Home-school teams usually are started by a dad who wants his kids to play organized sports. Passarelli’s daughter, Kimberly, one of 10 children, played recreation league basketball through the seventh grade. Then Passarelli started the Warriors, who will travel as far as Carlisle, Pa., and Front Royal to play.
With six seniors last season, including Kimberly Passarelli (who led all Frederick County girls in scoring and assists and earned a scholarship to Frederick Community College), the Warriors went 25-6. This year is a rebuilding year, but they still have won more than they’ve lost.
However, Passarelli said the program’s best moment came two years ago after a tournament loss to a strong private school team.
“With two minutes left, the referee came up to me and said, ‘Coach, I just want to tell you I’ve been refereeing games for 25 years, and I’ve never seen a team with this kind of character,’” he said. “That was better than any trophy I could have gotten.”
Passarelli this season turned over varsity head coaching duties to Blickenstaff, who coached the Middletown (Md.) boys team for seven years. He isn’t the only home-school coach with outside experience. Dan Frost of the Fairfax Kings boys team played at the University of Iowa under Lute Olson and was voted the team’s most valuable player in 1975. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and played for Athletes in Action.
This is a different deal altogether.
“It’s hard,” Blickenstaff said. “We want to be competitive, and we’ve been very successful so far. We practice once a week, and we’ve got to take advantage of the time we get. We give out a playbook and do what we can, but we are definitely at a disadvantage every night out.”
At least the Warriors have a full schedule. And because Passarelli can get the time through Frederick Parks and Recreation, they practice in a modern, regulation gym (albeit just once a week). But scheduling problems reduced Frost’s Kings to fewer than half the usual number of games. Some teams use facilities like Hoop Magic in Chantilly, Va., that require a hefty rental fee. Officials also have to be paid. The Warriors rely exclusively on donations, but for other teams, families sometimes pony up hundreds of dollars.
“If you hear frustration in my voice, it’s because I am frustrated,” said Frost, whose son, Jason, was home-schooled and is currently redshirting on a junior college team in California. “I’ve always tried to operate this like a regular school [team], to give the kids the same experience.”
Frost’s general coaching philosophy is to “break through what I call the home-school mentality, that this is going to be like a PE class,” he said. “I tell them right off the bat, ‘This is varsity basketball, and you’re going to practice and play at that level.’”
Still, the Kings have hopscotched to three different practice gyms. The good news is they finally settled on one and get to practice three times a week. The bad news is that it’s much shorter and narrower than a full-sized court, and the scant distance between the wall and out-of-bounds poses an injury risk. “It’s very, very small,” Frost said.
This is not uncommon. “The biggest obstacle, by far, is finding facilities,” said Davis, whose team was bumped from its middle-school gymnasium in December and wound up in an undersized church gym. “We balance between practice time and games, and decided to cut back on games.”
As for the gym, “The dimensions are not even close,” he said.
One of the Loudoun County Patriots’ practice sites is a tiny, middle school auxiliary gym. “I can’t shoot a 3-point shot because the roof is so low,” said senior guard Jordan Yost, whose father, Kelly, coaches the team. “We can’t run our plays because the facility isn’t built for high school basketball.”
“We can’t practice our offense our defense because we don’t have the spacing,” Kelly Yost said. We don´t have the markings.”