ERIE, Pa. – Through a shared vision, the 814 Elite Fastpitch travel softball organization has officially launched.
With an emphasis on player and coaching development, 814 Elite, a non-profit organization, will aim to provide more opportunities to young softball players across the area. With its formation, longtime travel softball programs in the area, the Erie Frost and Cambridge Crush, have combined to come under the 814 umbrella as well.
“There’s always been talk and this has been in the works for about six months,” said 814 Elite President Maureen Wolfe, who served as the head softball coach at McDowell for 15 years. “The people that know softball in the area have kind of talked about the watering down of the travel system and how it would be really nice if we could get multiple groups to come together.”
Through that shared vision, 814 Elite came to be. Wolfe said that development will be curated through both regional and premier teams, with the goal to eventually have two teams at every birth year.
“What would happen here is that if you have two teams for every berth year, a regional team and premier team,” Wolfe said. “The premier team would be setting you up for college level. How many girls have been cut from an organization when they were 10-11 when they weren’t in the best 12? They go to a different program, develop, and now they belong on that team. If we have the two teams, the idea behind that is, if you’re not premier right now, we’re going to give you the same resources as the ones who are. There’s room to change from within. We want to fix that for the Erie area and create a system of development.”
Some 814 Elite teams will begin this fall once rosters are determined and will practice during the winter offseason. The multiple teams will also allow flexibility for multi-sport athletes, something that 814 Elite encourages, Wolfe noted.
Tryouts are scheduled to be in the Erie area on July 24-26, the Edinboro/Cambridge area August 1 and 3 and August 13 at a location to be determined. All teams will be chosen by an evaluation committee consisting of no parents of players in that age group.
The board of directors, including Co-Vice Presidents Angie Mumford and Brian Sanders, as well as Ray Kraus (Treasurer), Abby Sallot (Secretary), Greg Evans (Pitching Instructor) and Kellie Reese (Player Evaluator) bring not only a wealth of experience, but plenty of connections as well.
“We all had a shared vision, and we said let’s stop talking about how great this would be and put together a plan,” Wolfe said. “We’ll use the knowledge and experience of not just our board, but other experienced coaches in the area as well. We’re still figuring out some of the roles some of them want to have. We’ve been talking to a lot of great softball minds in the area and getting their feedback.”
Wolfe, who is originally from Pittsburgh, emphasized that the goal is not just to provide opportunities to players in Erie and Crawford County, but also parts of Ohio and New York as well as Venango, Warren and Mercer counties, among others.
“We want to increase the player pool to create internal competition and opportunities for the girls,” Wolfe said. “A lot of people focus on winning; we want to focus on development.”
To that point, there will also be full organizational practices every Sunday.
The organization will utilize Gannon’s indoor Rec & Wellness Center, with the facility offering 80 yards of turf.
“I’m not going to be coaching a team, but I’m going to be helping design the Sunday practices, running drills, those kinds of things,” Wolfe said. “Girls are going to be with all of these resources that we bring in. That’s going to create an area where the players are developing under these coaches, but coaches will be developing as well. We are also going to have a coaching development committee that is going to be made up of different local softball people.”
Wolfe also said that there will be low dues, something the Frost and Crush were always known for, while also holding fundraising events to help offset costs.
Quite simply, it’s all about the girls and their development.
“Why are we doing it? It’s the love of the sport,” Wolfe said. “That sounds too good to be true in this day in age, but it’s why I’m so excited and so passionate about it. It’s all about what’s best for the girls.”
For more information, visit the 814 Elite website here.