MCPS approves increased sports budget to fight countywide access disparities


Greer Vermilye

The $1.55 million budget will be used to combat sports access inequities.

By Claire Lane

The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved $1.55 million in spending to increase youth sports accessibility on September 15.

The budgetary decision comes after the Montgomery County Office of Legislative Oversight published a report revealing higher income areas have easier access to sports leagues and clubs, and “sports opportunities for lower-income families are disappearing.”

According to the report, wide disparities in sports participation exist across the county. One 2018 survey within the report shows that over 40% of children in families with household incomes above $100,000 participated “regularly” in a sport, compared to just 20% in families with household incomes under $25,000.

The report also found that athletics programs are more readily available to elementary and middle school-aged children compared to high school-aged youths in the county. 

 Councilmember Craig Rice, who chairs the Council’s Education Committee, said that the pandemic has had a massive impact on youth sports in underprivileged communities

“Disparities existed before COVID-19 and have now been exacerbated due to the pandemic,” Rice said. “Through both direct funding and reduced facility fees, we can assist our youth sports organizations while also encouraging our youth to stay physically and mentally fit.”

The county has pledged to use the funding to create additional sports programs, providing grants to organizations targeting underserved youths and lowering the field and building fees for specific programs.

The budget will additionally allocate $500,000 in grant funding to schools, along with $50,000 to the Montgomery County Collaboration Council for Children, Youth, and Families. The Collaboration Council helps organizations provide vulnerable and low-income families with opportunities to enroll in sports programs, and the budget increase is slated to cover operational expenses across the county. Organizations can receive Collaboration Council grant awards of up to $15,000.

Robin Riley, the Director of Montgomery County Recreation, believes this funding will have a major impact on the county in the future. 

“The balance of funding will allow the Recreation Department to provide programming in communities of need and offer introduction to grassroots sports and nontraditional sports,” Riley said.

The new plan will also provide $500,000 to Montgomery Recreation in an effort to establish affordable and universal youth sports leagues throughout Montgomery County, as well as activities targeting underserved communities in the county. 

Councilmember Gabe Albornoz said the new budget is the first step of many in the effort to increase access to youth sports for underserved youth.

“Growing up, sports played a huge role in my development and has helped me pilot life transitions with confidence,” Albornoz said. “As a parent and chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, I want our youth in Montgomery County to experience the same positive impact that I did.”