By Jim Sanderson
I am very proud to be the fan for the umpire and share in celebrating great umpiring. The long hours of games allow me time for reflection, as I am often asking what allows some umpires to shine and handle most game situations while others struggle to manage coaches, players and themselves. The umpires that are able to show shine and polish have a mental toughness and preparation that is manifest in skills that have built credibility and confidence.
What does it mean when we say to ourselves or others…
“Why am I being assigned these lower level games? My skills are not being challenged. How can I improve working these unimportant games? How can I showcase my talents on this nothing game?
Let’s get right to the point giving proper emphasis—this attitude and frame of mind is destructive to umpiring and disrespects ourselves and the game.
Have an attitude of trusting that the assignor has a plan and a purpose for all assignments. Every game, play and pitch is an opportunity to shine, polish and reinforce your skills. All games are BIG games; all games are on TV; being the handheld devices of parents, fans and the team’s video recorders or a national broadcast on ESPN. Are you one of the umpires that has an on/off switch or are you always ON? Is your commitment effort and preparation matching that of the players and coaches?
Is the assignor sending me to this game to be a mentor to an up and coming umpire? WOW, what an honor! The assignor has enough confidence to send me as an example of a standard to another member of our quality team/crew. Maybe you are sent to work the game to observe a “problem” coach or player or because of complaints about past officials.
Every game has the same Balls and Strikes, Safes and Outs, Fairs and Fouls calls. The calls require the same slot, set, angle and distance with a matching quality for call and signal. An umpire’s actions will speak louder that their words and will represent their mental attitude, be it good or bad.
We all should ask ourselves, if our mental state or attitude promotes us or hinders us? How does our attitude affect others and their perception of us and our skills? We need to find ways to work on and change the many negatives without dwelling on them. Change the S t into fertilizer and promote beautiful growth. The negatives can become a cancer that prevents us from seeing the great many positives that the game provides. We all have many experiences or War Stories that enrich our lives and allow us to develop useful life skills. I know that my life is better and more complete because of the opportunities of softball.
Often I am reminded that the letters used to spell LISTEN can be rearranged to spell SILENT. The anatomical lesson here is we have one mouth, but two ears, two eyes and two hemispheres of brain. More listen, more see, more think should precede what the one mouth says. Umpires that are viewed as approachable are good listeners; able to ignore the emotion of the coach, player and situation, and still be able to hear the valid message or question.
Good signals are supported by athletic body language. All movement, during plays, between plays and between innings needs to be done with purpose so a message of professionalism and credibility is being reinforced. All of our actions build muscle memory. How is your quality of muscle memory? What kind of muscle memory legacy are you building in your brain and muscles? Bad habits (memory) are too difficult to overcome so avoid them in the first place.
Enough of preaching on the soapbox: I do hope that this ranting will get you, our quality, dedicated umpires, to do some self-examination and make changes in hopes that we are honest with ourselves and the game.
Do you use some of the powerful messages that our BIG DAWG leaders/instructors have given you over the years? Here are some visual images that may help you better incorporate them into your game.
Do you use the drunken fish as you move to your calling and adjustment position? (thanks John Bennett)
PUBGAR(P) = Pick Up Ball, Glance At Runner, (Partner)
Game management can be like a female lamb, a ewe. (again, thanks John Bennett)
E W E
E nough, perhaps giving the stop sign
W arn, Written warning, shared with partner(s)
E ject, partner now provides escort service
This game management method is gender neutral. It can be used with players, coaches, partners and life in general. Remember, in regards to inappropriate or unsporting behavior, that Ignore = Promotes. Officials must step up with courage and conviction and appropriately take care of the situation and handle the offender. Choose wisely how, where and when to fight the battle and send the correct message without looking like the aggressor.
Celebrating being the Umpire’s Coach
SUP Regional Advisor
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