Academics Beyond Athletics

Should homeschooled student-athletes play for public schools?

Homeschooled Athletes

Long before Tebowing entered the lexicon and years before winning the Heisman Trophy, Tim Tebow broke records and caused controversy at Nease High School in Florida. Tebow, who was homeschooled, got to suit up for his local public school much to the chagrin of the opposition. Despite not breaking any rules, Tebow was criticized for essentially choosing where he played football.

Even though Tebow’s high school football glory days are over, the debate over homeschooled student-athletes continues today.

Homeschool rules for student-athletes vary greatly by state

The American people are divided over the issue of homeschooled student-athletes. Some states, like Florida, allow them to play for a local public high school with little academic oversight and standardization while other states, like California, are not nearly as lenient.

The Golden State requires homeschooled students to participate in a campus that follows the public school curriculum, basically undermining the whole point of homeschooling.

Other states make more of a compromise, leaving the decision to the individual school boards. Homeschooled student-athletes in North Dakota, South Dakota, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey must be approved academically by their school district before they can hit the playing field.

Not all school curricula are created equal

Every parent has the right to choose an academic plan for their child, but too many student-athletes can take advantage of vague homeschool legislation.

Online resources for homeschooled students are particularly vulnerable to academic fraud. In addition to questionable requirements, many of these online academies have simplistic technology that registers attendance only by login. So, if a student logs on for only a few moments, they will be treated the same as one who spends all day learning.

Academic oversight is also a problem for states with lax homeschool standards, like Florida. Homeschool students in the Sunshine State are only required to provide records detailing sufficient academic progress which is not specific enough to guarantee they are receiving a good education.

Can’t qualify to play sports in high school? Try homeschooling

These apparent loopholes open up the possibility of top student-athletes getting recruited and placed in a homeschool program in order to qualify. Students with poor grades who excel in sports could drop out of public school and instead qualify as a homeschool student. Once this starts happening, the school districts and parents have failed their children.

Clearly homeschooled student-athletes, like Tim Tebow, should be able to play organized sports for a local high school. But states, like California and Florida, take extreme stances that either restrict a student’s ability to choose or don’t do enough for them academically. All states must take a more measured approach to ensure freedom for parents and students alike while also guaranteeing a quality education.


Homeschooled or not, the perfect recruiting journey requires focusing on your academics just as much as on your athletics — and ultimately finding a college that’s the right academic, athletic and social fit. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

About the author
Tom Johnson