Back when he was a student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, Lawrence resident Ric Mitchell was feeling a little cooped up by his job.
“I worked at the BYU poultry lab, cleaning chicken coops and picking up eggs,” Mitchell remembered. “I told myself I needed to find something better, something I wanted to do.”
He wanted to coach basketball, so when he heard about a brand-new school in Provo with a nice gymnasium and no plans to play varsity basketball for the first five years, he approached the principal.
“I told him: ‘You don’t have a team, and I don’t have a team, so why don’t we make it work? I’ll coach for the first year for free, and if you don’t like me, I’ll just walk away, no hassles.’ I thought he’d send me on my way,” Mitchell said.
Instead, the principal eventually relented, and within five years, Mitchell said, the school had won two small-schools state championships.
“To coach the way I want to coach takes too much time, so I got out of it for family reasons,” Mitchell said. “Now I’m getting back into it for family reasons.”
Ric and Christy Mitchell home-school their seven children.
“We don’t believe in isolating our children, but we do believe in insulating them,” Mitchell said. “Nothing against public schools, it’s just that some of our children’s educational needs can’t be met in public schools.”
Their athletic needs — and the social benefits that accompany sports — couldn’t be met without a high school affiliation. Christy suggested Ric could start an athletic program for high school home-schoolers.
The Independence Home School Lions, an approved school by the Kansas State High School Activities Association, played their first eight-man football game Friday and defeated the Olathe School for the Deaf, 36-34, in overtime, in what Mitchell called, “the most exciting game I’ve ever seen.”
His son, freshman Juan Mitchell, ran for the winning touchdown and two-point conversion, aided by a punishing block from junior Marshall Bennett. Ric Mitchell said one 55-second stretch included five changes in possession, two fumbles, two interceptions and a blocked punt crammed into the minute.
The team, coached by volunteer Reggie Leuthen and four assistants, practices at the 20-acre home of the Mitchells, a Lawrence address that borders Tonganoxie. A practice field was born when a bulldozer moved dirt. A game field on their property is in the works. All the games, including tonight’s at St. Mary’s, are on the road.
Nine of the 12 players are from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but Mitchell, an educator for the church, said, “Religion is not a factor. We’re open to anybody.”
Home-school boys looking for a football or basketball team can contact Mitchell, the basketball coach, at 760-3700 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Girls sports are a year away, he said.