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: After taking over as head coach in 2014, Jason Carrera led the Meadowcreek Mustangs to the playoffs for the first time in program history. Carrera coached at Flint River Academy in 2012 and 2013 before accepting the head coaching job at Meadowcreek.
In 2014, he was a quarterbacks coach at Stockbridge after coaching football, baseball and golf at Eagle’s Landing Christian from 2007-12.
His involvement with numerous sports gives him solid perspective on the home-schooled issue.
Carrera: “I don’t think what anybody has really talked about is COVID-19. Everybody’s wanting to get back, wanting to get back, wanting to get back … but how many parents are sitting there saying, ‘My kid’s not going back with a bunch of sweaty football players and going to go practice and do all this other stuff. We’re not gonna do that anymore.’
“So how many kids do you think aren’t coming back because their parents make a decision not to allow them to do it? That goes into what the parents out there are saying — that our kid is not gonna go back to school, and he’s going to be home-schooled. We’re going to keep him here to minimize his risk of coming up with a deadly disease. Now as a coach do you sit back and say, ‘Man, I sure would like that kid to have an opportunity to play.’ If you lose 30 kids to home schooling all of a sudden, our attitude about this (subject) is gonna change.
“I think (the pandemic) will fast-track it, but I also think it’s going to fast-track a lot of other things, like digital learning days. We're in Gwinnett County and they were kind of on the front-end of digital learning days; it was something we were already doing. ... I also think (the pandemic) proved to coaches that they can scheme and work together and do some things over the phone that they maybe thought they had to be sitting in front of each other to do.
“I think it throws a total different dynamic in the team atmosphere when you’re talking about inserting kids who aren't involved in a school — the culture and camaraderie and the things that go along with building a football team, a disciplined football team. Are you going to have that opportunity with a kid you’re only seeing come to practice, and he’s not involved in the other things that go on during the school day that help with the health of the culture of the football team, like discipline and accountability and all those things? Really not having the experience with it and not having really a lot of data on it, there’s a lot of questions to be answered.”
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
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.
Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.