Montgomery County soccer community tells FOX 5 they’re being forced to leave

Some within Maryland’s soccer community, frustrated with Montgomery County’s leaders, are throwing up a red flag – only they are apparently the ones leaving due to the county’s youth sports mask mandate.

"It’s been absolutely, totally frustrating. And this whole situation – and we have people coming on there, including doctors from John Hopkins who’ve said, there’s no issue here," said Brad Roos, Bethesda Soccer Club Tournament Director.

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Roos, who is also involved with Maryland and U.S. soccer, says his club is now looking at having to move over 1,000 cup competition games out of Montgomery County that were supposed to begin April 10. Roos told FOX 5 they also scrambled to move a tournament planned for this weekend over to Howard County because eligible teams do not want to play in Montgomery County if they are required to play with a face mask on.   

"Their health risk of gassing out – not having enough oxygen, not being able to breath when the weather’s increased. I’m more concerned about that, than I am there their possibly of contracting any sort of virus while playing outside," said Christine Gresham, a Montgomery County soccer parent of two teenage players, who also tells FOX 5 her sons are relatively healthy.

READ MORE: 1 parent to be permitted at Montgomery County youth soccer games

Montgomery County requires face masks be worn for youth sports, citing the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP’s guidance, however, is not exactly clear on soccer in particular. Maryland SoccerPlex’s Executive Director Matt Libber says if anything, AAP guidance supports no mask wearing for intense sports.

It appears a lot of Northern Virginia is going by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s order, which has exercise exceptions. Otherwise, masks are required according to CDC guidance.

DC requires a waiver and masks for sports play.

Prince George’s County says, "Players not engaged in play and others in attendance at the venue shall wear a face covering. Face coverings are not recommended when outside on very hot days due to the risk of heat injury."

Other counties, like Frederick County, point to Maryland state guidance, which doesn’t require a mask if there’s health risk to wearing that mask – and masks are not recommended on very hot days.

In part of that shuffle, a D.C. team arrived at the Maryland SoccerPlex for practice on Tuesday. 

Coach Nate Baker with the D.C. Achilles Football Club, acknowledge the parents concern of heat injury from masks.

"Because of this everyone’s experience is individual. So what do you do? You’re empathetic. Try to work through it," Baker told FOX 5.

"It’s pretty annoying to wear because it’s hard to breath, but I kind of understand it," said one of the players, Jake Howse.

Councilmember Gabe Albornoz told FOX 5 in Montgomery County, they are starting to see an increase in hospitalization rates among younger people. These are not kids Councilmember Albornoz was referencing, but those 50 to 30 years old.

Libber, who has been going back and forth with the county on these issues, says the Maryland SoccerPlex was able to safely host a tournament in the Fall without any positive transmissions from play. Libber continues to ask county leaders for more data around sports transmissions.

Christine Ghesham told FOX 5, soccer helped her kids get some of the worst of this pandemic. The Montgomery County family is not going to stop playing and sees it as a shame for the county to lose the major tournament revenue.