There are two important lessons to be learned from last week’s developments in Texas. The first is easy: Yes, your state lawmakers will listen to you. But the second lesson is something event owners need to know: there are plenty of homeschooled kids who want to play sports, which could lend itself to more registration categories for tournaments – and more marketing opportunities.
As background, Rep. James Frank (R-Austin) introduced legislation that would have made it easier for homeschooled students to participate on their high school sports teams.
High school coaches – who took the view that only students who physically attended classes should be allowed to represent their schools – started an immediate phone, e-mail and social media campaign, barraging lawmakers with requests to kill the legislation. The Texas High School Coaches Association led the charge against HB 1324 – which, by the way, was passed by the Texas Senate in April 2017, and is also referred to as the Tim Tebow Bill.
And according to an article in the Longview News-Journal, the coaches’ sheer determination and unflinching defense prevailed. In a social media post, the THSCA announced after the initial call to action that, ‘They have removed HB 1324 from consideration and WILL NOT EVEN be bringing it to a vote,’ along with the hashtags #YourVoiceIsStrong #UnitedForCoaches and #THSCAstrong.
And while the action creates a precedent that other states may follow, what is notable to event owners right now is this: coaches cited the fact that homeschooled students who want to play sports club sports have multiple opportunities to do so outside of varsity and JV programs. Rec programs, club programs and summer sports were named – but so were travel sports and other private programs.
And that just could present an opportunity for event owners. By creating special registration categories for homeschool student teams, event owners stand to not only boost registration but provide an additional opportunity to students.
And it’s not like the demographic isn’t there. According to the National Center for Education Statistics(a division of the U.S. Department of Education‘s Institute of Education Services), the number of children being homeschooled is growing. In 2018, there were about 1.7 million homeschooled children, an increase from about 1.5 million in 2007, and 850,000 in 1999. The rise in children involved has led to an increased number of parents who are looking for ways to satisfy physical education requirements, to promote healthy activities, and to allow children to socialize with one another.
While some tournaments, such as those listed on the Homeschool Sports Pulse, market solely to homeschooled teams and athletes, larger tournaments may find a new and eager audience in this demographic.
The problem, unfortunately, has been a lack of centralized information. Record-keeping and tracking methods vary from state to state, and even from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. There is not a national association or state organization that homeschool parents are required to join, which makes it challenging to market directly to a large group of parents at one time. In addition, there are various homeschooling methods. Some use an organized curriculum, while others rely on parents’ judgment. Many homeschooling curricula do not require P.E. credits at all for younger children.
Technology is also on the side of the event organizer – and on the side of homeschooling parents. Individuals who choose to homeschool their children tend to be strong believers in networking, and in sharing resources. Event owners can seek out websites for various homeschool organizations. Often, such sites will have a section where parents can post their needs, such as instruction in specific sports or subjects. Almost all have a "contact us" mechanism, which can be your ticket to getting inside.
Ultimately, success in marketing to homeschooling parents is dependent upon establishing a presence and getting the word out. Event owners may want to attend any homeschool association conferences or conventions held in their state.
Much will depend upon the level of interest from, and cooperation of, the homeschooling groups themselves. In the long term, however, making contact with such groups will be a process, not an event – an investment of time today and in days to come that can pay dividends down the road.
Various resources exist on the Internet, listing homeschool activities pertaining to sports. Some may be state-specific while others take a broader approach such as this site, which lists sports offerings for homeschooled students in multiple states.
Event owners who are working on a campaign to bring in homeschooled students and teams should be prepared to do the legwork for them:
Hit the Internet. Type in the state where the tournament or event is to be hosted and the word ‘homeschool.’ Remember that one state may have multiple associations that homeschooling parents can join.
Work the network. Check around in your club or workplace for parents who homeschool their children. Explain your program and ask for ideas on reaching others.
Get social. Attend open houses and education fairs.
Check community events. Homeschooling parents sometimes have tables at local festivals, block parties or other community events to share about their resources.
Market the opportunity: Make sure homeschooling parents know that attending such tournaments brings multiple opportunities. In addition to the chance to compete against different teams, there may be other events such as skill clinics, expos, equipment sales and swaps and similar events that are of value to athletes.