By Kelly Wise Legg

The F.I.S.H. HAWK football team in Brandon is just a little bit different than your average high school football team. What sets this team apart is that it consists of high school players that are all homeschooled by their parents. F.I.S.H. stands for Families Instructing Students at Home.

The team was originally formed in 2009. “We started with no budget; most importantly a lot of prayer,” said current Head Coach, Darren Doud. “This program would not exist without the vision on Kevin Gokeman and John Catlin, the founders and original coaches of our football program.”

The F.I.S.H. Hawks are part of the Florida Christian Association of Private and Parochial Schools Conference (FCAPPS) ( Through this association, these teams play other private and Christian schools throughout the state as far as Jacksonville to Miami. Currently, there are about 30 schools in the conference.

The players on the team are range from 9-12th grade. There are also several players on the developmental team, which consists of 7th and 8th graders. Since its origins, the team has averaged between 18-21 players on the active roster. Successfully, they have made the playoffs the past four years and made it as far as the State semi-playoffs.

The season begins in April with conditioning, with the Spring season lasting through May. Further conditioning takes place in June and July. The Fall season starts in August where they play a 10-game schedule, excluding the playoffs.

“We are always looking for businesses to partner with us to help support our program,” said Doud. “In fact, we are currently trying to raise the funds to purchase new helmets. We need to raise just under $5,000 and need to have them purchased by mid-March.”

If interested in becoming a sponsor for the F.I.S.H. Hawk Football program, contact Doud at fishhawkss or 494-3033. All home games are played at the Otis Andrew Sports Complex in Plant City. If you’re interested in the F.I.S.H. homeschooling program, visit https://www.homeschool-


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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.