Our New Normal: How Maryland Sports and TEAM Maryland Partners are Adjusting during COVID-19

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Ahalt, Visit Hagerstown

“Big challenges are managing work and the online schooling for my daughter….  Trying to set aside time for both while still being productive and getting everything accomplished.”

– Kelly Rados, Worcester County Recreation and Parks

Could any of us have imagined, one year ago, that we would be in the position that we are today? For Events Rights Holders, sport tourism representatives and DMO’s across the state of Maryland, this time of year is usually one of detailed planning and excitedly preparing for what has become the busiest time of the year for our respective organizations. The familiar stresses of hosting large scale sporting events would be a welcomed anxiety as all of us now are trying to define our “New Normal” in the midst of a global pandemic.

Recently, we reached out to a number of our TEAM Maryland partners to get their thoughts on a range of topics. We discussed everything from their new daily rituals to the shows they’re watching, their thoughts on navigating these unprecedented times and what they think the sport tourism industry will look like post COVID-19:

Eric Teisch, Visit Howard County

Are there any challenges you’re facing with the work-life balance? How are you adjusting?

I have had jobs previously that did not value work-life balance. That is one of the reasons I ended up in the tourism industry. Work-life balance has never been put to test more than it is now. My wife is a Special Education teacher in Montgomery County and we have three kids under the age of 6, including a 5 month old. It certainly has been challenging for us both to keep up with work on the computer, while helping our 6 year old on the computer for his school work, a baby who runs by her own schedule and a 3 year old who doesn’t have a care in the world but (still) wants someone to pay attention to him. To best adjust for this, we have really been sticking to creating a school schedule each day. My wife and I build in our own time for when we have meetings and then we schedule lunch, recess, and we go for an afternoon walk at the end of the day to decompress and get fresh air. Not sure what we would do if this was during winter and we couldn’t go outside. Although we have a schedule down, it is still stressful depending on what type of day the kids are having. The saving grace is that they are still young to understand what is going on and more importantly, we are altogether and healthy.

What are some of the challenges you foresee moving forward for the industry even after we start getting back to normal? What are you doing to prepare?

The biggest challenge will be money. Clearly with the economy and the astronomical amount of lost jobs, youth sports are going to decrease in participation. The challenge from a destination perspective is that the Right Holders are going to value their bid fees even more than before to survive. However, destinations are planning for their budgets to be decreased by at least 50% for the upcoming fiscal year. For a smaller destination like ours, who can barely bid on events as it is, it will be practically impossible for at least the first year back. To prepare, I have maintained communication with our Recreation and Parks team and I believe we need to dig deep into the grassroots. We have great fields for lacrosse and I believe those tournaments that can still bring teams in, including the high school showcases, will get our name out there and will hopefully bring the sports tourism industry back faster than anticipated.

Is there anything you’re doing during the quarantine that you didn’t do before or something you hope to continue to do once it ends?

My family goes on walks everyday. I would like to continue that after everything ends as well. Another thing is really paying attention to how my kids are learning. Although it has been forced on us, I am thankful that I get the opportunity to see my oldest son in a learning about the environment and that his younger brother is interested in what he is doing as he will be getting ready for preschool as well. I have also used the weekends to catch up on some sleep. Normally we run around on the weekends with birthday parties or sports but now my wife and I have time to take turns to recharge. This has actually made the beginning of the week more enjoyable as we are well rested. Lastly, I have been picking one day of the week to work with my kids on their sports skills. My oldest was due to begin lacrosse for the first time and my middle child was going to take an intro to sports class. I want to keep them as active as I can and make sure they do not lose the love of sports like I have.

What shows are you watching (TV/ Streaming, Movies, Documentaries)

My wife watched the Tiger King so I caught most of it. Personally, I don’t understand the excitement/craze over it. Felt it was a waste of my time. We also started watching the Ozark. I took interest in the Aaron Hernandez documentary on Netflix. I went to UConn at the same time his brother was there and knew a majority of the story. That is really about it… My wife and I are usually exhausted at the end of the day and try to go to bed early as we are bound to be woken up in the middle of the night.

Kelly Rados, Worcester County Recreation and Parks

How has your day changed from normal operations? 

We are closed to the public so I’ve been working from home for parts of the week and going in other parts of the week. 

What are some of the strategies you’re using to adjust to your new schedule/ working conditions? 

Even if I’m working from home, I still get up early, get dressed and begin my day as if I was in the office. I like schedules and routines so this seems to help.  I also have daily conference calls with our entire staff, it helps with communication, and keeps spirits up.

What are/ are there any challenges you’re facing with the work-life balance? How are you adjusting? 

Big challenges are managing work and the online schooling for my daughter.  Trying to set aside time for both while still being productive and getting everything accomplished.  Still adjusting and trying to find our routine.

What are some of the challenges you foresee moving forward for the industry even after we start getting back to normal? What are you doing to prepare? 

I’m worried about different event holders still existing after this is over. I know there have been layoffs and I would hate to see companies fold after this is over.  We have started to brainstorm internally about what homegrown events we can come up with.

What are you doing to break the monotony? 

I coach a youth travel softball team.  Each day I try to check in with another family to see how that individual player is doing and their family in general. Sometimes it’s through texting, other times my daughter and I will Facetime with a player.  This helps to break up the days, and gives us the social connection that we are missing. The families feel appreciate that I’m reaching out so that’s always a plus.

Have you taken up any new hobbies/ activities/ cooking? If so, what are they and do you have any to share (especially recipes!!) 

I have definitely been cooking a lot more, taking more time in preparing dinners and meal prepping for the week. 

What books are you reading?

I just finished Sunburn by Laura Lippman, I need more books to read so I’m open for suggestions!

Is there anything you’re doing during the quarantine that you didn’t do before or something you hope to continue to do once it ends?

I’m taking more walks and bike rides in my neighborhood. Usually I feel too busy to do this but it has helped break up the day and/or give myself a mental break.  I’ve been starting some days with a walk, my daughter has joined me which helps get some energy out before her school work. Afternoon and evening bike rides have helped me wind down after my day. I want to continue these after the quarantine, and make time, instead of excuses that I’m too busy.

Tiffany Ahalt, Visit Hagerstown and Washington County

What are some of the trade websites/ publications you are following?

Sports ETA

What are/ are there any. challenges you’re facing with the work-life balance? How are you adjusting?

I recently began my role at the CVB so there is a lag with getting to meet partners and colleagues face to face, everything is done via phone and email. Also, I am a people person, a Type-A Personality for sure. It is difficult to experience such limited contact.

What are some of the challenges you foresee moving forward for the industry even after we start getting back to normal? What are you doing to prepare?

We will need to restructure our planning, marketing and sales strategies. Sponsorships will be down, there will be new guidelines and restrictions from the CDC and local health departments.

What is your daily routine?

Wake up early, check my kids leaning schedule (online), make LOTS of coffee, check email, work, lunch, work, hike, work, dinner. We live close to the C&O Canal in Frederick County so we love to take in the beauty and quality of the recreational experience. In the evenings, we often enjoy a fire in the backyard.

Have you taken up any new hobbies?

Purchased an Instant Pot, feeling like a short order cook. I have two growing boys that LOVE to eat.

Is there anything you’re doing during the quarantine that you didn’t do before or something you hope to continue once it ends?

This has been a great opportunity to teach and remind my kids about wants versus needs. Most important, there is a reason why I never wanted to homeschool my children. As a Rotarian, service to my community is important. My family recently adopted an elderly couple who is not about to go out for groceries or medicine because of COVID-19. We deliver groceries to them twice a month, send notes and call them.

Cole Lacey, Wicomico Recreation, Parks & Tourism

What are some of the trade websites/ publications you are following to stay up to date?

Attending and listening to just about every webinar that is being promoted through the Sports ETA website.

How has your day changed from normal operations?

Currently, working from home and focusing on relationships with our current network. I am constantly checking in with organizers to see how they are handling and making out through these tough times.

What are some of the strategies you’re using to adjust to your new schedule/ working conditions?

Set realistic goals for each day knowing I may be distracted by my kids.

Are you keeping in contact with other members of the sport tourism industry… What are you hearing from them?

I feel like I am keeping in contact with more members and more frequently with other members in the sport tourism industry. I think there is a lot to learn from different destinations all across the country.

What are you doing to break the monotony?

Getting outside as much as possible. Getting back to simpler activities, like fishing.

What shows are you watching (TV/streaming, Movies, Documentaries) ?

I actually believe that I have been watching less TV. Not having sports on TV has forced me to find other activities to do.

Marjorie Hampson, Baltimore County Tourism

How has your day changed from normal operations?

My day has gone from promoting Baltimore County attractions and events through e-newsletters, Facebook and the tourism website to assisting local businesses find financial support during this pandemic (BaCo tourism is part of economic and workforce development). This time of year, I would be promoting our steeplechase races, the Guinness Pub Run, and updating next year’s visitors guide. The tourism e-newsletter this month contained beneficial resources for small businesses, a pitch to support local restaurants with carryout orders, and a list of virtual tours for families to take right from their sofas. The tourism Facebook page has turned into a plethora of Baltimore County restaurants listing their menus for daily take-out.

How do you think/ Do you think this pandemic will change the way we do sport tourism in the future?

This is totally my opinion – when the ban is eventually lifted and normalcy begins to return, I foresee folks NOT clamoring to events, malls, stadiums, attractions, etc.  Perhaps the fact that folks may be hesitant to engage in socializing again may deter tourism/travel efforts. Tourism in general, including sports tourism, will need to strategize to regain the public’s trust that air flights are safe, large gatherings at stadiums are safe, festivals and malls are safe. This will be a huge undertaking for all of us in the tourism industry. Am I alone in this thought? Maryland Office of Tourism and Film is organizing business heads and association directors to tackle this approaching dilemma.

What shows are you watching (TV/ Streaming, Movies, Documentaries)

My husband and I are watching tons of Netflix at night and on the weekends. Of course, we finished Tiger King (and BTW, Carole Baskin is guilty as sin!) Sneaky Pete was good – only wish there was another season to see if Pete and Julia get together! We watched a couple of Tom Segura’s comedy specials – have seen all of Sebastian Maniscalco’s – highly recommend both of these comedians on Netflix. We have turned into TV aficionados!

Elizabeth Joyner, Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County

What are some of the trade websites/ publications you are following to stay up to date?

MPI, PCMA, Sports ETA, STR Report

How do you think/ Do you think this pandemic will change the way we do sport tourism in the future?

If our new “normal” is a 6-foot distance requirement, it is going to change the way everything is done.

What is your daily routine?

Workout, shower/dress for the day, email catch-up, making my toddler breakfast, planning my day with my husband to juggle taking care of a toddler and both of us working full time… We say, “Happy Groundhogs Day” to each other every morning, to lighten the mood.

What are you doing to break the monotony?

Taking this time to enjoy my fourteen-month old, she is full of entertainment.

Have you taken up any new hobbies/ activities/ cooking?

Re-learning how to Rollerblade! My neighborhood just got repaved and it’s fairly flat! My parents mailed me my Rollerblades (circa 2000) and they are still in great shape!

Graham Whaples, Maryland Sports

How has your day changed from normal operations? 

We are a very schedule-oriented family. My wife wakes up early because she teaches at a local high school. I’d usually feed my son breakfast and get him off to school before my commute to the office in Baltimore. While it’s been nice not to rush around in the morning (or the evening before making lunches for the next day) it is tough juggling teleworking with my son’s school work now and my wife tele-teaching. Some days I take on the brunt of his classwork, sometimes she does. Like it has been for everyone, it’s quite an adjustment.

What are some of the challenges you foresee moving forward for the industry even after we start getting back to normal? What are you doing to prepare?

I think the tourism industry will be an area that bounces back quickly once things reopen. I think people are itching to get back out there, though maybe not in the same capacity as before. Obviously, we’re dealing with historic unemployment nationally, furloughs, job insecurity etc. I often wonder what restrictions will remain in place specifically for sports if social distancing orders remain in place. What effect will that have on the sport tourism industry, that’s an issue that all of us will have to look at closely and determine where/ how we can address that shortfall. There are a lot of unknowns out there but we’re continuing to do our part to showcase the state of Maryland and remind folks that we’ll be here for them when they’re ready to return to business.

What shows are you watching (TV/ Streaming, Movies, Documentaries)?

Better Call Saul, Bob’s Burgers, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Recently started Ozark on Netflix. McMillions, the HBO documentary about the McDonald’s Monopoly scam in the early 2000s. And, of course, Tiger King!

What books are you reading?

With the Anne Arundel County Library closed, my reading has gone way down except when it comes to reading with my son and the books provided on Google Slides from the school system. Right before the closures, I had just finished The Handmaid’s Tale and knocked out the sequel, The Testaments in the first few days of quarantine. Since then, my reading consists of the local newspapers and the few magazine subscriptions we have (National Geographic, Time and All Recipes). I did just get The Water Dancer in the mail so I’m excited to start that.

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About Maryland Sports:

The mission of Maryland’s Sports Commission is to enhance Maryland’s economy, image and quality of life through the attraction, promotion, retention and development of regional, national and international sporting events.

About TEAM Maryland:

TEAM Maryland is a statewide initiative designed to collectively market Maryland to the entire sports industry by creating a synergistic approach to the way we market ALL of Maryland as a sports destination.

Top High School Football Players to Square Off in Maryland Crab Bowl XII

Annual Showcase of High School Seniors comes to Salisbury this weekend

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Crab Bowl Facebook

(Salisbury, MD)  —  For high school seniors across the state of Maryland, playing football in December means you’re at the top of your game. Only the best-of-the-best play in December; whether that means battling it out for a state or conference championship or being one of the select few who get to showcase their talents in the Maryland Crab Bowl High School All-Star Football Game.

“This game is just a great way for seniors to end their careers by being recognized as one of the best in their state,” said Tony Kennedy, President of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Foundation Inc., which manages this and several other events that provide opportunities to student-athletes who aspire to play football at the collegiate level. 

(Left) Adrian Amos; (Right) Marquel Lee. Photo Courtesy of NFL.com

The Maryland Crab Bowl, held annually in December, is the only recognized football All Star game in the state of Maryland. Kennedy takes great pride in the fact that several alumni from past Maryland Crab Bowl games are currently playing football in the NCAA and NFL. Among those are Calvert Hall High School (Baltimore) alumni and current Green Bay Packers defensive back Adrian Amos, and Westlake High School (Waldorf) graduate and current Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquel Lee

For the 12th Annual Maryland Crab Bowl, Kennedy announced earlier this year that the game will be played on the Eastern Shore for the first time ever, at Sea Gull Stadium on the campus of Salisbury University. Kennedy stressed the importance of expanding the game beyond its traditional location from the Baltimore-Washington Metro area, “Salisbury has been wonderful and we felt that by bringing game to the Eastern Shore that it would bring much needed exposure to all of our kids, not just the kids around our Beltways.” Kennedy said that the players are looking forward to all of the activities that have been planned across the Lower Eastern Shore as part of the All-Star Weekend festivities.

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Crab Bowl Facebook

In addition to the game, players and their families are invited to attend the banquet Friday evening in Ocean City at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. There is also a planned visit to the Harriet Tubman Underground RailRoad and State Park and Museum in Dorchester County. Game day kicks off at 9:30 Saturday morning, starting with the 7th and 8 Grade Crab Bowl Youth All Star Games, as the Eastern Shore will take on Virginia Beach in two separate contests. The 12th Annual Maryland Crab Bowl High School Seniors All-Star Game will begin at 1:30 p.m., as the top players from Maryland public and private high schools and the District of Columbia face-off. 

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Crab Bowl Facebook

“The opportunity afforded to these players, to showcase their abilities against their peers, while also representing their schools and their hometowns is something truly special for any student-athlete,” said Maryland Sport Executive Terry Hasseltine, who will serve as the keynote speaker at Friday evening’s banquet. “This is also a huge win for Salisbury University and the Lower Eastern Shore community which, in recent years, has become a premier destination for sport tourism events from all over the country,” Hasseltine added.

Cole Lacey, Sports Marketing Representative for Wicomico County Recreation, Parks & Tourism, called the game, “A fantastic opportunity for some of the most elite football players in the state to come to our area, as well as, showcase the great facilities that Salisbury University has to offer.” Lacey says there is a lot of excitement around the fact that the Eastern Shore will be the home of the Crab Bowl this year.

For more information, including a complete listing of games and times, visit: https://www.midatlanticsports.org/.

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Maryland Crab Bowl XII

When: Saturday, December 21st

Where: Sea Gull Stadium; Salisbury University

Game Times: 

9:30 a.m. Game 1: 7th grade Crab Bowl Youth Stars (Eastern Shore vs. Virginia Beach)

11:30 a.m. Game 2: 8th grade Crab Bowl Youth Stars (Eastern Shore vs. Virginia Beach)

1:30 p.m. Game 3: The Maryland Crab Bowl XII: High School Senior All-Stars

More information: https://www.midatlanticsports.org/

About the Mid-Atlantic Sports Foundation:

Mid-Atlantic Sports Foundation is a non-profit organization aimed to support all student-athletes who desire to pursue affordable college opportunities through encouragement, education, and premier experiences, enabling them to showcase their passion and talent. 

About Maryland Sports:

The mission of Maryland’s Sports Commission is to enhance Maryland’s economy, image and quality of life through the attraction, promotion, retention and development of regional, national and international sporting events. 

“Not for the Faint of Heart”: 57th Annual JFK 50 Mile Returns to Washington County November 23rd

“Kennedy Challenge” Ultramarathon in Western Maryland is “Last of its Kind”

Boonsboro, MD  —  In the spring of 1963, President John F. Kennedy put forth a challenge to get America moving again. Kennedy was committed to challenging members of the U.S. Military to keep up with a rigorous skillset put in place at the beginning of the 20th Century by then-President Theodore Roosevelt. More than a half-century later, residents of Washington County, Maryland continue their commitment to the former president’s vision, with the annual JFK 50 Mile Ultramarathon

“The original challenge, to cover 50 miles on foot in one day, was issued by Teddy Roosevelt in the early 1900s. JFK greatly admired Roosevelt and, after a 50-year hiatus, (Kennedy) reissued the ‘Roosevelt/Kennedy Challenge’ during his administration,” explained Mike Spinnler, Race Director for the JFK 50 Mile. Spinnler is not only the Race Director for the JFK 50 Mile, he is also a past participant and two-time winner, “This event is conducted annually in Washington County, and it’s the last surviving ‘Kennedy Challenge’ event existing in the United States.”

Following Kennedy’s death, which happened just a few months after the inaugural nationwide Kennedy Challenge, many communities decided not to continue the JFK 50 Mile, or held a memorial run in its place, as Washington County did in 1964. For Spinnler, who competed from 1971 through 1990, and has served as race director since 1993, the credit for the race’s longevity and success is one shared by many, “We get amazing community support from local government, local businesses, hundreds of local residents who volunteer their time and energy, as well as the amazing assistance from Dan Spedden and his staff with the Hagerstown/ Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.”

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Baltimore Running Festival: “City Tradition Unlike Any Other”

Baltimore’s Largest Running Event Has Raised More than $14 Million for charity since 2001

BALTIMORE, MD —  Tens of thousands of people are expected in downtown Baltimore on Saturday for the Baltimore Running Festival. The festival, entering its 19th year, has become part of the sports fabric of the city, woven into Baltimore’s most storied sports traditions. However, the first running of the Baltimore Marathon came at an uncertain time for both the city and the country, held just one month following the September 11th terrorist attacks. 

“It was a challenging period of uncertainty for our city and country as people were unsure what to do,” said Dave Gell, Director of Communications for Corrigan Sports Enterprises. “That first edition eventually launched us down a road of tremendous local pride, and we’ve been able to build on that momentum every year.”

With up to 20,000 runners expected from across the United States, and 17 foreign countries, the event has grown into something much larger than a day of racing. “We host dozens of events throughout the year across the country, and the Baltimore Running Festival is our biggest event in terms of participants, scope and economic impact. This event has evolved into a city tradition unlike any other as we approach our 20th anniversary next year, and we’re thrilled to write the next chapter,” Gell added.

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Cambridge set to host IRONMAN Maryland for 6th Consecutive Year

Dorchester residents, businesses open doors to thousands of visitors next week

CAMBRIDGE, MD  — Known for its scenic byways and picturesque shorelines, Dorchester County is a haven for anyone who loves the outdoors. While the area is sought out by vacationers and weekend visitors because of its relaxed and laid back way of life, over the last decade, Dorchester County has made a name for itself as a premier destination for the highly competitive triathlon circuit, namely because of its partnership with IRONMAN

Dorchester County Tourism, along with officials from the City of Cambridge, are gearing up for the kickoff of the IRONMAN Maryland triathlon, which takes place Saturday, September 28. The competition is much more than a one-day event, it is the highlight of five-days of festivities, which celebrates the union between one of the most recognized brands in all of sports and one of the largest counties, by land area, in the state of Maryland.  

“IRONMAN has been an incredible partner over the years. The establishment of the IRONMAN Maryland race six-years-ago catapulted Dorchester County to the international stage for endurance racing,” said Amanda Fenstermaker, Director of Dorchester County Tourism. In that time, Fenstermaker says the county has seen a more than $25 million economic impact throughout the local community, the region, and the state. 

“The overall impact is significant based on the number of athletes and spectators that will be in Cambridge,” said Keats McGonigal, Senior Regional Director of the Mid-Atlantic Upper South Region for IRONMAN. “We have about 2,500 athletes registered. Each one of these athletes brings about two to four people with them, so we estimate about 10,000 people coming to Cambridge for the weekend,” McGonigal added. 

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Elite Tournaments Labor Day Weekend Tournament Returns to Maryland’s Central and Capital Regions

OBGC Capital Cup features top competition at premiere facilities, fundraising for Senior Dog Sanctuary in Anne Arundel County

COLUMBIA, MD — Labor Day weekend is generally thought of as the unofficial end of summer and the start of a new school year. In Maryland’s Central and Capital regions, the holiday weekend marks the return of one of the premier soccer events in the Mid-Atlantic. The OBGC Capital Cup gets underway Saturday, with match play continuing through Monday, as some of the top club soccer teams from around the country will square-off at some of the top facilities in Howard and Montgomery counties. 

“For many teams, the event is the start of their fall season and the first time they’ve played together, either since the spring or on a new team,” said Elle Marks, Business Development Manager for Elite Tournaments. Marks says the OBGC Capital Cup has become a perennial event for many organizations because of the quality of competition, tournament atmosphere and the facilities being used. Tournament play will take place at Lucido Fields at Covenant Park in Ellicott City, as well as various fields in the Olney area, including OBGC Community Park at Freeman Fields.

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