Create a Volunteer Umpire Training Program to Support Your District and Local Leagues
Every year, local leagues have elections, organizational meetings, registrations, drafts and then shortly before the season starts someone asks, “What about umpires?”
Below are some ideas on how to build a viable Volunteer Umpire Training Program. At the local and district levels, umpire clinics are a prime tool for educating and recruiting umpires, and often cross over league and district lines for the benefit of a larger area. It is recommended that the Volunteer Umpire Training Program include regular meetings with league umpires and the District UICs for baseball and softball that discuss training sessions and updates to rules.
Conduct multiple rules training sessions and include managers and coaches in those training sessions. Advertise training sessions to everyone, not just umpires. Managers and coaches will be surprised how much strategy they can learn from the rules of the game, while also gaining an understanding of why certain calls are made. You may also pick up a volunteer or two who see umpiring as a good way to stay connected to Little League® without the rigors of coaching. During the training discussions, offer mini-seminars to those umpires wishing to improve their on-field mechanics. Have the seminars include both plate mechanics and base mechanics. Express the importance of pregame, during-game and postgame critiques as a training tool.
Knowing there is always a need to replenish the umpire pool, development of a mentor system becomes critical. Pairing senior or more-experienced umpires with those that are less experienced is a wonderful way to educate, create camaraderie with your crew and make positive early impressions.
Like all volunteers, the time an umpire has to commit to training is limited, so as part of this program you are encouraged to use electronic communication (email/social media) to disseminate rules, answer questions and receive feedback. You are strongly encourage to use and share the free online Umpire Resource Center available through LittleLeague.org, along with Little League manuals, books, magazines for those training sessions.
As you organize your own Little League Umpire Volunteer Training Program, keep in mind why you are a Little League volunteer – the kids. Baseball and softball are games and should be fun. Confidence on the field and how you present yourself in every game will go a long way toward making the Little League® experience a good time for all.