Story is property of the Weatherford Democrat
Local Homeschool Team Experiences Success
By KYLE BORNE
Jan 21, 2017
The Weatherford Express homeschool basketball organization is offering homeschool students a tremendous opportunity, the opportunity to be part of a team and compete at the highest level.
The Weatherford Express boys basketball team is 21-5 this season and competing at a high level.
Coaching the Express is Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor member Robert Hale.
“It’s been a rewarding situation for me,” Hale said. “This is my first year to coach these kids. I’m a retired public school coach. I have been retired for six years now. I did a little bit of coaching at Azle Christian, three years there. I didn’t coach last year. I did put on some clinics for these kids and they ended up wanting to hire me as their coach. I’m pleased to be doing it and honored to be doing it, really. It’s fun for me to be a part of this.”
Hale spent 40 years as a public school coach. For 36 years he was a head basketball coach.
Hale started at 2A Seymour then went to Dalhart (2A) and then became head coach at Lewisville (5A).
Hale spent some time at different metroplex schools, including Weatherford High School, but experienced his most success in Pampa.
“I ended up in Pampa out in the panhandle, a big 4A high school at the time, Hale said. “Some of those panhandle schools have kind of gone down in population. I went out there in 1987 and I was there 13 years. I was the head basketball coach and assistant athletic director for 13 years, and we just had the grandest of times. We won nine district titles in a row. Along the way we got to the regionals seven times, and we got to state three times. It was a great run for me.”
Hale’s experience has brought a new dynamic to the Weatherford Express and has helped shape the team.
“This year is my first season with the Weatherford Express and our kids have just responded beautifully and so have our parents and the people that are part of our organization,” Hale said. “It has just been a great thing to watch these guys learn the game and use the game, not only to compete and have fun and be part of Texas athletics, but also to make themselves better citizens and better young men. Just really, a better well-rounded existence.”
Coaching a homeschool program has been a different, but exciting experience for Hale.
There are some unique challenges that come with running a homeschool basketball program.
“One of the great challenges is that we don’t have a gym,” Hale said. “So, we have to procure a gym to play, to practice or to even meet. It’s a pretty tough deal. There are a lot of sports you can just meet and get on a field somewhere and practice and play, but basketball is not one of them. You’ve got to have a gym and they are hard to come by. I am spoiled... I have spent a lifetime in the game and I have always had keys to the gym. Trying to get in one has been a real challenge for me personally.”
The gym situation is an obstacle that can be overcame.
“I have learned a lot from the people in our organization,” Hale said. “I have also been able to use my instincts in trying to locate gyms and sometimes get them donated, so to speak. We have to rent them too. It takes all kinds to have a program to get kids playing.”
The Express is unique in the setup of the organization, as well as its goals.
“Our organization is a basketball organization,” Hale said. “It’s not a school organization. We have kids that are spread out everywhere. Pretty local, Weatherford, Aledo and Azle, but they are spread out educationally. Taking different classes at different college campuses, at different homes, and at different houses at different times. When you try to put it all together, and then bring those kids together to practice, it’s very rewarding and I’m extremely impressed with how our young men and athletes have responded to the challenge of trying to learn how to play the game correctly, and be competitive and still take care of all of their obligations at the same time.”
The Express play their home games at various locations.
Some games have been played at Aledo Christian School, Lakeside Baptist Church in Azle, and even once at Weatherford College.
The team had the experience of playing at Bridgeport High School after a scheduling conflict created an opening.
Against Bridgeport, the Express got to play in a packed gym against a school that won the 4A state championship in 2014-15.
The Express have found ways to get on the court and have had success.
“We have already logged 26 games in this short season,” Hale said. “We have played some schools that are a little bit out of our league, some TAPPS private schools, 5A schools. It’s good competition and as long as we can play with them it’s good for us.”
The Express don’t have a traditional district to play in, but play in a homeschool league with opportunities to get ranked.
The rankings come through record and strength of schedule and the Express have been ranked this season for the first time in a while, Hale said.
At the end of the season, the Express have the opportunity to compete at regional and state tournaments. In these tournaments the teams are ranked and then seeded in different divisions in the tournaments.
In March, the Express will have an opportunity to compete at the national tournament in Missouri.
This tournament isn’t so much an earned berth, but something that teams register for.
The teams that have a chance to compete for the national championship are the truly elite teams, Hale said.
The Express have beaten teams from Austin, Houston, Dallas and other places across the state.
They have played in four tournaments and been to three tournament finals.
In those finals, the Express won two of them.
For Hale, his goals each season as a coach remain the same regardless of the of level of talent that is on the roster.
“All of the teams I have ever coached I have a similar goal every year, and that is that our kids can have a great experience, but learn to how to compete on the floor so that they can compete in life,” he said.
There are about seven players that play on the Weatherford Express varsity team, but four seniors have had the biggest contribution to the team’s success.
Jeremiah Carlson is one of the team’s premier players and has helped carry the team.
Nathaniel Spurgeon was a key scorer on the Express, but recently went down with an ACL tear and is out for the rest of the season.
Seth McCarty is the squad’s main guard and has had the chore of handling the ball, and is a key scorer.
Daniel Paulukaitis is another key senior on the team.
Other contributing members of this year’s team includes Ashton Breeding, Jordan Tankersley, Djimy Brownlee and Jacob Escobedo.
Through the opportunities with the Weatherford Express, home school students are getting the chance to experience all that basketball, and sports in general have to offer.
“Sometimes people don’t understand the value of athletics, because they don’t always understand what it takes to build a real team,” Hale said. “A real team is not necessarily the one that you see with all of the banners on the walls and all of the championship monuments that are given to them. A real team is kids who learn how to get along, they learn how to work together and they learn lessons of life as they’re growing up, and that way they pass it on. Those younger kids that are learning how to play see those older kids doing good things, acting right, playing fair, but playing tough and it just lends to our society and makes better people out of us.”
The Weatherford Express have a handful of games left in the regular season.
The Express can be followed on social media and at www.weatherfordexpress.com