Since the homeschooling movement took off during the 1970s, a central concern for families has been access to sports activities outside the home. Today, fewer than half of the nation’s states have “Tebow laws” (named after the famous Heisman Trophy winner and homeschooler Tim Tebow) which require equal opportunity for homeschooled students to participate in sports on government school teams. As a result, homeschooling families have long been forced to search out or create sports programs for their children.
Necessity Breeds Invention
Chris Davis is one such parent. After he and his wife began homeschooling their children in the early ’90s, Davis founded Home School Sports Net (HSPN), a nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to sports teams composed of homeschooling athletes from anywhere in the nation. In 1997, when Davis, a software engineer and HSPN’s executive director, started a homeschool basketball tournament in northern Virginia, he identified a hunger within the homeschool community for sports opportunities, he says.
“I went to a big homeschool convention in Richmond during this process, and asked people what they were doing for sports,” Davis said. “I had people sign up.”
HSPN grew from there. With the information he collected, Davis created a database of homeschool basketball teams, which he pegged to a map to illustrate their geographic locations. From there, Davis began talking to homeschool groups about participating in a network of state teams which would ultimately make it easier for students to locate and join teams and for teams to find others to play against.
“I put up the website for Virginia, but I started getting emails from other groups across the nation asking if I they could add their teams too,” Davis said.
Today there is a team locator on the website, which helps coaches identify players and players find teams.
“That has taken off for a long time,” Davis said. “It saves me from doing it. People just post now. It’s become a clearinghouse.
“For all sports, we’re the only ones doing this,” Davis said. “What I try to do on the website is to make it a one-stop shop for anyone at all who has interest in sports for the homeschool nation. If anyone has a worthy product or service, I even try to get that on the website as well.”
‘It’s All about Volunteers’
Davis runs the website himself, and he says he receives much help from volunteers.
“We get a lot of student volunteers from Liberty [University] when they’re on their break, and we have other volunteers,” Davis says. “A girl I coached who is a college graduate does all my artwork,” Davis said. “It’s all about volunteers.”
College Recruitment Concerns
When the Edmunsons, a homeschooling family in Oklahoma, discussed pulling their two boys from their private school prior to sixth grade, they were concerned about the boys’ access to athletics as homeschooled students. While researching available opportunities for basketball and baseball, Jennifer Edmunson spoke with a close friend who coached a 6A state championship school, who reassured her about their decision, Edmunson says.
“[The coach] said he hated playing homeschool teams,” Edmunson said. “His boys would think homeschoolers would be easy to beat, and then they would go out and get rolled. It was what we needed to hear from someone we respected.”
Throughout their homeschool career, the two Edmunson boys have been members of a homeschooled baseball team that plays many top schools across Oklahoma. Edmunson says teams of homeschoolers are just as competitive as those from traditional schools.
“Each year we regularly play state-ranked schools—state champion schools—and play close or win,” Edmunson said. “We are highly competitive.”
College and Pro Success
Edmunson says her sons are experiencing sports success as homeschooled athletes.
“We graduated our older son [a pitcher] this past year,” Edmunson said. “He was recruited by several universities and junior colleges. He made the decision to attend a [junior college] about an hour and a half away.”
Edmunson says her sons, along with players like Tim Tebow, are proving the stereotype about homeschooled athletes not being successful in sports is wrong.
“This experience is indicative of other homeschool programs across our state and the United States,” Edmunson said. “Justin Jackson, who played for North Carolina and was recently drafted into the NBA, was a homeschooler. There are homeschoolers playing for ACU [Abilene Christian University] from our local basketball program, as well as one who went to TCU [Texas Christian University] and Arizona. A pitcher from a sister organization was drafted by the MLB this past year.”
‘This Is the Best Life’
Davis says homeschoolers enjoy sports just as much as kids in traditional school settings do.
“Homeschoolers don’t need sports to ‘socialize’,” said Davis. “Many want to be athletes, and they just want someone to teach them how to do it.”
Edmunson says homeschooling enriches her family members’ lives because of the flexibility it provides.
“We are not trying to raise great baseball players,” Edmunson said. “We are using baseball to raise good men. It allows us to give the time to [our boys’] education and play baseball, without sacrificing our time with our kids. This is the best life I never knew I wanted, and for that, I am eternally thankful.”
Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.