The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday took a step toward increasing access and opportunities for girls in youth sports, allocating $100,000 to the county’s Department of Recreation.

The council voted 8-0 to approve a resolution to use that money to increase opportunities for elementary and middle school girls in volleyball, softball and lacrosse through introductory activities and programs, along with a soccer program.

An event promoting opportunities for youth sports for girls, “HERtime2shine,” will be held at the White Oak Community Recreation Center from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. It will “include sports workshops, activities and games like volleyball, futsal and speed and agility for children of all ages and abilities,” a news release says.

Jeff Wagner, founder of MoCo Lacrosse — a program that introduces lacrosse to various communities countywide — testified during a public hearing Tuesday that he sees examples of inequities in how lacrosse programs are implemented countywide. 

Those vary from the condition of playing fields to the cost of equipment and programs to low-income families, Wagner said.

Council Member Craig Rice agreed, saying those inequities frequently affect people of color.

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“This is exactly what we need to do …,” Rice said of the $100,000 expenditure. “There are so many sports that we see that we need to do a better job of enhancing opportunities for people of color.”

Since 2001, there has been a more than 200% increase in the number of women’s collegiate lacrosse teams, according to a news release from Council Members Hans Riemer and Gabe Albornoz, who sponsored the measure for the $100,000 appropriation. A recent 10-year national survey indicated a 101% increase in girls participating in the sport.

In other sports, “Volleyball is the most popular sport for girls in 21 states and second most popular in nine states, while softball ranks first or second in six states,” according to the release.

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The other person who testified Tuesday was Jeri Ingram, a former professional tennis player originally from Washington, D.C. Ingram has focused on increasing opportunities for youths through tennis clinics and programs.

Ingram said popularity for tennis among youth increased greatly during the pandemic. She asked the council to include tennis in the resolution for the $100,000.

But Albornoz — the former director of the county’s Department of Recreation — said tennis is offered through the county’s Department of Parks.

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He agreed, however, that county officials should use other money to expand opportunities and “level the tennis court playing field.”

The $100,000 expenditure works in tandem with legislation that would establish a sports commission to look at inequities across all sports. That measure was introduced earlier this month.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com

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