JCSA Lions

The Johnson County Sports Association is in its 10th year of providing an opportunity for local home-school students to compete in organized athletics. Pictured is the JCSA varsity football team for 2019. Front row, from left, are Josh Calaway, Grayson Stanton, Ryan Hamer, Elijah Poyer, JCSA football commissioner and coach Jason Knight, Weldon Wallace, William Wallace, Caleb Watson and Peyton Davis; standing, from left, are coach Eric Mason, coach Paul Calaway, coach Daniel Wilson, Asher Wilson, Arron Russell, Garrett Mason, Elliott Brown, Trent Dunckel, Jonathon Gideon, Gabe Calverley, Izzy Calverley, Cole Arseneua and coach Jeff Davis.

The Johnson County Sports Association recently kicked off another year of providing an avenue for home-school students to participate in organized athletics.

The JCSA is in its 10th year overall and sixth year as an independent organization since separating from the Cleburne Christian Academy in December of 2012.

The JCSA Lions, who compete in 6-man football, kicked off their 2019 football season last week with a 60-26 loss to Plano CHANT, although the final score wasn’t indicative of how competitive the game was, while JCSA’s junior high team lost to Plano CHANT, 31-18.

In addition to football, the JCSA also currently offers volleyball, baseball and track for home-school and private school students who don’t have the option to compete in organized sports.

According to the JCSA’s website, the organization “was formed to provide home-school students with the blessings that come from being involved in team sports. We serve both junior high- and high school-age young people by providing them the opportunity to build friendships, confidence, and leadership skills.

“Our organization is Christian-based. We believe in conducting ourselves in a way that honors the Lord. We believe that sports provide a wonderful avenue for mentoring and teaching young people the values that they will need to be successful in life. ... We are blessed with enthusiastic Christian coaches who care deeply about our athletes and willingness to share their knowledge of the game.”

And it’s those types of principles that makes the JCSA a wonderful family-like atmosphere to be a part of, JCSA football commissioner Jason Knight said.

“When we decided to home-school, my son was a seventh grader and said he wanted to play football,” Knight said. “So my wife found [the JCSA] online and we fell in love with the organization right away. We’re like a family. It really is. It’s like all the kids are our own kids. You come up to a function and you don’t see a stranger; you see part of your family there. It’s just great.”

Knight said joining the JCSA has been a huge blessing for his family and kids, where they haven’t had any problems making numerous new friends.

“We’ve made more friends in the JCSA organization than my children made going to a public school,” Knight said. “My oldest son has tripled his friends and my daughter has, too. My daughter was getting bullied at a public school, and we don’t have to worry about that now.”

Knight not only serves as the football commissioner, but he’s also the defensive coordinator for the varsity Lions and the junior high Lions’ head coach. Knight wears many hats, as do many parents in the JCSA, which is a volunteer-based organization.

“We are a parent volunteer-driven organization,” said Margie Dunckel, JCSA’s director of special events. “So parents are told up front, we all have to pull together. Our board is not paid, our coaches are not paid. We try to keep our fees as low as we can. When you’re talking about organized sports, there’s things that have to be paid but there’s things that can be volunteered. So we try to make sure the parents know right up front you’re expected to fill in somewhere in some capacity. 

“So not only do we have parents who coach and serve on the board, but they also do concession stands or do the books or work the scoreboard, and all the things that go with organized sports.”

Dunckel has been involved with the JCSA since year 2 of the organization, and she said the JCSA provides tremendous opportunities for home-school students.

“My middle son was very into athletics and he was in pee wee football, but when he aged out of that he didn’t have anywhere to go as a home-schooled student,” Dunckel said. “Then we found out about this organization and we became involved with it. Without that, my kids would not have had that opportunity. Now my youngest is a freshman and he’s getting to play varsity football and baseball. They’re getting opportunities that they wouldn’t have without this organization.”

Dunckel said the perception that home-school children are secluded from society is a false narrative to begin with, but being involved in a program like JCSA is a huge benefit.

“You always hear home-school kids don’t get socialization,” she said. “Well, home-school is an oxymoron for home-schoolers. You’re rarely at home. You always have your books and a lot of times you’re doing school work in transit. The JCSA is an amazing opportunity that’s there now.”

Dunckel added that the JCSA was born out of a need, and everyone involved in the organization has stepped up to the plate to fill that need.

“Home-school opportunities are born from parents that see a need that’s not being met,” she said. “That’s what happens with most home-schoolers, we see a need and we fill it. And that’s what happened with JCSA. And we pay it forward for the next generation. I’ve got four more years with my child, and then it won’t be needed anymore for me and my family, but the next generation is still there so we keep it going.”

Knight said the benefits of the JCSA for home-school students are endless.

“Sports are great for leadership and for team building,” Knight said. “It’s good for the kids to be around sports. It gets them in shape. There’s just a bunch of reasons why it’s good to have an organization like this for home-school students. It’s also Christian-based so they’re also getting faith-based mentorship. We just fell in love with it.”

This season, the JCSA has 29 students participating in the football program — 17 on varsity and 12 on junior high. And the Lions’ volleyball team has around 15 players.

The JCSA football team practices at Hulen Park and plays its home games at the Cleburne Sports Complex, while the volleyball team practices and plays its home games at the East Henderson Street Baptist Church gymnasium.

The JCSA competes in the Texas Association of Independent Athletic Organizations, and the Lions will play teams such as Stephenville Faith, Tyler Willowbend, and Azle Christian, among other similar clubs.

Knight said if there’s any home-schoolers out there who want to participate in extra-curricular activities, the JCSA would welcome anyone with open arms.

“We truly are a family,” Knight said. “We try to do the right thing even when no one’s looking. And that’s what we teach. All they have to do is contact one of us directly and we’ll set everything up and get involved right away.”

This week, the JCSA Lions varsity football team plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Trinidad Trojans. JCSA’s next home game is scheduled for Sept. 20 against Saint Jo.

For more information, visit johnsoncountysportsassociation.org/index.html or call Dunckel at 817-845-8141.

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