COURTSIDE WITH COACH EDMONDS: What makes the homeschool basketball league so successful?

Keith Edmonds is a 32-year veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003.

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The Fort Wayne Guard, Wabash Valley Warriors, Benton Bucks and the Mishawaka Wildcats. Have you ever heard of ANY of these fine basketball teams here in our area?

Northeast Indiana is blessed with very fine teams on the girls and boys side of the court and we get out to support them every opportunity that we get which makes doing what I do so rewarding. We see our favorite schools, coaches and players featured on the news and television highlights, but the schools that I listed above get very little if any recognition but are nonetheless extremely competitive, high-spirited and have a “will to win” just as much as the teams we see featured weekly on the news.

They are part of the Homeschool Basketball League, and after watching a game here recently, I just had to recognize them and the hard work that these kids and coaches put in.

So what is the HomeSchool League / Conference all about you ask? Let’s start by defining what homeschool is: Homeschooling is defined to mean that a student’s education is parent-directed meaning that [at least] 51% of their schooling is done at home as opposed to in a school building.

Let me give you a little background on one of the veteran teams in our area, the Fort Wayne Guard.  They are in their 21st year of having a homeschool basketball program in the Fort Wayne area and allow kids ages 10-18 for both boys (Guard) and Girls (Guardians) to participate in the program. They are taught that the most important thing in their lives is their relationship with Jesus, then their school and then basketball.  The mission of the league is: ‘Players should grow their character as much as their basketball skills;’ which is something that intrigued me.

To qualify for this conference, the parents must be involved in their child’s education by assuming the role of principal or headmaster, thereby:

 (1) Setting the date and requirements for high school graduation; (2) selecting and approving course materials and study schedules; and (3) selecting tutors, correspondence courses, videos, computer courses and similar resources for their child’s education. Homeschooling would also include a person of legal responsibility of the student filling the role of a parent (if pre-approved by their governing body the National Christian Homeschool Championships.)

The Fort Wayne Guard currently has three boys teams and three girls teams, with one team for each gender in 12U (elementary), 14U (middle school) and 18U (varsity). They play a variety of teams, mainly other Homeschool teams in the area, but also play some private Christian schools as well.   

They are a part of the Great Lakes Homeschool Conference.  This is the first year that the Fort Wayne Guard has been a part of it, and the conference has grown to 12 boys programs and eight girls programs.  

Here is a list of teams that are in the conference:

BOYS: Fort Wayne Guard,  Fort Wayne Hawks, Kokomo Eagles, Noble Whitley Warriors, MCAC Wildcats (Mishawaka area), Benton Bucks, West Michigan Hornets, Christ the King Jaguars (Ann Arbor, MI), CHAP Chariots (Lansing, MI), Jackson Patriots, Big Rapids Badgers, HAACH Cougars (Brighton, MI).

GIRLS: Fort Wayne Guardians, Fort Wayne Hawks, Kokomo Eagles, Cornerstone Warriors (Girls version of Noble Whitley), Christ The King Jaguars, West Michigan Hornets, CHAP Chariots, Michiana Thunder (South Bend area).

The conference even has a twitter account @BasketballGlhc.

They play in a couple tournaments during the year, the Crossroads Clash in Indy, the Midwest Challenge here in Fort Wayne (Varsity only, 32 teams’ total) and host a large tournament during the month of January at Spiece Fieldhouse called FWGIT (Fort Wayne Guard Invitational Tournament).  This tournament will have about 90 teams from 30 or so different homeschool organizations from Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. It has brackets for 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U both boys and girls.

There is a State tournament that happens in early February for Junior high, Junior varsity and Varsity teams then there is a Regional tournament at the end of February that will include teams from Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Kentucky.  It takes place in Indy as well.  Everyone’s program that would like to participate can go to the tournament, but it is seeded and bracketed appropriately based on your records during the regular season. Then there is a Nationals Tournament that takes place in Missouri.  This takes homeschools from all over the nation and it is a weeklong affair.  

Last year, the Indy Wildcats won the National Championship. It was the first time in a long time that a school from the Midwest had won. There is a program in Oklahoma City (Storm) in which the NBA’S Blake Griffin played for, that is a powerhouse and has won most of the time. Now tell me which of you would have ever thought this in regards to Blake Griffin?

What I’ve learned as I researched this story is that quality basketball cannot be placed in what we feel is comfortable for us. There are quality players working hard in some of the most remote places and in gyms that may not always be the spacious arena’s that we are used to. But nevertheless, these kids are working hard to become the best versions of themselves. I, for one, would like to applaud them and the coaches, parents and families that support them. They may never make the “highlight zone,” but their play was no less physical and they give just as much effort as the area teams competing in some of our more established conferences.

If time allows next season, get out and see one of these teams play. It will be worth your while.

Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear every Monday during the prep basketball season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 

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