You don’t have to be a die-hard fan of professional football to know the name Tim Tebow. As a Heisman Trophy winner and starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos he made national headlines. But it’s Tim’s high school history that is most interesting to online high school students and their parents.
That’s because Tim Tebow was a homeschool student while in high school, even as he was making news on the local gridiron. He studied at home but scrimmaged with teammates as part of the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Tim was the first homeschool student to be nominated for the prestigious Heisman Trophy, which he won in 2007 as a sophomore at the University of Florida. His response? “A lot of times people have this stereotype of homeschoolers as not very athletic. It’s like, go win a spelling bee, or something like that. It’s an honor for me to be the first one [to be nominated].”
In 2008, he also received the Quaqua Protégé Award from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, the organization’s way of honoring the “most outstanding college-bound home-educated students in the world.”
Growing support for inclusive sports
As is the case in roughly 30 states around the country, Tim’s home state of Florida allows homeschool students to compete in athletics at their local high school if they live in that zone. In Florida’s case, students may optionally choose to participate at any other school in their district. A parent acts as the student’s “athletic director” to ensure they adhere to athletics policies and standards.
Tim and former NFL defensive end Jason Taylor actively promote opportunities for students who study at home to have access to high school athletics in every state. Taylor was also homeschooled and played football at his local high school in Pennsylvania.
And in fact, more and more states are adopting “equal access to athletics” legislation as an official acknowledgement that parents of online and homeschool students continue to pay taxes even though the school district doesn’t have to educate those children. Typically, eligibility hinges on residency parameters, paying the school’s required sports fees and meeting the district’s academic requirements. Often this eligibility extends to private high school activities as well.
In Florida, though not in all states, school districts may include these additional “sports students” in their total enrollment figures that determine funding levels.
Participating in organized sports is just one way online high school students socialize, exercise and expand their capabilities beyond coursework. Many states around the country allow online and homeschool students to participate in other traditional brick-and-mortar school extracurricular activities such as band.
The lesson here? If you’re considering enrolling in an online schooling program such as Sterling Academy, do not assume you won’t be able to pursue athletics at your local high school. You might just become the next nationally famous online student athlete.