Playing sports is one of the most exciting experiences for students during middle and high school. Every year, they experience a rollercoaster of emotions during tryouts, a mix of nervousness and excitement swirling within them. And when they finally step onto the field or court, an overwhelming sense of joy floods their being as they immerse themselves in the game they adore.
But what about homeschooled students? Are they given the same opportunity to work hard (and play harder) with a school sport? And if so, can homeschool students play public school sports? These are understandable questions that we’re prepared to answer for you.
Equal Opportunity for Access to Education
The Equal Access Bill (also known as the Tim Tebow Law) was passed in 2012 to allow homeschooled students to participate in public school sports.
Tim Tebow is a famous football and baseball player who was homeschooled throughout his childhood. At the time, homeschooled kids weren’t allowed to play for their nearby public high schools but Tim wanted to try out for football at a high school in Florida.
Long story short, he was eventually granted access to do so. And (fast forward a few years), the Equal Access Bill was introduced to several states to allow high school students to play public high school sports. (Unfortunately, there are still some states that have yet to pass this law.)
Can and should homeschool students be allowed to play public school sports? It’s a controversy that many states, local counties, and school boards are still debating. Let’s take a closer look at both perspectives.
Argument number one suggests that homeschooled students should be allowed to play school sports.
The biggest reason for this stance boils down to equal access (as the Tim Tebow Law’s official name suggests). Playing public school sports gives students equal access to opportunities for athletic college scholarships, time to socialize with other kids, and simply the chance to enjoy playing a school sport in general.
Parents choose to homeschool their children for a variety of reasons, a lot of them being that their children need attention that public schools just can’t offer them. But the argument stands that these students should still have the chance to participate in sports as this has little to do with academics.
Argument number two suggests that homeschooled students should not be allowed to play school sports.
Some parents with students in public schools find it frustrating to watch a homeschooled student take a spot on a team for a school they don’t even attend. Public school students compete against other public school students for a spot on the team, so it can feel unfair if someone who doesn’t even go to the school takes it. Many also argue that the taxes used for public schools should be solely for the students attending.
Which States Allow Homeschoolers To Play Varsity and Public School Sports?
Each of these states has its own eligibility requirements for homeschooled students who wish to participate in public school sports. It’s important to research your state and county requirements if your high school student is interested in sports.
Below is a list of the current states that have passed the Equal Access Bill or similar legislation:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Laws and regulations change over time, so verify the current status of the Tim Tebow Law in your state by referring to the most up-to-date sources or official government websites. Also, check with your local public school to see if your student qualifies.
What Are Alternative Options for Homeschoolers?
If your homeschooled student is unable to play sports for their local public high school, don’t give up hope completely. Here are some of our favorite alternative options that your student may thoroughly enjoy:
- Recreation Teams: Your community likely has recreation teams through an organization like the YMCA for all kids to participate. It could be a mix of public, private, and homeschooled students. These groups typically have a variety of sports available for your homeschooled student to choose from, so they can pick something that piques their interest.
- Travel Teams: Travel teams are also open to all students. There is a higher level of competition on travel teams which makes this a great option for homeschooled students who take sports seriously.
- Homeschool Teams: Especially in communities with a lot of homeschooled students, homeschool teams can be quite the exciting choice! You can check your local community center and Facebook groups to find homeschool teams near you.
So, can homeschooled students play public school sports? The answer varies from state to state (and even between counties) but for the most part, yes.
If you live in one of the few areas where homeschooled kids are not allowed to play sports for the local public schools, consider one of the alternatives we’ve discussed.