While state high school tournament is leaving Springfield, national homeschool tourney plans to stay

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 6:39 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - This weekend (March 18) marks the end of the Missouri State High School Basketball Championships five-year run in Springfield as the Show-Me Showdown returns to Columbia next year where it’s been for most of its existence since 1933.

But another big hoops event that’s been in Springfield for the past 13 years has no plans to leave.

It’s the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championships that actually surpasses the Missouri State High School Activities Association event in every economic impact category except attendance.

According to figures from the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, the state high school basketball championships bring in about 40,000 people with up to 6,000 room nights generated and spending of about $2.5 million.

The national homeschool event brings in an estimated 10,000 visitors with up to 8,000 room nights and spending of about $4.8 million.

Part of the reason for that difference is the MSHSAA tournament features just the final four teams in six classifications for a total of 24 teams and their followers.

The national homeschool event has a number of divisions and age-groups and has grown from 100 teams at the turn of the century to 368 teams this year. Add in their parents and fans and you understand the discrepancy.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Claire Anderson after she and her 14-and-under team from Houston, Texas won its second national championship in three years on Friday.

The team’s other title came in the 12-and-under division two years ago and the team finished as national runner-up as 13 year-olds.

And besides the fond on-the-court memories they’ve had in Springfield, they’ve also enjoyed their time away from the gym.

“We’ve seen a lot of Bass Pro,” said Claire’s teammate Annebelle Redmon. “We’ve run around a lot there.”

“Springfield is a great host for the tournament,” said C.J. Pomeroy, who does livestream broadcasts of the games.

Pomeroy is a former homeschool player himself and now has two daughters who’ve been a part of the national tournament in Springfield. Pomeroy said his favorite economic contribution to the area has been trips to Lambert’s where the restaurant’s famous throwed-rolls also provide the players with a little practice time.

“You know you really have to focus on catching the roll,” he joked. “You’ve got to have your eyes up and your hands ready. So it’s really great preparation for the tournament.”

And while the state high school basketball tournament is leaving after this year, officials with the National Christian Homeschool Championships say they’d like to stay in Springfield as long as the city will have them.

“We use about 13 different facilities here with about 26 courts,” said Jeremy Caldwell, Pomeroy’s broadcasting partner and former homeschool coach. “It’s really a great atmosphere. We appreciate Springfield allowing us to host it here and for the help we get from the community and businesses who help sponsor the tournament.”

One main reason for having this national event with teams from as far away as California is that it’s sometimes hard to find quality opposition in their own state.

“One of the problems homeschool teams have in most of their states is that they’re not allowed to play public schools due to state rules,” Caldwell pointed out. “When a lot of people think homeschool basketball they assume it’s a bunch of kids who stay home all day and do school work that don’t know much about basketball. But many of these teams who do well here could go back home and compete with the high-level public schools back in their home state and probably win a couple of state championships.”

Another benefit of the national tournament is social interaction as many students who are home schooled don’t get to interact very often with their peers or participate in activities associated with public schools.

“Being on this team and having relationships with all the girls is really nice,” Anderson said. “We’ve grown really close in the past few years.”

“It is tough for homeschool kids to have extracurricular activities especially if they live in rural areas,” Pomeroy added. “But this tournament gives all of us the chance to be part of something really special.”

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