With the fall interscholastic sports season about to begin, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Association (NJSIAA) – the non-profit group that represents the best interests of more than 250,000 student athletes from 433 accredited public, private, and parochial high schools – has announced a pair of significant updates. One deals with on-field, protective equipment, while the other focuses on exactly which playing sites will be used for championship competition.
Effective immediately, all field hockey players will be required to wear high-impact goggles – either plastic or metal mesh – while in a game. This rule change applies to all varsity-, junior varsity-, and freshman-level competition, and is in keeping with an April 2011 mandate by the National Federation of State High School Associations related to eyewear and field hockey competition.
Protective goggles are specifically designed to reduce the likelihood of a player being injured by the hard, heavy balls used in field hockey, or by swinging sticks. Previously, the use of mouth guards by field hockey players was mandated by the NJSIAA, but individual athletes chose whether or not to utilize protective eyewear.
In football, all sectional state championship games will be played at neutral sites. Such an arrangement is already standard practice in North and Central region finals, but many South Regional championship games have regularly been held at the home field of one of the participants. The issue with a championship finalist hosting a game is, of course, that certain teams are given a distinct or at least perceived advantage.
For the 2011 football season, championship games will be played at Kean College, the Meadowlands stadium, Rutgers University, and the College of New Jersey.
In another change specific to football, seven has been set as the total number of games a given team must play against in-state competition. This rule revision will free up the schedules of select, elite squads to arrange for games against similarly elite teams from other states, while also helping preserve some traditional, inter-state rivalries.
At the conclusion of each interscholastic sports season – fall, winter, and spring – NJSIAA committees evaluate all sports to identify necessary revisions to rules and regulations.