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Unsportsmanlike Conduct: High School Football

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He caught it! The receiver makes a seemingly impossible catch, the defender falls in his attempt to block the pass and the kid with the ball dashes for the end zone. There isn’t another defender within 20 yards, and as he approaches the five-yard line, he makes a flying leap across the goal line. He does a flip in the air and lands on his feet for the touchdown. The crowd goes wild, the public address announcer informs the crowd that our acrobat is a sophomore and this is his first touchdown ever. And there’s a gold penalty marker on the field at the four-yard line where he left the ground.

In this video clip, the player is being pursued by opponents. And they are close, but are they close enough to warrant a show-off dive into the end zone? Maybe if he was diving over some of them or a pile-up.  In high school, this would be a foul.



Forty-eight states’ high school football programs are governed by rules set forth by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS for short).  The other two states, Texas and Massachusetts, play by college (NCAA) rules. Federation rules clearly state that it is an unsportsmanlike foul for a player to engage in “any delayed, excessive or prolonged act by which the player attempts to focus attention upon himself.” State supervisors of officials clarify with the reminder that high school football is a TEAM sport, and excessive celebrations or dives across the goal with no defenders near him clearly are against the rules. Further, a taunting gesture, even a “Heisman-like” pose after the play, can be interpreted as taunting and result with the player being ejected from the game.

The NFHS has a zero-tolerance policy for taunting or baiting. A typical example of taunting is standing over a downed opponent, talking to him with his head shaking up and down.  Here is a good example in this clip below.

Such rules consistently enforced can help players learn self-control and keep the game fun for everyone. No one likes a bad sport.

Promo image credit: Nicolemlavoi.com

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