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Carroll County officials mulling youth sports restrictions with winter season beginning

Neighboring counties are clamping down on youth sports as winter approaches, and Carroll County officials are planning to discuss what to do at a Board of Commissioners meeting this week.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, talked about the issue during the board’s Nov. 24 meeting and wanted to consult Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Degitz about Carroll’s youth sports scene and potential restrictions.

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Degitz said the county’s fall outdoor sports have either wrapped up their seasons or are in the final stages. Indoor sports have begun, Degitz said, but on a very limited basis. While most fall sports are played outdoors, most winters sports are played indoors.

Carroll normally utilizes some 45 gymnasiums around the county, and has access to every public school as well as a few other facilities. Degitz said this year Carroll is using three gyms ― two in the former North Carroll High School building, and another inside Robert Moton Center in Westminster.

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“Because of that, some councils have made the decision not to offer any winter sports because we just don’t have the facility space to do it,” Degitz said during the meeting.

Several programs have chosen to rent space for their teams, Degitz said. Youth wrestling programs from Westminster and Winfield are doing so in a private commercial location in Eldersburg, he said. North Carroll’s rec wrestling program is holding events inside the former NC high school, Degitz said.

Several county rec councils are offering basketball this winter, but Degitz said it’s being done in a much smaller capacity.

All youth sports were banned in Baltimore County two weeks ago with COVID-19 cases on the rise. Howard County decreased the number for indoor gatherings to 10 or less per area, effectively putting an end to any winter sports competitions on the calendar.

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“It does not prohibit certain sports, but you would be hard-pressed to have any sort of competition with numbers of that size,” Degitz said. “That’s basically taking you back down to skills and drills and not having a lot of interaction, and minimizing the number of people in a facility at any one given time.”

Howard County had been allowing leagues and programs to go forward, Degitz said, but was prohibiting any out-of-state teams from coming to participate in tournaments and other events.

Frazier asked Degitz if Carroll should be wary of its own virus numbers and put a limit on the number of people allowed at indoor activities.

“Right now, I don’t believe the state guidelines, related to youth sports in particular, they don’t have that limit,” Degitz said. “But that is a step we could take.”

Frazier said he’s uncomfortable having large amounts of people practicing indoors, particularly those that fall within the county’s rec and parks department.

“I think 25 is a high number, but if the state’s going with 25 at least it should be 25,” Frazier said. “Anyone in the facility, not just participants.”

Fellow commissioner and board president Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, agreed with Frazier and then asked if Degitz wanted to focus on the COVID-19 numbers in time for their Dec. 3 meeting. Degitz said he has been communicating with Ed Singer, the county’s top-ranking health official, regarding any changes in Maryland’s orders regarding youth sports.

Carroll has been adhering to the safety and coronavirus protocols with its rec sports guidelines, Degitz said, and will continue to do so.

“I’d like to jump on it before it’s out of control,” Frazier said. “I do think it’s something we really have to look at. And if we have some guidance from the state or from the health department … it certainly would be helpful.”

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