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Allowance of Religious Headwear Emphasized in High School Rule Changes

Rules • February 12, 2021

By Marty Maciaszek
NSGA Director of Communications

DOWNERS GROVE, ILLINOIS (February 12, 2021) – Permitting religious headwear to be worn without state association approval was an integral part of rule changes in three high school sports which were announced by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). Permitting field hockey players to wear face coverings was also addressed.

Soccer, volleyball and field hockey all made the change to permit players to wear religious headwear, effective in the 2021-22 school year. This acted on an earlier recommendation to all NFHS sports rules committees by the NFHS Board of Directors.

In all three sports it was made clear that head coverings worn for religious reasons shall not be made of abrasive or hard material and must fit securely. Head coverings for medical or cosmetic reasons still require a physician’s statement before a state association can grant approval.

“Our goal is always to have our athletes be able to participate as long as there isn’t a safety concern involved,” said Jo Auch, assistant executive director of the South Dakota High School Activities Association and chair of the NFHS Volleyball Rules Committee. “It made perfect sense to relax that rule and remove the requirement for the states to authorize the wearing of religious headwear.” 

Other key rule changes and information

  • Field hockey field players will be permitted to wear face masks throughout the game provided they are smooth, rounded, preferably transparent or single-colored and fit flush with the face. Players may not affix masks to hard, unyielding headgear – even if padded – and are prohibited from using them to endanger opposing players.
  • Schools may now display their team names and/or logos on the 18-inch goal boards at the base of the field hockey net, with the caveat the boards must remain predominantly dark-colored. Goal board decals are an optional customization element for schools and are strictly limited to team name and logo; advertisements are not permitted.
  • A reminder that effective with the 2021 soccer fall season, the color gray and/or any other light colors being used for a home jersey must meet the 70 percent shading of the main color being used in the jersey in order for it to clearly contrast with white. To view the NFHS shading chart click here.
  • Volleyball officials are now allowed to wear a white, blue (cyan) or gray collared shirt, as determined by the state association. Previously, a white shirt was required. This rules change aligns the high school rule with a similar collegiate rule that permits multiple color options. 
  • The only football rule change announced was a revision on blocking below the waist in the free-blocking zone. A new requirement is the block must be an immediate, initial action following the snap. The current rule allows the offensive lineman to delay and then block below the waist if the ball is still in the zone.