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NYSPHSAA sections voting on whether to make rules changes in several high school sports

Northport girls basketball coach Rich Castellano instructs his

Northport girls basketball coach Rich Castellano instructs his team against Half Hollow Hills East on Jan. 22, 2015. Credit: Richard T.Slattery

A vote on Thursday could impact several high school sports in the state, especially girls basketball with the elimination of its shot clock.

For the third time in 10 years, each of the 11 sections in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association are meeting to consider whether to adopt rules set by the National Federation of State High Schools, a measure defeated twice in the past.

If adopted, there would also be changes in softball, gymnastics and boys and girls volleyball. New York and Connecticut are the only states that don’t totally abide by NFHS rules, said Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI, the governing body for Suffolk County high school sports.

The shot clock is a hot-button topic. New York schools have a shot clock, which is not universally used across the country. The absence of a shot clock allows a team to slow down the game to match up better with a more talented opponent.

Many Long Island coaches prefer to keep the shot clock.

“Why would you want to do this without it?” Northport coach Rich Castellano said of the shot clock.”

Castellano’s beliefs were shared by each of the numerous coaches contacted by Newsday.

“I’ve been through it all. I was there when there was no shot clock,” said Castellano, who has coached Northport’s girls team since 1979. “Teams would stall and not do anything. It’s a whole different game.

Baldwin coach Tom Catapano said adopting NFHS rules would be a disservice to college-bound players currently playing under modified NCAA rules. “It’s going to slow down the game and it’s not really necessarily what the kids are going to do at the next level,” he said.

Any changes would apply to state tournaments but could be circumvented through waivers during the regular season, Combs said.

Adopting NFHS rules would change the way high school gymnastics events are scored. The current system — under USA Modified Level 9 rules — is aligned with the way collegiate, Olympic and club-level events are judged, said Nassau gymnastics coordinator Kim Rhatigan of Bethpage High School. There are two levels of difficulty under NFHS instead of the five under the current rules.

“It would be like a step back to the dinosaur age for gymnastics,” Rhatigan said. “Our girls wouldn’t be ready for club gymnastics or college gymnastics. We want to stay consistent. It’s in the best interest of our kids.”

Suffolk softball coordinator Jim Wright of Whitman High School said the major issues in that sport are regarding the use of metal cleats,  which are currently prohibited in NYSPHSAA games.  NFHS rules would allow pitchers to begin their windup by taking a step behind the rubber as opposed to current state rules that require pitchers to begin with two feet on the rubber. A third change would shift the authority of cancelling games before they start from umpires to coaches.

NFHS volleyball rules are “a little looser,” according to Sachem North boys coach Matt Rivera, who said some infractions — like double-contact — could be played through. It also changes some warmup procedures but “does not have a significant effect on the game overall,” Rivera said.

Combs did not say how his delegates will vote but said, “We’ve done surveys with officials and coaches, and it’s overwhelming that they want to stay with what they have.”

Pat Pizzarelli, executive director of Nassau’s Section VIII, said his delegation supports making the change to adopt NFHS rules.

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