Summary: Don’t get lost navigating the NFHS basketball rules book. I’ve built a simple web interface.
In my day job I write requirements for telecommunication product development. I like to think that I have a very structured mind and an excellent grasp of the English language. But the first time I picked up a basketball rules book published by the National Federation of High Schools I felt completely overwhelmed. It was a bit like navigating the oceans in the 15th century – never enough information to avoid the sea monsters and fear that the next turn would take your ship over the edge of the world.
The rules read like a corporate contract – with very concise wording and liberal use of cross-references to other parts of the book for clarification and exceptions. The cross references, especially, make reading the rules difficult since finding the right passage based on section/rule/article style numbering is a challenge.
The NFHS also publishes “case” books in an attempt to make the rules more understandable – and I encourage coaches to pick up a copy of the case books in addition to the rules books – but there’s still no substitute for the official wording.
As I struggled with the rules book and all the cross-references it occurred to me that it would be much easier to follow things if the book were a web page and with each cross-reference acting like a hypertext link. Click on the cross-reference and it takes you right to the passage referenced. Click the back button and you’re back were you started. I looked all over the NFHS website but I couldn’t find anything like that. So I decided to create one myself.
Starting with the 2010-2011 rule book, I created a web page containing almost all of the content of the rule book and inserted hypertext links where the rule book included cross-references. I also included several of the supplemental sections like the rational for rules changes, points of emphasis, and the coaches/referees codes of ethics.
It’s been relatively simple to keep the page updated as each new book comes out. The page is now current through the 2012-2013 season. I’ve kept a history of the points of emphasis so you can see how the rules committee is struggling to implement its vision. Some points of emphasis reoccur year after year.
I especially like to have ready access to the exact text when I have a disagreement with an official. I just ask for his email address and then go home and copy/paste wording directly from the page into an email message. I don’t know whether the official will actually change his behavior but at least I’ve done what I can.