The whole debacle with the National Football League officials got me to thinking.
As my mind wandered, the NFL situation got me thinking of sports rules and enforcement. I began thinking about high school sports rules. If someone handed you a magic wand, what rules in high school sports would you change? Here’s a few that sprang to mind for me.
High school soccer
No sport could use some updated rules than soccer. I know I’m a relative newbie to soccer compared to the people who’ve been playing futbol all their lives. And there’s no bigger sacred cow than soccer rules. But for entertainment value and athlete safety, this is a sport that could sure use some updating.
First, get rid of the offsides rule. This is the biggest buzz kill rule in high school sports. Teams can’t be aggressive, because every team plays its defensemen so far upfield. It’s become a main part of many coaches’ strategies, to catch their opponents offside instead of having to defend the whole field. Of if offsides must be kept, eliminate it from the 18-yard box to the goal line.
I’d also shorten high school soccer games from 80 minutes to 60 minutes. This is such an inordinately long game compared to any other high school sport. I’d bet a high percentage of soccer injuries come in the last 20 minutes of the game because the players’ bodies are overburdened.
Another thing for soccer: force officials to get to games on time. I have never seen a high school sport where refs are late to games on a consistent basis. They can use the 4:30 p.m. start as an excuse, but how often do you see a baseball or softball umpire late to a game? It is a rare occurrence.
I’d leave the game alone, but I’d do something about the warmups. It would seem that volleyball teams could be ready for their matches in half the time they now use for warmups.
One rule that has gotten way out of hand in the past few years is the calling of false start penalties in high school football. I recall a false start penalty a couple years ago where the player was flagged for movement because he was breathing so heavily because he was winded in a hot game.
This isn’t the NFL. Unless it is movement of the hands, feet or head, or a major movement of the body, the officials should keep the flags in their pockets for unintentional small movements.
There is talk about shot clocks eventually reaching the high school level. They can’t get here fast enough. A shot clock, at 40 or 45 seconds, would be a fair choice. It would allow a winning team to burn some clock, but not the last five minutes of the game. It’s an idea that is overdue.
Eliminate the opportunity for golf coaches to play rounds during matches when their teams are playing. There’s nothing more galling than watching a high school golfer who is struggling, and their coaches aren’t there to help them because they are out playing a round of their own. Coaches have cut down considerably on this in the last 10 years and it’s time to outlaw it completely.