football in Louisiana gets people fired up like almost nowhere else in the
country. Where else can a driver purchase a personalized vanity license plate
displaying one's high school loyalty? It's a short list.
story that's been flying under the radar is what's happening with home
schoolers at the high school level.
spring football camp is underway. The coaches are grinding. The players are
sweating and bonding. It's time for black and gold football in New Orleans. But
we're not talking Payton, Brees or Graham. These are the Home School Saints.
They work out and play at City Park - at least for their home games. It's a
bunch of kids whose parents have decided that home schooling was the best
option for them academically. However,
socially and athletically, there was a piece missing.
head coach John Burke decided the best thing to do for these kids, and his own
children, was to form a football team and to work on home school athletics.
years ago, there were some home school boys who wanted to keep on playing
football after their youth football days," Burke said.
to start the Saints came after Burke heard about similar programs in other
states. That knowledge, along with experience he gained rebuilding a youth
football program after Hurricane Katrina, helped the Home School Saints come to
had 18 kids that first year, Fred, and I can't say that there were many
victories because there weren't any victories," he said. "But we did get a
varsity football experience for our home school kids. And they came back in
droves. And it's been a program on the rise ever since."
program is a self-supporting group run by parents and volunteers. Parents are the assistant coaches, trainers,
transportation - the works.
a worthy commitment," one parent said. "We do have to get him back and forth
and everything else, but we've never experienced a program like this where it's
all centered around the athlete. Where a lot of high schools, you step into a
program, and in that program, you're just a number. That's not so here. And Coach
Burke has done a good job in not only teaching these kids athletics, but
teaching them to be solid young men."
players have varying skill sets. Some
are beginners, some more accomplished athletes, but all are welcome, and, all
are dedicated. One player broke his leg in practice, but still showed up to
support his team, even in cast and crutches .
and Thursday afternoons, promptly at 5 p.m., and Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. sharp,
practice begins, lasting for two hours. If you're early, you're on time. Self-discipline is one of the greatest lessons
comes from all over the area, even the
coach's wife who, in addition to "home school saint" john burke
junior, is home schooling three daughters.
schedule for the team is also gratifying. The homecoming game is Oct. 18 versus
Acadiana, followed by a game versus the Brother Martin ninth-graders. The title
game will be played in New Orleans.
of the biggest supporters in this city are other high school football coaches, because
for them, it's never been about money, it's never been about power, it's always
been about giving kids opportunities to play team sports," Burke said.
football is here. And in every game, they have the home team advantage.