The recent budget cuts across the United States have forced colleges to cut teachers, while the football program coaches get millions of dollars in raises. This has caught the attention of Forbes in an article “Get Football out of our Universities.” Leigh Bortins, founder and CEO of Classical Conversations, Inc., often calls public school football “the publicly-funded NFL farm system.” If public school sports crumbled today, the only sport affected would be football. I mention football because it has the smallest number of homeschool teams, and is probably the most expensive sport to play. This sport claims more homeschooled children than any other. What can a parent do?
The tug of athletics has helped persuade a number of homeschooling children to beg to go to public school, especially in high school. Parents know this is not a good option for education, but it can be difficult to keep saying no–especially if the child is good at the sport and is persistent. Since the early 1990s, homeschooling families have come up with ways to make sports available to their children. In Winston-Salem, my family was part of the first homeschool basketball team in the area–the FHE Hawks. We eventually joined a local private school league and added almost every sport for both males and females, except for football. Homeschoolers are so numerous now that most areas will have some sort of athletic option for the child. If not, it takes just one parent who is willing to organize it.
With the exception of football, the best players in every sport play in private leagues, such as little league baseball and AAU basketball. Homeschoolers tend to excel at individual sports, such as swimming and running, where the best coaches are available outside of the modern school setting. Parents need to know that putting your child into school is not necessary to get scholarships or for the child to get the best coaching. If you do have a child that yearns to play sports, find the best coaching available and show them you care and are working to meet their athletic needs.
One viable alternative homeschool parents should know about is youth and high school rugby. Most major cities now have teams and most of them are open to anyone who wants to play. It only costs $20 to register with USA Rugby, plus dues, cleats, and a mouth guard. It has the physical nature of football, but is statistically safer than basketball. Many colleges have club teams, and a good number of those offer scholarships and will help a student get into school. If you want to find out more about rugby in the US and find local teams visit: USARugby.org
I want to encourage parents of athletes to know that, if you look hard enough, you can find much better sports opportunities than the public school system. If your child really wants to play football, see if he will try rugby for a year and if that satisfies the need. I have a homeschooler on the team I coach in Columbia, SC. Finding these athletic alternatives allows parents to focus on the real reason to attend school–to get a good education, not to play sports.