Homeschoolers can and do play competitive sports. Some -- like football's Tim Tebow -- go on to compete at the top professional levels. The US Olympic team also typically includes several homeschoolers each year.
Many homeschooled athletes go on to win sports scholarships that help them pay for college. Like other types of activities, competitive sports can count as physical education. But most compete just for the joy of it.
Community Sports and Recreation Teams
At younger ages, homeschoolers can play on community teams where residence is the main qualification, just like public and private school kids. These sports include:
Playing on a Public School Team
At the high school level, the option to join a high school team depends on where you live. Thirty states now allow homeschoolers to join public school teams. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the list in 2012.
Even in states where homeschoolers can play on public school teams, regulations vary. Some leave the decision to individual school districts. Parents of high school age athletes should check with their local district and area homeschoolers to be sure.
The Controversy Over "Tim Tebow Laws"
Close to a dozen states have so-called "Tim Tebow laws" pending in their state legislatures. These laws are often controversial with both homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers. Critics from the public schools claim homeschool students have an advantage over public school students trying out for a spot on the same team, saying they can skimp on academics to focus on sports.
Homeschoolers who oppose such laws say that the privilege can bring with it increased state regulation of homeschooling in general. They prefer to keep homeschooling and public school completely separate.
Homeschooling families that support these laws, however, point out that so far no state has had to deal with homeschoolers overwhelming public school sports programs or taking unfair advantage. Nor have they changed the way families homeschool.
Homeschoolers and NCAA EligibilityFor homeschoolers hoping to play college sports, the NCAA website's Resource page has a special section detailing the eligibility requirements. These include submitting standardized test scores, a transcript, and proof of completion such as a GED.
Sports Outside the School System
In places where homeschoolers cannot join high school teams, there are other ways they can play competitive sports. Homeschool leagues exist in several states. The Homeschool Sports Network organizes an East Coast basketball tournament with more than 80 teams, although the group is aimed primarily at Christian homeschoolers. In New York, a homeschool crew team competed in the Scholastic Rowing Association of America National Regatta in New Jersey.
Homeschooling teens can also compete in sports programs that are not school-based., including school "sports clubs" that are not officially teams. In fact, some homeschoolers seek out sports like these because the overall pool of players vying for college scholarships is smaller than with school-based sports like football or basketball.
These include individual as well as team sports, among them:
Then there are competitive sports that are mostly played for fun and glory. These sports have governing bodies, national organizations, and competitions of their own. Some have leagues at the college level. But the reward for these sports is mostly in bragging rights, not scholarships or a professional career. They include: