Homeschooled ballers keep winning despite adversity

Published 12:48 pm Friday, February 21, 2014




The girls of the TEACH basketball team are undersized, underfunded and, as many high school teams have come to find out, underestimated.

On the surface, TEACH is like any other high school. There are boys and girls varsity and junior varsity basketball teams. There is a drama club, a math club, a Valentine’s Day dance and, of course, a senior prom.

But without a conference, a home court, or the financial support of a large school district, the athletes are forced to do more than just play basketball.

“Because it’s homeschool families, there’s no pot of money that pays for everything,” said Greg Rowe, athletic director of The Easter Association of Christian Homeschools, better known as TEACH. “We pay for everything we do by fundraisers, donations and by parents paying out of pocket. Everything that we do is the kids work. They do a lot of fundraisers. They go out and ask for donations. They really work to support the program.”

Money isn’t the only thing these students have earned. Over the last few seasons, this collection of hardworking, dedicated boys and girls have matured from individual homeschooled children to a solitary unit, earning respect from established high school programs throughout the country.

“Our homeschool group isn’t very big, so we have a fairly limited source of income,” Rowe said. “Basically, every kid who plays volleyball plays basketball and every kid who plays basketball plays softball. There aren’t a million families in the homeschool group, so we have a limited number of students. We’re a lot smaller than the smallest 1A school.”

Through the years, this team has been discredited, possibly due to the size of the student body, the “homeschool” label, or even the crudely undersized roster, but the truth is, this team has proved they can play with the best.

In 2013, the TEACH girls basketball team decisively won the North Carolina Christian Conference and conference tournament, matched up against high schools like Bethel Assembly Christian Academy, Victory Christian Academy and Ahoskie Christian Academy.

“They didn’t like the idea of a homeschool team being in the conference,” Rowe said. “To be honest with you, we had a really good girls team last year, and we dominated the conference. I know a lot of people don’t understand homeschooling, but if you were to see our kids get off the bus, you wouldn’t think we recruited a team.”

The team’s success didn’t end after the conference tournament. With the tallest player measuring in at just 5-foot-8, TEACH went on to win the North Carolina Christian Athletic Association State Tournament, and finished fourth overall in the National Association of Christian Athletes National Tournament last season. Guard Whitney Rowe even received NACA All-American honors.

For reasons unknown, TEACH was removed from the North Carolina Christian Conference this year. With no other option, Rowe’s team was forced to schedule 19 exhibition games against local Christian high schools like Northeast Academy, Garnett Christian Academy and Hobgood Academy.

“They have a lot more of a talent pool to draw from,” Rowe said. “We make up for that by working relentlessly on conditioning. Then we play a full court press the whole game, and the girls give all that they got every game.”

The result? The girls have improved upon their 2013 campaign with an unprecedented 15-2 record with two games remaining on their schedule. Whitney Rowe, now a senior, is averaging close to 20 points a game. The starting five, consisting up of Rowe, senior forward Olivia Maxey, junior guard Samantha Evans, sophomore center Haley Hodges and freshman forward Meredith Woolard, has shutout the criticism, focusing solely on fundraising to keep their program afloat and winning basketball games.

Playing most of its home games at either Chocowinity Middle School or the Bobby Andrews Center, TEACH’s success has amassed crowds by the hundreds.

“It’s no different than it would be with Northside vs. Southside. It’s a great atmosphere for a game, Rowe said. “We have some really good fans, and they travel. A lot of the games that we travel to, we’ll have more fans there than the other team does. There’s a lot of support.”

The TEACH Trailblazers will close out their season on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at Chocowinity Middle School against Bethel Christian Academy, who is 20-9 overall and 8-0 in the NCCSA AA District 4 Standings.

Because of last season’s state championship run, the NACA has once again extended TEACH an invitation to play in the national tournament from March 4-8, which will feature Christian teams from all over the country. The Trailblazers have happily accepted the challenge.