We are taking a break from our current discussion to highlight an event our family attended last week in Wichita, Kansas.

We often hear of instances where families enroll their high school student in a traditional school for the sole purpose of providing the opportunity to take part in sports. Our family was faced with the challenge of providing our oldest child with the opportunity to pursue his love for basketball. We were not willing to sacrifice his home school experience so that he could play ball, since we knew he was receiving the best academic and spiritual education in our home. Yet we also knew it was important to provide this athletic opportunity for him. We know many of you are faced with a similar dilemma since we receive correspondence on this issue all the time.

Our solution was to start a home school basketball program. It takes a lot of work, ingenuity, and courage to pave the way for home schoolers to take part in quality sports. It often takes years to establish a team and form league relationships. Some sports are more difficult than others to get rolling.

However, this last week we witnessed one triumph for home school sports--the annual National Christian Homeschool Athletic Association Basketball Tournament. (We accompanied the local home school team that our son now plays on - the Syracuse Eagles.) This event is a result of the resourcefulness and determination of families committed to providing their children with a quality sports team experience without sacrificing the academic and spiritual goals of home education.

NCHAA hosted 55 teams with 612 players from 14 states. The tournament included boys and girls high school and junior high teams. Over 1,500 people participated as spectators.

The competition was intense. One varsity boy's game between the Memphis Eagles and the Oklahoma City Storm was a "nail-biter"! The Storm won this semi-final game when Memphis barely missed a three-point shot at the buzzer. They went on to beat the Atlanta Barons in the championship game.

The cheering was as spirited as any at a traditional high school game, but there were also strong spiritual undertones. We learned of one team, the third-place Memphis Varsity Lady Eagles, who gave each opposing player a teddy bear with a note expressing the gospel after every game. Their coach, John Dawson, shared that after the semi-final game his team lost to Lansing, Michigan, the girls congregated in the middle of the court, gave the winning team their gifts and prayed together for them!

We met the Wisconsin team, who had never been to an event like this. They were obviously a bit overwhelmed, yet they all had a great time. The entire team showed a spirit of sportsmanship that was a wonderful testimony. This young team has grasped the excitement of home school sports and plan to compete again next year.

We believe the opportunity afforded teams in this event matches or exceeds the competitive level of most regional high school leagues.

One of the first NCAA Division I home schooled basketball players, Houston's Kevin Johnson, the MVP of the 1998 NCHAA Homeschool tournament, now plays for the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. He is in this year's NCAA Men's Sweet Sixteen!

We talked to several coaches at the tournament this week who have students that are being approached by colleges in NCAA Divisions I and II, NAIA and NCCAA to play on their teams. Some will receive scholarships. Colleges are recruiting our athletes because they are quality players who are also strong in character and academics. In fact, of those seniors in the NCHAA with potential to play college ball next year, the average ACT score was 25.3 (more than four points above the national average).

The highlight of the week for us was watching winners and losers of the boy's varsity championship pray together at center court after the game. We have been home schooling for a long time and have rarely had such an encouraging experience as joining in this sports event.

This is just one example of the progress of home school sports programs. Other national team events are now being planned for volleyball, baseball, and soccer. Because of the home school parental commitment, these opportunities now exist for our children. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come!