When I first arrived in Texas I was very surprised by the amount of Christian schools (including ours) that rely on participation from home school athletes in order to field an athletic department. I definitely had mixed feelings about the situation. You can read more about how this policy can affect your athletic department in a previous article. However, today we’d like to look at a more specific angle. How do you include home school athletes in your team?
This isn’t a question of whether you should or shouldn’t allow home schoolers to participate in your athletic department.
This post is operating off the assumption that you too have allowed home school participation and are struggling to create the team environment that you desire.
The most obvious danger is that of cliques forming on your team. You don’t want guys who are going to your school to isolate the two or three home schoolers. You also don’t want your home school athletes acting withdrawn when it comes to your school athletes.
Here are a few tips that could help you integrate home schoolers into your athletic teams.
Assign Partners for Drills and Development
This is a basic team building exercise. If you have two players that don’t interact much, then place them in a competitive environment together so they bond.
If you do workout partners or shooting partners, don’t let your team pick their partners. People gravitate towards their comfort zone. Very rarely will any teenager actively engage a newcomer to a group outside of just giving them a friendly hello.
You don’t want cliques; you want a team. Encourage your team to branch out.
Also, put yourself in a home schooler’s shoes. Unless they go to church with athletes on your team (or something like that), they are the new guy. They are feeling awkward. If there is another home schooler to hang with, then that’s where they’ll go.
Highlight Their Personal Accomplishments
Before our practices, we huddle up. During this time we’ll greet everyone, give a basic outline of what’s going to happen. After this we pray and hit the court or the field.
One thing that we have started encouraging our coaches to do lately has been to highlight players’ non-athletic accomplishments.
It can be anything from placing in a choir competition to simply getting an A+ on a pre-cal quiz. Anything that you can do to let your team know that not only do you know about what their interests and pursuits are, but you also want others to know.
As I started this two season ago, I found that I was only mentioning things that our school athletes accomplished. This was contributing to the divide between the home school and school athletes.
So get to know your home school athletes. What are their other interests? Have they recently accomplished anything.
I found (being in Texas) that many of the home schoolers are involved in 4H (sorry to be stereotypical, but they are). So every so often I email their parents and see if their show pig has won any awards. That was a weird sentence to type, but it’s something that I do regularly now.
It has helped our team chemistry. It also provides an avenue for teammates to discover shared interests.
Include Them in All School Athletic Events
Whenever your school has a special event, be sure to include your home school families. Does your school do Operation Christmas Child or a special ceremony during the National Day of Prayer? Are you doing any special lunches or putting on any programs?
They may not attend, but just knowing that they are included will make a big difference.
One area where you especially want to include your home schoolers is the school pep rally. The purpose of the pep rally is to get everyone fired up for big games, but it’s also to let the teams know that they have a group of people that are behind them as the compete. You would hate for three of your players (home schoolers) to not experience this community.
From what we’ve seen there are home school families out there that are 100% committed to the home school system. They believe that it is God’s plan for education. We applaud their decision even though it may not be our own conviction.
However, we have noticed that many home school families choose the path more out of convenience than out of conviction. If that’s the case, have your school administration consider letting home school students audit a class or two.
This could be especially helpful to the home school family. Also, it gets the home school athletes in your school walking the hallways a little bit. This helps to further embed them into your school athletic department culture.
This isn’t a ploy to get them to enroll, although it could supposedly lead in that direction. Mostly it’s just another opportunity to include your home schoolers in order to help with team familiarity and chemistry.
This is another basic team building exercise, but it is a valuable one if you’re dealing with two different groups of people.
People are different in casual settings. It’s important for all members on your team to socialize outside of competition. It helps build stronger relational bonds that lead to better team play.
Go bowling or play putt putt. Whatever it is, get outside of the school walls and bring everyone into a neutral setting.
The miniature golf course isn’t anyone’s turf (except for these people) so it will put everyone on an even level.
Turn it into a competition and mix your homeschoolers with your school athletes. (you’re welcome for that sweet video, by the way)
Having fun outside of athletic competition will help to form deeper connections in practice and games.
Get everyone laughing and cheering for each other. This is where bonds are formed.
The bottom line today is that you need to make an extra effort if you have athletes from outside your immediate school ministry participating in your athletic department.
Look to make them feel as much a part of the school as possible.
If you don’t have home school athletes in your department, thanks for sticking with us! Hopefully, you at least picked up some team building ideas.