An Open Letter to Public School Baseball Players and Parents
Originally posted: August, 2005
I hope you aren't too shocked by the above statement. Understand that on the one hand, I am just trying to get your attention. At the same time, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have a little fun with this tired slogan. At any rate, I am not advocating that anyone just drop out of school and become a bum. Obviously, you want your children to receive a good education. No, what I am doing here is merely writing to challenge the parents of public school students -- particularly baseball players -- to take a new look at the concept of homeschooling and allow me to relate some things that you probably haven't considered.
Y'see, for years, homeschoolers have been on the defensive. The lobbying efforts of teachers unions, administrators, DOE personnel and others with self-serving interests in propping up the public school system have managed to keep homeschoolers from being very "evangelistic" about their educational convictions; we've typically had to devote all of our time and energy to fending off the attacks.
But things are changing. The concept of home education has become a lot more palatable to the mainstream and public opinion is now pretty much favorable to the homeschooling model. Particularly in Texas. Most people now concede the legitimacy (if not the superiority) of homeschooling, at least as far as academics is concerned. Homeschoolers have higher-than-average SAT scores, win National Spelling Bees, and are welcomed (recruited, actually) into top schools like Harvard, West Point, MIT, etc. So, while the opponents of homeschooling continue their campaign against the model, the public just isn't listening anymore. With so much hard evidence to the contrary, it has become clear to most people that homeschooling is a viable method of education and that it is certainly here to stay.
So what does this have to do with baseball?
Well, as I mentioned above, people now generally accept the academic legitimacy of homeschooling. But what about extra-curricular activity? What about socialization? What about all those other things that people use as arguments for not homeschooling, even when they want to? That is what this message is about. Perhaps you're in this group. But even if you're not, I would encourage you to read on, because I am not writing to merely show you an alternative to what public and private schools offer. Rather, in the same way that homeschoolers can boast of their excellent academic record, I am here prepared to argue that our extra-curricular activities (including high school level baseball) are just as legitimate and, in fact, superior.
By way of background, allow me to give you a very brief history of homeschool baseball in this area. In 2001, Nate Petty and I launched the first ever homeschool baseball program in Montgomery County. One of our goals was to give homeschoolers additional incentive to continue with the homeschooling model when they reached high school; until then, the only option for quality baseball players to be able to compete at the high school level was via public or private school teams. Anyway, that goal has been realized. We have yet to lose a high school player to a public or private school team. Nevertheless, this approach of keeping players is indicative of that defensive posture I was referring to earlier. All that has changed now. We are now reversing the trend to actively recruit public school players, encouraging them to go after the best that high school baseball has to offer.
And that is . . . ?
Well, the Northside Falcons, of course. :-) The truth is, we believe an honest review of our merits will be enough to convince many players and parents of the excellence of our program and why that player's best option is in fact homeschool baseball. So let's get started. Below, I am listing just a few of the reasons why our program is superior to both the public and private school models.
Let's face it, before arriving at this website, it's likely that you had never heard of homeschool baseball. So, we definitely have a visibility problem. Or to put it more accurately, we have a visibility problem when it comes to public school players and parents. I'll explain that distinction later. Anyway, to counter this, we have to work five times harder just to get people's attention. And that's what we do. We advertise. We build and promote websites. We recruit. We write letters. We make phone calls. We do all of the little things and the big things that are necessary to reach the players who will ultimately make up our team. We apply this same level of determination to everything else we do as well. We train hard. We schedule with the best. We travel. We purchase quality equipment. Shoot, we even have cooler uniforms. :-) We also strive for excellence in coaching. Good players need good coaches who will challenge them and take them to the next level. And in that regard, we've really stepped things up a notch this year. Joining Nate Petty and me this year is Shelby Thomas. As you may read elsewhere on this site, Shelby has trained a number of individual players who have received college scholarships or play professional ball. He has worked with a number of top college and professional athletes, including Florida Marlins ace pitcher Josh Beckett. So we don't just go after the players. We also support those players with the best coaching around.
- The Numbers
Nowhere is the homeschooling phenomenon more evident than right here in the North Houston / Montgomery County area. For starters, Texas has some of the most favorable homeschooling laws in the country. Add to this the fact that the North Houston / Montgomery County area has a reputation for being highly conservative with a larger-than-average concentration of Bible-believing Christians. This is not to say that all homeschoolers are either Christian or conservative, but there is definitely a correlation. And here the plot thickens considerably. Because Southeast Texas is also recognized throughout the country as being one of the top baseball areas in the nation. So, here you find a large concentration of dedicated homeschoolers -- predominantly Christian -- in an area which also just happens to have the best baseball players! It should come as no surprise, then, that a program like the Northside Falcons -- a Christian Homeschool Baseball Program -- would be destined for great things. Let's talk numbers. It is estimated that there are as many as 8000 homeschooling families within our target area of North Houston and Montgomery County (though it should be pointed out that we've had players from as far away as Lufkin and Pasadena). Anyway, if just one of the children in each of these families is of high school age, then we're talking about 8000 high school students. To put that in perspective, that's the equivalent of about four 5A schools . . . combined! I could go into all sorts of explanations about the significance of this, but one should be sufficient. As we reach more and more of this target group, you can be assured that only the very best baseball players will make our team. Thus, if you can make this team, you are -- by definition -- a baseball player.
I mentioned above a lack of visibility among public shool players and parents. But that's not the case elsewhere. Scouts are starting to take notice. So is the media. In 2001, I was aware of about eight home school baseball teams. I'm sure there were more, but that's not the point. Last year, twenty teams from nine states competed in four regional tournaments, with eight of these teams progressing to the Homeschool World Series in Pensacola, Florida. [For more information about the Homeschool World Series, visit HWSA] Suffice it to say that the trend of homeschool baseball is on the rise and continues to gain more and more attention each year. Scholarships are being handed out to players from Atlanta, Dallas, Ft. Worth and beyond. The competition gets tougher every year. It is also unique . . . and media loves unique. As homeschool baseball grows, so will the media attention from ESPN, Fox and other major outlets.
- Character Development
Now, before you go thinking about some kind of touchy-feely, ultra-sensitive, 90's-kinda-guy self-esteem nonsense, let me assure you that that's not what I'm talking about. We're a baseball team, not a focus group. No, what I'm talking about here is more specific and, in fact, more relevant. We're talking about the kind of character development that becomes necessary in order to succeed both in life . . . and in baseball. I'll never forget something that former major league pitcher David Clyde said to me and a group of boys last year:
- "When the scout comes around, he's not looking to see if you're a good ballplayer. He already knows you're a good ballplayer . . . or has at least heard that you are . . . that's why he's there in the first place. No, in reality, he's looking for an excuse to cross you off his list. He has a couple hundred players to see and only a handful of scholarships to offer. If he can find any excuse to remove you from the list, he'll likely jump on it. So don't help him out. One of the easiest things for him to pick up on -- and one of the hardest for a player to hide -- is character problems. Confidence is great and, in fact, necessary. But an overly cocky attitide is a sure way to be eliminated. So are laziness, disrespect and carelessness."
Okay, I probably paraphrased that a little, but it's real close. The point is, character is important. Character is also contagious, and that applies whether the character is good or bad. One of the things that people notice when they get involved in homeschool baseball is the remarkable difference that they see in the character and attitudes of the players and coaches on the field as well as the parents in the stand. Not that we're all perfect. But it's hard to ignore when you see players actually helping each other out, coaches giving encouragement along with instruction and parents keeping their comments to themselves.
- Your Best Shot
If you're a quality player, then homeschool baseball is your best shot at college or the pros. Now, in reality, the very best Senior player on a quality 5A public high school varsity team will probably get a scholarship regardless. But there's another reality. The sad truth is that many of the best players never get an opportunity to get in that position. For whatever reason -- coaching philosophies, "political" reasons, position needs, academic policies, emphasis on other players, etc. -- a number of Juniors and Seniors who played on their Freshman, Sophomore and JV teams, don't make the varsity squad. Or they make the team but don't get the playing time or receive the developmental training that they need to assure the best shot at collegiate play. These are absolute undeniable facts. So what's the solution? In public schools, his family would need to move to a different school district in order for him to try to get on that school's team. And there are certainly no guarantees there, as politics becomes even more of an issue. With homeschool baseball, however, he can pick up and go to another team at will. There are no districts nor any rules on recruiting. And with more and more programs being added each year, the options can become very attractive indeed. What's more, the very flexibility of homeschooling makes this a relatively painless process. To highlight all of this, we have a dedicated program of "scouting the scouts", inviting scouts from Rice, San Jac, Sam Houston, Texas A&M, Univ. of Texas, Univ. of Houston and beyond. Not to mention the exposure that comes with the tournaments or the experience of Shelby Thomas, who has already shown his ability to train for the collegiate and professional levels. All in all, homeschool baseball -- and specifically the Northside Falcons -- could represent your best shot at either a college scholarship or pro career.
Okay, those are just a few of the reasons for why you should consider homeschool baseball. For the record, many of the same things can be said about other extra-curricular activities like basketball, debate teams, orchestras, choirs, etc. All of these activities are represented well within the homeschooling community.
Homeschooling has actually been around for quite a long time. But in the early eighties, it began to really take off in what I will refer to as its First Wave, represented primarily by families who became fed up with the academic standards and/or social atmosphere of the public school system. Beginning with a handful of gutsy pioneers, they were joined by more and more families until thousands were making the decision to move from public to home education. This wave has not ended, nor will it.
But I see a Second Wave coming as well, and it's not a distant vision. I believe that very soon many will become fed up with the extra-curricular standards and politics as well, particularly as alternatives like the Northside Falcons become more and more visible and viable. If nothing else, some will begin to see that they actually have alternatives. This will result in the best and the brightest in all areas -- academics, athletics, music, art, etc. -- making a similar exodus. In truth, this wave has already started in some areas, just not on a national level. The question is whether or not you will join this movement and, if so, whether you will do it sooner (as a gutsy pioneer) or later.
If I have piqued your interest and you want to learn more, I invite you to contact me immediately so that we can schedule a two-way interview (parents) and personal tryout (players). If you are sure you are not interested, I thank you for your time and patience in reading this rather long-winded treatise. If you think all of this sounds great, but you're concerned about homeschooling itself -- time commitment, costs, "socialization", your own abilities to do it, curriculum decisions, employment conflicts, etc. -- I would encourage you to speak with me or my wife. We can usually address 90% of the issues that people have and set them at ease about things that before seemed insurmountable. The fact is, homeschooling does not have to be this huge burden that the public school industry would like you to believe. It can actually be quite simple. And it is definitely rewarding.
I look forward to meeting you.
Director, Northside Falcons
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