You may have noticed the Cumberland Athletics Trailblazers being mentioned in print and online a few times in recent years, but how well do you know the organization?
Cumberland Homeschool Athletic Teams, or CHAT for short, is dedicated to providing homeschool students in and around our area with the opportunities they need to play, and excel at a high level, in sports such as volleyball, basketball, cross county and track & field.
The Trailblazer volleyball team’s 2019 season is currently in progress, and for anyone interested in checking them out in person, they are currently scheduled to appear in next week’s First Priority Classic at Whitley County High School (Fri and Sat, Oct. 4-5). As for the basketball teams, they held their initial preseason meeting earlier this week, and head coach Justin Hensley is excited about what this winter will bring.
“Our organization has really grown over the past five years,” Hensley explained. “Volleyball has always been strong for us, but recently we’ve seen a big increase with both parents and players in the understanding of the sport of basketball.”
This year will be a bit different for Trailblazer basketball for a couple of different reasons. For starters, the organization will be adding a girls varsity team for the first time ever. Hensley’s wife, Lisa, who was a basketball and volleyball standout in her home state of Tennessee, will be coaching.
In addition to the new girls team, Hensley said plans are also in place to have a 12U boys team, and a 12U girls team could be added as well, depending on interest.
The varsity Trailblazer boys will be taking the court again after finishing as state runner-up in their division inside the Kentucky Christian School Athletic Association last season. This season, the Blazers will be facing new competition as members of the Ohio River Homeschool Conference, or the ORHC.
“This new conference will provide us with a little more freedom for who we can play,” said Hensley. “It is aligned a little bit better for high school students.”
Hensley said that the set-up of his season will be similar to how it’s been in the past, but if Cumberland is lucky enough to make another deep run in the postseason they could find themselves facing regional competition in Nashville, and possibly national competition in Springfield, MO.
The Trailblazer boys will be led this year by senior small forward Ben Prewitt, who has played for Cumberland Athletics for the past five seasons. Supporting Prewitt will be a couple of junior players, and the rest of the roster will likely be filled out with younger players, including some eighth graders and freshmen.
Coach Hensley did note, however, that the actual makeup of this year’s team won’t be known for certain until the Trailblazers begin holding regular practice sessions leading up to the beginning of the new season. Conditioning is slated to start next week, on September 30, but any homeschool athletes interested in playing still have time to reach out to CHAT and begin the enrollment process.
As for who is eligible to become a Trailblazer, Hensley said, “Any homeschool kids would be encouraged to apply. If you’re not sure about whether you would qualify or not, you can go to www.chatky.org for more information, and to check the eligibility guidelines.”
Hensley mentioned that CHAT could also help homeschool students interested in golf and/or tennis to get sponsored as well. The organization currently serves a large area that includes Bell, Knox, Laurel, Jackson, Whitley, Pulaski and McCreary Counties in Kentucky, as well as a few counties in northern Tennessee. As long as an athlete can make regular trips to Corbin for practices and games, Cumberland can help them get in uniform on the court or in the field.
Getting back to basketball, Hensley said of his team’s move to a new conference in 2019, “This season will be challenging. We’re in a new league, and while we’ll be playing against some teams that we’ve seen before, we’ll also be playing against others that we haven’t. There are some bigger, more mature programs in this conference, plus it’s always rewarding getting to play against some of the KHSAA teams in our region.”
Picking up on that last point, thanks to the passage of House Bill 290 in 2018, homeschool teams like Cumberland Athletics are now able to compete more against teams belonging to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. For instance, this winter the Trailblazers are scheduled to appear in both the Berea and Buckhorn Christmas Classics, and they will also face opponents such as the Williamsburg Yellow Jackets, the Whitley County Colonels, the Lynn Camp Wildcats, the Perry County Central Commodores and the McCreary Central Raiders, among others.
In sum, Coach Hensley said that he is looking forward to seeing his team continue to grow in the sport of basketball as the 2019-2020 season progresses. To find out more, look the Blazers up online, either at the web address mentioned earlier in this report, or by searching for Cumberland Homeschool Athletic Association on Facebook.
Also, don’t forget to pick up the October 2, 2019 print edition of the News Journal to get more information on the upcoming Whitley County Lady Colonel First Priority Volleyball Classic, which will include the CHAT Trailblazers volleyball squad.