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First game jitters...what to expect and how to prepare


SCRookie

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Hi everyone. I'm umpiring my first game soon, and I'm very excited and extremely nervous of making a total ass of myself. Here's the catch: this is only Slowpitch softball, fall rec league. I'm doing this to prepare for LL Baseball in the Spring which is what I'm REALLY looking forward to, to support my kid's league. I figured this was a soft-landing to help me get comfortable before LL starts, and practice mechanics, and build up confidence.

Would love to hear some stories and some words of wisdom from people who remember their first games and what I should expect and do to prepare.

Thanks!

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4 hours ago, ArchAngel72 said:

Don't expect anything.

Be ready for anything

On calls see it, was it a ball strike out safe?,  "rewatch it in your head" (verify), make the call

 

timing.. slow down and just make the right call..

 

btw welcome and try not to suck. 😃

 

 

Slow down

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Some random thoughts.

Go watch games--any level--and observe; introduce yourself to the umpire(s) after the game and ask questions, if they seem receptive. Think about what you notice and what you might incorporate into your own style.

Join your state association (here, it's PIAA) and affiliate with a chapter, go to meetings and listen and ask questions. If possible, see if there is someone whose game and insight impress you, and ask if he'd mind answering questions during the season.

As for on-the-field mechanics, try to control "rookie" jitters and take the field with confidence. When I started, we were taught that the first day you crossed the lines to umpire your first game, your body language should say "20-year vet."

Besides the "slow down" advice others have given you, I'll add don't make calls on the run--be stationary. Watch the ball and let it take you to the play, except for quick glances to watch runners touching bases. This requires prioritizing, especially if you are working solo.

Try to anticipate common situations so you are prepared if/when they occur. For example, remind yourself that you have a possible infield fly rule situation when appropriate.

Don't take grief from coaches or players, especially the three major no-nos: personal, persistent, profane. Use the IAWE, or some version: Ignore, Acknowledge, Warn, Eject. Umpires have a saying: the only ejection you regret is the one you didn't issue.

Study the rule book, especially after games where you've had some odd plays or calls. However, don't be overly officious: as we say, use the rules to solve problems, not create them.

Good luck! Report back after you've had some games.

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Learn how to forget.

Inevitably a mistake will be made (we ALL do it.) It is VITAL that you learn how to put that behind you and move forward. Learn from the mistake and do your best not to make it again.

There are others out there for you to make!!!

The most important call you are going to make is the NEXT one.

Good luck and welcome to the wonderful, wacky world of umpiring.

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Take it one. Pitch. At. A. Time.  No matter what has just happened, put all your focus on the next pitch.  And let the plays become what they become, no need to rush anything. You are just confirming after the fact.  And if it's close, remember that the only judgement that counts on the field is yours.

P.s. work with a partner!

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20 hours ago, ArchAngel72 said:

timing.. slow down and just make the right call..

 

 

 

15 hours ago, LMSANS said:

Slow down

 

15 hours ago, LRZ said:

 "slow down" 

 

 

9 hours ago, ousafe said:

no need to rush anything.

^^^^^ These

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I'm gonna take a slightly different approach because most of the most important stuff has been said already.

This is your first game. Understand that and don't hold yourself to a super high standard. It can be really hard to come to terms with this, but your first game, heck, your first year plus, you probably won't be that good. It's not impossible, especially if you get in the book and learn your mechanics, just unlikely. I don't say this to try to discourage you. In fact, it's the exact opposite. The first two year is easily the hardest year for anyone that gets into officiating. The attrition rate in that time is astronomical. A large part of that is because there is no really good way too ease someone into officiating. So I'm encouraging and pleading with you: stick it out for the first year at least. Don't let a single bad game or flubbed calls (or a series of either!) knock you out.

Now, I want to be very clear, even when you're starting out and you feel like a chicken running around with your head chopped off, it is still incredibly fun and rewarding, as long as you have a baseline understanding and you are constantly trying to get better. If you don't know the rules or the mechanics and a basic level, you will feel lost on the field. That's the worst feeling you can have. If you ever stop striving to get better, especially when you are just starting out, you will start to beat yourself up over the missed calls instead of using them as learning opportunities (which is what they should be) and you'll stop having fun. The worst thing you can do is stop having fun.

So, in summary, get in the book, get out there, have fun, and realize you'll make mistakes. The good news is, you're on this site. That means you care and are trying to learn. It's an amazing resource. Use it, ask questions, read old threads, and have fun.

Oh, yeah, and if everyone else hasn't beat it into your head yet, see everything you need to and slow down.

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54 minutes ago, Biscuit said:

see everything you need to

Yep, yep, yep, to everything--but this, which is good-intentioned but, I think, somewhat misleading. Do the best you can, but starting out solo--I'm assuming--no way you'll see everything you need to. And that's ok. If a coach says, "How could you not see that [whatever X might be]," the reply might be, "That's my partner's call. Oh, there is no partner."

That is why I spoke of priorities. Getting a shoestring catch or fair/foul call right is more critical than runners touching or missing a base. A BR stretching a single and thrown out at second for the third out is more important than R1's touch of home on the time play.

One more thought: always hustle, as this helps to establish your credibility. Hustling also keeps the game moving, which makes for everyone's greater enjoyment.

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On 9/7/2021 at 12:16 PM, SCRookie said:

I'm doing this to prepare for LL Baseball in the Spring which is what I'm REALLY looking forward to, to support my kid's league. I figured this was a soft-landing to help me get comfortable before LL starts, and practice mechanics, and build up confidence.

Have fun and internalize what's been said above. And after your done with fall softball:

Register for and attend a Little League weekend Mechanics Clinic. If SC is for South Carolina, you're in the Southeast Region of Little League. There should be mechanics clinics at the SE region headquarters, or in each state (put on by the same instructors). Out here in the West, the clinics are usually announced and registration starts at the end of October or so. For the past two years, the clinics have been Covid-Canceled, but hopefully they'll be rescheduled (at least tentatively) for Spring 2022.

The LL weekend mechanics clinics are absolutely phenomenal, and the instructors are absolutely Kick-ass! I went to one in my state about 12 years ago before I'd ever called a ball or strike in my life, and I left mind blown as well as with considerable solid muscle memory after all the hours of drills and drilling. And it was loads of fun to boot.  A lot of local leagues will pay for the clinic ($150 or so) if you agree to work some games for them afterward. After I went, I couldn't imagine what it would have been like to umpire without having attended that weekend clinic. You may then decide to go to one of the week-long Little League clinics--and they are even more awesome (the weekend clinic on steroids--same instructors, just 12-15 hours per 5-6 days more of it--the instructors are volunteers, so they don't have to worry about paying them overtime, so you'll be running non-stop from about 7:30 a.m. to 9:30-10:00 p.m.--you will not have any trouble falling asleep at night). Out here in the West, the week long clinic in San Bernardino is like $450, and that includes room and board. OMG cheap for what it is!

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SCRookie, be careful how you "support" your kid's league, and avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Years ago, I was a licensed USSF (club soccer), NISOA (college) and PIAA (school) referee, and I also worked the intramural rec league in which my kids played. One day, I made a controversial call against my son's U12 team. I later learned that, after the game, the coach told the players that I had cost them the game; my son did not talk to me for three days.

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You should try to block yourself from doing your son’s game at all cost. You may think you can be fair to both sides but the word perception will creep into the parents of your opponents. 99.9% of the time it’s guaranteed that the parents are talking about you and waiting for the first controversial call. I have lived it and will never do it again. I have blocked all my son’s games regardless if they are home or away for the past 6 years. I even went as far as blocking doing games within the high school section to avoid any possibility of being accused of playing favoritism. Parents and coaches can be jerks and will be jerks.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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6 minutes ago, beerguy55 said:

I think a little bit of weed before the game would calm those jitters post-haste.

Blue! That call was horrible! Are you on drugs?

Looks around Who told?

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7 hours ago, LRZ said:

SCRookie, be careful how you "support" your kid's league, and avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Years ago, I was a licensed USSF (club soccer), NISOA (college) and PIAA (school) referee, and I also worked the intramural rec league in which my kids played. One day, I made a controversial call against my son's U12 team. I later learned that, after the game, the coach told the players that I had cost them the game; my son did not talk to me for three days.

I'll offer MY Tale of Woe:

When we lived in Australia, we were in a little town called Alice Springs.  (Zoom in a touch, then look right in the middle of the continent.)  The local baseball league is of a decent size, but not nearly as popular as the various games that all call themselves "football."  So none of the different age groups were large, and there just weren't that many qualified umpires.  So I ended up calling my younger daughter's games more than once.

Until the day I gunned her on a 3rd-strike pitch.

The daggers she shot me were astounding.

I'm not saying her resulting juvenile delinquency, and later, the relatively early-age pregnancy resulting in my first grandchild (whom I love like no other) was a direct consequence of that 3rd-strike call, but I'm not NOT saying it, either.  I sometimes have spotty memories of things in my life, but there is an alarming clarity of that moment in time, even something like 16ish years later.

We get along much better, again, now.

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  • 1 month later...

I like when people are nervous/anxious about working a game. It tells me it's important to them. 

The next step is to overcome that nervousness and anxiousness. 

Personal story: I got my first regional HS assignment while I was the least experienced person on that crew the CC gave me the plate and I was anxious partially because of the level of the game and partially because I wanted to impress the others on my crew. About 2 innings in the CC comes in and tells me Hey you're doing a great job but you look like an F'ing robot back there loosen up and call YOUR game like you always do. He punched my CP and I didn't talk to him the rest of the game. 

Our post-game eval. The other 2 members of our crew both said I really settled in after the 2nd inning, not knowing what the CC had said to me. And I felt the difference too.

So my point is also be a good partner when you have a partner who is showing their nerves and help loosen them up.

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