We’ve all heard that without umpires there are no official games, but too often the recruitment and training of new umpires are an afterthought in the operation of local leagues. In the same manner that a local league annually promotes its player registration and tryouts, it too can recruit umpires. Education is the key because with knowledge comes the confidence needed to be an umpire. It’s not a requirement for a local Little League® to have an Umpire-in-Chief (U-I-C) on its Board of Directors, but it is certainly encouraged, if for no other reason than to recruit and train the volunteer umpires who will officiate the games.

The primary roles of a local league’s U-I-C must be recruitment, training, oversight, and retention.

Now is the time of year when the Board of Directors is working toward enlisting new members to volunteer with the league. The U-I-C, or the League Official responsible for the umpires, must be diligent to recruit new umpires by reaching out to the league’s volunteer base.

Be proactive and creative in how and where you recruit. Service organizations, like the local Lions, Rotary or Kiwanis Clubs, are a great place to find people willing to volunteer their time. Schools are also a solid starting point because teachers and administrators already have the acumen and temperament to be around children.

By developing a recruitment packet that explains the roles and responsibilities of a league umpire and includes training opportunities, and an explanation of rules, there is a great opportunity to get the attention of former coaches and managers, former and current players, parents, and other adults in the community looking to contribute to the league.

The primary roles of a local league’s U-I-C must be recruitment, training, oversight, and retention.

An important component of an effective recruitment and education campaign is to convey that a mentoring support system is in place for new umpires to learn and grow. A well-managed program is able to convince the would-be umpire and the veteran umpire to come together in support of the common good, which is providing healthy, safe and fun experiences for the league’s players and coaches.

Through your league’s contacts, plan an open meeting and invite the people in your community to explore what umpiring is all about. If you take the time to organize your message and make a good first impression, then you can dispel any misconceptions; and focus their attention on how umpiring is a fun and satisfying vocation.

One important point to discuss first internally and then to your potential umpires is paying umpires. This practice has become a fail-safe for some local leagues, which assume that by paying for umpires, a better quality of officiating will be provided or that an umpire will show up for the game. Either way, the league is not willing or able to provide volunteer umpires to work their games. Keep in mind, that if an umpire accepts payment, then by law, that person must be contracted by the league and a W-9 tax form be completed. To be successful in recruiting new umpires, it is essential that you extend a confident hand to all who may be interested. Explain that you will train and support their efforts and be there to give constructive feedback so that each new umpire can learn and grown at their own pace.