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Starting a Homeschool Basketball Program

By Tom Scheimo
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #8, 1995.

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Have you ever known parents that worked and sacrificed to give their children a home education in a wholesome environment, and then abandoned it all so that their children could play public school sports? It’s so unnecessary. Homeschool families can develop any sports or fellowship our teens yearn for.

C.F.E. Team (Christian Educators) Grove, KS
For a look at a sports program that stresses Christian principles and does not promote the “win-at-all-costs” attitudes so prevalent in most public schools, let’s look at what Northwest Kansas homeschoolers have done with their basketball program, one of many such programs in existence around the country. In an area larger than the state of Maryland, yet with a population of less than 90,000, three homeschool basketball programs are currently in operation, plus two area support groups have basketball included as part of their weekly and semi-weekly afternoon meetings. Students and parents alike enjoy the regular fellowship, fun, and learning opportunities. Occasional games and tournaments with other homeschool teams in the region provide added fellowship opportunities.

Interested in starting a homeschool basketball program? Here are some questions to ask:

  • Are enough interested students willing to commit to the proposed program? If the numbers are low, homeschoolers from nearby areas may be interested.

  • Is there a centrally-located, no-cost or low-cost gym regularly available at the times needed for the program?

  • Is there enough help to do it right? Homeschool dads are often the best candidates for coaching and referee positions, which usually means an evening practice. Scorekeepers and timekeepers are also needed, along with “sidelines sheriffs” to keep track of small children.

  • How will the costs be handled? Unless a benefactor is willing to underwrite the whole program, costs that will likely be incurred include photocopies, postage, envelopes, long-distance calls, possible gym fees, coaches’ whistles/ stopwatches/timers, awards, and much more.

  • How often, when, and how long should each practice be? A regular time and place is far less trouble and expense than the practice-to-practice method of scheduling.

Based on the past experiences of several homeschool basketball programs, here are some suggestions.

  1. Your first priority should be a team philosophy that stresses Christian character and values, fellowship, friendship, good sportsmanship, and wholesome fun. Criticism, ridicule, rough play, self-seeking behavior, and “win-at-all-costs” attitudes should not be allowed. The program should be conducted in a way that God would approve of.

  2. Establish a homeschool student priority. Do not let friends, public school siblings or relatives, or parents take over or crowd out homeschool students at scrimmages. Only homeschool students should be allowed to play in tournaments and games.

  3. Establish a parents’ advisory council to share responsibilities and explore ways to minimize all costs.

  4. Provide the best possible instruction patiently and play by the rules. Even if no experienced coaches are available, libraries can provide many helpful books. ESPN Video offers two good instructional videos, Fast Break I & II and Do It Better Basketball. Be sure to coordinate attendance records with what is taught at each practice. This will help those who missed practices to have a chance to pick up what they missed. Many basketball camps are available for those serious about improving their skills.

  5. Set age minimums. Most children under 10 have trouble with basketball programs because the baskets are too high, older teammates are too big (and hazardous as a result), attention spans are too short, and they have trouble grasping the concepts being taught.

  6. Separate teams for boys and girls. While this may not be popular with some, many parents have found that generally boys play a more aggressive game than girls. Parents whose daughters were involved in co-ed basketball were not only concerned for their daughters’ safety, but that they might adopt a more masculine, aggressive attitude. Parents whose sons were involved in co-ed basketball found that one of two things generally happened. First, because of much incidental contact in basketball, contact was being made in ways that were contrary to the ways the parents were teaching their sons to treat young ladies. Second, some boys could not play an effective game for fear of improper contact.

  7. Pick a team name and a team color. Let the students make the selections, along with their own personal numbers. It is amazing the effect this has on a sense of team unity.

  8. Locate the necessary equipment. A team will need a few basketballs, an air pump, score sheets, whistles, stopwatches or timers, and some sort of scoreboard (even a chalkboard will work). Black and white T-shirts are very helpful for identifying the teams in scrimmages. Many of these things can be donated.

  9. Select a no-cost or low-cost gym. Many possibilities exist, including church gyms, armories, private school gyms, community gyms, some public school gyms, gyms closed due to school district consolidations, YMCA or other club gyms, and outdoor courts. Twice as many kids can be kept playing if you play half-court.

  10. Try to schedule a few games or tournaments. The best prospects are other homeschool teams. Other possibilities include private schools, church youth groups, or AAU competition. For students serious about developing skills, the growing number of local 3-on-3 tournaments offer excellent opportunities. Homeschool students need to be reminded to be careful not to adopt some of the wrong attitudes they will encounter occasionally. Awards are a great way to cap off a homeschool game or tournament. Inexpensive basketball awards are available from the Hayes School Publishing Company and from Dinn Brothers, Inc.

See the table of resources. Have fun, and see you on the court!

Tom Scheimo is a homeschool dad who works part-time at the Post Office in the mornings. In the afternoons, he teaches his two children all their classes. He also serves as the volunteer coordinator for the Christian Family Educators’ two teams located in Colby and Norton, Kansas.

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