Sunday, June 2, 2013

Some Universal Truths About Officiating

Early this past Saturday, I hoped over to a local softball field for a softball rules and umpiring clinic.   Am I becoming a baseball or softball umpire?  Hardly.  However, I am participating in a adult softball league for the first time.  The league is run by the same group that runs a summer basketball league that I also participate in during the summer.  Both softball and basketball have players from all the teams umpire / officiate games throughout the season.  

The plus is players get to see both sides.  The minus is that many people are NOT trained officials.   I was asked to drop by the softball clinic today as another guy on my team couldn't make it.  I didn't mind as it was close to home plus I was curious about softball rules.  I watch enough baseball to know the basics but I'm sure there are details I didn't know about. 

However, I didn't learn a ton about detailed softball rules.  Most of the stuff focused on how the league runs things and some discussion on specific situations like the infield fly rule among a few other things. That was actually fine as it is almost impossible to learn "EVERYTHING" in 1 1/2 hours of talking. 

The most interesting part was when the softball league coordinators discussed the basic of umpiring a game.  There was talk about confidence, positioning and communication.  That sounds a lot like just about any other sport you would officiate out there.  

The softball league coordinators points:

FOCUS / BE ENGAGED:  Officiating is sometimes seen as a chore in these self officiated sports leagues.  But if you are working any sporting event,  you need to be engaged and look like you care.  Even if you're not getting paid, the teams deserve a good effort from everyone involed.  

POSITIONING:   The engagement discussion leads to positioning.  Just like basketball, you need to see the play and position yourself to see everything you need to see.  In softball, you need to be able to see the runner, fielder AND the ball on mostly every play.  This means you have to move as every play will be different.  One spot will not do it.  

COMMUNICATION:  Just with any sports, you have to communicate (loudly as noted early).  You need to communicate with your other umpires and the teams as well on situations.  

I don't know if I will umpire any games for my team this season.  If I do, I feel comfortable in working the games.  I'm sure that unusual situation will throw me off.  However, as a long time basketball official, the basic principles of focus, positioning and communication are something that can be easily adapted to softball.  The rest is learned through experience and reading rules more.