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What does my future hold? - Request for career advice


The Man in Blue

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I have had many changes in my life since I started umpiring about 10 years ago.  As I read posts here from many of you (and yes, I do love you guys even when I am obstinate!), I realize how different each of our umpiring lives/careers are.

With that, I'm looking for some sage advice of where my umpiring career could go next.

As I said, I am roughly ten years in and love it.  I am mid 40s, so any hope of an actual "professional career" has past me by.  Pre-pandemic I was working in the neighborhood of 100-150 games a year (peaking around 200 a few years ago).  I reached those numbers through lots of weekend tournaments (as I'm sure many umpires do).

My work schedule in my previous career made it so I could do a significant number of school contests (HS and MS, V and JV, softball and baseball), but many were pick-ups as I did have to travel locally/regionally for work.  That travel did open up some opportunities to work games further from home than I normally would have been able to do.  I am making a career transition to teaching, so I know that will have an impact on my ability to work school contests.

On the softball side, in the summer, I have mostly worked USA Softball for the last several years. 10u to 18u, working up to state tournaments almost every year.  I would travel a few weekends each summer, but usually within 90 minutes of home.  In my home area, there are very few opportunities to work college games (few colleges and the local assignors are not good at bringing in new people -- I won't get out that soapbox at the moment).  My career change will probably limit that as well (due to the travel needed).

On the baseball side, again, I work V and JV in the school season.  In the summer, we don't have many large tournaments (or quality leagues) in my home area; softball takes up most of the facilities around here.  This past spring/summer I worked exclusively baseball (mostly 12u - 16u) as I was in Mississippi and managed to hook up with a couple of assignors there.  Again, college opportunities are slim to none in my home area (or I just haven't found the right crowd yet).

As I said, my life has changed quite a bit in the last few years.  Kids are grown, career change that will give me summers off (but limit me other times of the year), and a desire to start looking at advancing my career somehow.  I will be in Mississippi one more year, then I will most likely be returning to Central IL.

Some of my broad opinions of umpiring in Central IL (does NOT apply to everybody here, but is an overarching pattern)-- information on camps/clinics is given out on a "need-to-know basis" rather than broadly publicized to bring in new umpires; same with scheduling and getting games.  The guys and gals in this area are generally great to work with, but very few will help you advance as it takes away from their potential games.  "Leadership" (assignors and UICs) is more about power and being the guy in charge than training, recruiting, and promoting.

SO ... What sage advice do you have?  Where can my road go and how do you suggest getting there?  Give me your best and worst advice!  😁

 

Edit to add: some personal goals: improve my knowledge and abilities, find new levels and new places to work, travel some more in the summer, etc.

 

 

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Around here, teachers do make good umpires because they do get out of work in time to make the late afternoon starts.  College is much harder.

 

So, as I read what you wrote:  Baseball in the spring; softball in the summer.  Just work on being the best HS official you can be; you can't really control the rest (but keep your ears open for camps, assigners) and let the rest fall as it does (based on IHSA coaches ratings, etc.)

 

And, pick up something else for the fall or winter (football, volleyball, water polo,  competitive dance....)

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I had to give up officiating when I moved from the classroom to administration but being a teacher was perfect for working school ball. I wouldn't work games for my school but 9th grade and JV games in that conference were fine (with no standings or championships there was no reason to question neutrality). For Varsity games I would work out of conference, I do y know how plausible that is where you live here it's quite simple. There were many times where I could work a JV game and then a Babe Ruth game that came on the field after.

Not sure that this is any advice, but proof that teaching isn't a problem while officiating. 

Btw let me know if I can offer any support as you move into teaching. We're all in this together.

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Lots of good officials here work several sports. Can you pick up another sport--especially one with a shortage of officials--and develop broader contacts there that you could use to develop your umpiring career?

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3 hours ago, noumpere said:

Around here, teachers do make good umpires because they do get out of work in time to make the late afternoon starts.  College is much harder.

 

So, as I read what you wrote:  Baseball in the spring; softball in the summer.  Just work on being the best HS official you can be; you can't really control the rest (but keep your ears open for camps, assigners) and let the rest fall as it does (based on IHSA coaches ratings, etc.)

 

And, pick up something else for the fall or winter (football, volleyball, water polo,  competitive dance....)

I should have been a little clearer about our seasons ...

In Illinois it is middle school baseball/softball in the "fall" (August-September) and high school baseball/softball in the spring.  In the last few years we have just started to see "late fall" games/tournaments popping up on the travel side.  Summer ball is "travel ball" for both, but we don't have a lot of baseball around here.  We probably have more than I realize, but softball has filled my schedule so I hadn't really looked too hard.

As far as high school, advancing to post season is not a goal of mine.  I checked out of the politics of that a long damned time ago.  (Both the human politics and the "statistical" politics.)  What I enjoyed most was working games in places where I was at work that day, as much a 2-3 hours away from home, but I won't be able to to do that in the future.

I also officiate volleyball, but that is not a priority of mine.  The high school season starts the same time as MS baseball/softball, so I do not take any volleyball until later.  MS usually starts after the holidays, with a local 5th & 6th grade church league playing on weekends after that.  When it comes to volleyball, I prefer low level and MS games that are much more laid back.

And ... you do NOT want to see me dance, especially not competitively.  😁

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2 hours ago, pnewton said:

I had to give up officiating when I moved from the classroom to administration but being a teacher was perfect for working school ball. I wouldn't work games for my school but 9th grade and JV games in that conference were fine (with no standings or championships there was no reason to question neutrality). For Varsity games I would work out of conference, I do y know how plausible that is where you live here it's quite simple. There were many times where I could work a JV game and then a Babe Ruth game that came on the field after.

Not sure that this is any advice, but proof that teaching isn't a problem while officiating. 

Btw let me know if I can offer any support as you move into teaching. We're all in this together.

I appreciate the encouragement!  I know getting off work earlier (prior job I had flexibility most of the time) will be helpful, but the drawback is the drive.  I live just outside Springfield.  It's a good sized area, but most of the work is in the smaller towns around the area (30+ minute drives).  I don't mind the drive at all, just the timing.  It may work out!

This year I will still be in Mississippi though.  I'm still learning the lay of the land down there.

I will PM you about teaching ... it has been ... uh, interesting ... this first year.

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2 hours ago, LRZ said:

Lots of good officials here work several sports. Can you pick up another sport--especially one with a shortage of officials--and develop broader contacts there that you could use to develop your umpiring career?

 

I think this is probably the route I need to attack more.  Like I said, the "networks" (cliques) are tight around here, so it is hard to get in.  I know a lot of umpires around here, but most of them run the same circle.  Maybe I just need to be more vocal about what I am looking for.  Like I said, I would like to work more out of the area, so I may be looking in the wrong places.

The other possibility that I think is the case, is that a lot of those other opportunities that exist in other areas just don't exist around here.  (Legion Ball, adult leagues, collegiate summer leagues, etc.)  We do have a summer college wooden bat league (Prospect League), but I read they are using graduates from one of the camps/academies ... I forget now.  It's been a while since I looked.

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@The Man in Blue, the game can hide neither bad umpires nor good umpires. A few years ago, after several years of being disappointed I wasn't meeting my umpiring goals, I made the executive decision to just umpire the next game, the next inning, the next half inning, the next out and the next batter to the best of my abilities. Once I did that, with the pressure of larger goals having been removed, I started enjoying umpiring a lot more and I started earning some opportunities I thought were perhaps beyond me.

~Dawg

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On 7/5/2021 at 1:01 PM, The Man in Blue said:

I appreciate the encouragement!  I know getting off work earlier (prior job I had flexibility most of the time) will be helpful, but the drawback is the drive.  I live just outside Springfield.  It's a good sized area, but most of the work is in the smaller towns around the area (30+ minute drives).  I don't mind the drive at all, just the timing.  It may work out!

This year I will still be in Mississippi though.  I'm still learning the lay of the land down there.

I will PM you about teaching ... it has been ... uh, interesting ... this first year.

http://cbua.arbitersports.com/Groups/103681/Library/files/Don King - Fall Umpire Camp Brochure.pdf

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On 7/5/2021 at 11:45 AM, noumpere said:

water polo

Make sure you have good lungs… you’re basically blowing your whistle every 1-2 seconds. 

On 7/5/2021 at 11:45 AM, noumpere said:

competitive dance

Oh? Is someone here a Rumba Referee?? A Foxtrot Field Judge?? Huh! Nevvvvver woulda guessed it! 

On 7/5/2021 at 11:35 AM, The Man in Blue said:

I am mid 40s, so any hope of an actual "professional career" has past me by.

As of typing this, I’m 46. Aside from a nagging hip injury that is hindering me (aggravated by having to drive the 7000 miles of this summer League I’m doing), I’ve largely fooled everyone I’ve encountered – assigners, coaches, coordinators, instructors, evaluators, colleagues – since I don’t look, or move like I’m 46. I even had a group of Major League Umpires fooled when I attended their Day Camp in Chicago in 2015. One in particular feigned being upset that I wasn’t 6 years younger, else he’d “be sending you (me) to Florida tomorrow!” 

Needless to say, I’m too old to get into the MLB system. MLB Umpires and I have had “the talk”. However, there is still a place for me. 

At their and several college umpires’ encouragement, I relocated to Phoenix (from Milwaukee) and in short order, was doing teenaged tournament ball, high school, college (NAIA & NCAA varsity reserve), men’s adult amateur, and Minor & Major League Spring Training (non-sanctioned games). Through opportunities I’ve been given by select colleagues, I now do a summer college wood bat league (3-man, with a lotta travel) as a crew chief; and, due to this, I’ve parlayed this into being a resource and trainer of umpires for multi-man crews (3, 4 & 6). I no longer do any youth games younger than 12 years old, and I’ve added soccer to my repertoire; between the two, I do approximately 400 games per year. 

I can’t do this forever, but I sure do hope that all this work is building towards positive gains and results. 

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Unfortunately, an important element in the possibilities of moving up in a sport is whether there is a shortage or not. Several years into my soccer refereeing, I was asked by the powers-that-be to take the college soccer test, because they needed refs, so I did. But those same powers never moved me up to HS varsity, where there were plenty of refs. So there I was--a college and HS JV official. Go figure.

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@Mad Mike and @umpstu … thank you!  Both of those camps have been on my radar for a few years.  The timing of both has always caused a conflict (Don King’s is typically on the same weekend as my wife’s birthday AND our anniversary while the Midwest one was always the same weekend as a standing work event).  This year … well, I’m in Mississippi, but I am going to check my grad school calendar.

@SeeingEyeDog … I haven’t lost my love for umpiring, just getting bored (and sometimes fed up) with the stuff that I am working.  That was a GREAT post though!

 

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1 hour ago, The Man in Blue said:

just getting bored (and sometimes fed up) with the stuff that I am working

Stop working that stuff -- it's the wrong level *for you*.  Go back to HS (or younger stuff if that's what you want.)  You are not doing yourself or the sport / level any favors by conitnuing to work it (or work it as much as you are doing).

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13 hours ago, MadMax said:

As of typing this, I’m 46. Aside from a nagging hip injury that is hindering me (aggravated by having to drive the 7000 miles of this summer League I’m doing), I’ve largely fooled everyone I’ve encountered – assigners, coaches, coordinators, instructors, evaluators, colleagues – since I don’t look, or move like I’m 46. I even had a group of Major League Umpires fooled when I attended their Day Camp in Chicago in 2015. One in particular feigned being upset that I wasn’t 6 years younger, else he’d “be sending you (me) to Florida tomorrow!” 

Needless to say, I’m too old to get into the MLB system. MLB Umpires and I have had “the talk”. However, there is still a place for me. 

At their and several college umpires’ encouragement, I relocated to Phoenix (from Milwaukee) and in short order, was doing teenaged tournament ball, high school, college (NAIA & NCAA varsity reserve), men’s adult amateur, and Minor & Major League Spring Training (non-sanctioned games). Through opportunities I’ve been given by select colleagues, I now do a summer college wood bat league (3-man, with a lotta travel) as a crew chief; and, due to this, I’ve parlayed this into being a resource and trainer of umpires for multi-man crews (3, 4 & 6). I no longer do any youth games younger than 12 years old, and I’ve added soccer to my repertoire; between the two, I do approximately 400 games per year. 

I can’t do this forever, but I sure do hope that all this work is building towards positive gains and results. 

Very insightful Max, you seem like a great umpire and I really appreciate what you've contributed to this forum, it's helped me a lot since starting out a couple years ago. I have a question for you though, I am starting college this year and intend to get my 4 year degree and then go to pro school. If that doesn't work out then at least I have a degree to fall back on. Currently I am mostly assigned 13-18 year old travel ball, men's league, and started doing JV this year. Partners I've worked with have said good things and some have put in a good word for me with higher ups in the organization, so I'm hoping that will encourage my assignors to give me some better games this upcoming year.  In these few years before pro school, what do you recommend I do to prepare for a possible career in professional ball? 

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14 hours ago, MadMax said:

As of typing this, I’m 46. Aside from a nagging hip injury that is hindering me (aggravated by having to drive the 7000 miles of this summer League I’m doing), I’ve largely fooled everyone I’ve encountered – assigners, coaches, coordinators, instructors, evaluators, colleagues – since I don’t look, or move like I’m 46. I even had a group of Major League Umpires fooled when I attended their Day Camp in Chicago in 2015. One in particular feigned being upset that I wasn’t 6 years younger, else he’d “be sending you (me) to Florida tomorrow!” 

Needless to say, I’m too old to get into the MLB system. MLB Umpires and I have had “the talk”. However, there is still a place for me. 

At their and several college umpires’ encouragement, I relocated to Phoenix (from Milwaukee) and in short order, was doing teenaged tournament ball, high school, college (NAIA & NCAA varsity reserve), men’s adult amateur, and Minor & Major League Spring Training (non-sanctioned games). Through opportunities I’ve been given by select colleagues, I now do a summer college wood bat league (3-man, with a lotta travel) as a crew chief; and, due to this, I’ve parlayed this into being a resource and trainer of umpires for multi-man crews (3, 4 & 6). I no longer do any youth games younger than 12 years old, and I’ve added soccer to my repertoire; between the two, I do approximately 400 games per year. 

I can’t do this forever, but I sure do hope that all this work is building towards positive gains and results. 

 

Same age Max, but feel as if I am lagging so far behind.  It bugs me that it can be such an ageist "profession."

I believe I have the talent and ability (and if not, I am certainly willing to work at it more), I just am not finding opportunities.  Not that I could talk my wife into moving like that (more so I can live vicariously through you), but can I ask you if you moved just for that?  Does that give you enough work to make a living or do you have a day job?

I'd like to find a path similar to what you are on ... particularly the training other umpires part.

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5 hours ago, noumpere said:

Stop working that stuff -- it's the wrong level *for you*.  Go back to HS (or younger stuff if that's what you want.)  You are not doing yourself or the sport / level any favors by conitnuing to work it (or work it as much as you are doing).

3 hours ago, LRZ said:

Or maybe take a year off. See how you feel when you return.

 

Maybe I gave the wrong impression, I'm not burned out on umpiring ... just ready for some new experiences and something that shows me I am still progressing.  

Perhaps some of it is the wrong level, but it's what I can find in the summer.  I don't mind it most of the time.  When it starts to grind on me I do take some time off or cut back on my scheduling for a while.  The problem is, that is what is waiting when I get back.

I did take a year off (COVID).  Coming back from that, I came back to a new area with new people.  Some of that helped, some of that hurt.  I am hoping I can parlay some of that into new opportunities this year, but I also realize that I am 99.99% not staying in that area beyond this year.

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I was responding to the "I'm bored" part, where one option is to come back and where you are at, but with renewed interest.

I get that you're bored and unhappy with where you are at in umpiring. But the longer this thread goes on, the more I suspect that you might consider some serious soul-searching and ask some big questions. Where do you want to be--geographically, professional, umpire-ingly, familially--in five years? In ten or fifteen? What are your priorities, and where does umpiring at the highest level you could achieve fit in that spectrum? If you have a dream about umpiring and it doesn't pay off, will you be ok when it comes time to retire? How much risk can you afford, financially, emotionally, psychologically? And, frankly--I say this with the utmost respect--what does your wife think about all this? 

This may be self-evident, but you are only "lagging behind" if you compare yourself with others, like Mad Max; you must have made life/career decisions that led you to the present; Mad Max might have made other choices. Compare yourself to where you'd like to be, not with others, I'd suggest. 

But then, easy for me to say: I'm a long-retired old man, who long ago chose what roads to travel, and I am no longer so driven.

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@LRZ  I appreciate the honest feedback.  While I can't say I agree with it, it is definitely excellent to help me focus.  I am a person who talks through things to get to a solution, so please do not interpret my posts as anything more than that.  I am asking for some advice on places to look, experiences to look for, and just some people to bounce this conversation off of.

I have done lots of soul-searching over the last few years.  I left a good-paying career in government/public relations because it was sucking the life out of me.  I became a teacher in a very undesirable location at one of the lowest pay-rates in the country hoping it would help me provide something worthwhile back to the world and provide me with some sense of purpose/meaning/value.

I do think COVID and my move to another part of the country set me back, and that may be some of my personal dilemma.  I was set to start doing some UIC work (for which I had some big plans) and was starting to make some connections in an effort to travel to other areas in the region.  Then the world shut down and I had to give those things up.

Yes, I shouldn't have compared myself to Max in saying that I am lagging behind.  I feel that way because I feel like I was taking steps to try to advance, but did not see that those were getting me anywhere.  I got tired of paying for "assignor's clinics" and getting nothing out of them (I went to the same college softball clinic three-years straight and never got a single game from the guy).  I got tired of calling the same people to get platitudes, but no games.  Unfortunately, my area does not have strong associations or consistent ways of scheduling.  It is a free-for-all.  I'm sure other areas see these same problems, but I got burned out on the politics and (hence, why Fed post-season is no longer a priority to me).

 

Maybe I'm just bitching, and don't be afraid to tell me if that is the case.  I won't get offended.  I suppose I was trying to ask for new ideas to expand my umpiring career.  I have lived a sheltered life and probably am not even aware of things that are out there ... 

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