials and coaches are doing their jobs, supervision shouldn’t be a problem," says Strano. "Athletes can now be disqualified for not following that rule, and that underlines the fact that we’ve got to be thinking safety at all times."

In addition to the rules changes, a point of emphasis advises officials on best practices for utilizing in-shoe computer chips to determine finishing time and place in cross country events. "Particularly when one chip is used per runner instead of two, meet managers should advise coaches of how place will be determined," Doyle explains. "The chip won’t always cross the line at the same moment the torso does, so in a close race, teams need to know how officials will be deciding the winners."

"Meet planners also need to think about a back-up plan in case there are ever computer problems," adds Strano. "What happens if something crashes, and you have a group of kids who just ran 3.1 miles, but no one knows who finished first, second, and third? This serves as a reminder that if you’re going to use the new technology, you need to make sure you’ve thought everything through."

The committee also updated uniform regulations, removing the requirement that participants wear shorts over one- or two-piece body suits. A complete list of high school rules changes for track and field and cross country is available at: www.nfhs.org. Click on "Sport & Rules Information."