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The Washington Times
March 1, 2004

Op-ed — Homeschoolers Make Strides In Sports

Washington Times
March 1, 2004
by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

We're used to hearing about homeschool success in academics, but homeschooling has not yet broken through to become a fully established mainstream alternative to public and private schooling. This process continues apace, however. Recently, the National Collegiate Athletic Association changed a long-standing policy that treated homeschoolers as second class students. Previously a homeschooler who wished to apply for an athletic scholarship in a school belonging to the NCAA had to produce reams of paperwork giving every detail of his or her schooling. The NCAA believed this was necessary because homeschooling was not an established method of education and it was thought homeschoolers didn't deserve equal treatment with public and private school students.

What changed? Well, like many organizations, the NCAA came into contact with homeschoolers. The few homeschoolers who made it through the cumbersome process demonstrated that homeschooling provides an excellent educational alternative. The NCAA was unintentionally discriminating against homeschool students and preventing some talented students from receiving scholarships. It became apparent that the policy was unfair, and the Home School Legal Defense Association advocated for a change in policy.

The NCAA will change its application process, effective April 1. Homeschoolers will simply need to present a transcript signed by a parent certifying that they have completed high school.

HSLDA looks forward to many homeschoolers utilizing this rule change and succeeding in college sports. Slowly but surely the truth about homeschooling is emerging, and homeschool athletes will be able to demonstrate their character and skill in the sports arena the way they have proved themselves in the academic field.

It's also fair to ask, "Where do homeschoolers play sports?" and, "Isn't it difficult to participate on public school teams?" There has been much change in this area, as well. Homeschoolers continue to grow in number, and extra numbers translates into more pressure for equal access to public school teams. Eleven states allow homeschoolers to fully participate in public school sports. Many states, however, do not give blanket approval for homeschool participation . For example, Pennsylvania leaves it up to individual school districts to decide this issue. The patchwork of rules creates difficulties for homeschoolers if the family moves from a pro-homeschool district to one where homeschoolers aren't allowed to participate.

Homeschoolers have been very resourceful, however. Homeschool support groups have set up their own leagues and there are now two nationwide basketball tournaments for homeschool students. Some of the players have gone to college on athletic scholarships.

There are also homeschool leagues for football. The independent leagues are a way for homeschoolers to come together and participate in sports without becoming entangled in government-funded schools. Therefore, HSLDA supports the formation of independent homeschool sports leagues. So far the leagues are small by public school standards, but they're growing.

Homeschooling itself is growing rapidly, and the fledging sports leagues are bound to grow as more parents decide to homeschool. As the NCAA decision has shown, homeschoolers are making progress and breaking down barriers. HSLDA welcomes the actions of the NCAA to recognize and support the efforts of homeschoolers. We are confident that more and more homeschoolers will excel in sports and help solidify homeschooling's path to becoming a fully accepted alternative to public and private schooling.