What it takes to be an Excellent Umpire

Do you want to be an Excellent umpire? Let us start this article with this message: the best officials, the officials that rise to the top, are masters of rules and mechanics. But they are also the few that live in that world of game and situation management in between being soft and being a hard a$$. Your road to being an Excellent umpire starts with this philosophy “Do not be looking to insert yourself into the game, but be ready to have the game insert you into it.”

Presence

It is an intangible and hard to define. It starts with looking the part – good physical form, sharp uniform then goes farther. Look smart and confident when entering and departing from the field of play. How an umpire stands on the field prior to the start and between innings is extremely important. The shoulders should be upright with head held high, never folding the arms in front of the body, giving the effect of confidence and approachability without being “gimmicky” or unnecessarily the center of attention. Look people in the eye while communicating, keeping cool in the middle of a visit from an angry coach. Approach the game calmly and fully prepared and not distracted in any way.

Grace Under Fire

Stepping up to difficult situations, loyalty to your partners, not throwing your partner under the bus during any discussions with coaches. Example: ball hits bat while batter out of box but PU does not see. BU calls dead ball and PU declares batter out because based on where batter was when contact “happened.” When coach goes after BU, PU intercepts and tells him that part of the call is his.

Discernment

When to let a complaint go and when to address it – knowing when to draw the line. Situation in the game, who is making the complaint, how the complaint is lodged, tone of voice, etc. How and when a selling a call is in order. Not every close call with the same intensity, for example hard sell strike 3 when batter is obviously fooled by a pitch down the middle.  One important thing to remember – we never interact with spectators, such as…

Respect

The first step towards gaining respect is to respect yourself, then others will respect you (paraphrase from a Confucius saying). Another important concept is that respect must be earned. Newer college umpires must understand that respect from coaches is not attained overnight. The dilemma is that you need to create a body of excellent umpiring to get this respect, but this takes time and experience. With that in mind, what are the qualities that will earn you respect from others, whether as a new college umpire or a veteran umpire?
You need a calm demeanor, an inner calm to project that onto the game and a strong presence is part of this. The nature of the umpire/coach relationship may sometimes be emotional; the ability to keep your calm ensures the game is maintained under control. With coaches, given the potential volatility in contests, your ability to remain calm ensures a better relationship with them when you need it to resolve tense situations.
Along with having a calming presence, being approachable is another important quality which will lead toward an umpire being noticed in a positive way. Officials who are known and respected have that extra something, sometimes called the “it factor”. An excellent umpire will never “promote” themselves; they are respected because of who they are, their personalities, how they handle themselves on and off the field. They listen and respect others and their opinions as this brings respect in return. See the article on this Locker room Going for Help on a Judgment Call for more detail on how this relates to sticking with your call when you know you are correct.
These other qualities also help to get you respect; they are covered in other articles on this Locker room: a good appearance, confidence, and a consistency of good game management.

Awareness

Keeping a close eye on players’ behavior. Recognize potential problems and head them off. Home run hitter makes demonstrative gesture, points at dugout, etc. Concentrate on the game and your responsibilities at all times. Properly establish and maintain general control of the game. Communicate effectively with players and coaches.

Style

Develop a “style” when you are on the field – how you look when move and make your calls. Stay within the parameters of the CCA Manual but have a little bit of individuality. Don’t be mechanically sound but too robotic.