Blocking Below the Waist in Free-Blocking Zone Addressed in High School Football Rules
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (February 5, 2021) – The rule regarding blocking below the waist in the free-blocking zone in high school football has been revised for the upcoming 2021 season.
This rule change was recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee at its January 10-12 meeting, which was held virtually this year. This change to the 2021 NFHS Football Rules Book was subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.
As a result of numerous interpretations of current language regarding blocking below the waist in the free-blocking zone, the committee approved another condition in Rule 2-17-2 that must be met for a legal block below the waist in the free-blocking zone, which is a rectangular area extending laterally 4 yards either side of the spot of the snap and 3 yards behind each line of scrimmage.
The new requirement (2-17-2c) is that the block must be an immediate, initial action following the snap. Under the current rule, an offensive lineman can delay and then block below the waist if the ball is still in the zone. In the committee’s ongoing quest to minimize risk in high school football, the change was approved to require the block to be immediate.
“This change makes it easier for game officials to judge the legality of blocks below the waist and minimizes risk of injury for participants,” said Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine and liaison to the Football Rules Committee. “This change lets game officials observe the block and make a call without having to determine where the ball is and what formation the offense lined up in.”
Blocking in the back continues to be legal in the free-blocking zone by offensive linemen who are on the line of scrimmage and in the zone at the snap, against defensive players who are in the zone at the snap and the contact is in the zone.
The committee noted there has been no criticism of the current rules governing blocks in the back as they are delayed blocks by nature, above the waist and considered to be a safe and necessary legal block.
“I believe this rule change will help make the interpretation of blocking below the waist consistent across the country starting next football season,” said Richard McWhirter, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and assistant executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.
The Football Rules Committee is composed of one representative from each of the NFHS member state associations that use NFHS playing rules, along with representatives from the NFHS Coaches Association, NFHS Officials Association and NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.
A complete listing of the football rules changes will be available on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org. Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page and select “Football.”
According to the most recent NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, 11-player football is the most popular high school sport for boys with 1,006,013 participants in 14,247 schools nationwide. In addition, there were 31,221 boys who participated in 6-, 8- and 9-player football, along with 2,604 girls in all four versions of the game for a grand total of 1,039,828.
Blocking Below the Waist video (created for use in Arizona with coaches and officials) https://vimeo.com/572699660
2021 NFHS FOOTBALL POINTS OF EMPHASIS
When considering sportsmanship, many may first think only of the game participants (athletes and coaches) within the timeframe of the game. However, proper sportsmanship also includes the pregame warm-up period, postgame handshake activity, spectator behavior (both students and adults), parents of athletes, public-address announcements and announcers, and bands. All of the above constituents have a role in promoting good sportsmanship.
Players and coaches are the most visible in their displays of sportsmanship. Their behavior sets the tone for fans, game officials and others. As recognizable personalities, it is an expectation that coaches model good behavior. Players must represent their schools and communities as ambassadors of good sporting behavior beginning with pregame activities and concluding with end-of-game activities.
Game officials generally do not assume control until taking the field approximately 30 minutes prior to the scheduled kickoff. Therefore, coaching staffs and game administrators must be vigilant and responsible for ensuring proper sportsmanship during this time. Once the contest begins, school administrators are responsible for the proper conduct of all spectators. This may take the form of reading a sportsmanship public-address announcement prior to the contest and remaining vigilant for possible issues during the contest. Student bodies and spectators in general should be reminded that any behaviors conducted at the expense of the opponents is unacceptable and will be addressed accordingly.
Public-address announcers are responsible for delivering pertinent game-related information – not to be a play-by-play person or cheerleader. Taking liberties with biased and/or inflammatory announcements must not be tolerated. Their purpose is not to editorialize the quality of play or incite the home crowd in any way.
Working with the band/music director, the school administration must set proper guidelines and ensure compliance regarding when live or recorded music may be utilized.
Good sportsmanship does not occur on its own. Only with specific planning and coordination by all constituents is good sportsmanship achievable. Good sportsmanship is about respect. Good sports win with humility, lose with grace and do both with dignity.
Due to the growing prevalence of televised football, one of the most misunderstood rules at the high school level is intentional grounding. Under NFHS rules, intentional grounding is a foul whenever a legal forward pass is thrown into an area not occupied by an eligible receiver, or when a pass is thrown to prevent a loss of yardage or to conserve time. The only exception to this rule is when the passer intentionally throws the ball forward to the ground immediately after receiving the snap.
Under NFHS rules, it is a foul if there was no eligible receiver in the area of the pass, regardless of the passer’s position on the field. Across the country, we are seeing more high school quarterbacks throw the ball away to avoid a sack when outside the pocket, thinking this is legal based on what is seen on television. High school referees need to be aware of these situations and, with the help of the line judge and linesman, make the correct call under NFHS football rules. This is a foul that should be called after the game officials have gathered and discussed the play. When a foul does occur, the penalty flag needs to be thrown by the referee. The penalty is 5 yards from the spot of the foul and a loss of down.
Ineligible Downfield and Line of Scrimmage Formation
In order for the offensive team to have a legal scrimmage formation at the snap (assuming the numbering exception is not being used), at least five Team A players, numbered 50-79, must be on the line of scrimmage. Also, no more than four Team A players may be backs. Only one player may not be on the line but still penetrate the vertical plane through the waistline of his nearest teammate who is on the line. This player must be in position to receive a hand-to-hand snap, but does not have to actually receive it. By rule, he is the only player allowed to be positioned in “no man’s land” at the snap. All other players not on the line must be clearly positioned as backs.
Some clarification was recently provided in identifying when an ineligible Team A player is illegally downfield on a pass play. By rule, ineligible Team A players may not advance beyond the expanded neutral zone on a legal forward pass play before a legal forward pass that crosses the neutral zone is in flight. The neutral zone expands 2 yards behind the defensive line of scrimmage following the snap. The position of the ineligible Team A player at the moment of the legal pass is the only factor in determining if the player is illegally downfield. When identifying Team A players who are illegally downfield, it is important to make sure that the Team A player is clearly beyond the expanded neutral zone (2 yards) at the moment that the pass is in flight. Players can travel multiple yards in a quick period of time. These players can be legally within the expanded neutral zone when the pass is thrown but beyond as the pass moves downfield. If B touches the pass in or behind the neutral zone, this restriction is terminated.
2021 NFHS FOOTBALL GAME OFFICIALS MANUAL POINTS OF EMPHASIS
Clock Management Communication
Accurate and effective communication during the game is critically important for the game officials, coaches, players and the press box personnel. Recent NFHS football rules change(s) that impact clock management issues call for careful consideration of the necessary changes for game officials to correctly communicate important information throughout the contest – especially during critical game situations when the clock issues are very important. Game officials must utilize sound and effective mechanics throughout the entire game to ensure that they are adequately prepared when the game situations call for critical decisions to be made by the coaches and players.
One very important change that is a result of the new 40-, 25-second play clock is that the covering official(s) must utilize a physical signal that is clearly visible at the end of every down. The most common signals that are necessary when the ball becomes dead include Signal No. 7 (dead ball with one arm straight up) or Signal No. 3 (stops the game clock) or Signal No. 10 (incomplete forward pass). A down that involves a score would involve another appropriate signal as well. Please note that the result of any down only calls for one signal to be used. Coaches, players, clock operators and the other game officials depend on this important information to make critical decisions that sometimes must be made very quickly. A game officials crew that has developed effective and consistent habits to clearly communicate this important information throughout the contest is thoroughly prepared when critical game situations call for quick decisions. Effective clock management becomes a shared crew responsibility when each member of the crew learns the correct signals and is prepared to utilize them in an accurate and consistent manner.
Game official crews that are assigned to work a game where visible play clocks are not available on occasion or all of the time are likely to be familiar with the local association/state mechanic that is recommended for use when the play clock has reached the 10-second mark and then the 5-second mark. It is the recommendation of the NFHS Football Game Officials Manual Committee that a clearly visible physical signal must occur when the play clock reaches 10 seconds and that an additional signal is necessary at the 5- second mark to count down the final seconds prior to the possibility of a delay of game foul. The game official who is responsible for this signal might choose to visit with both quarterbacks prior to the game to allow them to clarify any questions or information they may have concerning this mechanic.
Respectful Communication Between Coaches and Game Officials
If the primary mission of high school football was to win state championships then, by design, 99 percent of all teams would never fulfill the goal. If winning games was the primary goal then, for sure, 50 percent of teams would never be fulfilling the goal. All NFHS sports rules books include a “Mission Statement” (Appendix A in the NFHS Football Rules Book) that clearly states the primary goals as promoting “leadership, respect, integrity and sportsmanship.”
To that end, coaches and game officials should always be communicating with each other in a manner that models such behaviors for the student-athletes. Guidelines to model such communication is always included as Appendix F (for Coaches) and Appendix G (for Officials) in the NFHS Football Rules Book.
NFHS Football Rule 9-8-1 states that it is unsportsmanlike conduct and thereby clearly illegal for any non-player (coach) to “attempt to influence a decision by a game official” such as screaming for holding by a defensive coach over and over, or consistently asking for a pass interference call by an offensive coach.
The rule further defines that it is unsportsmanlike conduct to “indicate an objection to a game official’s decision.” While it is likely not appropriate to be calling such a foul unless it is an extreme case, game officials and coaches need to keep in mind that young student-athletes are watching their every move. If a coach disagrees with a decision, he or she should be requesting a “conference time-out” and respectfully presenting his or her case. Note that this procedure calls for both coach and game officials to discuss any disagreement specifically
“in front of the team bench” (as a learning opportunity for players to see how adults respectfully speak with other adults) as opposed to some secret screaming session in the middle of the field. If they are not sure enough about their position to risk a time-out, then they need to abide by NFHS Football Rule 9-8-1.
Preventing Inequities Due to Illegal Substitution and/or Illegal Formation
After the ready-for-play, each A player who participated in the previous down and each A substitute must have been, momentarily, between the 9-yard marks before the snap. (Rule7-2-1) With the newly revised definition for the “ready-for-play,” a “wide out” type substitute can gain the advantage of being unnoticed and uncovered or even in illegal position if game officials do not consistently recognize whether or not the players are all abiding by this NFHS football rule.
The ready-for-play may be a signal given by the referee. However, with the new rule it may also be initiated by the umpire placing the ball on the ground and moving into position. It only takes one instance for a receiver to go uncovered for A to gain the advantage of a long reception or even a score. Game officials need to be especially conscious of the position ofoutside substitutes when either type ready for play occurs. Wing officials should be especially alert for substitution issues.
Responsibility for Minimizing Risk in the Game
It is so very important to understand that the school administrators, coaches, players and non-players, and game officials are equally responsible for minimizing the risk in the game of football! It is quite clear that there have been many NFHS football rules changes recently that directly address risk minimization of the participants. The purpose of this Point of Emphasis is to encourage all game officials to carefully study these NFHS rules of the game for football and prepare themselves to make appropriate decisions throughout the game that address this area of concern. It is very important to always remember that a decision to not throw a flag for a risk minimization-related foul sends a very clear message that the game official approves of the action by the player(s) and is likely to see the same foul repeated.
Game officials should take the time to carefully study the items listed below and prepare to react appropriately in each and every game. Every game official must take responsibility for minimizing the risk of all participants in high school football. NFHS Football Rule 9 clearly addresses the conduct of all participants, and Sections 3 and 4 specifically deal with physical contact between players that may result in these risk concerns.
Let’s look at several specific examples. Please note that this list is not all-inclusive:
Targeting is defined as “an act by any player who takes aim and initiates contact against an opponent above the shoulders with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder(s).” Any player who is in complete control of himself (not fighting off a block) must be held to a very high standard when making this contact against an opponent. We simply cannot miss or pass on this type of foul in an effort to protect both players. Remember that a targeting foul does not result in automatic disqualification, but that certainly can be a consideration.
Blindside Block is defined as “a block against an opponent other than the runner, who is not able to see the blocker approaching.” This action that includes forceful contact clearly results in a foul unless the block outside of the free-blocking zone is initiated with open hands (open palms to the opponent).
Tripping is defined as “the intentional use of the lower leg or foot to obstruct an opponent below the knee.” It must be noted here that a player may not trip any opponent (includes the runner). It is also important to note here that an injury to both players is certainly possible.
Defenseless Player is defined as “a player who, because of his physical position and focus of concentration, is especially vulnerable to injury.” It must be noted here that physical contact against a defenseless player may very well be perfectly legal, but any player must 4 take extreme care to make certain that the contact is legal by rule to avoid a foul. Game officials must carefully observe any defenseless player to determine that the contact by an opponent is legal. It is also necessary to note here that unnecessary or excessive contact may very well occur.
Illegal Helmet Contact is defined as “an act of initiating contact with the helmet against any opponent.” It is important to note here that a helmet is to be used for protection and not to be used as a weapon.
Spearing is “an act by any player who initiates contact against an opponent at the shoulders or below with the crown (top portion) of his helmet,” and is likely to be the most common example of illegal helmet contact.
Roughing an opponent may include action against a passer, a kicker, a holder or a snapper. Each of these players are certainly in a vulnerable position at a critical moment and clearly must be protected.
National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association
September 1, 2021
NAERA (National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association), NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) and helmet manufacturers are informing you of reconditioning and recertification recommendations for football, lacrosse, baseball and softball helmets. NAERA recommends that during every football, lacrosse, baseball and softball season or practice period, every helmet should be cleaned and inspected regularly by a school or organization staff member with knowledge of manufacturer recommendations. We further recommend every helmet should be reconditioned and recertified annually unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer. ONLY a company licensed by NOCSAE can perform the recertification of football, lacrosse, baseball and softball helmets. For a list of NAERA members that are licensed by NOCSAE please visit our web site www.naera.net. More information regarding NOCSAE and their standards can be found at www.nocsae.org.
Reconditioning/Recertification and Sanitization Post Covid-19: NAERA recommends every football, lacrosse, baseball and softball helmet be reconditioned and recertified prior to being issued to all athletes, unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer. NAERA further recommends that non recertifiable equipment, including but not limited to, football and lacrosse shoulder pads, chest protectors and shin guards be sanitized in accordance to manufacturer guidelines.
On January 1, 2017 NOCSAE put into effect standard ND 001 6.1.1 shown below.
ND 001 6.1.1. Helmets intended to be recertified shall have a recertification interval provided by the manufacturer. Certification life is limited to this time period. Helmets not recertified during the stated interval shall no longer be certified. Recertification interval required for warranty validation shall satisfy this requirement.
What does ND 001 6.1.1 mean for your school or organization? For Football helmets, as of this writing, the requirements from all football helmet manufacturers for recertification is a minimum of every other year. If you acquired new helmets in 2019 these helmets will need recertification per this standard for 2021 play.
Helmets that have a lapsed certification per NOCSAE DOC. 001 may be recertified under most conditions. Always ask your NAERA representative if you have doubts. Remember when your team Captain or Coach tells the official your team is legally equipped, you need to know that is correct and factual.
Every state association playing under NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) and NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) rules has adopted the NOCSAE standards for football, lacrosse, baseball and softball helmets. Other state associations may have similar rules; however, most support the helmet manufactures recommendations.
Please make certain your school or organization is using a reconditioning company licensed by NOCSAE.
Tony Beam, BA, E.S., CAA
Executive Director, NAERA
Education – along with proper football techniques – is one of the biggest deterrents to concussions and one of the keys to athletes being treated properly if one does occur
Direct helmet-to-helmet contact and any other contact both with and to the helmet must be eliminated from the sport of football at the interscholastic level! Using the helmet to inflict punishment on the opponent is dangerous and illegal. Coaches and game officials must be diligent in promoting the elimination of contact to and with the helmet, as follows:
• Coaches -- through consistent adherence to proper and legal coaching techniques.
• Game Officials -- through strict enforcement of pertinent playing rules and game administrations.
Coaches must insist that players play “heads-up” football by utilizing proper and safe techniques, - not only during games, but on the practice field as well. Coaches must shoulder the responsibility of consistently reinforcing with their players that using the top or face of the helmet goes against all tenets of the basic techniques of safe and legal blocking and tackling.
The No. 1 responsibility for game officials must be player safety. Any initiation of contact with the helmet is illegal; therefore, it must be penalized consistently and without warning. Player safety is really a matter of attitude, technique, attention and supervision. Football players will perform as they are taught; therefore, there must be a concentrated focus on consistently enforcing the existing rules. And contrary to most other rule enforcements, when in doubt, contact to and with the helmet should be ruled as a foul by game officials. Contact to and with the helmet may be considered a flagrant act and may be penalized by disqualification if a game official considers the foul so severe or extreme that it places an opponent in danger of serious injury.
NOCSAE Statement - Add-Ons (2018) | NOCSAE Statement - Add-ons
The NFHS does not perform scientific tests on any specific items of equipment to determine if the equipment poses undue risks to the student-athletes, coaches, officials or spectators. Such determinations are the responsibility of equipment manufacturers, and we rely heavily on products meeting NOCSAE standards.
NFHS Football Rule 1-5-1a states, in part, that “A helmet and facemask which met the NOCSAE test standard at the time of manufacture…” is required. A consideration in determining whether add-on helmet attachments are legal is that our rule specifies only that the helmet had to meet the NOCSAE test standard at the time of manufacture; helmet add-ons typically are added after the time of helmet manufacture.
The attached NOCSAE Statement gives manufacturers of add-on attachments (in the fourth bullet) the option to have helmets tested with the helmet add-on attached; however, this would presumably require such manufacturers to test every make and model of helmet with their add-on attached.
The third bullet of the NOCSAE Statement gives the right to helmet manufacturers to determine, under the NOCSAE standards, whether given helmet add-on items would render the certification void. While that may occur, we have no information that it has happened yet.
In the interim, absent decisions by the helmet manufacturers, under the NOCSAE standards, to declare their certifications void pursuant to the third bullet point, or absent further revisions of the pertinent NOCSAE Statement, or absent an NFHS football rules change, our position about the permissive use of such helmet add-ons remains unchanged from last August.
We know and understand that this position by NFHS is not as proactive as some may wish as to whether given helmet add-ons should be considered legal; however, when considering the NOCSAE Statement and the applicable rules, the NFHS is not in a position to change our Rules Review Committee determination that such equipment is permissive.
NOCSAE statement on third party helmet add-on products and certification
There are many new products on the market that are intended to be added to helmets, in particular football helmets, which products claim to reduce concussions and make helmets safer and more protective. Read the entire NOCSAE Position Statement.
Rating System Cannot Predict Helmets’ Ability to Prevent Concussions
Protecting Against Injury Does Not Start or End With Helmet Purchase
OVERLAND PARK, KANSAS (May 27, 2014) – The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) applauds and encourages the growing research in the area of concussion protection for athletes, including the work released this month by Virginia Tech. Coaches, consumers and parents should be aware that while the STAR rating system suggests the purchase of specific football helmets, scientific evidence does not support the claim that a particular helmet brand or model is more effective in reducing the occurrence of concussive events. Read More
Statement from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment Regarding 2013 Virginia Tech Star Rating System
“The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) supports and encourages the scientific research being done by Virginia Tech in the very important area of concussion protection for athletes in all sports, and particularly in football. There are, however, very important limitations in the STAR ranking system as recognized by the experts at Virginia Tech. NOCSAE believes that many parents, players, coaches, and athletic directors are unaware of these limitations. Unless the limitations of the STAR ranking system are considered, the potential exists for players, parents, coaches, and administrators to overemphasize the role of the helmet in protecting against concussions. This overemphasis increases the likelihood that less attention will be given to other steps that have a more immediate and much greater impact on concussion reduction. Read More
Minimizing risk for all participants is the number one priority.
When in doubt as to whether or not a targeting foul has occurred - game officials will be instructed to call targeting.
When in doubt as to whether or not a flagrant targeting foul has been committed - game officials will be instructed to classify the foul as flagrant and disqualify the offending player.
The WIAA will continue using the Overtime Procedures used during previous years.
New NCAA Overtime Procedures for 2021 will be monitored and reviewed during the NCAA season ahead.
25-YARD LINE OVERTIME PROCEDURE
NCAA FOOTBALL 25-YARD LINE OVERTIME PROCEDURE
Note: In the text that follows the word “inning” is used but alternate wording is given in the square brackets “[ ].”
The 25-yard line overtime procedure to resolve tied games adopted by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association for the 2011 football season and beyond incorporates elements of the NCAA tie breaker system modified to comply with football rules published by the National Federation of State High School Associations.