One of the lessons I learned decades ago when I was employed at the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) is that sometimes the playing rules are not fair.
The NFHS is the publisher of playing rules for most high school sports, and its rule books govern competition for most of the contests for most of the high schools in the U.S.
But the NFHS doesn’t publish the most fair rules. On purpose.
The rules for the high school level attempt to do much more than promote competitive equity, or a balance between offense and defense; they also attempt – without compromising participant health and safety – to simplify the administration of the game.
Unlike Major League Baseball, where umpires officiate full-time, and professional basketball, football and ice hockey where they officiate nearly full-time, the officials at the high school level are part-timers. They have other jobs. This is their avocation, not their vocation.
So the NFHS develops and publishes rules that minimize exceptions to the rules. In football, for example, there are fewer variables for determining the spot where penalties are enforced.
At the high school level, the rule makers intend that the rules be – for players, coaches and officials alike – quicker to learn, simpler to remember, and easier to apply during the heat of contests.