When a Virginia homeschool graduate served up his tennis skills to a handful of colleges, he was excited to learn that he just might be good enough to earn a scholarship.
As it turned out, the biggest obstacle he encountered toward achieving this goal had nothing to do with impressing coaches. Instead, he struggled to persuade the NCAA to accept proof that he really did meet their rigorous academic requirements.
The student had been playing tennis since junior high, when he attended a private school. In the 10th grade, he switched to homeschooling, signing up for supplemental courses at a local co-op in Dulles, Virginia. The program works closely with homeschool parents to craft classes that fit their students’ individual needs and interests.
He flourished academically, earning a 3.9 grade-point average, a silver medal through the Congressional Award Program, and participating in numerous field trips.
With graduation approaching, the student reached out to various colleges and learned that he might land a spot on a tennis team at the Division II level—a higher caliber of competition than he thought he would qualify for and one that is approved by the NCAA to offer scholarships.
The fact that he was good enough to compete for an athletics scholarship, however, also meant he had to navigate the approval process with the NCAA. But when his parents submitted the required paperwork, they hit a major roadblock after NCAA officials mistook the homeschool athlete for a private school student.
Instead of working directly with the parents to verify the student’s coursework, NCAA officials contacted the homeschool co-op administrators and asked for copious documentation about their overall program. The co-op’s small staff simply lacked the resources to comply with the paperwork demands.
At that point, the student’s parents contacted Home School Legal Defense Association.
Overturning the Call
HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt reached out to the NCAA and connected with the associate director of high school review.
“The NCAA has been happy to work with us when contacted about homeschool graduates,” he said.
NCAA officials not only agreed to re-evaluate the student’s application, but also to set up a workshop to help the parents understand what documents they needed to provide.
The student’s father said Schmidt’s help made the difference in resolving a very frustrating situation.
“All fall, we were hitting our heads against a brick wall,” he said. “We did what Tj said, gave the NCAA the information they needed, and at the end of the day, our son was eligible to compete and get a scholarship.”
The homeschool graduate is now playing tennis at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, where he was awarded scholarships for excellence in athletics and academics.