The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXII
No. 5
Cover
September/October
2006

In This Issue

SPECIALFEATURES
REGULARCOLUMNS
ANDTHEREST

Cover Story
Play Ball!
Next Page
- disclaimer -
Homeschoolers Take the Field

Darlene Betsill awoke in the middle of the night to a steady “ping . . . ping . . . ping” coming from outside. Getting up to investigate, she found the source of the sound: her 12-year-old son, Matthew.

“That kid was out in the backyard hitting baseballs off the tee,"” recalls Darlene. “He had played a game that night and was not satisfied with his hitting.” After lying in bed, Matthew figured out what he was doing wrong and immediately went out into the yard to try a new approach.

Homeschool graduate Matthew Betsill signed with the Minnesota Twins, fulfilling his dream of playing professional baseball.

“I realized at that point that baseball was a part of him,” says Darlene.

Eight years later, Matthew Betsill, homeschooled from kindergarten through high school, signed with the Minnesota Twins after being selected in the 10th round of the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft. Matthew currently plays for the Beloit Snappers, a Wisconsin-based farm team for the Twins that precedes actual major league play.

“I had people telling me, ‘You can’t make it because you’re homeschooled,’ ” says the Griffin, Georgia, native to other homeschooled athletes who want to play sports at highly competitive levels. “Don't let anybody tell you you can’t, because I’m proof that you can.”

Because high school sports are largely an extension of the public schools, many parents whose children love sports worry that homeschooling will restrict their teens’ opportunities to play “seriously.” It’s true that homeschooled teens don’t always have easy access to public school sports, where athletes traditionally get noticed by college recruiters and are exposed to a broad range of public and private school competition. However, a little thinking outside the box can provide homeschooled athletes with the opportunities they need to follow their dreams—whether that means playing professional sports, or joining a team for fun and exercise.

For the Love of the Game

Gary and Darlene Betsill discovered that, by being proactive, they could find sports opportunities for Matthew that offered the same levels of training and competition as the public schools. Once they recognized their son’s exceptional talent for baseball, the Betsills sought out different teams that would give Matthew the level of competition and exposure he needed in middle school and high school. “We felt that God had not just given Matthew the ability to play baseball, but a love for the game,” says Darlene.

Individual sports

Team sports aren't the only way for your teen to learn focus, discipline, and a skill. He may be interested in pursuing an individual sport, such as golf, swimming, archery, or horseback riding. Check with your state and local homeschool organizations or local recreation department for programs.

For homeschool graduate Jennifer Nichols, 22, a love of archery took her to the highest levels of competition. The Cheyenne, Wyoming, native has been shooting a bow and arrow since age 11,1 and in 2004, she competed in the Summer Olympics in Athens. “It’s just been one small step at a time,” Nichols told the Sports Network. “It’s something that I enjoy so much because it brings me back to my family, and it’s something that we enjoy together.“2 Jennifer continues to compete around the world, and recently participated in the 2006 Meteksan World Cup in El Salvador, where she was named the lead in U.S. women’s recurve archery.3

Footnotes

1 U.S. Olympic Team, "Jennifer Nichols," 2004, http://www.usoc.org/26_22527.htm.

2 Gerard Gallagher, "Profile: Jennifer Nichols," The Sports Network, 2004, http://www.sportsnetwork.com/default.asp?c=sports network&page=olymp/2004/features/nichols_jennifer:htm.

3 Mary Beth Vorwerk, “Logan Wilde Wins Gold; Men’s Compound Team Sets World Record at El Salvador World Cup,” U.S. Olympic Internet Network, June 26, 2006, http://www.usarchery.org/index.cfm?id=1100E29B-D050-4AE1-815E340B6097F4B4.

Matthew’s road to the big leagues meant playing baseball as often as possible and in many different venues, including showcase teams in the summer and fall (where teens play in front of college and pro sports recruiters), a Junior Olympic team, and two area homeschool teams. One baseball program, the East Cobb Astros, was specifically designed to prepare players to obtain college scholarships and play professionally.

“It was a major deal for us,” says Darlene, adding that the cost was high and the Astros’ playing field was a two-hour drive away. “But it was the best baseball experience for him and it was highly recommended by people who knew Matthew.”

While playing on the Astros, Matthew was spotted by a scout from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, where he later received hefty athletic and academic scholarships and played for the Furman Paladins. During his junior year of college, the third baseman was approached by 13 different major league teams, including the Minnesota Twins—they drafted Matthew and he signed a contract.

Reaching the Goal

As Matthew’s story shows, sports teams come in many shapes and sizes. Whether a teen has his sights set on playing sports in college or the big leagues, or simply wants the personal challenge of playing on an organized team or trying a particular sport for the first time, parents may be surprised to find what opportunities are available in their own communities.

“What are my goals for involving my teen in sports?” is a fundamental question for parents to ask before investigating sports opportunities. Depending on the parents’ and student’s purpose in sports involvement, they may want to utilize just one type of program, or a combination.

Playing for Fun

For teens who are more interested in recreation than in competition or intense training, parents can investigate community sports.

Most YMCAs offer sports and fitness programs to boys and girls of all ages. Depending on local YMCA rules, which vary across communities, teens may be required to be YMCA members to participate in these sports programs. YMCA sports tend to be non-competitive, focusing on teamwork and instruction, and many of the coaches are volunteers.

For competitive YMCA sports, teens may want to check out a swim team. Jim and Diane Diel, who homeschool their 11 children in Delafield, Wisconsin, have been involved in their YMCA swim program ever since their oldest son, James, now 28, wanted to begin swimming on a team. Instead of joining a private swim club, “we went with the Y just thinking that it would be a good workout,” says Diane.

Further resources

Community sports
To locate or contact a YMCA near you, visit http://www.ymca.net/find_your_ymca/. For other community programs, check with county leagues, local Boys and Girls Clubs, and churches.

Homeschool sports
For a listing of homeschool sports teams in your state, visit HSLDA's Homeschooling Thru High School’s state resources page. Home School Legal Defense Association updates this list as we receive information about additional groups.

The Homeschool SportsNet is an online clearinghouse of information on homeschool sports. To find teams and tournaments in your area, visit www.hspn.net.

Club teams
Search online for a club team in your geographical area, or ask other homeschooling parents for recommended teams. Inquire about the club coaches and other players to get a feel for team dynamics.

Public school sports
If you live in one of the following states, your homeschooled student is allowed to participate in athletics in your local public school: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.

Competitions
For more information on the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championship, visit www.homeschoolbasketball.com.

See www.hwsa.net for more information about the Home School World Series Association.

Check with your state homeschool organization for other tournaments and competitions near you.

If your teen is interested in pursuing highly competitive sports, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) sponsors events for its members across the country, including the annual Junior Olympic Games. By joining the AAU, teams—including homeschool teams—are eligible to compete in and host AAU events. Visit http://aausports.org for more information.

NCAA scholarships
If your homeschooler is planning to play college sports or apply for athletic scholarships at a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) member school, he must first register with the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse. Visit www.ncaaclearing house.net for more information.

Since then, the Diels’ local program has become much more competitive. Three of the Diel children have competed at the YMCA national level. Jordan Diel, 16, has been competing on the YMCA Piranhas since age 9. “It’s been good because I’ve been able to swim and go places. A lot of my friends swim, so I see them every day,” he says. Jordan has even received letters from colleges interested in his swimming career, providing him the opportunity to swim competitively while attending college.

“It’s a lot of running [around] sometimes, but it works great into a regular school schedule,” says Diane, since the practices take place after school hours. “We have enjoyed being with the YMCA and have found it to be beneficial for keeping our kids active.”

For parents who desire less competition, the YMCA also offers recreational teams, which compete less often. “A lot of people do it for exercise and for enjoyment,” says the Diels’ 14-year-old daughter, Diana. About 33 percent of YMCAs also offer P.E. classes to homeschoolers.

For other competitive YMCA sports, parents may want to check out YMCA Youth Super Sports, a program offered by some YMCAs that boasts three levels, including YMCA Winners, a competitive sports program for youth ages 8-16. Character development and mini-games during practices constitute some of the innovative techniques in this program.

Community and county parks and recreation departments also offer youth sports. Although the competitive sports programs commonly end after 8th grade, some communities offer teen and adult sports (suitable for high schoolers) throughout the year at both recreational and competitive levels.

Summer sports clinics and camps are also offered locally. It’s a perfect chance for a teen to concentrate on improving his skills or try out a sport for the first time. For example, some recreation departments offer Challenger British Soccer Camps in the summer, where kids up to age 16 receive instruction in technique from British soccer experts.

Recreational sports may encourage some teens to pursue athletics more seriously. Homeschooled high schooler Kari Borgquist started playing recreational softball in a community league at a very young age. “I think it was really great starting with recreational teams,” she says. “Since it wasn’t as competitive, it was real good to get you going, learning to do the basics first, working your way up.” As she grew older, Kari began playing sports at a local private high school, and joined a tournament-driven softball team for more experience.

Parent-Sponsored Homeschool Teams

“As the number of homeschoolers in high school continues to grow, it’s exciting to see more and more homeschooling parents organizing their own teams and associations,” says Diane Kummer, a high school coordinator at Home School Legal Defense Association. “I hear from parents across the nation who are combining resources and getting together to provide great sports opportunities for homeschooled kids.”

Over the last decade, homeschool teams have popped up across the country. These programs are started by parents for a number of reasons—alternatives may not be available, or other sports programs may not match the goals of parents and teens. These teams also give homeschooled students another opportunity to interact with others, learn a skill, and exercise.

The Blankenshhip girls show off the trophies they won after their homeschool volleyball team (coached by Dale Blankenship, left) swept a Christian school championship.

In many cases, a focus on character development is a hallmark of homeschool teams. The same desire that leads many parents to educate their son or daughter at home— to pass down their values and beliefs&mmdash;leads them to seek sports programs that will reinforce these values and beliefs.

Homeschooling dad Jim Kill founded the Atlanta South Christian Knights baseball team in 1999 along with Gary Betsill, and was head coach for three years. At the time, the Kills’ oldest son was playing in the only homeschool baseball program in the state, which was 80 miles away in North Atlanta. Jim began calling homeschooling families to gauge interest in forming a team in the South Atlanta area. A few months later, the team had 16 players ages 12-16, all with varying levels of skill.

“I always had a love for baseball and the Lord gave me the ability to teach it,” says Jim, who coached baseball after high school and again after college.

The Knights now have varsity and junior varsity teams, and compete against private schools and other homeschool teams. The teams travel to games, and the varsity team participates in the Home School World Series Association, a varsity-level competition held every May for teams across the country (for more information, see “National homeschool competitions.” And each year, at least one Knights player has gone on to play college baseball, including Matthew Betsill.

The Atlanta South Christian Knights varsity homeschool baseball team has had at least one player go on to play college baseball every year since 2002.

Explaining that the Knights were founded with the vision of providing training in principles that would stay with players “well beyond their years of playing baseball,” Jim says that the game “teaches you so many life principles: What’s the proper way to respond when the umpire makes a call you don't agree with? Or when your team loses?” Based on these principles, the Knights are selective when choosing coaches. “We’re admonished in Scripture to be models for our children,” points out Jim.

While many homeschool teams struggle in competition because they are new, one girls’ volleyball team in Virginia won a Christian private high school league championship in its first year of play.

Homeschooling dad Dale Blankenship started the team in 2003 with eight volleyball players who ranged in ability from beginner to skilled. In their first competition against an undefeated Christian school team, the homeschool team won two out of three games. “We ended up winning the whole tournament,” says Dale.

“We were the new team, and no one expected us to win,” says Dale’s daughter Aubrey, now 20. “We loved the girls we played with. And we were getting better . . . we kept competing.”

Group-sponsored Homeschool Sports Programs

In addition to parent-sponsored teams, teens can participate in a variety of sports offered by state homeschool organizations and support groups. Independent sports associations and leagues comprised entirely of homeschooled athletes provide even more opportunities for higher-level play.

The Family Educators Alliance of South Texas offers competitive sports to homeschoolers. Above is the 2005-2006 varsity football team.

The San Antonio-based Family Educators Alliance of South Texas (FEAST) has officially been offering competitive sports to homeschoolers since 1989. Beginning with basketball, the organization’s strongest sport, FEAST now offers a variety of junior varsity and varsity athletics each season. Teens can participate in softball, baseball, cross- country running, soccer, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and most recently, football.

The goal of the program, according to FEAST Athletic Coordinator Gabriela Frias, is to give students experience in controlling themselves in situations involving competition. As FEAST’s sports handbook states, “On the field, track or court, student athletes must practice godliness and self-control when dealing with real-world pressures such as time limits, unreasonable authority figures, unfair circumstances, and ruthless opponents.”

One hundred eighty-five homeschooled high schoolers currently participate in the FEAST high school sports program. Teams are coached by volunteers, including homeschooling parents and homeschool graduates who previously participated in FEAST sports. Teams play roughly 20 games per season against private schools, homeschool teams, and even public schools. FEAST functions as a support for the teams, and handles a variety of tasks such as selecting coaches, scheduling and organizing games, and hosting sports camps.

The 2005/2006 FEAST 8th-grade girls basketball team after placing third at a San Antonio tournament.

FEAST teams, known as the Patriots, are proving themselves strong in the broader world of public and private school sports. In 2006, the varsity boys’ basketball team received first place in the 6A division (the top bracket) at the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championship (NCHBC), with varsity girls winning third. In 2005, the girls’ varsity basketball team placed second out of 25 in the Victoria Memorial public school tournament, a tournament for large (4A and 5A) schools in Victoria, Texas. The team also placed first at the 2005 National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championship.

Three of FEAST’s high school athletes in track and field were named to the San Antonio Express-News All-Area Team for fall 2006. 7ldquo;We’re getting schools coming out and watching our [track and field] teams,“ says Gabriela. And college recruiters have approached some of the players on the boys’ varsity basketball team.

Team members also share camaraderie. “They develop extremely strong friendships and they don’t try to compete against one another or put each other down,” says Gabriela. “They are very encouraging and will help [each other] in any way they can.”

National Homeschool Competition

Not content with forming their own teams, homeschoolers are also creating their own championship tournaments and competitions.

The National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championship, in its 15th year, is the largest homeschool basketball championship in the United States. Held in Oklahoma City, the annual tournaments allow homeschool teams from around the nation to compete against one another. The March 2006 tournament hosted 266 homeschool basketball teams from 20 states. Players range in age from 10 to 18.

“Ultimately, [the teams’] main goal is nationals,” says Rob Flatt, assistant director of NCHBC. The 2006 championship boasted a record-breaking 3,038 participants and 8,500 fans. And parents aren’t the only spectators&mndash;Rob says college recruiters have been known to watch the tournaments.

The Homeschool World Series Association (HWSA) provides an opportunity for competition among high school homeschool baseball teams across America. The inaugural Homeschool World Series was held in Nashville, Tennessee, in the spring of 2000. In 2002, HWSA became the official sponsor and added regional qualifying tournaments as well. “It’s a very good venue,” says Jim Kill, retired HWSA board member and former baseball commissioner.

In spring 2006, a total of 27 teams competed in HWSA regional tournaments and the world series. Regional games were held from Virginia to Texas, and in late May, qualifying teams headed to the world series in Pensacola, Florida.

From there, 18 competitors were selected to play on the second annual HWSA All-Star Team, which competed at the B.E.S.T. (Baseball’s Elite Summer Teams) World Championships in Fort Myers, Florida, in front of several college and professional baseball scouts. The HWSA team finished eighth among the 20 teams present. “We were quite pleased,” reports Jim. “Head Coach Kevin Renz (coach of the Atlanta Barons homeschool baseball team since its inception in 1993) complimented the players on their excellent representation of homeschool athletics.”

Private School Teams

What prompted homeschooler Kari Borgquist to go to a private school for athletics? She wanted to try out volleyball and basketball for fun, and Leesburg Christian School in Leesburg, Virginia, offered homeschoolers access to both sports. “I’m in it to compete and stay in shape,” says the 16-year-old, who has been playing with the school for one year. After registering and paying a reasonable fee, Kari was part of the team. “They [the school staff] were very easy to work with,” says Kari’s mother, Dorene Borgquist.

Homeschooler Kari Borgquist plays softball on a local travel team.

Dorene adds that she is impressed with the skilled coaching and biblical focus of the team. “Kari has a good time because everybody is trying hard and doing their best.” The team plays other private schools and competes in area and state tournaments. Kari plans to continue playing volleyball and basketball and may add soccer in the spring.

Sometimes private schools offer sports programs in an effort to help not just homeschoolers in need of a team, but also their own team, which may need more players. However, schools that play competitively in leagues or conferences are sometimes restricted by these leagues from letting homeschoolers represent a school they do not attend. In private schools that do offer sports to homeschoolers, requirements for participation vary.

Andy Parks, athletic director at Colorado Springs Christian School (CSCS), says, “We want to be involved in our community in every way possible, and the homeschool group is part of our community.”

CSCS allows homeschooled high schoolers to compete in sports in which full-time students aren’t cut out of play by a homeschooled participant. However, if a homeschooler is selected for a team one year and keeps up his level of play, his homeschool status will not disqualify him the following year, even if a CSCS student is next in line to play. In order to play, homeschooled students are required to register with the school, be interviewed, pay a fee, and maintain a minimum GPA.

Andy explains that the most important requirement is that students agree with the goals and vision of the school. He has observed that in both character and ability, homeschoolers “have been excellent,” adding that the toughest part about the experience for the kids has been mingling familiarly with the CSCS students, since the homeschooled team members are only with their teammates at practices and games. “That can make it a little more difficult,” he says, but adds that on the field, the players mesh well.

Club Teams

Students in search of intensive training and competition often join club teams. These organizations, which are available in many communities, offer team sports based on tryouts. Teams play other club teams, and tournaments often require weekend travel.

For some teens, playing club sports is a stepping stone to higher levels of competition. Fifteen-year-old homeschooler Candace Barley of Maryville, Tennessee, has played rugby for two years with the Maryville Rugby Football Club (MRFC). Rugby, a British sport akin to football, is still gaining popularity in the U.S. and is thus primarily offered through clubs instead of schools (although the northern U.S. boasts more school-sponsored and college teams than southern states). Candace plays almost year-round on the MRFC team with 14 other girls. They regularly play five to six teams in the Maryville area, and participate in summer tournaments.

Homeschooler Candace Barley plays rugby on the U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team.

In May 2006, Candace was selected for the USA Rugby Under-19 Womens National Team (WNT), a high honor that allows her the chance to receive expert coaching and play against international and regional teams. She is the youngest player ever to be named to the Under-19 WNT.

“I was excited but a little nervous,"” says Candace of her selection to the national team, which came after WNT Head Coach Bryn Chivers watched Candace’s club team play at an annual rugby festival in March 2006. Candace had met Chivers at a camp earlier that year.

Candace’s first national team trip took her to Boulder, Colorado, in June 2006, where the WNT played against the Canadian Under-19 Women’s National Team. “It was kind of scary,” says Candace, “but it was a really neat learning experience.” The tall, blonde rugby enthusiast hopes to continue the sport through college and as an adult.

In addition to playing private school sports in Leesburg, Virginia, Kari Borgquist has participated in a local traveling softball team (similar to a club team) for six years. “I have enjoyed it a lot because it’s a really competitive level of play. You’re always improving because you move up in age level.”

“Our goal was for her to experience a level of competition where she could improve,” says her mother, Dorene. “We weren’t necessarily looking for scholarships out of it.” Kari had previously played softball through a local parks and recreation league, but Dorene says her daughter wasn’t being challenged enough.

It’s no secret that club sports are expensive. On top of registration fees, parents must pay out-of-pocket expenses for equipment and travel. However, clubs sometimes provide scholarships. “Never has money been in the way of a player who wants to play [in the MRFC],” says Cindy Barley, Candace’s mother.

“Go ahead and bite the bullet and spend what you have to, because it will come back to you,” says Darlene Betsill, pointing to the generous athletic and academic scholarships her son received from Furman University. “Everything we spent on Matthew’s high school baseball opportunities came back to us through tuition,” she says.

Public School Sports

If a teen is interested in playing sports at a public school, parents first need to find out whether their state law allows homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular public school activities.1 Fifteen states have laws that require public schools to grant homeschoolers access to certain programs, including sports. In other states, schools may be willing to work with homeschoolers on a case-by-case basis. Generally, however, it is not up to individual schools to decide whether or not they will offer sports to homeschoolers—the leagues they compete in may control policy on admitting homeschooled players.

Typically, in order for homeschooled high schoolers to participate in public school sports, 1) the parents must be in compliance with the state homeschool law, 2) the student must meet the eligibility requirements to participate in the activity, and 3) the student must be making passing grades in core subjects, which may require parents to submit academic records and regular reports to the school district.2 Regulations will vary according to the state and school district.

Homeschooling mother Cindie Edmunds of Oregon delved into the public school option when her soccer-loving son reached high school. “Soccer, at the level Jake plays, is highly competitive and in order to stay competitive himself he has to play with others of the same ability,” she wrote in a 2004 article.3

In order for Jake to play high school soccer, the Edmunds’ paid a registration fee and submitted Jake’s yearly test scores to the school. Jake also had to try out for the team. “I have to admit, I wasn’t too sure about dealing with school officials at first,” writes Cindie. “But they don't treat me any differently than any other parent and some have gone out of their way to make sure all our paperwork gets to the right people.”

HSLDA will help our member families obtain public school services if they have trouble obtaining services in a state that allows equal access. However, we will not take cases that involve obtaining access in states that do not already open public school programs to homeschoolers. Taking the issue to court has proven unsuccessful, resulting in rulings that equal access is a privilege, not a right. If a family desires public school services that their school does not currently provide, legislation is the only realistic way to open the door to homeschoolers’ participation.

Athletic Scholarships

While homeschooled athletes still have a long way to go to regularly attract college recruiters and compete in larger sports leagues and tournaments, they are making inroads into the world of college sports.

For example, until the 1990s, homeschoolers were prohibited from playing college sports or earning athletic scholarships from colleges or universities belonging to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The NCAA is a membership organization consisting of over 1000 colleges and universities that establish bylaws governing intercollegiate athletics. For member schools, the NCAA determines a student’s eligibility for college athletics and athletic scholarships.

In the 1990s, HSLDA helped the NCAA create a waiver process by which homeschoolers could register as non-high school graduates. Many homeschoolers benefited from the NCAA recognition that resulted, including former homeschooler Jason Taylor, who qualified for an NCAA scholarship to the University of Akron in Cleveland, Ohio, and later signed with the Miami Dolphins. However, the process for establishing eligibility was still complex, involving extensive documentation of the homeschool program, and homeschoolers had to wait until they were accepted by a college or university before they could even register with the NCAA.

A breakthrough occurred in 2004, when the NCAA revised its guidelines for homeschoolers, allowing them to register as traditionally schooled graduates. This means that they can register while still in high school. The NCAA also reduced the amount of academic paperwork homeschoolers are required to submit. HSLDA and homeschoolers across the country are grateful that the NCAA has shown a desire to recognize the value of high school home education programs.

Conclusion

As the number of homeschoolers increases, so will the opportunities to play sports at all levels. By checking out the available options and evaluating their teen’s goals, parents can homeschool and help their son or daughter achieve his or her best in athletics. “If your kids have a gift for something, and a desire to do it, there’s nothing more important than that,” says Darlene Betsill. “You’ve got to let them do the thing that God gifted them with.“ With creativity, parents can find a way for their teen to participate in a meaningful sports program.

Endnotes

1For a current list of state equal access laws, visit www.hslda.org/101.

2Home School Legal Defense Association, “Equal Access”.

3Cindie Edmunds, “Homeschooling a High School Athlete,” 2004. Shared freely from the National Home Education Network Article Clearinghouse.

Starting Your Own Homeschool Sports Program

No sports programs in your area? Start your own! You don’t necessarily need extensive coaching or sports experience, just commitment.

“I didn’t play any high school sports and I wasn’t a coach before this,” says Chris Davis, founder of the Front Royal Flames homeschool teams in northwest Virginia, and executive director of the Homeschool SportsNet. “I just did it to help the kids.”

Chris suggests that parents start by creating a checklist to analyze how much time they have available, and the level of their organizational skills, sports experience, and people skills.

“Next is to define your sports program,” he says. &lquo;Is it competitive . . . is it physical education? And what age groups are you going to serve?”1 Once you know what type of program you want to start, some categories you'll want to consider are: 1) available players and coaches, 2) funds and facility usage, and 3) competition.

If you see the need for a homeschool sports program, chances are you’re not the only one. Like Jim Kill, cofounder of the Atlanta South Christian Knights, you can start calling other homeschoolers you know and ask them to spread the word. You could also advertise through homeschool support groups or local newspapers.

To find coaches, check with homeschooling parents or older children who have sports experience. If players are charged a registration fee, you can offer a discount price as an incentive to parents or siblings who help coach.

Starting a team may require registration fees and fundraising efforts to cover costs such as equipment, uniforms, facility rental, and possibly game/tournament fees. Opportunities to earn money can be found in unlikely places. For example, the Atlanta South Christian Knights found temporary jobs picking up trash and cleaning bleachers after races at a local motor speedway.

For facilities, check out gyms and playing fields at schools, churches, and community organizations. The Knights were able to use a ball field at a local park by offering to maintain the field. On field workdays, families, team members, and coaches worked alongside each other, even adding improvements such as a batting cage. “It was quite a testimony to our families and their involvement,” says Jim Kill.

If your team is planning to play interscholastic sports, check with Homeschool SportsNet at www.hspn.net. Use their free team locator to find other homeschool sports teams near your community. Local homeschool associations may also be able to point you to teams.

If your team is interested in playing a private school, call the athletic director of the school and see if you can get on the team’s schedule. For example, by registering and paying a fee, Dale Blankenship’s homeschool volleyball team was able to play 10 other Christian schools in a Virginia Christian school athletic league.

Endnotes

11 Chris Davis, interview by J. Michael Smith, "Starting a League," Home School Heartbeat, July 22, 2004, http://www.hslda.org/docs/hshb/53/hshb5334.asp.