Homeschoolers scale to top at Summit Academy
|Summit Sports Academy’s multiple-championship soccer team draws from a pool of homeschooled athletes residing in the eastern suburbs of Detroit. Without the opportunity afforded them through the academy, most of them would not be able to participate in high school-level sports activities. Among this year’s team members are local students, Joshua Kauzlarich (#17, front right), and Jacob Russell (not pictured), both of Almont. Organizers hope to attract more homeschoolers to Summit’s athletic programs.|
October 24, 2007It is no secret that a growing number of parents are choosing to homeschool their children. An estimated 2 million families are homeschooling across the U.S., including about 130,000 in Michigan.
While more children than ever are learning the three R's at home, few of them have access to organized athletic programs—particularly at the high school level.
Because the Michigan High School Athletic Association forbids these students from taking part in sports programs in their home districts, homeschooled kids are missing out on high school-level athletic opportunities.
To fill the gap locally, the Summit Sports Academy was formed in 1994 as a way to create athletic opportunities for homeschooled students.
Keith Kauzlarich, a homeschool parent who has coached Summit's highly-successful soccer program since 2002, says getting the word out about the Academy's athletic programs has been a challenge.
A resident of Almont Township, Kauzlarich's goal is to create greater awareness among homeschool families about Summit Sports Academy and its availability to athletes who are seeking a high school-level experience.
"We are having a tough time finding ways to put out information about our tryouts, our games and other activities," says Kauzlarich, whose Summit teams have reigned as state champions in the Michigan Christian Homeschool Athletic Association five straight seasons. "We're looking at growing, so we need to get the word out to the kids and parents who would be interested."
Kauzlarich believes the majority of homeschooling parents are confident that their children are gaining the tools for a good education. However, in the realm of athletics, he fears they could be getting short-changed.
"In many other states you can be homeschooled and still be able to play for the school in the district in which you live," says Kauzlarich. "The ideal situation would be for these kids to be able to play for their local high schools. But the MHSAA doesn't allow for that."
As a result, Summit Sports Academy must draw its athletes from a wide geographical area in southeastern Michigan. The athletes on Kauzlarich's soccer roster hail from towns like Warren, Sterling Heights, Troy, Livonia, Farmington and other suburbs of Detroit. His current team includes two local athletes, his son Joshua, Jacob Russell of Almont and Joshua Winningham of Leonard.
|Summit Sports Academy soccer coach Keith Kauzlarich has helped establish a winning track record through his focus on working hard and building character. |
The diversity in talent has yielded significant success on the playing field and established the greater need for an eventual base to operate from.
"We have 60 kids in our soccer program and about 215 boys and girls in all of our sports programs. That includes volleyball, soccer, baseball and basketball," says Kauzlarich. "We are the only eastside club offering these kinds of opportunities for homeschool kids to play."
Providing a central location for games would cut down significantly on travel and commuting costs for the athletes and their parents, says Kauzlarich. It would also add to the program's legitimacy in the eyes of the competition and in the community-at-large.
"My vision is that we can eventually build our own complex that the kids can call home," he says. "As things are, there is a lot of self-sacrifice that goes into participating in this club. Kids or their parents have to drive an average of 40 minutes to and from practices and game. With the price of gas as it is, that's a big expense."
The current pay-to-play cost at Summit Sports Academy is $235 per child, which does not include travel expenses. It's a steep price for many parents, says Kauzlarich, but one that most of them are willing to pay to ensure that students are afforded a chance to compete at the high school level.
Summit competes against a number of Christian schools, including Oakland Christian, Bethany Christian and Orchard Lake St. Mary. The team has also scrimmaged against public high schools such as Goodrich and Capac.
"We have some great athletes with a lot of character," he says. "When people see us play they tend to be surprised. As a coach, I've had five boys go on to play in college. That wouldn't have been possible had they not had the chance to play at the high school level."
Kauzlarich believes his current team has a good chance of winning the the 2007 NCHAA national championship, to take place in St. Louis, Missouri early next month.
As a warmup to the Nationals, Summit's soccer team will compete along with 20 other top homeschool teams in the Midwest Regional Tournament in Fort Wayne, Indiana this weekend, Oct. 26-27. To prepare for the upcoming competitions, Kauzlarich's team is working on increasing game speed through some tried-and-true practice methods.
"We increase our speed by playing more small-side restricted games," he says. "We work to peak at this time of the year. That has been the key to our success in recent years."
Kauzlarich says his team has high hopes of winning the NCHAA national championship, after a disappointing defeat in last year's final game.
"We lost to Oklahoma last year 1-0, even though we dominated most of the game," he recalls. "We'll be ready."
Regardless of the outcome, Kauzlarich is convinced that he and the other coaches at Summit Sports Academy are on the right track in providing opportunities for homeschooled youths.
"There really is a need," he says. "These kids ideally would love to play for their local schools. Hopefully, the MHSAA will consider changing its rules. These kids deserve to have an athletic experience as homeschooled students."
If and when that might happen is pure speculation, and until then Kauzlarich and his fellow coaches remain committed to the programs offered at Summit.
"I find great satisfaction in doing this, because the students become like my own sons and daughters," he says. "It's a lot of responsibility because we're helping to shape young people's lives. If feels good to make a difference."
Kauzlarich says Summit Sports Academy is always in need of donations in support of its programs.
For information or to make a donation, contact Kauzlarich at 586-201-2555 or Paul Rossi, founder of Summit Sports Academy at 586-212-1835. Or go to the Web site at:
Editor's note: Keith Kauzlarich resides in Almont Township with his wife, Carol, and their five children.