As students from across Southern Maryland and the state prepare to return for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year, there is the possibility that many of them will have another recognized varsity sport to contest in the near future.

Thanks to the efforts of local taekwondo instructor Randell Dofat, whose son Randell Dofat II — a North Point High School student simply known as R2 among taekwondo circles — and other prominent instructors throughout the state, including former U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist and past Maryland State Taekwondo Association president, Master C.J. Chang, are on the verge of helping taekwondo become a recognized varsity sport in Maryland.

“Last year, R2 became the first high school student in the state of Maryland to get a national varsity letter for taekwondo and then a high school varsity letter for taekwondo,” Dofat said. “Now it’s been approved by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association to become a varsity sport, now we’re just waiting on Governor [Larry] Hogan to sign off on it.”

Chang, who credits his father, Se Yong Chang, with getting him started in taekwondo and providing him with ample coaching and guidance through his initial years in the sport, is pleased to see the sport on the cusp of being recognized as a varsity sport throughout the state. C.J. Chang began competing 35 years ago and taught taekwondo at Johns Hopkins University from 2002 to 2017.

“Taekwondo is a great martial arts participation sport for a lot of people,” C.J. Chang said. “It can really help give an individual confidence and enable someone to grow and compete. That’s really what martial arts can do for an individual. Some people are not real good at team sports, but taekwondo can help them develop their character and confidence and allow them to compete and that’s what participating in varsity sports is all about — competition.”

Dofat and Chang have even received support from Steve McNally, executive director of USA Taekwondo. In a July 1, 2019 letter that McNally sent to the MPSSAA on behalf of the local contingent, McNally offered his whole-hearted support to see the sport attain varsity status.

“USA Taekwondo is in full support of the efforts underway in Maryland to achieve varsity sports status for Taekwondo,” McNally wrote. “Taekwondo is an Olympic Sport and we are making a nationwide effort to developing it as a varsity sport with the ultimate goal of gaining NCAA status, first through the women’s emerging sports program.”

Dofat and Chang both noted that the initial stage for Taekwondo would see the sport divided into four districts, with North Point High School being the hub for the state’s southernmost district. Others are tentatively planned for Harford County, Montgomery County and Frederick County.

“Charles County has been very supportive in our efforts to get Taekwondo recognized as a varsity sport throughout the state,” Dofat said. “[North Point athletic director] Andy Shattuck has been very supportive. I think he’s eager to see North Point as one of the four hubs for taekwondo. It’s a great sport and would definitely benefit a lot of student-athletes across the state.”

“The first stage is almost set and that’s simply laying down the infrastructure,” Chang said. “Everyone that we’ve approached or that has reached out to us has been very supportive. Once we get things started with the four districts, then we can build on it from there. One thing about taekwondo is that it’s always evolving and all the participants can benefit in so many ways.”

Twitter: @tblacksomds1

Twitter: @tblacksomds1