Story by Zachary Larsen
The game of softball may look slightly different at the high school level next season.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Softball Rules Committee announced changes to religious and cultural head wear, along with updates to other rules.
Previously, the NFHS rule book stated that a player could not wear hard items, including beads in their hair during a game. That will no longer be the case, due in large part to the uproar caused by an incident involving a softball player in North Carolina, who was forced to cut her hair in the middle of a game after an umpire saw she had beads in it.
‘I just felt so embarrassed.’ A Durham high school student says she was forced to cut her braids during a softball game. Tonight, calls for policy changes against hair discrimination @WRAL
— Lora Lavigne WRAL (@LoraLavigneTV) May 13, 2021
“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,” said NFHS executive director Dr. Karissa Niehoff. “Our rules committees so far have been rolling in that direction of opening up and being more culturally sensitive out of the gate.”
The new rules also allows religious head coverings to be worn on the field, which Shadow Ridge softball head coach Kortny Hall believes makes sense for the sport.
“I think that it’s great they are making that change, because it doesn’t affect negatively on the girls,” Hall said. “I don’t think that we’re concerned about people getting whipped in the eye with a bead or poked in the eye with a bobby pin, for some season we make that a huge point of concern.”
Player Equipment Changes Highlight Rules Revisions in High School Softball
In Rule 3-2-5b, language that previously prohibited hard items to control the hair, including beads, has been removed from the rules book.https://t.co/ZzEBXOlo64 pic.twitter.com/kshSescCZ0
— NFHS (@NFHS_Org) July 12, 2021
According to the Niehoff, the rule was originally in place due to safety concerns of having a hard item inside a helmet.
“In a sport like softball or another sport where there might be a helmet, we don’t want anything in the hair to compromise the fit of a helmet,” Niehoff said. “We certainly wouldn’t want a bead to be sort of an accelerator or an intensifier of a hit in the head.”
Other changes introduced included clarifying interference on the base paths, with the rule stating, “a runner now will be considered outside the running lane if either foot last contacted the ground completely outside the lane.”
“I think that it’s going to be hopefully good in the fact that the umpire isn’t just making a judgement call,” Hall said on the new rule involving interference. “This happened to us actually a couple times this season where we got called out of the running lane going to first base and it cost us, it cost us big.”
The rules committee also added that a runner will not be called out on any base that dislodges during play. Plus, if a damaged bat is put back into play, the head coach and player will now be ejected from the game immediately.
Overall, Hall hopes to see more rule changes in the future to make the game as close to the college level as possible.
“They’re very much a stickler on jewelry and in college you can wear all the jewelry you want when you’re playing,” she said. “So, there’s nothing that’s different in the game.
“Those girls who want to go to college to prepare them the same way so that they’re ready. So I think the more we can be college like in the game, I think the better.”