Mission Statement and Principles
The Panther program's mission is to provide players with a more competitive softball experience than the NGS recreational league or school teams generally offer (with the excepton of high school varsity). We seek to develop players' skills with a goal of preparing them to play softball at the highest level possible in high school and to have fun while doing so.
The Panther program builds teams in two types of competitive formats:
1. Tournament teams playing in 6-8 ASA "B" tournaments
2. MiddleEssex teams playing in the MiddleEssex summer league and sometimes a couple of ASA "B" or "C" tournaments
See the "Seasonal Overview" section form more detail on the MiddleEssex League and the "ASA Classifications" section for more detail on how teams and tournaments are classified.
The tournaments we enter are typically in Eastern or Central Massachusetts, with the exception of the 8U level for which tournaments only exist in Rhode Island.
While a Panther tournament-focused team will typically not enter the MiddleEssex League as a group, individual players may have the ability to supplement their tournament team experience by playing in the MiddleEssex League if we can make the numbers work and find the appropriate age division fit.
Our goal is to have two teams at each 10U, 12U and 14U, and one team at each 8U (Rhode Island coach-pitch tournaments only), 16U (would enter 16U tournaments and the 18A division of MiddleEssex) and 18U (MiddleEssex League only, with A vs. B sub-division decided year-to-year based on that talent level).
Tryouts and Roster Formation
We hold tryouts for the following year's 12U and older tournament teams in late August, 10U tournament team tryouts in late winter/early spring and MiddleEssex and the 8U tournament teams in May.
The tryout framework outlined above is subject to change along with the competitive softball landscape. We no longer will have separate tryouts for spring and summer teams, but will seek to accommodate players with restricted or seasonal availability in the team format that is most appropriate for them. We also will seek to get interested players who are not available during the summer involved in our fall league teams that participate in the Charles River Softball League. The fall season consists of Sunday morning doubleheaders and is generally more relaxed than the spring and summer.
As the Panther program plays competitive softball, we cannot guarantee that all interested players will be placed on a team. We will not put players on a Panther team whom we do not believe possess the minimum requisite skill level to have a safe and positive experience and who can make a competitive contribution to the team. If a player is close to the line of "minimum requisite skill level" for a MiddleEssex team or is close to consideration for a spot on a tournament team, we can make these players "alternates". Alternates pay a reduced registration fee, practice with the team, and play in games only when asked by the coach. Alternates are not identified as such on rosters or to their teammates.
MiddleEssex teams will be comprised solely of players from Newton, which includes Newton residents and non-resident students in the Newton Public Schools. While we strive to have the tournament teams be comprised solely of Newton players, we will seek players from outside of Newton to complete the roster if we believe that is necessary to construct a sufficiently competitive team. Players from outside of Newton would most likely be pitchers or catchers, as having a sufficient number of players with a minimum level of competency at those two positions is essential.
Playing Time Allocation
As the Panther program is more competitive than the recreational league, playing time -- both total innings and positions played -- will be based on merit.
Tournament teams will primarily be focused on winning, while still working to develop players at other preferred positions in practices and selective game situations. Tournament team players may be able to play in the MiddleEssex League to get time at other preferred positions that they do not play much in tournaments.
MiddleEssex League teams will have a slightly less competitive focus than the tournament teams with a slightly more equitable distribution of innings and positions, but the approach will still be merit-based. Just as we will not put a player on a Panther roster if we do not think she has a chance at being sufficiently successful, we will not put a player in a position where we feel she could not perform up to a standard that would be fair both to her and her teammates. When MiddleEssex teams play in tournaments, their priorities and playing time decisions will be more results-driven like the tournament teams.
Just as we differentiate between minimum requisite skill level and playing time allocation between tournament teams and MiddleEssex League teams, we also approach the various age levels somewhat differently. We will maintain a relatively lower standard for "minimum requisite skill level" at younger ages than at older ages. For example, we would likely only exclude a player from the 8U team if we had concerns about the player's safety. Likewise, playing time and inning allocation will be somewhat more equitable at 8U and 10U than at 12U and 14U, with equity yielding more completely to merit as players move up the age ladder.
We are committed to having coaches implement the above guidelines to the best of their ability. We ask that players understand the objectives of the different team formats to select the format that best aligns with their expectations and abilities.
Panther players are expected to make softball their primary athletic commitment during the spring and summer seasons, with school sports taking priority over Panthers softball.
Players are encouraged to be available for all weekday MiddleEssex League games and weekend tournaments; however, we know that summer is the time for many other important family activities, so we have adopted the following guidelines for those families who are unable to play their schedules around softball.
At the tryouts for MiddleEssex teams, we will ask for any known conflicts impacting the player's weeknight MiddleEssex and weekend tournament availability. Players are expected to be able to be available for at least five of the seven weeks of the MiddleEssex League season, which should translate into 10 of the 14 games.
Tournament attendance for tournament-focused teams is even more critical. While we do not gather availability at August tryouts for specific weekends the following spring and summer, we share the expectation that the girls will be available to play weekend softball from mid-April through the first weekend in August. We typically begin tournament registration in January and will survey families at that time to identify known conflicts. We will manage around that information to the best of our ability, but then expect players to be able to meet that availability commitment throughout the season. We will share the tournament schedule as soon as it is finalized, which will enable families to schedule other activities on off weekends.
Late-breaking conflicts are very problematic for the team. Some are absolutely unavoidable, but most tend to be the result of a player making a choice of another activity over a team event. Late-breaking conflicts can and should result in the loss of game day playing time.
In addition to fulfilling attendance commitments, being a good team member also involves treating the coaches and other teammates with respect and putting forth a strong effort at each practice and game.
As the Panther program features a number of volunteer parent coaches, it is essential that the coaches treat their daughters the same as every other player on the team and that the players respect the coach. Sometimes, the coach will ask a player to take an unfamiliar role -- in the field, in the batting order, or even on the bench -- and we expect a players to respect the coach's judgment and to take that assignment with a positive attitude.
One of the challenges of a town-based program is that players are more likely to bring pre-existing relationships and perceptions of others along with them. It is essential that players support all of their teammates, as chemistry and camaraderie are essential ingredients along with talent and effort on any successful team. Players who are disrespectful to either their coaches or teammates will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.
We will make appreciating the importance of respect and teamwork a centerpiece of the Panther's program values.