San Antonio–Students have all kinds of summer experiences: going on vacations, working jobs, doing internships or just relaxing for the summer. Few have the kind of experiences that St. Mary’s University softball player Arlynda Flores had this past summer.

Flores, a senior from Uvalde, traveled to Aruba to play softball in a 10-day tournament hosted by USA Athletics International, Inc. This non profit organization allows athletes and coaches the opportunity to participate in Olympic style events all around the world. Flores was recommended to participate in the program by her coach, Donna Fields. An ideal athlete for the USAAI program possesses leadership ability, depth of character and good scholastic efforts, along with their talented athletic ability. In the last two seasons with the Rattlers, Flores has twice earned All-Heartland Conference honors and last season was named All-American. She finished third in the nation in homeruns last season as well. As impressive off the field as on, Flores earned Heartland Conference President’s Honor Roll and CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District recognition.

After arriving in Aruba, Flores only had two days to practice with her fellow teammates who joined the team from all over the United States. Over the first couple of days, the team of nine was able to learn and adapt to one another’s playing style and skill set. Flores commented that this time crunch was one of her greatest challenges; although she learned a great deal about different defense tactics and styles of play compared to the style that she’s used to at St. Mary’s.

When comparing experiences of being on the field at St. Mary’s and in Aruba Flores recalled many differences. Not only were defense and style of playing different, but the field was composed entirely of dirt. Playing the game was also a different experience due to the different languages that opposing teams were speaking during play. Luckily Flores was able to pick up some of the dialect and relay information back to her team.

Over the course of the tournament Flores was able to venture out and explore Aruba with her teammates. Her busy schedule only allowed her a couple of hours a day to see the sights, snorkel through pirate wreckage and teach children about softball. Between adventures in Aruba and tournament play the USA team took time to host clinics for the area children. These clinics were provided to the community at no charge and allow the athletes to share their knowledge of the game and help to develop the skills of the children who were excited to learn and play with the team.

Community involvement is a topic that Flores is very familiar with. It was the community in her home town of Uvalde, that afforded Flores the opportunity to play in Aruba. Last year, when Flores accepted the opportunity to play this summer, the city of Uvalde held a softball tournament and donated the funds to Flores for her trip. The tournament consisted of five teams that stemmed from San Antonio, San Marcos, Pearsall and Uvalde. The Flores Family later hosted a smaller tournament that brought teams in from Del Rio and Eagle Pass. Overall most of South Texas contributed to Flores’ journey. Flores was an active participant in both tournaments and directed the events that helped her raise the $2,300 that she needed to participate with USA Athletics International.

Summer softball in Aruba allowed Flores to experience live pitching, different styles of play and a different caliber of players, coaches and strategy. Flores expanded her views as a player, coach and as a person. Participating in an international softball tournament and adapting to the cultural differences between Flores, her teammates and her opponents reaffirmed the passion Flores has for the sport that she has dedicated so much time and effort to. Flores has received an invitation to join the USA Athletics International team on their European tour of France, Belgium and Italy next summer. Flores looks forward to the year to come and all of the opportunities that it will bring.

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