As a new umpire, you may encounter challenging situations that can make you feel uncertain or disheartened. The following tips can help you enhance your performance and umpire like a pro, especially when dealing with Little League rules.

Prefer Angle Over Distance

When making a call, particularly on a runner, prioritize angle over distance. Ensure you are approximately 10 feet from the play involving the runner. Aim to have about a 90-degree angle from the area where the ball is thrown to where the play is occurring.

However, this ideal setup might not always be possible, so prioritize having a good angle over maintaining a specific distance. When making your call, be firm and avoid moving.

Choose Just One Outcome

Simplify decision-making by focusing on a single outcome when faced with two possibilities. For example, if you see a strike, call it a strike. If not, it’s a ball. If you see an out, call it an out. If not, the runner is safe. If there is no rule violation, there’s no need for a penalty.

This approach helps reduce second-guessing and indecision, particularly on close plays. If a coach disputes a call, you can confidently respond with, “I can only call what I’ve seen, coach.” However, use this response judiciously, as it is most effective when not overused.

Just Take Your Time

When making a call, don’t rush. Whether it’s a call for catch or no-catch, fair or foul, ball or strike, or safe or out, take your time. Allow a few more seconds to account for the unexpected.

For instance, a ball may deviate from fair to foul territory, or a fielder might drop the ball when making a tag. Wait until the pitch has reached the catcher to judge the trajectory of the ball through the batter’s strike zone. This additional time helps ensure you call the actual outcome rather than what you expect to happen.

This delay also conveys to others that you are umpiring diligently and seriously, making it less likely for them to challenge your call. This is particularly crucial in dead ball situations, such as a foul ball, where all plays must stop immediately. Remember, you cannot undo a premature, mistaken foul ball call, and it can significantly impact whether runners score or advance.

Be Confident in Making Your Call

Besides feeling confident, you should be demonstrative with your calls. Often, calls involve a hand/arm gesture or a shout, but it is essential to do both. This way, everyone, including coaches, players, and spectators, can understand your call and react accordingly. For example, upon hearing your time-out and foul ball calls, runners will immediately stop and return to their bases. Even when a base coach is far away, they can understand your arm gesture regarding a third out call and won’t send a runner.

Regardless of how close the play is, always be assertive when making calls for fair or foul, out or safe, and strike or ball. If you are unsure about the right call, be even more assertive. A weak or hesitant call can invite a challenge from the coach. Veteran umpires refer to this as “selling your call.” Therefore, when making calls, be outwardly confident, especially in situations where you are not entirely sure of your call.

Additional Tips for Umpires

Here are some additional tips for umpires regarding their appearance, education, attitude, and more.

Appearance for Umpires

You should be physically fit, just like the players. Umpires should warm up a bit before the game. When attending the game, be sure to wear the proper uniform. Wearing white is great since it can provide a sense of pride and authority.

Don’t let others see that you are lazy, as they will immediately feel that you have no interest at all. As much as possible, avoid being late for the start of the game. Again, this is a sign of disinterest in the game. While the match is going on, avoid talking to other people or on your mobile phone.

Education for Umpires

Keep yourself updated with the current rules and rule interpretations. Take some time to read the rule book and make sure you understand it. If you feel that you are not too confident, you can ask an “umpire trainer” to observe you for a few weeks and provide you with some tips and advice. Try to maintain your accreditation or, if you have time, join some umpiring courses. Watch games on TV to get more ideas about positioning, attitude, and more.

Proper Attitude for Umpires

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Umpires should always be confident, even if they don’t feel like they are. As an umpire, you should never be arrogant; this is not a power trip. If you are only interested in the money you will earn from umpiring, then you should not umpire at all. Avoid having the attitude that you are only umpiring as a favor to everyone. Umpiring should be something you want to do because you love the challenge.

Expect that coaches, fans, and players will dispute some of your decisions. If you can’t accept criticism, then perhaps you should reconsider your decision to umpire. Remember that no umpire can please everyone, including spectators, coaches, and players. Be ready to accept the fact that there will be times when you are wrong. Just like the coaches and players, there will be bad times and good times as well.

Always smile. Keep in mind that you are not the enemy. As an umpire, you are doing your best to work with the players to ensure that they can enjoy a fair and competitive game. Avoid feeling negative about yourself. Concentrate only on the positives. Put everything into perspective—this is just a sport.

Essential Umpiring Skills

When blowing your whistle, do it assertively and loudly. Ensure that you position yourself where you can be seen clearly. Focus on the game for the entire quarter, and avoid changing your initial calls, even if you realize later that you were incorrect. If you make a mistake, don’t try to “make up” for it. Accept the error and move on.

Grievance Procedures

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In the event of any grievances, inform players, coaches, and parents about the proper grievance procedures. If you encounter difficulties, seek advice from umpire supervisors. Avoid engaging in arguments without the presence of a supervisor.

The best course of action is to walk away. Be aware of your rights concerning parents and players, based on the Codes of Conduct. Do not hesitate to issue warnings to spectators and players, ask them to leave the court, or remind them of the advanced penalty if necessary.

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