Two home schooling fathers, Todd Fulk and Tony Kiker, created the Cabarrus-Rowan Stallions in 2002 to give their sons a chance to play high school sports. Their first year they only fielded a baseball team, filling out the roster with public school players who got cut from their school teams.
Now the organization, under the leadership of the Greater Cabarrus Athletic Association, has expanded to six sports (boys' and girls' basketball, girls' volleyball, cheerleading, boys' and girls' soccer and softball in addition to baseball) for home-schooled students .
"Getting an opportunity to play sports was great," said Kyle Kiker, Tony's son, who played baseball and basketball for the Stallions and is now a student at Methodist College. "Not just play, but play competitively."
Competitiveness is the key to the Stallions program. The coaches want players to play competitive sports on a high school level, something they can't get from playing in a recreation league.
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"It's great having a competitive league," said Hannah Holm, a senior on the girls' varsity basketball team. She scored a team high 19 points in the Stallions loss to Surry Thursday. "It's completely different from a rec team. There's a bond there."
Holm also said there are better rivalries. The Surry Running Patriots are the Stallions' biggest rival. The gym at Truth Temple in Kannapolis, where the Stallions play home games, was standing room only, filled with parents and students.
Looking at overflowing bleachers, GCAA president and basketball chair Rosa Mitchke is reminded of the GCAA's biggest need: their own facilities. The Christian-based organization uses three different area churches for practice.
Mitchke said that the GCAA is applying for nonprofit status, so that they can raise money to get facilities for their sports.
"Facilities and paid coaches," said Mitchke. "That's what we need."
The coaches are volunteers and many of them are parents of the players with basketball coaching experience.
The GCAA raises money through ticket sales at the door, concessions fundraisers and a registration fee that the athletes must pay to participate.
Even though they are called the Cabarrus-Rowan Stallions, the players are from all over the Charlotte area. Mitchke said that there is no geographic restrictions for the team. An athlete only has to be in a home school registered with North Carolinians for Home Education.
Mitchke said that they have players from Mecklenburg, Iredell, Cabarrus, Rowan and even Stanly counties.
The teams play in the North Carolinians for Home Education Athletic (NCHEA) conference, made up of other home-schooled sports organizations around the state. The Stallions also play private and charter schools in the area.
"We'll play anyone," said athletic director and middle school boys' basketball coach Jerry Riley. "But the conference is all home school."
The teams in the NCHEA play a preseason tournament then a postseason tournament to decide the home school state champion. The Stallions JV girls (2005), middle school girls (2005), middle school boys (2007) and varsity girls (2008) have all won state championships.
Mitchke said that what she likes about the teams are that parents can continue to home school their children while giving them an opportunity to play high school sports. At first many players left home schooling to play on a public school team.
"More and more now we keep them," said Mitchke. They're getting more exposure from colleges, even though parents have to do a lot of the work when it comes to recruiting interest. Mitchke said that two or three of the Stallions baseball players are playing in college, and Holm had offers from a couple of colleges, according to girls' basketball coach Mike Thomas.
Giving the athletes that opportunity is what the organization is all about said boys varsity coach Robert Brand. He played basketball at North Carolina Wesleyan College.
"It's great," he said. "I played college basketball, and I want to give them that same opportunity to have a true high school basketball experience."