Homeschool SportsNet (HSPN) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in Virginia that provides resources and connectivity to parents of homeschooled students. It is also responsible for putting on basketball and volleyball championships, and its organizers expect to enlarge upon that as the demand continues to rise.
Sports Destination Management: Is HSPN a national governing body for sports for homeschool students?
Chris Davis: No, we function somewhat like a clearinghouse. The website allows parents and students to locate teams in their area, and to find opponents for their teams to play. If they need a coach, it can help them find that too. One thing common to all of us as home educators is that we’re all volunteers. The website allows people to make the connections they need because almost all home educators are fully independent.
SDM: How long has HSPN been around?
Davis: I have been doing this since the 90s. Back when I started, there was no handbook. I was in Northwest Virginia where it is very rural and when I started talking to other parents about homeschooling, I realized I wasn’t alone but that there wasn’t really a place people could go to learn about all that was available to them. For example, if someone who is a home educator in or near my area calls me about getting their child into swimming, I can tell them about what’s available. We didn’t have that back then.
SDM: What events do you put on for HSPN?
Davis: We put on the championships for basketball and volleyball. Those are our staples and we’re going to be adding cross country to that. I’d also like to do soccer at some point.
SDM: Do you have a timeline for that?
Davis: Not yet but I’d say it’s more a matter of when rather than if we’ll be incorporating them.
SDM: How badly was the homeschool sports market hit by the pandemic last year?
Davis: In 2020, we tried and tried and tried to schedule our championships, but we couldn’t make them happen. I ended up with 19 boxes of shirts. We sold them online. We could repurpose the trophies and the chevron banners. The poor kids, though, I felt so bad for them.
SDM: In the pandemic, a lot of parents became responsible for helping their children to get an education while at home. Did you see an uptick in interest in your group?
Davis: What we saw was a lot of parents who were also working from home and all of a sudden, educating their children had been added to their workload. It was very difficult for them but it’s different from making the choice to homeschool your child from the start. With us, back in the day when we started, we had to just use whatever resources were available. That’s really how thousands and thousands of organizations to serve homeschooling parents got started.
SDM: How has the homeschool sports market changed?
Davis: The first thing to know is that it’s really an unlimited market – for everyone we know of, there are just as many more who don’t know about us. One significant change we’ve seen is that there are some more experienced coaches out there. There are still a lot of parent volunteers doing coaching, though.
Homeschool sports have not slowed down at all; in fact it’s the opposite. I expect to see more football championships – there are literally hundreds of football teams out there. There’s already a national championship for homeschool football in Florida. There are already cheer and dance teams competing at the national level. It’s hard to say what will be big next; maybe it’ll be track & field, maybe it will be golf.
SDM: Do you get teams from all over?
Davis: Yes, we get teams from as far away as Texas, Olahoma, Michigan and Florida, as well as the East Coast and Southeast states. I am getting more involved to attract more teams from New York and the New England region.
SDM: Do kids on homeschool teams get recruited for colleges?
Davis: They do! They’re really starting to get the college looks. That’s part of what our championships can do for them – get them visibility as players.
SDM: Switching gears to talk about your championships. What is your site selection like?
Davis: For basketball, it has been a process of having a championship that kept growing in size and scope. We started at a site in Fredericksburg, Virginia but we outgrew that. The problem – and it is a good problem to have – was that we were outgrowing a lot of things. We found Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and we were there for about 15 years. Our tournament, which had gotten to be around 100 teams, is conducted during spring break and Liberty, like a lot of schools, wasn’t going to be doing a spring break in 2021. I looked at six venues and did a survey and we decided to move to Rocky Top Sports World.
SDM: How did that go?
Davis: We had a great turnout, and everyone loved it. There was a lot for families to do when the kids weren’t playing. There were hotels, cabins and restaurants all in the same area as the basketball courts. I can see us becoming entrenched at Rocky Top. I would like to put our cross country championship there – who wouldn’t want to run in Gatlinburg? I’d like to get a soccer tournament on those fields too someday.
SDM: You mentioned having 100 teams – is that the number you’re comfortable with?
Davis: I like that number. We have found that our retention rate among teams that sign up is 99 percent. We usually have to turn people away because we’re at capacity. People think, “Oh, I’d better sign up for this now because I might not get a chance if I wait.” We’ll accept teams as long as there is space; by now, people know how it works and they’re fine with that.
SDM: What’s your volleyball championship like?
Davis: We just got it off the ground. I think it will continue to grow.
SDM: What kind of precautions did you have to take at Rocky Top?
Davis: Spectators had to wear masks. Nobody had to play masked – although they could if we wanted. But everyone was so appreciative of being able to be there and to play that they were in a great mood.