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Charter school's sports growing

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Adds tennis, track and cross country

The new school year at Royal Live Oaks Academy charter school in Hardeeville is bringing with it new athletic opportunities for students. Royal Live Oaks, which last year began competing in SCHSL Region 4-A, added varsity cross country, track and field, and boys tennis to its athletic program.

The school began in 2012, and the athletic department was established in 2014. In its inaugural athletic year the school offered volleyball, boys and girls basketball and boys soccer. Last year they intended to add track and field, but lack of turnout led to this year’s re-launch of the sport.

“We are reinvesting in our track team,” said athletic director Darus Williams. “I remember when we just had basically basketball and volleyball, and now we have basketball, volleyball, track, cross country, boys soccer, and boys tennis. We’re always looking to expand, but it depends on the students’ interests.”

When the athletic program began at RLOA, it intended to offer both baseball and softball, but that spring the school did not field enough kids.

“Right now, if we get the numbers, maybe a baseball or softball team, that is where our next direction is going to go,” Williams said. “We’re not going to do football; right now we just don’t have the facilities or the student body for a football team.”

But just because the charter school does not offer football, it doesn’t mean RLOA students cannot play high school football. Former state governor Nikki Haley signed a bill into law several years ago allowing charter school students to participate in extracurricular activities at a public school, nearest to their attendance zone, if the activity or sport is not offered at the charter school.

Three charter school students compete for Ridgeland-Hardeeville High’s varsity football team, RHHS athletic director Jeremiah Faber said.

Despite offering sports, the charter school does not have home facilities. The basketball teams and volleyball teams have worked out a partnership with Hardeeville-Ridgeland Middle School, allowing the charter school teams to practice and host games in their gym.

“This year they have allowed us to have practices for volleyball, and the anticipation is next year to have home volleyball games there,” Williams said. “But it is a challenge, especially trying to get kids from our school to the facility and back. And we have to wait, after a long day already, to have practice. Typically we aren’t able to get into the gym until about 5:30 p.m. and that leads to a late night for our athletes.”

Williams is hopeful the athletic program will continue to grow in both numbers and varieties of sports. With time he hopes to see the student-athletes grow and the program build a foundation of success.

“I would like to not only produce some of the best student-athletes, producing high-caliber students and high-caliber athletes, and hopefully win high-caliber games — including playoff games and championships,” Williams said.

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