Have You Considered an Umpire Mentor Program?
Now that most local League sign-ups are over, and all the volunteer applications have been collected, it’s time to start calling and training the new volunteer umpires in you league.
One of the best ways of training and building confidence and knowledge into the new umpire is to mentor them with an experienced umpire in your league.
The first thing the league’s Umpire-In-Chief (UIC) needs to do is develop a plan and set goals for the mentor. The goals should include, but not be limited to: teaching rules, mechanics, and game management, handling conflict, understanding and role modeling the philosophy of the Little League program.
The mentor must work one-on-one with the new umpire on and off the field. The mentor must role model everything taught because the new umpires will be watching everything the mentors do and say.
I suggest a budget be established by the league UIC for approval by the Board of Directors to be used specifically for the league umpire program. The mentor should work with the League UIC and provide the volunteer umpire with the proper uniform and equipment to perform his/her duties on the field. This will allow the volunteer to have a sense of belonging and being a part of a special fraternity.
A list of specific items for the mentor to cover with the new volunteer should include:
1. Written and oral tests on rules and mechanics
2. Uniform and equipment needed
3. Field decorum
4. Work ethic
5. Game management
6. Plate and base work
7. Proper signaling and use of eyes
8. Pre-game and post-game reviews
9. Philosophy of the game
10. Handling conflict
11. Umpire reports and protests
A big part of the Mentor Program is reward and recognition for the new umpire.
The recognition can be accomplished in several ways. Introduce the new umpire and the mentor at the league’s opening ceremonies. Introduce and present them with their uniform and equipment at the local league board meeting. Establish goals for the umpire, and recognize the umpire when they accomplish their goals.
Reward is also important for retention and making the new umpire feel that their services are providing value to the league. Rewards could offset the expense of sending the umpire for additional training at one of the Little League regional schools/clinics. Providing for additional equipment or uniform needs, and if qualified and ready, assigning them to a postseason tournament game are other forms of rewards.
The Mentor Program also provides a way to recognize the veteran umpires in your league. Sharing their knowledge and experiences, provides a way for them to give back what they learned to the program. The mentors should have a part in the planning, preparation and goal setting for the program. This will make them feel like they have ownership in the program and inspire them to make the Mentor Program a success.
Western Region Umpire-In-Chief