The Morris County Home School Basketball program began in 2005. It was the vision of a Chester home schooled boy, Chris Johnson, who wanted to play on a “real” basketball team. He gathered some of his home schooled friends and persuaded a local youth pastor, Joe Schneider, of Grace Chapel, in Chester, to serve as the team’s coach. Practices were held in the landmark gym know as the “barn” (a narrow 2 floor court in--you guessed it–an old barn) on the campus of Grace Chapel. Games were hard to schedule. The local public and private schools were not interested in scheduling against a “home school team”–whatever that was! The team of eight boys played against church youth groups and the limited number of other “home school teams” within a “reasonable” geographic area (often traveling 2-3 hours to play a game). Fortunately, the team had some basketball talent and was competitive on the court.
The following year Coach Joe was forced to step aside due to his other commitments. Lou Piserchia of Hackettstown and Jim Mescall of Mendham, whose sons were now playing, stepped into the breach to coach the boys. Participation increased to approximately fifteen boys, ages 12 to 18 years. The team remained competitive playing a limited schedule.
In 2008 the boys team began participating in the East Coast Home School Championships at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. This end of the season tournament allowed the boys to experience a high level of competition which was not open to them, at the time, in New Jersey. Winning a game or two over the course of the tournament was a significant accomplishment given the disparity in resources available to the boys when compared to those of the other home schooled teams, primarily located in the South, which participate in this annual tournament.
In the past nine years the program has continued to grow. A boys JV team has been added. In 2009, Brittany Swartz, now a local basketball official, began a girls team. When Brittany’s commitments required her to step aside, Lou Piserchia took over as the girl’s coach. This allowed him to coach his daughter, Michaela, who became one of the more accomplished players in the history of the program.
In 2010, the boys team was admitted as a member of the North Jersey Disabled Students League, an association of schools working with young men and women who typically are addressing a special educational need. Our boys quickly learned that athletic ability was not usually the “special need” for which their new competitors required a little “extra help”. The increased level of competition, with the additional games, was an important step forward for the program. In three of the past four seasons, the varsity boys have won their four team play-off, thereby winning a league championship. Our boys remain the only “non-school” team admitted to the league.
During the 2015-16 season over approximately thirty-five children participated in the program. Valley View Chapel in Long Valley, Bethlehem Church in Randolph and The First Congregational Church in Chester all volunteered gym time for the teams to hold practices. Their generosity has been invaluable. The teams usually practice twice a week. The program continues to seek a “home court” to host games. From the inception to the present, our teams have only played “away” games. All of the coaches and administrators have served without any compensation. Funds are raised to cover the costs of uniforms, insurance and referees. An annual participation fee is requested but no player is ever turned away due to finances.
Over the years the scheduling difficulties have improved if not abated. Many of the local Christian schools, including Veritas Christian Academy and Trinity Christian School, have scheduled with our home school teams. Private schools, particularly charter schools, in the area have proven more welcoming over time. The boys varsity team played a twenty-five game schedule in the 2014-15 season. The varsity girls team has also steadily increased the number of games which it plays. The younger players in the program will also benefit from an increase in the number of JV games for the coming year.
Lou Piserchia stepped down from his position as the varsity girls coach following the 2013-14 season. Jon Svendsen, a graduate of the program, stepped up serving as the varsity girls coach for the 2014-2015 season. Simon Lee began with the program as the assistant boys varsity coach in 2014, when his son, Steven, joined the team. He became the boys varsity coach in 2015 allowing Jim Mescall to begin coaching the girls varsity in 2015, after ten years of coaching the boys varsity team. Jim is ably assisted by Pastor Donn Heinrich and Steve Debeus, who both began coaching the girls in 2015. Caleb Lopez, another graduate of the program, assumed the reins of the boys JV team in 2015. He continues coaching the JV boys as he pursues his degree at Montclair State University. Marietta Muchmore continues her fine work as the principal administrator for the organization. For the 2016 season she will be transferring many of the website and other online related responsibilities to the Normands, whose two children are active in the program.
There have been several notable achievements by the young men and women who have participated in the program. A few of them:
Jon Svendsen: scored over 1,000 points. This 2014 graduate has continued his basketball career at Morris County Community College;
Michaela Piserchia: scored over 1,000 points. This 2014 graduate also continued her basketball career at Morris County Community College where she was both the leading scorer and rebounder during the 2015-2016 season;
Nathan Piserchia: this 2012 graduate has continued his basketball career at Sussex Community College serving as team captain;
The Amazing Daudelin Family: David, Jon, Isaac, Timothy, Daniel and John all graduated and went on to receive full academic scholarships at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where they have distinguished themselves as track athletes.
Oh, and that Johnson kid, he graduated from West Point with honors. He is presently serving our country as a United States Army Ranger.
The goal has never been to just win basketball games. Developing Christian character through athletic competition is what we strive to accomplish. This “real team” provides this opportunity, which might not otherwise be available, to home schooled children.
I Corinthians 9:24-27