Friday, February 15, 2013

"Let Them Play"- Homeschoolers and High School Athletics

I couldn't play In VA.  Or the Jets.
Tim Tebow's fortunes changed a lot in the past 12 months as he went from Denver Bronco playoff winning QB to New York Jets afterthought.  The same cannot be said Virginia Delegate Rob Bell's bill that affects the eligibility of home-schooled athletes playing on public school teams.  The Virginia version of the Tebow Bill failed for a 2nd consecutive year in a Senate Committee vote.  So should we "let them play?"  We briefly touched on this issue before.  It is a lively and complex discussion.  

Three bills began a journey but Bell's advanced to this point falling short by only one vote.  The bill would have allowed homeschool students to play for Virginia High School League athletic teams. A move opposed by the Vigrinia High School League(VHSL).  Ken Tilley represented the VHSL and shared the concerns over fairnss issue such as take 5 pass 5. “A basic eligibility requirement is that an individual must be enrolled in a member school as a full-time student in order to represent that school in interscholastic competition. It is impossible to equate academic requirements when one group must attend and pass at least five subjects offered for credit toward graduation and another group has no such requirement.”

Opponents maintain participation in sports is a privilege surrendered when students opt out of the public school system; that home-schoolers might take roster spots from public school students; and that it would be extremely difficult to apply the same academic, attendance and discipline requirements to home-schooled students as to those who are monitored daily in public schools.

Another opponent and former state superintendent of public schools, Ken Bosher,  who generally supports home-schooling said: “I support choice, but if you’ve chosen that, you can’t use public schools as an à la carte system." 

Bell and supporters of the bill, which has appeared in some form for the last 3 sessions,  bring up fairness maintaining it is unfair that student who are home-schooled pay taxes but are denied the chance to play.   Many see this as an issue of choice in our nation which is hard to argue against.  The bill was scripted in such a way requiring  home-schooled athletes to live in their public school districts to play.   Also they must have been home-schooled for at least 2 years to be eligible.  He added the bill would still allow local school districts to set their own participation rules, which could limit or prohibit home-schooled athletes.  The bill will likely be introduced again next year and there is a great deal of sound logic to justify why the law should be changed.  Time will tell if a year will change its fate. 

As a teacher and coach I personally oppose the bill.   Maybe I am just mad and thinking "If our school and teachers are not good enough for you, why should our teams and coaches be?"  That some would only value what our athletics has to offer, just seems hypocritical.  But I am not sure I have a sound position based on reasonable analysis.  That's the rub.  I am not sure why I know it is not a good idea.  On principle I suppose.  I know we are not talking about that many kids and I can't rationalize keeping any deserving kid from benefiting front the experience of team sports.  I wouldn't feel good about denying them that opportunity simply based on how they are educated.  Can I?

I can.  I think this is my best attempt to articulate why.    It's not fair.  As a coach I am unable to keep all who try out.  So next week I'll likely have to look into a few young players' eyes and say, "I'm sorry."  That's not easy and could be argued, its not fair.  Could their parents use the same fairness argument and maintain they should not be excluded since they pay taxes and have even met specific requirement? Increasingly High School sports are less significant to college scholarships in favor of  AAU. Junior Olympics, club soccer being preferred for elite athletes.  Today there are many opportunities to participate in organized sports beyond the schoolhouse door in most communities so they would likely still be able to play.

Further the difference between classrooms and sports is that sports are a privilege, not a right.   I see it that student-athletes have to earn  the honor of representing our school.  How can they do that if they don't even go here?  That privilege can be taken away or even denied based on what most of us agree are acceptable criteria.   Sports do much to further our educational mission and contribute to our sense of community.  The change would undermine some of that and open schools to a lot of sticky situations.  Kids are required to meet certain criteria and not the least  of which is managing it all.   Students and families who want to participate in organized sports may have to make significant sacrifices to do so.   Similarly the freedom afforded to Home-school families costs them in some ways as well and in this case it is the chance to play for a local high school team.   No matter how well they fit in, a home-schooled kid will always be a home-schooled kid. 

Is my logic flawed?  Probably.  Certainly others might see it differently.    I guess I am happy I don't have to make that call.  It is now up to the state to change the law.  Politics being what they are it wouldn't surprise me to see more conservative forces get this through in the near future.   Maybe one day the division or the school will decide.  Maybe even one day me as a coach.  Like I said.  It's complicated. 

There is more to it than that.  I often find myself chanting "Let Them Play".  So the tail end of this post might explain why I do that and shed a little more light on the issues involved though odd metaphor. 

The debate is much like one of the most "American" films of all time,  Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.  When one of my idols, Kelly Leak,  drove his team of misfits to play the Toros and ended up at the Houston Astrodome in an awesome van.  There, united with his estranged dad, played by William Devane, they had to convince stadium and game officials to "Let Them Play" while another of my idols Tanner Boyle races around evading capture.   I might be underselling the movie or oversimplifying the current discussion.  No matter.  How you see this depends on where you are sitting in the first place.

My observations:
Home-schoolers aren't the bad guys.  Neither were the Toros or the officials who wanted to end the game so the pros could play their game.  They just see things differently.

Its not the same- No matter what the sequel to Bad News Bears could not live up to the experience of the first.  Maybe it is worth the effort, maybe not.  Perhaps the same could be said of allowing Home-schoolers to play.

Kids can't always win-We can't forget the Bears lost in the final game in the original.  Failure is a great teacher and that is why I also don't think no cut is a good idea.  maybe this year the Bears won because of the lessons learned from their loss the previous season.

The Astrodome Scoreboard was awesome- I don't need to add anything to that and feel that the debate in the Senate should have mentioned that somewhere. 

For more on the Issue

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