High Schools Seek Homeless Athletes to Get Around Recruiting Rules

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Matt Slocum/The Associated Press

In order to beef up their varsity rosters, some coaches seek out talented homeless high school athletes. By the nature of being homeless, the teenagers are allowed to matriculate at schools anywhere in the country.

The school’s efforts often result in championship seasons, but often leave the athletes with very little. Moreover, they frequently are shipped back to the towns they came from after their high school playing days are over.

TheBigLead reports that in Seattle the amount of high school basketball and football players registered as homeless jumped from 49 to 129 over the last three years.

“For these ballplayers, homeless-student status allows them to move from school to school, following celebrity coaches and dreams of sports stardom while excused from rules that bind other athletes—such as maintaining a solid grade-point average.

“Framed as an important opportunity for kids in need, the law also has been used to exploit their hopes. Because when sports end, many of these students find themselves adrift,” Claudia Rowe writes at the Seattle Times.

A student family advocate, Marcus Harden, at Seattle’s alternative Interagency Academy, who has made his home available for homeless teens, is appalled by this practice because that the athlete’s educational backgrounds are often overlooked and they are abandoned in the end.

“Do I believe people have good intentions when they start out with this stuff? Yes, probably,” Harden explained to the Times. “I don’t think anyone’s planning for kids to end up homeless. But these kids needed guidance more than they needed football.

“What sickens me is the adults playing the victim, saying they just did it to give these kids an opportunity. No, they gave themselves an opportunity.”

Harden cites one Texas teen recruited by a Seattle school as a homeless transfer, compiled 574 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns over a span of ten games. When the season was over he was flown back to Texas for Thanksgiving and then dropped from the high school’s enrollment list.

The Seattle Times tells the story of DeeShawn Tucker, a basketball star in Seattle:

Three years ago, [DeeShawn] received the [homeless] designation after his father, with whom he’d lived in Federal Way, was murdered outside a motel.

Tucker’s mother lived in Seattle, but the two did not get along. So, Tucker said, he moved into another home near Garfield High and spent his senior year playing alongside four other starters — also listed as homeless — all of whom had transferred onto the team. They went on to win a state championship.

Now 21, Tucker recounted this history from the King County Jail, where he is awaiting trial on two felony burglary charges, and still envisions a professional sports career.

The Seattle Times concludes that exploitative homeless recruiting is against the rules, but what is worse it is “unfair” to a homeless teenager.  At a  bare minimum, they suggest that if a teenager is offered an athletic opportunity there should be a “guarantee of stability” and an interest in their ability to succeed in high school on other levels than sports.

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