MENTOR – Why important?
The Softball Officials Program is consistently losing young or new, entry-level umpires in increasing numbers each year. Young people become disenchanted with the treatment they receive and their position in the game during their first year(s) on the diamond. These young people are provided basic rule interpretation training and some mechanic work at entry-level clinics, however presently there is no protocol in place to follow up on clinical training. This training gap exists until the umpire progresses into championship tournaments years down the road, where they are exposed to the evaluation process, and feedback from more experienced umpires.
The problem is, they are dropping out before making that next step.
They are thrust into game situations, and whether its negative feedback they get from coaches, players,
and spectators, or simply finding themselves in situations they cannot yet feel confident in handling. Our young/new umpires are losing interest. Consequently, they then do what people do when confused and uncomfortable….they withdraw.
Credibility in any training program requires that the inexperienced be shown the correct way to perform their duties, and then be given the opportunity to perform under the auspices of the experienced, ideally under realistic (game) conditions. Feedback at this stage is critical, and should be routinely accessible. There are also situations where skill development is not necessarily the main issue, and all the young umpire needs is encouragement and support to stay involved.
It is important to emphasize that the feedback required here is not to be considered an EVALUATION in any shape or form. A constructive process of positive reinforcement and general guidance from a MENTOR will provide the entry-level umpire with structure and a foundation on which to build their officiating careers. The MENTOR will represent a resource for the young umpire, to contact with questions about the game; rules; and problems that may come up over the course of the season.
MENTORS could consider making arrangements for young umpires to attend and observe them work a game as well.
Mentors would be assigned one, two, or perhaps three entry-level umpires for the season. Initial telephone call to make contact, and provide telephone number to young/new umpire for resource purposes.
- Connect young umpire to area assignor if necessary.
- Arrange to attend a game in the very early stages of the young/new umpire’s season, and begin the process of providing positive reinforcement and guidance (NOT an “evaluation”).
- Attend additional games, and maintain some sort of contact throughout the season, as deemed appropriate by the mentor.
- Follow-up contact at end of season. Mentor can represent a sounding board for the young umpire, and encourage them to stay involved next year.
Umpires with more experience and the potential of progressing into the higher levels of officiating ,can also be identified. Routine feedback from a senior umpire, and some attention paid to game assignments and general progress will ensure officials who have displayed certain skills and desire, will be recognized for advancement.
Taken from Softball Ontario material originally prepared by Peter Kluszczynski/ Level V