Everyone talks about recruiting umpires during registration and tryouts. There are some leagues that require each team to provide one umpire for a certain number of games during the year.
We need to take the recruiting process beyond those timeframes. Please, keep in mind that most of the parents/grandparents in the stands think that the umpires are only there to make a little extra money. If we are promoting the fact that the umpires are volunteering their time for the kids, how are the fans to know?
Here are a couple of ways for leagues to try and recruit and as well as retain umpires.
During your regular-season games have an umpire in uniform walking through the stands and talking with the fans. We know that all of these folks become “umpires” as soon as there is a close play. So why not play on their willingness to call from the stands and invite them to help out on the field. Always have plenty of volunteer forms to hand out.
Another recruiting tool is to provide recognition for the umpires that you have, which in turn might encourage others to participate. As I travel around to various parks I always see the leagues proudly display signs and banners for the each of the league’s tournament wins and accomplishments. Ask yourself; when was the last time you saw a banner proclaiming:
(your league) Little League Says
To our Volunteer Umpires
The Use of Volunteer Umpires Reduces the Registration Cost
Applications available from any Board Member or Umpire
Training Provided at No Cost
Signs like this approximately 18” x 24” could be placed on the backstop of each playing field with a larger banner in a prominent location amongst all of the other league banners. Depending on size, the total cost to the league would be less than paying two umpires to call 2-3 games. It also points out that those individuals on the field are donating their time so that the kids can play, recognizes the efforts of the umpires, and encourages others to volunteer.
There are other types of signs that could be displayed as well. Why not a banner listing each of the Volunteer Umpires that has called games for your league within the past year. This list could also be broken out based on years of service.
Special recognition could be given to those with 5, 10, 15, etc… years of service. As players come and go in Little League, so do the parents. Most of them never stop to realize that the umpire for their child’s game has been volunteering his/her time at that league for 15, 20, 25 years or more.
By Marshall Casey
Southeast Region UIC