Umpires, let’s have an honest discussion. Away from the heat of the moment of the games and the high-pressure environment where we usually interact.
First off, I know it’s not an easy job. Once upon a time, when I was a young college coach making no money, I umpired thousands of games for $10 each to make ends meet. I have been in your position and I get it, mostly!
Here are a couple things to keep in mind, at least in our games together.
1. I don’t expect you to be perfect. I do expect you to work hard to do the best job you can. These kids, at every level, are working hard and want the game to be fun to play. When you do a good job, someone wins and someone loses but the game is fun to play.
2. Everyone makes mistakes. I don’t mind the fact that every once in a while you miss a strike or call a ball a strike. That stuff happens even to great umpires over the course of a game. I do expect you to be consistent, though. A pitch in the same spot over and over should not be a coin flip.
3. Telling me we are not going to argue balls in strikes is you admitting that you are screwing up. I never get after an umpire when they occasionally miss a call but I am going to get after you when you are so inconsistent that the kids can’t play the game! It’s meant to be a wake up call, a shake-your-head-and-get-the-brain-juices-flowing moment. When your strike zone is bad it destroys the game!
4. You signed up to work the tournament or game. Don’t act like you are doing me a favor being there because you are tired, or it’s hot, or you have worked a bunch of games. All of those are your problem, not the kids’ problem, and not my problem. I know you are not getting rich, but you are getting paid. Earn your money, act like a professional and let the kids play a good game, no matter what.
5. You can throw me out of the game all you want. When I rattle your cage, it is with a purpose in mind and I understand the risk involved. Just because you can afford a blue shirt, or red shirt, or whatever colors your organization wants to wear doesn’t make you the only expert in town.
If you work hard and give the kids a consistent strike zone, we are going to get along great. If not…
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.