A day after Governor Larry Hogan announced the upcoming start of Stage 3 in Maryland's Roadmap to Recovery, the Anne Arundel County Department of Health and the Department of Recreation and Parks have established guidelines for tackle youth football and competitive cheerleading stunts to resume.
On Thursday, August 27, the county had announced a modified fall football season limited to flag football, based on the Maryland Sports Commission’s Return to Play Committee Report guidelines. In the report, football is listed as a “high contact” sport, and recommended to proceed only at Stage 3, with local health officer approval. At that time, Maryland was in Stage 2 of the Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery.
“I understand that sticking to the science and complying with CDC, state and county health recommendations is unpopular with many constituents,” Pittman said following the initial decision. “The decisions we have to make in the pandemic are not easy. But if we can prevent the continued spread of the disease and get our numbers low enough to get our kids back to school, I am glad to take the heat.”
A large crowd descended upon the Anne Arundel County Department of Health headquarters in Annapolis on August 31, chanting “let us play,” to oppose Pittman’s ban on tackle football.
On September 1, Hogan announced Stage 3 of the Roadmap to Recovery, effective September 4 at 5:00pm. Considering this announcement, Pittman and the director of Recreation and Parks, Rick Anthony, in consultation with county health officials, decided to allow the youth football season to resume with tackle.
“I was uncomfortable with the risk classifications in the state of Maryland's guidelines, and am pleased that our kids will now be allowed to play real tackle football,” Pittman said in a statement. “Football is a great sport that teaches important life lessons. I trust that our players and coaches will do the hard work of implementing the health department’s safety practices that will limit the spread of the virus, keep the season open, and allow us to achieve the new case rate standard required to get our kids back to their school classrooms. That's our next challenge.”
Football leagues that choose to move forward with tackle football and competitive cheer teams that choose to move forward with stunts should put additional safety measures in place to reduce distance and contact per CDC recommendations. The Department of Recreation and Parks will be issuing additional guidance on regulations and requirements for the fall youth football season. Information will be posted to the department’s website.