The month of January sees local leagues in various phases of readiness. Local and district Umpires-in-Chief (U.I.C.) need to be preparing for the season too, and that means being proactive in the dual role of recruiter and educator.
Be Visible: Registration days, tryouts, league and district meetings, and manager/coach training sessions provide the forum for umpires to review and explain any new rules in place for the coming season; and can serve as a platform to showcase the role of the umpire and the need to grow the volunteer ranks. Have a presence at all of your league or district events. This is the best way to engage and educate league officials, and is also the best recruiting tool for enlisting new umpires.
Communicate Rule Changes: Not every league has a U.I.C. on its Board of Directors, but it is imperative that any rule changes be communicated, discussed, and understood before the season begins. Without a U.I.C. or other league official taking on this responsibility, managers and coaches will be left to make assumptions which may lead to misinterpretations, and the possibility of producing a poor experience for the players and their families.
A local or district U.I.C., along with the local league Board of Directors, are tasked with preparing its volunteers for the season, and staying current is a critical part of that preparation. Remember, the rules and regulations are the laws of Little League® and, like any real-world legal situation, ignorance is no excuse.
Amp Up Your Training: Knowing and then being able to apply the rules is of critical importance for all Little League umpires. The classroom portion of an umpire’s training addresses the Rulebook, while the other aspects include communication with the managers and coaches on how the rules are interpreted, with the final component being proper field mechanics.
An umpire is never done training because there are always areas to improve. Little League International is constantly reviewing and refining its educational materials. Little League strives to expand its umpiring family by inspiring trust and confidence in those who may consider umpiring as a vocation, while empowering veteran umpires to return and improve each season.
Recruit Volunteers: Once the season begins, too often “recruiting” consists of coaches trolling the bleachers or fence line before a game for anyone willing to help out. A repeat of this situation can be avoided if league officials and umpires are willing to work together in the offseason to promote the importance they have on the games.
If your local league or district officials are wondering how best to approach someone about umpiring, tell them to keep it simple and be honest. Use the straight-forward approach … “Without umpires, we can’t play any games. We’ll train you and our coaches will respect the position. Can you volunteer some time?” When you ask for help and then support those who step up, the results will speak for themselves.
Bringing in new umpires, ensuring current umpires continually improve, and reminding leagues that all volunteers are working toward a common goal – bettering each community through the Little League experience - is an important message that needs to be communicated at every Little League function in your district. As umpires, it’s our responsibility to make sure that all the officials and coaches in our leagues know the rules and that our games run smooth, but more importantly that everyone pays attention to the two very important messages in the Little League Pledge: play fair and always do your best.
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Fairball | January 2015 | URC | Registry