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Last year, instead of calling balls and strikes, I was learning how to drive and shoot a tank.  This year, as of a phone call tonight, I have been named the Umpire-in-Chief of our local summer softball organization.  With this big honor comes big responsibilities, such as finding, training, assigning, and evaluating our crew.

When I left, here is the state of our officials:  No training.  Two sets of shared equipment left in the concession stands overnight.  A t-shirt with the league logo on the front and "UMPIRE" printed on the back, and a suggestion (that was rarely followed) of khaki shorts.  Showing up 5 minutes prior to the first pitch.  These kind of things.

When I showed up in a pair of grey slacks and an umpire hat (I wore the league shirt with the chest protector under it to conform to the league "uniform"), the place thought they got me from the major leagues or something.  And while I have had some training, called some Varsity games, and taken to doing my job correctly, I could still use a lot of suggestions prior to taking command of this ragtag group and getting them season ready.

And in case you're wondering, Opening Day is May 7th.

So, with just over 2 months to properly train umpires for the very first time, I'm asking for your help.  I'm not looking to prepare these folks for this season's MLB World Series; I'm looking to get them through a rec league that covers 1st-12th grade.  What are the main things you suggest to teach?  In your opinion, what are things you cannot do without knowing before stepping on the ballfield?  Do you teach any clinics, and what are some of the methods you use?

I'm open to any and all suggestions, folks!

 

Part two.  Currently, these umpires are organized under the local league, with the UIC being a position on the board.  This is beneficial in regards to funding, however, can be limiting to future growth.  I have the option to organize these umpires as a separate entity (our area has no umpire association), and build them with their own association identity.  This might lose initial funding but could open doors to different opportunities around the area.  While this is something that can change after a year or two and isn't initially as important, I'm curious to your opinions on this as well.

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Since this is softball, I would reach out to the state ASA organization.  They have a lot of resources that can help with recruiting & training.

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Learning how to drive a tank? Pfft...that should take all of 10 seconds. If you can drive a tricycle, you can drive a tank. It just hurts more when you run into something :)

Are these certified umpires or at least adults? Or are you dealing with youth umpires? May not be all that different other than the approach if not certified.

Assuming these are youth/rec folks, keep it simple. VERY simple. I teach our youth umpires for our rec baseball league - I have a  2 hr training session/clinic, that's it. You simply cannot and should not try to cover everything that a certified, 'real' umpire would know.

You have quite a range of ages there, from glorified t-ball to high school age. Will the umpires be similarly segregated? The youngsters with the little girls? If so, just do the basics - positioning, timing (SLOW), the basics of pitching and baserunning rules. You don't have time and really don't need to worry about teaching the intricacies of obstruction/interference with 4th grade girls. The older ones - with presumably more experienced umps - can get into more detailed issues.

I guess it all depends on how much training time you have and what outside goals they have. If just a house rec league, then maybe that's fine for now till you get to know the capabilities and limitations of your staff.

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I do the very same thing. I assign the umpires for our small-town 8u/10u/13u baseball and softball rec teams. Our equipment is in about the same shape as yours, and our "Umpire" t-shirts don't have the league on the front. The ones I train are almost exclusively kids (we've had one parent), and the guy who did this before me is a certified HS umpire, so I do have the benefit of calling on him if I need to.

- A two-hour training is what we do, also. We cover positioning (A, B, and C), priorities on getting ready to make the call (unmoving, then angle, then distance) and the most common situations. I show them what to be watching for, and then we try a few simulations. We have both kid-pitch and coach-pitch, so those that will be doing kid-pitch, we do some plate work (mostly simulation with a non-swinging batter, pitcher, and catcher). Those that are comfortable, I will bring in later for plate-work during a scrimmage or batting practice.

- When I assign, I make sure that everybody (including the older ones) works an 8U game before moving them to the 10U game (kid-pitch, but no leadoffs or steals), and then a 10U game before moving to the 13U games. Some have a head for it and I only have them work one at each level before moving up, some take a bit longer. I always make sure to be there for their games (whether I'm on the field or in the stands) to help them work through the early ones.

One recommendation - our best umpires come from the high school JV ranks. Not that I will turn them down, but varsity players tend to think they know it all already. If you have an "in" with an area high school coach, it might be a good time to start recruiting.

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22 hours ago, TheGeneral said:

So, with just over 2 months to properly train umpires for the very first time, I'm asking for your help.  I'm not looking to prepare these folks for this season's MLB World Series; I'm looking to get them through a rec league that covers 1st-12th grade.  What are the main things you suggest to teach?  In your opinion, what are things you cannot do without knowing before stepping on the ballfield?  Do you teach any clinics, and what are some of the methods you use?

I'm open to any and all suggestions, folks!

I'm not religious myself, but I hear some people believe in the power of prayer.

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Actually, in all seriousness, this is how I started in umpiring - I had friends who had a daughter playing Bobby Sox (fast pitch softball assoc, used to be in the West and Hawaii), and apparently, with all the sun and sand in Hawaii, I had little better to do than show up at the ballfields.  The husband was the UIC, and I think that's what got me to say "hey, I can do that".

Since we didn't have the 2-3 month lead time you have, we did our own ad-libbed 2-man mechanics;  seriously, it was plate guy had calls at 3B and home, base guy had 1B and 2B calls, and steals.  Probably a SH*#-show, looking back and knowing how to actually umpire, but we didn't have a ton of controversy, and we were so close to free, the league had no reason to complain.

22 hours ago, TheGeneral said:

Part two.  Currently, these umpires are organized under the local league, with the UIC being a position on the board.  This is beneficial in regards to funding, however, can be limiting to future growth.  I have the option to organize these umpires as a separate entity (our area has no umpire association), and build them with their own association identity.  This might lose initial funding but could open doors to different opportunities around the area.  While this is something that can change after a year or two and isn't initially as important, I'm curious to your opinions on this as well.

I think you're better staying with the league.  Again, back to my beginnings - that's how we were.  We 'belonged' to the local Bobby Sox league, as did the other umpires for the other leagues on the island.  Led to some home cookin', and/or suspicions thereof, no doubt.  But the funding is probably critical right now - you need to get some training, and that funding would help.

I mean, you could form a parallel umpire association, and let those what are interested join that as well, with a look down the road to having that group bid for the work from the outside, as well as branching to other softball orgs, but surviving this first year should probably be the main goal.

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