Participation in non-school athletic activities affiliated with a school could cost your child a year of athletic eligibility. In December, the Florida High School Athletic Association ruled two home education students ineligible for fall soccer. The reason was that they played in a summer soccer league (a non-school athletic activity affiliated with a school), then transferred to the private school where the head of the summer league program was a coach. The students had played soccer for a different private school during the previous school year, but that school dropped its FHSAA-sanctioned soccer program.
Had the students been able to play for the same school, the summer athletic league participation would not have been a problem. The problem arose when the students transferred to a school to which someone from the summer program was affiliated. The FHSAA rules also deem a student ineligible if a former coach’s hiring by a school is followed by a student’s attendance or initial participation at the same school.
Recruiting is a huge issue for the FHSAA, and some of the rulings they make seem very harsh. However, high school athletics are very competitive, and the FHSAA exists to enforce the rules passed by the state legislature to keep the playing field as even as possible for all students.
The rules allow a student to participate in non-school athletic activities associated with the school they have participated at during the previous year. As noted earlier, the problem arises when the student transfers. The law states that a student can choose a school at the beginning of each school year. However, the law also gives the FHSAA the authority to establish rules governing recruitment. Therefore, the FHSAA has determined that the rules governing recruiting take precedence over the freedom to choose a school at the beginning of each year. So if your child wants to participate at an FHSAA member school, they have to abide by the rules.
The school where a home education student first participates in athletics establishes his school residence. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to whether a student participates in a non-school athletic activity affiliated with a school, if the student subsequently wants to transfer to a different FHSAA member school.
Some private school students get caught in this situation when they attend a school with only eight grades. If the student then transfers to a high school where the coach was involved in a non-school athletic activity affiliated with that same school, then the student could lose a year of eligibility. Since high school students only get four years of eligibility, it would be heartbreaking for the student to lose one of those years.
Another situation that could make a student ineligible would be if the student filed paperwork for participation at one school and then decided to transfer to a different school. Once the paperwork is filed at a school, the student’s school of residence is established. The student could appeal the situation, but most likely that student would not be given a waiver.
Students can also miss an athletic season if the paperwork is filed too late. FHSAA rules state that a student must have the paperwork submitted and dated before the beginning date of the season in which the student intends to participate. For a fall sport, paperwork must be submitted near the beginning of August and before the first day of practice. The FHSAA Calendar can be found at www.fhsaa.org/calendar to check the first day of the season.
When planning the course of your child’s participation, be sure you carefully read the FHSAA rules and the manual for each sport; otherwise the student may have some disappointing experiences. You can find the FHSAA Handbook at www.fhsaa.org/rules/handbook. If you have questions about the rules or your child’s eligibility, contact the athletic director at the school where your child intends to participate. If there are still unanswered questions, contact the FHSAA directly for a rule interpretation.
Written by Brenda Dickinson
As president of HEF, Brenda lobbies full time in Tallahassee on behalf of homeschoolers.