Publish date:

Out at Home?

Barred from sports, some homeschooled kids are fighting back

GEORDIEEASTERBROOK wasn't born with a bat in his hands; his parents didn't give himone until he was two. "It was one of those big Wiffle ball bats," saysEasterbrook (right) of Washingtonville, N.Y., about 60 miles northwest ofManhattan. "I was swinging from the moment I got it." Easterbrook, whoplayed on Little League and American Legion teams while attending privateChristian academies, had hoped to audition for the varsity at WashingtonvilleHigh. But when his parents decided to home school him for high school, thelocal school board told the pitcher and infielder that, because he wasn't afull-time student, he couldn't try out. "I'm not saying I have to be on theteam," Easterbrook says. "I just want to try out and show them what Ihave."

A high schooljunior, Easterbrook, 15, is one of 1.9 million homeschooled students in theU.S. While homeschooled kids perform above the average on standardized tests,their athletic prospects are often hindered by rules that limit sports totraditional students. Of the 26 states with such guidelines, only New Yorkrequires full-time enrollment.

Geordie's parents,Randy and Heidi, hope to change that. After their son was prohibited fromplaying, Randy, a marketing and communications consultant, wrote to statesenator Bill Larkin. In September 2005, Larkin sponsored a bill allowinghomeschooled students to play interscholastic sports, but the bill haslanguished in committee. He hopes to reintroduce it when the legislaturereconvenes in January. "I'm going to do everything I can to pass it,"says Larkin.

In the meantimeEasterbrook hones his skills at Frozen Ropes, a local baseball trainingfranchise. To play in college, he will have to take the GED because New York isthe only state that doesn't recognize homeschool diplomas. But he and hisparents object to taking the test, saying the GED is for students without ahigh school education. If he continues to stand on that principle, he may beout of school sports for good.

Breaking Away

Homeschooled athletes are making an impact on collegeteams, and even in the pros. Here are four success stories.

<< JASON TAYLOR, Miami Dolphins, All-Pro DE In1992 the University of Akron awarded Taylor, who grew up in Pittsburgh, one ofthe first Division I athletic scholarships given to a homeschooled athlete.

TIM TEBOW, University of Florida, QB The freshmansensation is the inspiration for the Tim Tebow bill, an Alabama initiative thatwould give homeschooled athletes equal access to sports at public schools.

COLLEEN SHUMAKER, George Mason, forward The 6'1"sophomore played for four years at a private religious high school in herhometown of Centreville, Va.

PAT VENDITTE JR., Creighton, pitcher Raised in Omaha,the ambidextrous pitcher walked on as freshman and had a 2.36 ERA as a rightyand 2.92 as a lefty his sophomore year.

Daily Coverage

For more high school news and rankings from RISE andDave Krider's Primetime Performer of the Week, go to SI.com/highschool.

THE LIST

ROUNDBALL REALITY

The producers of Two-A-Days, the MTV reality show aboutthe football team at Hoover (Ala.) High, are doing spade work for a similarseries about high school basketball. Reps from Humidity Entertainment recentlyvisited Indianapolis's North Central, where they met staff and players,including Indiana-bound guard Eric Gordon (right). Four other schools are beingconsidered for the still-unnamed series, but producers won't disclose theiridentity. "They made it very clear that they wanted a school in theheartland," says North Central athletic director, Chuck Jones.

CAUGHT CHEATING

Five Kofa High (Yuma, Ariz.) football players weresuspended last week for the season's final three games after they told schoolofficials that they had used steroids. The players confessed after a trainerreported her suspicions about drug use to the principal. The players said theyhad purchased steroids in Los Alogondoes, Mexico, about a 15-minute drive fromthe school. No criminal charges have been filed, but police say aninvestigation is ongoing.

EARLY DECISION

He has not yet played a high school game, but DwaynePolee Jr., a 6'6" freshman guard at Westchester High (Los Angeles), hasgiven USC coach Tim Floyd an oral commitment to play basketball for theTrojans.

PATRIOT GAMES

No. 6--ranked Independence High (Charlotte), extendedthe nation's longest active winning streak last Friday, defeating crosstownrival Myers Park 31-24, for their 101st straight win. The Patriots haven't lostin more than six years.

TWO PHOTOS

DIANA ELIAZOV (EASTERBROOK PORTRAIT); COURTESY OF THE EASTERBROOK FAMILY (ACTION)

PHOTO

BRIAN KILLIAN/WIREIMAGE.COM (TAYLOR)

TWO PHOTOS

JEFF BARRIE/INDY SPORT PHOTOS (GORDON); JEFF SINER/ CHARLOTTE OBSERVER/AP (PATRIOT)