Compared with their public school peers, home-schooled students who play sports are forgotten athletes—never showered with raucous pep rallies or daily coverage in the local newspaper.
But while many people haven't been looking, sports leagues for home schoolers have flourished, and national tournaments are attracting teams and college scouts from around the country.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association recently dropped an at- times-cumbersome process for home schoolers to apply for athletic scholarships. So observers expect to see even more of those students making the jump to college sports.
"The home school graduate is standing on his own two feet," said Chris Klicka, the senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, a Purcelville, Va.-based organization that has worked with the NCAA in recent years to eliminate hurdles for home schoolers.
"Now, home school students will not be treated any differently than other students," he said.
Last September, the NCAA dropped a decades-old waiver process for home schoolers, which in some cases required such students to provide photocopies of textbooks used by parents and other detailed information on the students' learning environments.
Mr. Klicka called it a "laborious and complicated process." He expects the move by the NCAA to treat home schoolers just like traditional high school graduates to further push home schoolers out of second-class status.
While fewer than a dozen states allow home-schooled athletes to play on public school teams, and teams made up of home-schooled students are often prohibited from competing in public school leagues, more home schoolers are finding venues to showcase their skills, according to the National Christian Home School Athletic Association.
Kenny Collins, the executive director of the Wichita, Kan.-based group, the nation's largest association for home-schooled athletes, said a national high school basketball tournament hosted the past several years by his group attracted 58 teams from 15 states last March.
"We wanted more exposure for these kids to get college scholarships," Mr. Collins said. That goal has been met: Several participants in the basketball tournament over the years have been recruited by NCAA Division I schools.
—John Gehring [email protected]
Vol. 23, Issue 24, Page 7