The Montgomery County Council will vote tomorrow on legislation that would establish an advisory committee that aims to increase access to youth sports countywide, along with addressing various disparities around the county.
According to the bill, the committee would consist of 17 members appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the County Council. During a news briefing on Monday, County Council President Gabe Albornoz said the committee would advise the council on the development of new sports facilities countywide, along with the status of existing facilities.
An Office of Legislative Oversight report on the legislation listed some of the main barriers to youth sports as registration fees, equipment costs, a lack of coaches and programming in certain areas of the county, and other factors.
A majority of respondents in a survey in that OLO report stated that a lack of access to facilities—especially in the downcounty area—and a lack of funding to keep programming and equipment affordable were some of the major barriers for families participating in youth sports.
Albornoz said Monday that there isn’t the same infrastructure for youth sports, especially among young girls, throughout the county. Some of it has to do with economic conditions, stemming back to Albornoz’s time as director of the county’s Department of Recreation.
“During the [Great] Recession early on, we had to scale back a lot of the programs and services that we offered, and those have not been brought back,” Albornoz said. “And it’s not just the Department of Recreation—we need to make sure that other sports associations [countywide] have those same opportunities.”
The disparity for youth sports for girls is especially apparent when it comes to special needs kids or those with a disability. According to an OLO analysis of Montgomery County Public Schools data, 70% of participants in athletic programs from 2016-17 to 2020-21 were boys, and 30% were girls.
Albornoz has said that the committee’s efforts to address equity makes it unique compared to other sports committees across the county. Other council members have said in previous meetings that the committee will hopefully solve other issues, like creating more lighted sports facilities in the eastern part of the county and establishing nonprofits or other organizations to help low-income families pay for programming.
According to the bill, the committee would need to prepare an annual report for the county executive and the County Council that would list “factors that affect sports participation in the County, including the availability of and access to athletic fields, facilities, and sports,” along with suggesting ways to “improve the quality, quantity, and variety of sports opportunities and facilities in the County.”
“It will provide a roadmap for us to more strategically provide resources and additional supports [for the county],” Albornoz said.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org