Westminster and Lovett goalkeeper players collide during a soccer match.
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

‘How do they select their schools?’

Each week, five high school coaches will discuss one issue that affects Georgia high school sports.Last week: esports   

At Issue: The issue of home-schooled student-athletes competing in GHSA-sanctioned sports has prompted serious discussion for several years. It could become more debatable in light of the coronavirus pandemic

House Bill 163, known as the “Equal Opportunity for Access in Education Act,” was written by Bruce Thompson (R-White) and passed the Georgia Senate in March 2019. It has not yet come to a vote in the Georgia House. The bill sometimes is called the “Tim Tebow Act,” after the former University of Florida quarterback who was home-schooled and allowed to play for his local high school team. More than 20 states have passed similar bills, and the debate in Georgia is not expected to go away any time soon.  

Proponents of the bill contend that they pay taxes just like everyone else and their children should be able to compete for local high school programs. Critics of the bill say that the parents have made a decision to home-school their children and should accept the consequences of those choices. They contend parents should not get to pick and choose how and when their children participate in sports by claiming owed access because of tax dollars.  

Throw in the COVID-19 pandemic and the equation could change. This begs the question: Will more parents opt for home schooling this fall in an effort to keep their children safe? 

And should home-schooled students be allowed to play for local high school teams? 

The Skinny: Scott Snyder has been the head boys soccer coach at Westminster for 20 seasons and has led the Wildcats to nine state championships. The Westminster soccer program has been dominant — boys and girls — with a collective 27 state championships. The girls program has won the past five seasons in Class AAA, and the boys have won titles for three consecutive seasons. The boys program leads the state in championships (14), and the girls (13) aren’t far behind. 

Snyder: “I think the biggest question of anything is, how do they select their schools? That would be the thorniest issue of all. But I do think that especially after we come out of (the pandemic) we're going through right now, there might be kids who are now home-schooling who were able to go to public school but now they decide they don’t want to. Of course, that would happen to be non-health related because if it were health-related, then they’re not going to go out and play sports anyway.  

“I think the parents have a good point, but the biggest question is how do they get to choose? Can they choose any school that they want and decide that's their team? Because then, obviously, people are going to be saying, 'Well, that's not fair.' Because all the good soccer players might choose one school or get together like the AAU basketball stories we hear about. I don’t know how you can regulate that, either. All these issues, I think, are already there. This just another light that shines on them. Maybe a lot more. How many kids are transferring, right? 

“The GHSA is not set up to be an investigative agency. They don’t have the money to go and investigate all these situations and find out if things are proper or not. But it’s going to happen, and you could see that it's going to hurt some schools over others because people will simply not choose those schools when it comes to playing sports there. And so the schools that are going to struggle are going to be the ones that struggle now, anyway. But as a parent, I can see the other side to it, where I want to make it a good experience, and if I’m going to take my kid to a place that's struggling, are they really going to have that good of an experience? I don’t think people are going to be as keen to let their kids grow through the experience. They are going to want to find the perfect experience for their kid.”

AT ISSUE: Home-schoolers’ eligibility

• Robin Hines, GHSA executive director
• Niketa Battle, Mays football coach
• Kurt Hitzeman, Carrollton golf coach
• Scott Snyder, Westminster soccer coach
• Jason Carrera, Meadowcreek football coach
» MORE: Previous topics

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