PGSA Softball Winds Up Its Playoffs With Idyllic Night at Community Park
By Bill Alden
Parents chatted amiably with each other on the muggy evening as children loudly frolicked around the diamonds.
A Good Humor ice cream truck loomed up the hill in the parking lot while a dog bark or two rose above the general din.
The crowd had gathered in the cozy corner of the park to lend support to the players competing in the title games of the Princeton Girls Softball Association¹s (PGSA) Rookie Division (Grades 1-2) and Minor Division (Grades 2-3).
The players themselves filled the evening with shouts of encouragement and exited the field with smiles regardless of whether their team had won or lost.
For longtime PGSA president Jeff Furey, the atmosphere was the by-product of the league¹s focus on development of both softball and social skills.
"They start with zero skills and zero knowledge of the game and by the end they have skills,² said Furey, who has been involved with the PGSA for nine years, running the organization the last eight years. "It helps them develop self-esteem. The girls promote the social aspect by themselves, to their credit."
The program, which has grown to five divisions from three during Furey¹s stewardship, emphasizes three stages of development the regular season, the playoffs, and travel play for the older girls so inclined.
"My philosophy is that there should be no standings during the regular season," said Furey, whose daughter Juliana rose through the PGSA ranks from playing tee-ball as a kindergartner to becoming a star player in the junior program this summer as a rising ninth grader.
"We have the kids play as many positions as possible to enable them to develop skills. The tournament is the next level of competition. The girls hone their skills and take things to the next level. If the girls are really into it and want a more competitive experience, then they can play District 12 games."
Maddie Alden, an outfielder-pitcher for Lucy¹s Ravioli in the major division (Grades 5-6), is a fan of the PGSA's approach.
"Some of the most fun things about it are basically making new friends, learning about the game and just trying your hardest," said Alden, who just completed the fifth grade at Johnson Park School.
"I met girls from the other Princeton regional schools like Community Park and Littlebrook. Coach Tim [Miller] taught me a lot about the game that I never really knew. Next year, I'll really have a handle on things."
Furey, who is planning to pass the leadership torch of the PGSA as his daughter enters high school, has certainly gotten a lot out of running the organization.
"It's been great to see the girls develop, both athletically and emotionally,² declared Furey, citing the progress made by such junior stars as Erin Burns and Patty Nottingham.
"They learn how to handle success and, more importantly, how to handle defeat in a gracious manner. They learn how to deal with disappointment and come to the realization that life goes on."
And judging by the playoff scene at Community Park, the girls' lives were enhanced by having been involved with the PGSA.