The North Metro Blazers began playing basketball in 2001, and over the next two years Keith Winstead, the Blazers’ coach and founder, having three homeschooled sons himself, solidified the Blazers as a home school based basketball team, and continued to develop players and skills.
By the 2004-2005 season, the Blazers were, though underdogs, strong competition within the Christian Athletic League, and fought their way into the championship game against the very athletic Grace Bulldogs and won the CAL Championship for the first time.
After the ’04-’05 season Coach Winstead was led to relocate his family, and believing they had an organization that could continue to impact the lives of young men, the Blazers asked former Assistant Coach Larry Jeddoloh to take over. The Blazers were CAL Champions again in both 2005-2006 and 2006-2007.
The program continued to expand. A boys JV program was added and in the 2007-2008 season the Blazers added a varsity girls team coached by Bruce Whitney to provide an opportunity for homeschool girls to play as well. The Blazers eventually left the CAL league and played an independent schedule against various charter, public, private, and homeschool teams. They also began participating the National Christian Homeschool Championships with all the Blazer teams playing in Midwest regional tournaments and the boys Varsity program also competing at the national level at a tournament held in Springfield MO, every March.
In the 2013-14 season the Blazer program again grew with the addition of a Girls JV program which provided new challenges of finding enough gym space and practice times, as well as scheduling games for all 4 of the Blazer teams. During the 2014-15 season the Girls Varsity program attended, for the first time, the National tournament along the Boys Varsity program.
The challenges of finding games became more difficult in the 2016-17 season. Many of our usual, local opponents were members of the Minnesota State High school League, and when the MSHSL stiffened restrictions on who they were allowed to play, most of them could no longer face us in games. This forced the Blazer program to begin to travel more extensively to find competitive play, but has also provided us the opportunity to meet more homeschool teams, families, and players throughout the upper Midwest.
Most recently, the Blazers program has grown to include a boys Jr. High team during the 2017-18 season. Blazer skills and friendships are able to begin developing as early as 6th grade! Since Jr. High teams are not registered with the MSHSL, the boys are able to play local metro teams. The Blazer program is thrilled to be blessed with the mission of providing Homeschool student athletes with the opportunity to use and improve their athletic abilities while participating in the basketball program.
The Blazer program is a 501c3 non-profit volunteer organization whose goal is to provide an opportunity for homeschooled student athletes to use their athletic abilities in Middle School, Junior Varsity and Varsity basketball competition. It is essentially a home school basketball co-op that has the following leadership structure:
We play about 25-30 games at the Varsity level each year (including end of year tournaments), and somewhat fewer games at the Middle School and Junior Varsity levels.
We are limited by gym space and finances, among other things, to involving about 40-45 kids total in the combined programs. We have never held tryouts, and have never involved or excluded players due to ability or experience. We have more recently had to turn away players who sought to join the Blazers after both Varsity and Junior Varsity rosters have been filled. It is our policy to give preference to returning players, regardless of ability, and the siblings of former players. With deference to the players who have worked within the program, our policy is to not accept first time players to join their senior year.
Players and parents should be aware that the Blazer program involves a large commitment, as we practice two hours per day, three days a week, from November to early March, except on game days. The players should be prepared to work hard, build one another up, and condition themselves to play at a very high level. We are not to be mistaken for a recreation league team or a church league team, and openly acknowledge that playing time is not going to be equal for all players.
At the Middle School and Junior Varsity, our basketball specific priorities are:
And at the Varsity level, as our players are more experienced, our basketball specific priorities are:
Finally, we expect everyone connected with the Blazers – players, coaches, parents and fans – to conduct themselves honorably and respectfully all times. We are a guests in all the facilities where we play and as a program we are to hold ourselves and each other a high standard with the goal to leave those places better than when we arrived. Players, parents and coaches will be required to abide by a code of conduct.