A proposed bill that would allow a county board of education in Maryland to begin its fall practice for high school sports teams up to two weeks earlier than the date set by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association received unanimous support at a Washington County delegation meeting Wednesday.
Representatives of the Washington County Board of Education asked for the bill because they believe that high schools in neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia have an advantage because fall season sports practice starts earlier in those states.
Justin Hartings, president of the Washington County Board of Education, said at the delegation meeting Wednesday that the school board had been hearing from coaches concerned about the safety of students.
“What we are concerned about is whether students have enough time with their coaches with their preseason practice before they actually get to the first day of competition,” he said.
Under current MPSSAA guidelines, the first fall sports practice day is set as the sixth Saturday following the first full week of July, and teams have up to 20 practice days prior to its first regular-season contest.
A state heat-acclimatization law enacted last year now delays full-contact football practice until the sixth day of practice, according to a previous Herald-Mail article.
Hartings said at the meeting, which was also attended by Washington County Superintendent of Public Schools Clayton Wilcox, that coaches are worried whether players have been trained enough when it comes to playing out-of-state teams earlier in the season.
Another concern, Hartings said, is that there are a lot more sports teams in schools trying to schedule practice as compared to 20 or 30 years ago when regulations regarding practices were written. That means it is much harder to get time for practice, he said.
If the bill were to become law, county boards of education would have a choice on whether to begin the fall sports season earlier in their county.
“It is a safety issue, it is not a competitive advantage issue,” said Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, and the chairman of the Washington County delegation.
“In this day and age is it a bad thing to have kids in organized, structured, supervised school-related sports a little earlier?” said Serafini, who was a lineman on the football team when he was at North Hagerstown High School.