Springfield-area home school athletics program hopes to build sports complex in Rogersville

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) — Have you heard of the Lighthouse Christian Chargers?

You probably have if you follow high school football in the Ozarks, although the Chargers don’t have a brick and mortar school. The football team is made up of all home schoolers and has won five national home school championships since its inception in 2006, including one last year.

But as more parents across the country have chosen to take their children out of public or private schools and homeschool them, the local home school’s athletic participation has also grown.

From 23 players in soccer in 2006, Lighthouse Christian has now grown to around 600 athletes in seven sports.

And they are all without a permanent home.

All Charger teams lead a nomadic existence, with practices and games held where they can rent space.

“We’ve had two or three different sports this year where we didn’t know where we were going to train until literally a week before practice started,” said Brett Williams, Lighthouse Christian’s head football coach. “Also, with the outbreak of COVID, it has been difficult to find schools to rent facilities to us. Also, many of our home school families have many children. So mothers have to drive across town to these different practice sites to drop off their children. It creates a travel nightmare.”

But thanks to a lease with the Fellowship Bible Church just off Highway 60 in Rogersville at 205 Farm Road, Lighthouse Athletics hopes to raise funding for a sports complex on what is now the church’s Fellowship Farm sometime in the next decade.

A representation of the site and proposed complex includes an area for a new church and then a large car park with a football stadium to the east. It would also have a track.

“We have flag football, which we start with for 9-11 year olds, and then we have junior high, JV and varsity football,” Williams explained. “So we’re really excited to have a place for that, and we also have about 100 kids who are interested in athletics and cross country.”

Next to the stadium there will be an indoor facility for basketball and volleyball.

“The goal is to have four full-size volleyball and boys’ and girls’ basketball courts there,” Williams said. “There will also be a weight room, locker room and office area, plus we’re trying to build it in a way that we can rent it out to the general public for events.”

In addition to the indoor facility, there will be a soccer field and baseball fields.

“We start football in the fall,” Williams said. “And we have a full baseball program there with almost 100 kids. Home school athletics is bursting at the seams, and I don’t want to forget our cheerleading program. It will be a welcome situation to finally have a home.”

It is estimated that the soccer stadium alone would cost $4 million. The group hopes to break ground there next January. For now, however, the Football Chargers have a long way to go.

“We don’t have a home stadium, so we play a lot on the road,” Williams said. “We’re flying to Oklahoma. We’re going to Arkansas to play a team from Louisiana that met us halfway. We’re going to St. Louis to meet a team from Ohio. We will do whatever we have to do to give our young people opportunities. One of the reasons for wanting this facility is that we want our home school to have the same facilities and opportunities that children in public schools have. We have a lot of public school campuses here where the kids have great fields, weight rooms and facilities. And I think it opens up more possibilities when you have all the stuff on hand to get your players more college scholarships.

In terms of money, the Herschend family has already made a significant donation, and Lighthouse has started its own fundraising project with plenty of support.

“We already had an offer from someone to build the weight room for free,” Williams said with a smile.

However, he also noted that the sports complex is an ongoing project that would be built in phases with a timeframe based on fundraising and supply chain issues.

So why now?

“As home school sports are growing, I don’t know if we’ll be able to meet demand if we don’t take those steps now,” Williams replied.

Williams, insurance agent and Lighthouse Christian football coach, knows what it’s like to stay busy and take on challenges. The father of five played as an offensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs for two years before suffering a career-ending injury. Prior to that, he was an all-American lineman, playing in three national championship games for Florida State. He credits his trainer there, the legendary Bobby Bowden, with instilling his passion for working with young people.

“He was a strong Christian example,” Williams said. “And to this day, people’s lives are better because they played for him. I just want to be able to give some of that back and do something that will hopefully leave a legacy and impact here for a long time to come.”

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