FBCS wary of ‘Tebow Bill’

Published 8:25pm Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A bill that would allow homeschooled students to play sports in the public schools got past the House Education Committee on a 13-8 vote and is expected to come up for a vote before the full Virginia House of Delegates later this week.

As their school seeks to fill out its spring sports rosters with homeschooled students, officials at First Baptist Christian School find themselves in the unique position of worrying about future competition with area public schools.

If the legislation gets through the General Assembly and then finds favor with the governor, Suffolk athletes who once could only play high school-level sports for First Baptist would now have a choice.

Former First Baptist Christian baseball standout and L.A. Dodgers draftee Josh Henderson testified again this week in favor of the legislation. The bill has been nicknamed the “Tebow Bill” after NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who was homeschooled but was allowed to play football for a Florida public school. The bill has been passed in 29 states and made it through the House last year in Virginia, but was stopped in the Senate.

First Baptist Christian athletic director Steven Milner has been tracking the bill’s progress.

“I think it’s a great thing for homeschoolers, in general,” he said. “For us, our pool of homeschoolers, it could dwindle some.”

Henderson was a key player for the Crusaders, but if the bill had already been passed, he likely would have pursued the public school route to face the high level of competition there. His talented younger brother, freshman Chris Henderson, has also played for FBC in the past.

“We’re hoping that he would continue with us, but if this does pass through, I’m pretty sure they’re going to look at going into the public school system to play, and I wouldn’t blame them, because the talent level is just so much better,” Milner said.

He provided some insight into what homeschoolers mean to FBCS.

“For us, because we are a much smaller school, a lot of the homeschoolers are essential to our teams at this moment,” he said. “We’re hoping that through the growth of our school with this merger that we’ll be able to rely less on homeschoolers to fill out our teams, but still allow them to play.”

Senior basketball forward Brianna Longo is a homeschooled student who plays for the Lady Crusaders. On the boys’ side, a third of the basketball roster is made up of homeschoolers, including sophomore guard Nathan Leiter, sophomore forward David Day and freshman forward Steven Effler.

If it were not for those players, Milner explained, he would have had to cancel some games.

“Basically, the rule of thumb for us with homeschoolers is that they help fill our team, they don’t make our team,” Milner said.

“I am relying on our homeschooled pool to have a softball team this spring,” he said. “Basically, we have about eight or nine players from our school who are ready to play softball, but I still need a few more, because I don’t want to just slap nine players out there every game.”

He said homeschooled students have made the biggest difference for FBC in baseball and soccer.

Regardless of whether or not the “Tebow Bill” passes, Milner expressed his gratitude for the contributions that have come from homeschoolers like Henderson.

“Josh was tremendous last year,” Milner said. “As he gets up into the higher levels of the (minor league) farm system, of course, that’s going to help expose our school a little bit more.”

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