Give all athletes what they need


Ayane Kobayashi

Many Coppell sports are required to share practice space with each other on a regular basis, which leads to frustration among athletes. The Sidekick staff writer Meer Mahfuz thinks each sport should have their own facility for practice and competition.

Meer Mahfuz and Nandini Muresh

Bright flood lights, turf fields and precisely engineered buildings and stands. All elements that contribute to the aura of sports. Obviously, football gets field priority and the glamour of the Friday Night Lights atmosphere but what about us. 

What about the soccer players who do not even get a field to themselves? What about baseball players who have to struggle and make due with 30 yards of fieldhouse space and have to travel across the city to host a game? What about swimming, who has to go to Coppell Family YMCA for practices and can rarely host meets? What about tennis, who doesn’t have adequate facilities to house its participants and offer shower space for students returning to class? There are so many talented athletes but yet many of them have to scrap for training space. 

Take a look at some of the best athletics facilities in Dallas-Fort Worth – maybe even in the state – and you see the complexes of Prosper, Allen and Southlake Carroll ISDs (to name a few) with plenty of practice facilities that multiple sports can share.

Southlake Carroll has its Dragon Stadium a couple of miles from its high school. On campus, there are several outdoor practice fields, very nice baseball and softball fields, a tennis complex, a CISD Aquatics Center and track/practice field.

Take a look at Prosper’s two high schools – Prosper and Rock Hill. While both of them share Children’s Health Stadium for games and PISD Natatorium for swim meets, each school has its own arena, baseball fields, indoor turf facilities, multiple outdoor practice fields, tennis courts as well as an outdoor turf field and track.

Allen might have one of the best public school athletic complexes in the nation and certainly does have one of the best football stadiums. If you look at Allen’s campus on Google Earth, you’ll see that it has Eagle Stadium built for football, Allen High School Track and Field Stadium, Allen High School Tennis Courts, Allen High Softball Field, Allen High School Baseball Complex, Allen High Softball Field, a 27,890-square-foot auxiliary competition gymnasium and several other fields scattered throughout the campus. 

This is not to say that Coppell isn’t blessed by any means. In fact, Coppell has led the way in sports facilities for many years and still is highly competitive in terms of facilities. While Buddy Echols Field is extremely nice, there have been other stadiums, such as Eagle Stadium and Children’s Health Stadium, that have popped up across Texas that can rival it. Still, CHS Field House’s 120-yard indoor turf facility with an elite weight room has led the way in elite indoor facilities. Similarly, CHS Arena provides an elite venue for volleyball and basketball competition. However, CISD Baseball/Softball Complex, although currently receiving renovations, is located across the city and there is no aquatics center dedicated to the Coppell athletics programs. 

“If you go facility for facility, we are on-par with any school,” Coppell ISD Athletic Director Kit Pehl said. “If you look at each school specifically and if you compared weight rooms, compared indoor [facilities], compared stadiums, compared arenas or main gyms in some cases, they would all land in different places but, in terms of generally speaking from a facilities perspective and particularly weight rooms and competition facilities, we are top notch.”

Certainly, there is an undeniable honor associated with the aura of having these facilities on the footstep of your campus. After all, which coach(es) or player(s) wouldn’t want to walk outside of the classroom and into an athletic paradise? 

There are two main factors that go into any type of field construction/renovation: money and space. Those aforementioned conditions have directly impacted the school’s ability to build facilities on campus. But, there’s also more to it than just what we want.

There are a couple of solutions in my mind. The first of which is, when the turf at Buddy Echols Field or CHS Fieldhouse is replaced, you can take the old turf and line the grass field with it so that you’d have three turf fields for many teams to practice on.

“It would be perfect [to have a designated soccer field] because we wouldn’t have to worry about anyone else sharing time on the field,” Coppell senior midfielder Walker Stone said. “If we’d have our own facility then it’d be one less thing to worry about; we could just get after training. We’ve had to work through [sharing fields with other teams] because, obviously, we want as much time as possible on the field but having to share is a bit of a struggle sometimes. We don’t have enough time or space to practice sometimes and it gets you less enthusiastic about coming to the period.”

There is, however, an issue with that idea. According to Pehl, we want to have that grass field, even though it gets used a lot less than turf, because it provides us with flexibility. For argument’s sake, let’s say that any turf sport has to play a game on a grass field. Then you need a grass field to prepare for the game and having both a turf field and a grass field for this scenario would be beneficial in the event of this occurrence. 

In terms of space, the biggest impact has been on the baseball fields behind CHS Fieldhouse. According to Pehl, the parking lot behind Buddy Echols Field severely limits the ability for CISD to have an elite baseball/softball complex on campus. As is, the current baseball field wouldn’t even have capacity for 500 people. There was also an issue regarding the construction of lights on that baseball field as well.

At the time, there were horse stables that were on the private property that is immediately adjacent to the private property on the other side of that fence and, if I’m not mistaken, it literally went to the city council,” Pehl said. “[The owners of the property] would not let lights be installed because, if I’m not mistaken, it would mess with the mating habits of the horses or something along those lines.”

That doesn’t diminish the needs of tennis and swimming however. There are certainly needs with housing participants with Coppell High School Tennis Center and an aquatic facility. According to Pehl, UIL will sanction a new sport in water polo. Given the current needs of swimming, in addition to tennis needs, there is no doubt a need for an upgrade in those facilities. Luckily, we are not the only ones who notice this issue.

“My next focus is the tennis center; our space to compete in terms of the number of courts is fine but we need a little more room to house the number of tennis participants that we have and the ability for them to clean up and shower before they go to class,” Pehl said. “That’s definitely on my mind but the swimming situation [is also present]. Our participation has taken us into multiple periods outside of the two athletics periods just so we can accommodate the number of swimmers that we have. Long term, we might need more pool space so those are the two places that I’m looking for; and it’s not tomorrow, it’s down the road.”

Though it’s certainly recognized that there are other, and better, needs with the money we have, a distant thought in the future could help but imagine a campus with additional and improved fields. 

“For practice, whether it’s for us or for anybody, just another turf field would be awesome; baseball, soccer, softball and girls soccer could go out there,” Coppell soccer coach James Balcom said. “I’d probably go back and forth on [the idea of a soccer specific stadium] but anytime you can add a turf field for everybody to use, there’s benefits to it. All programs would benefit from another turf field but when you weigh the costs of it, especially after a pandemic, I would imagine that money can go elsewhere for much better uses right now.”

Maybe it isn’t a pressing matter for now but, with the continued growth of the Coppell Independent School District, there will certainly be more athletes and potentially more teams/sports in the future. Given the space held by CISD, it’s only in my natural inclination to say that all sports deserve their own facility. A soccer specific stadium, a natatorium, a track and field stadium and renovations to the current facilities would be where I would start.

Follow Meer (@mahfuz_meer) and @SidekickSports on Twitter.