The growth and competitiveness of homeschool sports have reached another milestone. Whereas 10 years ago most public schools were apprehensive to even schedule a varsity event with a homeschool opponent, we now see homeschool teams refusing contests with ill-equipped and less competent public schools. Athletes are begging their parents to let them transfer out of institutional schools and be home-educated, so that they can try out for the area's homeschool team roster.
But along with the higher turnout at preseason training, there are more instances of ineligible athletes jeopardizing the hard work and solid reputation of the team. Drop-outs, graduates, and other problematic candidates have personal ambition for achievement on the field, but their deception and dishonesty could sideline an entire season for the whole team, and harm a reputation that the organization worked several years to build.
Sometimes it may be true ignorance of the rules, but sometimes folks decided to "believe" the rules as they hoped. In recent years there have been some sad consequences for several great homeschool athletes who did nothing wrong, worked very hard, and excelled to the top; only to have some unknown infraction by just one teammate ruin a championship run.
Poor judgment can harm the innocent along with the foolish.. But other, more common harms have also happened to honorable teams. Because no standard verification norms existed, sore losers often fell to the temptation to spread unsubstantiated humors and scurrilous innuendo to detract from the great accomplishments of fine homeschool teams. Because no one had a simple way of attesting to the validity of each athlete, his anonymity was an easy target for suggestions that he might be too old, didn't study hard enough, or wasn't really still homeschooling.
To address this, David Van (the NHFCS rankings director) and Hank St. Denis (NHFA tournament director) have devised a simple & public record system for coaches to validate their team roster's eligibility for national honors. We are now requesting that coaches add a short tag in the bio notes when they update their Maxpreps team rosters. We encourage coaches to hold each other accountable in this detail. If the individual details are not available to the coach, then one might suggest that the team leadership may already be too sloppy about eligibility. The process of adding this itemized tag should take less than 15 minutes to complete, and only needs to be done once per season.
We created a step-by-step tutorial for silencing the rumors and validating a team's homeschool eligibility. Read the details in this blog post, 2014 Team Eligibility. The time to complete this is in the preseason. Any team who plays a single game with an ineligible player may be completely excluded from inclusion in conference play, have competitors drop games citing fraud, be excuded from postseason contention and be removed from all rankings considerations.
There are occasional hardship cases which need just adjudication. The time to complete this process is in the preseason. If you're in a conference, take this matter up with your conference leadership. If you're a freelance team with no state oversight, then the coaches from your opposing teams need to be consulted. If they are agreeable to your appeal, then it's likely that the matter will be more agreeable to the NHFA and the NHFCS. the national directors need to be notified promptly with the supporting details and responses from conference leadership and opposing coaches.