Game Administration & Inclement Weather

Recent weather conditions have disrupted many spring athletic schedules.  This is both frustrating and challenging to schools and game officials.  With every cancellation, the make-up window gets shorter and rescheduling becomes more of a nightmare.  Still, it is imperative that we make every effort to see that the games are played safely.  This responsibility is shared by administrators, game officials, coaches and players.

There have been a number of reported instances in which 1) game officials have refused to abide by a game administrator’s decision to suspend play due to the proximity of lightning in the area; and 2) game administrators have taken it upon themselves to decide that deteriorating field conditions require a game to be stopped.  Neither of these actions is appropriate.

It is the responsibility of home/game management to determine whether or not a game will be started.  While this decision is best made in concert with game officials, it is ultimately the game manager’s call.  It is also the responsibility of home/game management to have in place a policy for dealing with thunder, lightning or other potentially dangerous situations that may or may not be observed or known about by game officials.  The policy should at a minimum, include the following:

a.                   Assignment of a staff member to monitor local weather conditions before and during events.  This individual should be introduced to the officiating crew prior to the game.

b.                   An evacuation plan – where will teams and officials go?  Where will fans go?  This information should be posted and announced, especially when weather could play a role in the ensuing game.

c.                   Criteria for suspension and resumption of play.  Guidelines provided by the NFHS are as follows:

     1) When thunder is heard, or a cloud-to-ground lightning bolt is seen, the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightning.  Suspend play and take shelter immediately.

     2) Thirty-minute rule.  Once play has been suspended, wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard or flash of lightning is witnessed prior to resuming play.

     3) Any subsequent thunder or lightning after the beginning of the 30-minute count, reset the clock and another 30-minute count should begin.

Once the game has started, the game officials have jurisdiction and are responsible for making all determinations with regard to actual field conditions.  Game officials are responsible for judging whether a field has become too wet, too muddy, or too slippery to continue play.  School officials do not make those determinations.

Officials may not set aside school policies and procedures.  Game administrators may not halt games for reasons having only to do with sloppy field conditions.  In all cases, officials and administrators should work together to do what is best for the students.