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Athletic director at Catonsville High reacts to ever-changing sports schedule in Baltimore County

Catonsville High's Rich Hambor coached his last baseball game in the spring of 2018. He took over as athletic director at the school in the summer of 2018 and has faced challenges since the coronavirus pandemic stopped public school athletics in March of 2020.
Catonsville High's Rich Hambor coached his last baseball game in the spring of 2018. He took over as athletic director at the school in the summer of 2018 and has faced challenges since the coronavirus pandemic stopped public school athletics in March of 2020. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Two years ago Rich Hambor left coaching Catonsville High’s football and baseball teams to become the school’s athletic director.

The 2018-2019 athletic cycle went smoothly, but on March 16, 2020 schools were closed for in-person learning and spring sports were shutdown, and the role of athletic director or coach changed indefinitely.

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Two days after the 2020 fall season was supposed to start practicing for football, soccer, volleyball, badminton and cross country, Hambor was e-mailing all his coaches about the new model for the fall, winter and spring seasons for Baltimore County schools.

Baltimore County Public Schools Coordinator Michael Sye held a meeting with athletic directors on Friday, Aug. 14 and this is the message Hambor received to send out to his coaches:

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“The new BCPS model consists of two components: In the first semester (Sept. 8-Jan. 29) there will be 100 percent virtual coaching. Coaches will be given three specified sports season windows to engage with their student athletes virtually; fall season: Sept 8-Oct. 23, winter season: Oct. 26-Dec. 11, spring season: Dec. 14-Jan. 29. This was put together so that students do not have to pick between sports and coaches.

“This will not be a tryout period nor installation of a sports specific plan. This is about engaging, supporting and reconnecting with our student athletes. In addition, the Office of Athletics will be providing virtual workshop opportunities.”

Hambor’s message for the second semester read: “In the second semester we are aiming for the restart of high school athletics. We have taken the remainder of the school year (second semester) and divided it into three seasons, the season dates and order will be announced by the MPSSAA in early September.

Each season will provide a window for conditioning, team selection and scrimmages. There will also be a competition window. This model will also be implemented in our Allied sports program. I am hopeful that this is a step in the right direction.”

Before the meeting announcing the virtual coaching, Hambor expressed his concern about throwing athletes into competition.

“I just don’t think you can go back Feb. 1 and not having seen your kids for a year and just start sports all the sudden,” he said.

Students in Baltimore County will also go to school virtually during the entire first semester.

Hambor compared the first day of fall practice in 2018 to the first day of 2020.

“The first day on the job two years ago I was definitely missing not being out there on the football field for the first time in 20 years, I was out there, but not in the same fashion,” he said. “I went from coaching, to being a traditional AD to being now a new kind of AD, really where we are trying to create this new paradigm for everybody.”

Hambor, a Cockeysville resident who was born in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, started coaching varsity football at Catonsville High in 2004 and coached 14 years and compiled an 85-62 record. His 85 wins was the most by a Comet coach in history.

The 2004 team was the first in school history to make the playoffs and the following season the 2005 team won the school’s first playoff game on the gridiron.

Catonsville also made the playoffs in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and the Comets were Baltimore County and Class 4A North Region champions in 2011.

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In baseball, he complied 164-90 record and the Comets won Baltimore County championships in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2013.

He admitted since schools closed in March he’s had a roller coaster of emotions.

“I’ve been disappointed, I’ve been sad and I’m really more anxious to try to move forward,” Hambor said. “I just don’t think we can go a whole year without anything.”

Lansdowne High soccer coach George Dunn guided his team to victory over Parkville last fall. Now, he just hopes to get his talented team on the field together some time this year.
Lansdowne High soccer coach George Dunn guided his team to victory over Parkville last fall. Now, he just hopes to get his talented team on the field together some time this year. (Paul W. Gillespie/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Lansdowne High’s George Dunn, who coaches soccer and wrestling, is concerned about his athletes.

Last year as junior wrestlers Kyree Briscoe (182) and Riley Bozeman (113) both finished sixth in the Class 2A-1A state tournament.

Bozeman, who was second in the state tournament as a sophomore, finished 32-6 and Briscoe was 39-4.

“Briscoe and Bozeman could potentially win a state championship and they might not have a season,” Dunn said. “How does that affect scholarship offers or what they are going to do in college?”

The soccer team, which won the school’s first regional soccer title last fall before falling in the state quarterfinals to Century, was expected to be strong again this fall.

“The kids at Lansdowne don’t play big time club and stuff, they play pickup and they come to Lansdowne and that’s where they get to shine,” Dunn said. “We had a great team coming back, we had a bunch of starters coming back and some kids coming up from middle school.”

Even if they won’t come together as a complete team in organized competition, Dunn knows they will be getting their kicks.

“In the past I would go down to the Lansdowne High School field and those kids would be playing all night,” Dunn said.

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