Homeschoolers and Sports

Some children are athletes and some are not. While everyone, regardless of their natural inclinations, should learn the basics of how to be physically fit, not every child will want to play organized team sports. That’s okay. There are many other options (swimming, jogging, skiing, tennis, gymnastics…).

Some kids do want to play team sports, though. Since I homeschool to give my kids the best opportunities possible, it doesn’t make sense to automatically slam the door on team sports if that’s where their talents are.

In Washington state, homeschooled and private school students are legally allowed to try out for the public school sports teams. Homeschoolers can also approach private schools for playing opportunities.

When my fourth child was in eighth grade, he informed us that he really wanted to play basketball. I wish you could have seen the beaming smile on his face when I promised to find out how to make that happen.

Despite having only played basketball in our driveway and at the YMCA, my son made the school’s team. He had the same requirements that the public school students have: get a sports physical, buy an ASB card, and pay the per-sport fee. During the season, I submitted progress reports for him just like the public school teachers submit for their students. Now that I have a couple years of experience with this requirement, I enter due-dates on my calendar so that reminders pop up and I can email progress reports to the designated person at the school the day they’re due.

Playing for the local school has been a very positive experience. The coach that first season was extremely supportive. Once basketball ended, my son turned out for track. That, too, was a good experience.

Meanwhile, our youngest child saw his big brother playing sports and decided that he wanted to play, too, so we learned about our community’s rec league. He played winter basketball and spring baseball, and was recruited for select teams in both sports.

The following year the older child tried out for the high school team. Now, I don’t know about where you live, but in our town, the high school is grades 10-12. Ninth graders from the two middle schools hop onto an activity bus for a ride to the high school for sports; everyone assumes that a kid they don’t know goes to the other school. Some kids didn’t know that my son was homeschooled, thinking that he just went to the other junior high, and we were halfway through the season before the coach found out. The coach is supportive because he believes that homeschoolers need some socialization. Normally I would be all over a statement like that, but there’s no reason to antagonize the coach, and if his beliefs benefit my son – well, I’m okay with that. Anyhow, the point I started out to make was that I think things might have been easier because my son wasn’t viewed as “that weird homeschooled kid who’s different from everyone else.” The kids all accepted him, and the coaches did, too.

High school basketball went so well that my son turned out for the baseball team. A few kids were cut, but he wasn’t one of them. He had a great time. Then we discovered that high school sports all have summer workouts (some even have special summer leagues).

Last year the youngest played basketball and track for the junior high. Two of the football coaches saw him at basketball practice and tried very hard to recruit him to play football this coming year. The third football coach was also a track coach. Apparently my son will be turning out for football, too. The coaches all know he’s never played before, and they’re willing to teach him. It has been a very good experience. It helps that my son also knows a lot of the kids from baseball since that’s his “main” sport. The kids (teammates) have been very great, and so have the coaches.

My 10th grader again played basketball and baseball during the last school year and played both sports simultaneously in June. Usually basketball games were on Mondays and Wednesdays, and baseball games were on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but there were a few times that the schedule got juggled around. One day he had a double-header in baseball, with games at noon and three, then went straight from the baseball field to the basketball court for a 6:00 game. It was busy – okay, downright crazy sometimes – but after praying about it, we agreed to let him try. We are trying to be as supportive of the boys’ sports interests as we were with the girls’ horses and photography.

One thing I discovered last year (that somehow got overlooked in 9th grade) is that WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association) has a specific form for homeschoolers to complete if they want to participate in school sports. On the WIAA website, the form is found under Publications>Forms>Student Eligibility>Home Based Education. It’s not about treating homeschooler’s differently (there are also forms for public school students and for Running Start students). The goal is to make sure that student athletes are eligible to participate. Other states might have a similar requirement. The ASB secretary didn’t know about it, though, and it wasn’t included in the packet of sports paperwork. Last year the new district athletic director noticed that it was missing from my son’s paperwork and contacted me. This year I know to complete the form, even though the district still doesn’t have it available – and now you know, too J

Overall, playing sports for the local school district has been a very good experience for my sons.

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