Syracuse Online

Home Schooling

Tough on Athletes

Published June 2, 2003 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

With the growing dissatisfaction with public education and the rising costs of private education, an increasing number of parents choose to teach their children at home. In New York State, such a decision inevitably denies young runners the chance to compete in high school meets, let alone to enter sectional and state championships.

New York State regulations direct that participants in interscholastic sports must be bona fide students in secondary schools that are registered with the State Education Department. However, these regulations also permit non-enrolled students to participate in intramural activities, but delegate specific policies to individual boards of education.

Invariably, New York State schools have exercised their prerogative to deny home-schooled students who live in their districts from engaging in athletics. Except for special education services that are mandated by law, school administrators see extracurricular services to home-schooled students as an unnecessary burden.

Home-school associations that succeed in creating independent athletic teams face an additional hurdle from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. In a contamination rule reminiscent of South African apartheid athletics, any school that competes against a home-school team faces suspension from interscholastic competition. Regulations even prohibit scrimmages between Association teams and home-school teams.

The rules are more progressive in many Midwestern states where home-school athletic teams are treated as friends of the athletic associations, and are permitted to compete on par with high school teams. Several states also permit home-schooled athletes to train with, and compete on public school teams. New York State grass root efforts to seek classification as friends of the Association and legislation to permit home-school teams to compete have stalled for several years.

All is not lost for home-schooled runners, who fare better than ball players. An individual sport par excellence, running provides a quantifiable advantage over team sports. The proliferation of club-sponsored track meets and footraces provide ample opportunity for competition and improvement. In addition, local track clubs abound with experts, providing home-schooled runners training advice and formal coaching.

Unlike ball games that generate loads of relative statistics, running is a sport of absolutes that pits space against time, and provides athletes with a precise measure of performance. Thus, while home-schooled ball players have a daunting challenge of demonstrating their talent to college recruiters, runners have an easier task reporting official times from certified courses and all-comers meets.

In a year in which home-schooled students won the National Geography Bee and finished second in the National Spelling Bee, many home-schooled runners have made strides towards intercollegiate competition, at least at those colleges that still have track programs.

© 2003 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at