As Texas A&M University-San Antonio prepares for its debut athletics season in the spring, the university will host a grand opening of two practice fields 3-5 p.m. Nov. 17.
The soccer and softball fields are located on the south side of campus behind the Academic Success Modular Building C.
Athletic Director Darnell Smith specified the fields will be used for practice only.
“The idea is that initially we would love to compete in those fields, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Smith said in an interview on Sept. 7. “So, it’s building and chipping away to ensure that one day we can compete, but for now those will serve as our practice fields.”
The school had announced the athletic program would start in August, but after the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and Red River Conference announced the postponement of fall sports due to the coronavirus pandemic, A&M-San Antonio’s long-awaited athletic program had to adjust and wait one more semester for its official debut.
The university and Smith decided to forgo the fall sports season, which means that men’s and women’s soccer won’t be played officially until fall 2021.
“With the virus and how it progresses, it’s just no telling what could’ve come out of it, so earlier on we made the decision before the official July 1 date to say we’re not going to move forward with fall sports,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, we had to do what was best for our institution, our student-athletes and our community.”
The NAIA and Red River Conference will have their regular season for fall sports in spring 2021. However, A&M-San Antonio will launch its athletic program with softball and men’s golf, which are regular spring sports.
Softball Coach Nicole Dufour confirmed the team’s official practices were to start on Oct. 30 on the rec grass field near Patriots’ Casa. NAIA regulations prevented all teams from starting practice before September.
Dufour hoped to start practicing earlier this month, but the builder hadn’t released the field.
Regarding the precautions the team has to deal with COVID-19, Dufour said all coaches had to submit in writing the protocol the team would follow to ensure the safety of the student-athletes.
“Some of the things we’re going to be doing is we are definitely going to be wearing face masks to and from the field, we are going to be working in a smaller group setting to allow for social distancing, we also are going to get monthly COVID testing on campus and also require all coaches and student-athletes, even if they haven’t been on campus all day, to go through one of the checkpoints that are provided here on campus,” Dufour said.
The softball field won’t have a fence by the time the team starts official practices, but Dufour is confident they can make the best of it and carry on with their practices as scheduled.
“We are going to kind of make do with it, not having a fence, and we probably won’t have an exterior fence until the spring, but we’re not going to let it stop us,” Dufour said. “We will be doing our practices in the afternoon on our own field, which is a big plus.”