Rising coronavirus case numbers force shutdown of Baltimore County youth sports

The ban on youth sports in Baltimore County went into effect on Nov. 17 as numbers in COVID-19 cases rise.

Last week Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced that, effective Tuesday, Nov. 17, Baltimore County organized youth recreational indoor and outdoor sports would be prohibited until further notice.

The decision was made because of a spike in the numbers of COVID-19 patients.


Baltimore County spokesman Sean Naron reported, according to contract tracing data, between Oct. 18 and Nov. 11, Baltimore County experienced a 164 percent increase in cases among the 10-19 age group. During that same period, the county saw a 66 percent increase in cases, who reported to attend a sporting event and a 141 percent increase in cases reported to engage in outdoor recreation.

On Monday night, Nov. 16, the last day before youth sports was prohibited, two Catonsville Cobras travel soccer teams made sure they gave their players something to remember by holding a season-ending scrimmage under the lights at Catonsville High School.


“We kind of threw it together last minute since everybody’s end-of-the-season tournaments got cancelled,” said Kyle Leahy, coach of the Cobras 12U team, comprised of boys born in 2008.

They were scrimmaging Troy Stevenson’s 13U team with a roster of kids born in 2007.

Both teams were supposed to end the season this weekend in Harford County, but the Fallston Cup tournament was cancelled last week.

The girls Fallston Cup tournament, originally scheduled for Nov. 14-15, was also cancelled.

“That’s all they wanted to do was get out and play,” Leahy said. “I would say the mood was about having fun, there wasn’t a whole lot of direction or coaching, it was get out there and play and have some fun with it and see if we can score some goals against these older boys.”

Catonsville resident Tyler Jensen, 12, didn’t get to score a goal, but he did have a memorable moment.

“I had an assist,” said Jensen, enjoying his first game under the lights on the Catonsville High turf field. “I liked the big field this year.”

Jensen’s club lacrosse team was supposed to play in a tournament next weekend in Delaware, but decided to withdraw as a precaution.


His mom, Kate Jensen, didn’t even mind the windy and chilly conditions during the scrimmage.

“They got to play with their friends one last time,” she said.

Leahy was happy for the chance to see his son, Keegan, play with his Cobra teammates after a tough year that began with him missing lacrosse season in the spring when the original ban on sports was implemented during the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it’s been really tough, and he broke his hand last month and they were doing some lacrosse stuff this fall and he missed that with his broken hand,” Leahy said. “We didn’t do anything in the spring and we didn’t do anything much over the summer and I really think he missed a lot of it because that is like his social outlet. Since they are not in school, that was his time to be with his buddies and have fun.”

Leahy had planned to sign up his son to play basketball in Catonsville, but said, “I had looked a couple months ago and the rec program wasn’t doing any registration.”

Tie-ups like this one, several years ago between Catonsville Youth League third-graders Brian Ruppel, center, Andrew James, left, and Vinnie Weinkam, right, could be a long way away since recreation basketball programs have been put on hold because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

The same is true for the Lutherville-Timonium Recreation Council that has a message on its website that reads: Due to COVID-19, registration will not be conducted until permits are issued. We have no way of knowing when that will be.


Meanwhile, coaches and parents, like Leahy, are trying to get their kids active again.

Leahy, a 2005 Catonsville High graduate, who has been coaching travel soccer since 2015, plans to coach the Cobras in a winter soccer league in Howard County, where recreational sports are still allowed under extensive COVID-19 guidelines for Howard County owned fields.

Among the many guidelines provided by Howard County Recreation and Parks are: no spectators (except one family member per player), no congregating, group celebrations, fist bumps and high-fives and field times will be staggered to avoid field renters/users crossing paths. In addition, players must stay in their cars until the beginning of practice or games.

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There are several other guidelines in adherence to social distancing.

“It will go off if we are in a better spot,” said Leahy, noting the Howard County league is supposed to start just before Christmas.

Kate Jensen is one mom whose Christmas wish goes beyond that.


“It’s disappointing that Baltimore suspended youth sports when neighboring counties have not,” she said. “Club teams are still practicing, so now it becomes and equity issue.”

She is not alone. Kristen Jarosinski started a petition on Facebook titled, ‘Keep Baltimore County Youth Active’ asking Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski to reverse his decision.

In the petition, she notes, “Our children have lost access to recess and physical education in school. We should not take recreational sports from them.”

Many of the comments supporting her petition spoke about the need of youth sports to improve the mental and physical health of children who have been socially isolated since in-person schooling was halted in March.