NFHS Mandates Equipment Changes in High School Softball
Along with a number of rule changes impacting purchases in upcoming seasons, team dealers will want to be aware of two significant player equipment changes involving the wearing of head coverings and beads recently approved for high school softball for the upcoming 2022 season.
- First, language that previously prohibited hard items to control the hair, including beads, has been removed from the rules book. The committee did not believe that the use of hard items presented an injury risk to other players. In contrast, the prohibition of such items has been interpreted as adversely affecting one’s cultural background.
- In addition, head coverings worn for religious reasons in high school softball no longer will require prior approval from the respective state high school association. The revised rule states that “head coverings worn for religious reasons must be made of non-abrasive, soft materials and must fit securely so that it is unlikely to come off during play. Head coverings worn for medical reasons require state association approval.”
The Softball Rules Committee is the seventh NFHS sports rules committee that has modified rules this year related to religious and cultural backgrounds. In addition to softball, participants in volleyball, basketball, soccer, field hockey and spirit will be permitted to wear religious headwear without prior approval from their respective state association. In swimming and diving, for religious reasons, competitors will be able to wear suits that provide full body coverage without obtaining prior state association authorization.
“The NFHS, in its effort to be a learning organization and one that is founded on the basis of inclusion is striving to work with our young participants in our efforts to celebrate the beautiful diversity that continues to increase,” says Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director, in a recent The NFHS Voice. “We are excited about that and want to support that. And while we will always strive to keep kids safe and keep games being played the way they were designed to be played, we do want to recognize the importance of a young person’s identity.”
In other changes to high school softball rules…
- New ball specifications take effect January 1, 2025, for high school competition. Balls manufactured with current specifications will be permitted for use through 2024. The change in 2025 will occur in compression and weight/circumference for balls in fast-pitch competition. The changes in the way the requirements are specified do not represent a difference in ball performance, but allow for better control over the manufacturing process.
- A new article and penalty were added regarding damaged bats: “Batters shall not use a damaged bat that was previously removed from the game by an umpire.” And the accompanying penalty is as follows: “The batter shall be called out and the offender and head coach shall be restricted to the dugout for the remainder of the game.”
- Bases for first, second and third may be designed to disengage from their anchor system.