SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Have you heard of the Lighthouse Christian Chargers?
If you follow high school football in the Ozarks you probably have even though the Chargers don’t have a brick-and-mortar school.
The football team has made up of all home school students and since its inception in 2006 has won five national home school championships including one this past year.
But as more and more parents all around the country have been deciding to remove their children from public or private schools and teach them at home, the local home school athletic participation has grown as well.
From 23 players in football in 2006, Lighthouse Christian has now grown to some 600 athletes in seven sports.
And they’re all without a permanent home.
All the Charger teams lead a nomadic existence with practices and games held wherever they can rent space.
“We had two or three different sports this year that we didn’t know where we were going to practice until literally a week before practice started,” said Brett Williams, Lighthouse Christian’s Head Football Coach. “Also with the onset of COVID it’s been hard to find schools that will rent us facilities. Plus many of our home school families have a lot of kids. So moms are having to drive all over the city to these different practice spots to drop their kids off. It creates a travel nightmare. ”
But thanks to a lease agreement with the Fellowship Bible Church just off Highway 60 in Rogersville on Farm Road 205, Lighthouse athletics hopes sometime over the next decade to raise funding for an athletic complex on what is now the church’s fellowship farm.
A rendering of the property and the proposed complex includes an area for a new church and then a large parking lot with a football stadium to the east that would also be used for track-and-field.
“We’ve got flag football that we start for those 9-11 years-old and then we have junior high, JV and varsity football,” Williams explained. “So we’re excited about having a place for that and we also have about 100 kids out for track and cross country.”
Next to the stadium will be an indoor facility for basketball and volleyball.
“The goal is to have four full-sized courts in there for volleyball and boys and girls basketball,” Williams said. “There will also be a weight room, locker room and an office area plus we’re trying to build it in such a way that we can rent it out to the general public for events.”
Next to the indoor facility will be a soccer field and baseball fields.
“We’re launching soccer in the fall,” Williams said. “And we’ve got a full baseball program with close to 100 kids there. Home school athletics is just bursting at the seams and I don’t want to forget our cheerleading program as well. It’s just going to be a welcome situation to finally have a place to call home. ”
It is estimated that the football stadium alone would cost $ 4 million with the hopes of breaking ground there in January, 2023.
For now though, there’s a plenty of travel ahead for the football chargers.
“We don’t have a home stadium so we’re playing a lot on the road,” Williams said. “We’re going to Oklahoma. We’re going to Arkansas to play a team from Louisiana who’s going to meet us half-way. We’re going to St. Louis to meet a team from Ohio. We’ll go through whatever lengths we have to order to get opportunities for our young people. One of the reasons for wanting this facility is we want our home school to have the same facilities and opportunities as public school kids. We have a lot of public school campuses around here where the kids have great fields, weight rooms and facilities. And I think it opens up more opportunities when you have all that stuff at your fingertips to bring more college scholarships to your players. ”
As for 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 somebody to offer to build the weight room for free,” Williams said with a smile.
But he also pointed out that the sports complex is still very much a work in progress that would be built in phases with a time frame based on money-raised and supply-chain issues.
So why now?
“The way home school sports is growing if we don’t take these steps now. I don’t know if we’ll be able to support the demand,” Williams replied.
Williams, who is an insurance agent in addition to Lighthouse Christian’s 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 he suffered a career-ending injury. Before that he was an All-American lineman who played in three national championship games for Florida State and he credits his coach there, the legendary Bobby Bowden, with instilling the passion to work with young people.
“He was a strong Christian example,” Williams said. “And to this day people’s lives are better for having 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 an impact here for a long time. ”
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