Attention Players and Coaches

January 24, 2007

Vancouver, BC

Coaches and Players: I really would appreciate your help. Please take the time to read this and respond.
Thank you,
Bob Henning
Every two years Softball Canada hosts a convention for umpires that includes workshops to help all attending umpires improve their contribution to the game of softball through officiating. It is appropriately named Blue Convention and this year it is entitled "Umpires Wanted - Only a Workshop Away"
Attendance has varied but always has been at least 300 and sometimes 400 umpires attending from the USA, Canada, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Africa, New Zealand, Europe and Australia.
This year I am instructing a general session to all and a smaller work shop this coming April 6th - 8th, 2007 in Quebec City, Quebec. There is an open house get-together held the evening of April 5th, 2007. Anyone may attend the Thursday session and you are all invited to register and attend the actual convention.
My topic this year is: Coaches and Players: Working the Two Way Street
I have presented at four of the past five Blue Conventions where I have instructed Fastpitch Plate Mechanics. There I have been honored to have had many players and coaches attend personally to assist in the presentations. Players and coaches such as Rob O'Brien, Jeremy DeBelleval, Craig Crawford, Sean O'Brien, Larry Lynch and many others have helped to contribute towards the success of the presentations. I have interviewed many of you in ball parks around North America, New Zealand, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and China and appreciate your opinions.
I plan on having at least one elite coach and one elite player in attendance at both of these sessions during the Blue Convention. You know who you are. Any others that would like to attend if you will be in the area April 6th and 7th please contact me as I would love to discuss the possibilities.
During the Fastpitch Plate Mechanics sessions, I had these players pitching and catching to simulate real action and in full uniforms, some wearing Team Canada gear. I had a complete set of batter's boxes, catcher's box and a plate set up on a giant carpet with a large padded backstop. There I instructed the proper techniques to allow umpires in attendance to learn how to better call balls and strikes and to improve their overall plate mechanics. Some actually put on the gear and went to work.
But during these sessions it became more and more apparent that the real attraction was the players and coaches in attendance. I began to ask the players and coaches questions about their opinions of some of the umpires they had working games. I asked when and how they knew they had a good umpire and when and how they knew they had a bad one. I also asked what could we, as umpires do to earn their respect if we got off to a bad start.
Bingo! Their very honest and sincere responses intrigued the hundred or more in attendance so much that I knew we were on to something. I then passed the microphone around to other umpires that were hoping to ask more questions of the guests. And that was the start of the most interesting session yet. At that moment I knew that at the next Blue Convention, I was going to dedicate the entire session to the interaction between players, coaches and umpires and our relationship.
Many of you, regardless of the level you play at, appreciate when you have a well officiated game, when you have umpires that respect you as players and coaches as well as when you respect the umpires.
I believe that as I begin my 39th year of officiating softball, that the main secret to success has been earning the respect of the players and coaches by offering fair and consistent officiating while demonstrating dedication, love and commitment to our game of softball. This is something that takes years and years of hard work and is something I would like to offer to the umpires in attendance at this year's Blue Convention.
We all know that not all players and coaches respect umpires and vice-versa and it is with high hopes that we can lower some of the barriers and work together more. There is a tremendous shortage of umpires in the game today and the umpiring fraternity and its leaders are trying to address the areas of recruitment and retention. Hopefully by understanding the coaches and players more we can educate umpires and future umpires on how to succeed at "Working the Two-Way Street." 
This workshop and a second general session to all of the attendees will address the information I have gathered to date as well as the details I am encouraging you to reveal. We are really working towards a better understanding of each other's roles and the way that you treat us and why as well as the best way that we should treat and understand players and coaches.
I would be most grateful for any and all of your comments, suggestions and ways to improve the unique relationships that umpires have with the game as they interact with coaches and players. I am trying to teach and enlighten the umpires to the fact that players and coaches are the game of softball and if they earn your respect, everything else will fall into place.
This is an opportunity for you to voice your opinions, with respect to this topic or any other, that will help to enlighten the attending officials on ways that they can improve not only their umpiring skills, but the ways in which Coaches and Players interact throughout the game. I believe this session is critical to the success of umpires to succeed in there endeavors to be the "Best They Can Be".
At the end of this request you will see many questions that I will ask you to respond to in any way you like. Followed by that is a list of all the topics and presenters. I am proud to say that we as umpires are working hard at improving our game to better your game.
If you care to respond publicly via Al Doran's fastball postings, you may do so by clicking reply. Those responses may well fuel a public discussion that will lead to even more information that will allow all umpires to understand their roles better and is a chance for you to have those umpires perform at a higher level of respect for you and our game of softball.
However, there will be some things that I am sure you would prefer to state anonymously and send to me via e-mail. I promise that these e-mail responses will be kept completely confidential and I will never speak of or quote anyone personally and will not forward to anyone. You have my word. This will insure that you can say exactly what is on your mind without any repercussions, judgments or reprisals or worrying about what your peers may say.
Also, I would be pleased to speak with any of you personally on the phone. I have free long distance calling so I can call you back if necessary.
Many of the elite umpires and veterans of the game today already understand what it takes to be successful, that they are not on the diamond to 'be your friends and be liked' but are on the diamond to do the job in a fashion that is accepted by demonstrating consistency in their calls, demeanor and body language.
Please keep in mind as you respond that this questionnaire is general in nature and that players and coaches make errors in the game as well. It has often been said that umpires "usually make less errors than the players/coaches" but I'm sure that is very debatable.  (heh-heh)
Most umpires never are allowed to speak their minds like the players do. Imagine if the shortstop boots a routine ball for the second time in one inning and an umpire beaked: You are terrible 22. How can you boot two in one inning. Give your head a shake! That's Brutal.................
Well it is out of respect for the game that umpires do not, or should not, speak in that manner. Yet the players do it all the time with the veterans knowing just how far they can go. Do umpires like it?Of course not. Veterans can deal with the heat but younger umpires taking the heat and abuse of the participants as well as the spectators quit umpiring and do something else.
Hopefully, your responses will allow all the umpires that gain the knowledge from the players and coaches to improve their officiating and understanding of players and coaches to a point where you will know that you have a good umpire working your game and the umpire will know they did a good job.
After the Blue Convention is finished I will post another complete discussion on the results of all your input as well as the umpires.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to respond in detail.
Please respond ASAP but no later than Monday, January 29th so I can include your anonymous comments in the handout to be distributed to all of the attendees after Blue Convention finishes.
Best regards in our great game of Softball,
Bob Henning
Please answer any and all questions that you feel you can contribute to the improvement of Player/ Coach - Umpire relationships:
1) When do you know you have an umpire you can count on and when do you know that it's going to be a long game?
2) What are some of the traits that you look for in an umpire that you believe are critical to the success of your team and you personally in a game?
3) When an umpire makes you angry because of inconsistency or poor judgment, what can they do earn your respect back in the next inning or next game? Can they earn it back?
4) How do you attempt to 'work' or gain an advantage from an umpire? Maybe it's for a pitch, the next pitch or a call or the next call, or maybe just all game long. Catchers and pitchers often are involved using their verbal comments or body language. What are some of the techniques that are successful when trying to take advantage or 'work' an umpire for a call?
5) Do you as a player/coach hold grudges from one game to the next? If so why? If so, what would it take to lower the grudge to a workable level?
Do you think umpires hold grudges? If so, how?
6) How do you like to be treated in a confrontation? What actions or reactions would you consider inappropriate from an umpire during the confrontation?
7) Can you comment on some of the things that you would really like to say to an umpire but don't because you fear an ejection?  What are the reasons that would put you in such a frame of mind?
8) Umpires are always taught to keep all the four elements in front of them when making a call (ball, base, offensive player, defensive player) and from the proper distance when possible. That is, with respect to proper mechanics and positioning, the optimum way for umpires to make a judgment call. Because players/coaches often disagree on judgment calls, are you most always right in your judgments of a play? Do you know when your heart wants a safe call but you know it's an out? Were you in a better position to see a play than the umpire was?
9) Many veteran umpires can attribute a poor call on a pitch or a call on the bases to a "rush to judgment". As umpires, we all know that we should slow down and not be in a hurry to make a call. I am sure you have seen a base umpire 'anticipate' a sliding play at second base by calling the play before it's over. As a player/coach are you aware of umpires that miss calls and the reasons why? Do you ever appeal a missed base because the umpire wasn't watching?
10) Do you ever regret losing your temper towards an umpire that resulted in an ejection or perhaps just an implied warning? As umpires, we regret all undeserved ejections because we lost out temper but we also regret not ejecting a player that deserved to go. We are really working towards a better understanding of each other's roles. How do you think an umpire should react in a confrontation driven by you, the coach or player?
 11) There is a special relationship between plate umpires and catchers that many veterans know how to exploit. Often times an umpire can work with the catcher to control the pitcher when necessary or to address problems with any team player. Do you as players and coaches value this interactive relationship? When does an umpire go overboard when talking with a catcher?

Bonus: In general, please offer any comments, opinions, suggestions, ideas, thoughts, or advice that you would love all the umpires in attendance to know, consider and understand. Please take the time to tell us here what it is that really bothers you about umpires and their mechanics, body language, attitude, language and demeanor.

Self Improvement - Only a Workshop Away


Here is a preview of only some of the workshops at the 2007 Blue Convention Self Improvement - Only a Workshop Away. Stay in tune for further updates on the workshops because more will be offered.

Presented by - Barry Mano, President, Referee Magazine
The 23 Most Powerful Lessons of Officiating
For 30 years Barry Mano has been studying officiating – both as a practicing basketball referee and as the founder and publisher of Referee Magazine (1976) and the National Association of Sports Officials (1980).
What those years has provided is a unique understanding of the commonalities in all of officiating – what works and why. The lessons that apply to any officiating process.
Barry has sifted through thousands of real case examples of superior performance in officiating and has collected them in this dynamic and fast paced presentation, coupled with a heavy dose of audience participation.
All sports - all levels – this powerful, PowerPoint supported presentation will hit home with not only sports officials but those who manage and supervise their services.

Presented by - Bob Stanton, National Director of Umpires
Selections, Preparations, Expectations and Outcomes

Aimed at:

a) Provincial/Territorial UICs who select umpires to work Canadian Championships,

b) Umpires who are selected or looking to be selected, and

c) Canadian Championship UICS and DUICs.

Workshop will address what P/T UIC should be looking for when selecting umpires for Canadian Championships, what selected umpires should expect when they get to a Canadian Championship and finally what outcomes should Canadian Championships UIC and DUIC hope to achieve. Presentation will be both interactive and informative.

Instructor - Grant Hood
Mentoring, Why, Who, What and How
With the continued decline in registrations one area to assist reducing this trend is by having officials involved in a mentoring program. This workshop will explain the what, why and how of mentoring and provide techniques to assist those that would like to be a mentor.

Instructor - John Ariss
Common Misconceptions on the Rules
Too often an umpire, especially a new umpire, makes a correct call only to be inundated with help from spectators, coaches and players who think they know the rules. To be successful, every umpire must know the rules - not just the complex ones but the simple, frequently occurring rules. This presentation will review many common rule misconceptions and help you, as an umpire, develop your skill and confidence by knowing the correct ruling.

Instructor - Jennifer Pereira
The Diamond – Athletic Therapy, Keeping You in the Game
Jennifer Pereira founded Fluent Motion in 2002 for those athletes, individuals and organizations wanting access to a broad range of expertise to effectively promote their health.

Jennifer holds the following designations and qualifications;

Honors Degree in Kinesiology, B.A.
Certified Kinesiologist, C.K.
Certified Athletic Therapist, C.A.T. (c)
BCLS & First Aid Instructor
Qualified in First Responder & Basic Trauma Life Support
Qualified Facilitator of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The Diamond – Athletic Therapy, Keeping you in the Game” is a 2 part seminar set to cover the various topics sporting organizations inquire about when organizing their tournament and seeking on site medical coverage.

Part 1 - The Diamond
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve
Part one of the seminar provides highlighted topics for the Executive Members, Organizing Committees and Coaches of sporting organizations. Topics include;
• When the Coach has First Aid: Is it Enough?
• Medicals on the Diamond: The Legal Liability,
• The Value of the Service; Increasing the Prestige of your Tournament,
• Finding the Funds and Keeping the Diamond

Part 2 – Athletic Therapy, Keeping you in the Game
“Baseball is like driving, it's the one who gets home safely that counts.” Tommy Lasorda
Part two of the seminar provides highlighted topics for both the umpires, coaches, players and parents. Topics include;
• The Role of the Athletic Therapist
• Common Injuries in Softball
• Immediate Treatment & Recovery
• Medical Referral Team

Instructor - Aaron Poulin
Balancing Family Life and Umpiring
Do you have a job, go to school, or are you enjoying a career? Is there a significant other, friends, possibly even children in your life? Everyone some hobbies to pass your free time. On top of that, you officiate slow pitch or fast pitch softball. Where do you find the time in your busy schedule? Or do you? Is your officiating in balance with the rest of your life? What are your priorities, your goals, and your dreams? Come and explore more than time management and find out if your officiating life is balanced with the rest of your life.

Instructor - Bob Constantin
Slo-Pitch Plate Mechanics - Working the Dish in Slo-Pitch
Bring your experience and be ready to participate in this interactive workshop that will focus on plate mechanics, game situations and the handling of adversity.

Instructor - Greg Pipher
Fast Pitch Plate Mechanics
Where does a good strike zone come from? Why do good plate mechanics improve an umpire’s game control? What are Softball Canada evaluators looking for with regards to plate mechanics? What will make you a better plate umpire?

If you are asking any of the above questions, you need to be a part of this workshop. During this session, the following topics will be discussed:
1. Plate Mechanics: Getting in the proper position
2. Consistency and how to achieve it
3. Visible and Audible Mechanics: How they impact Game Control
4. Timing: What is the appropriate delay
5. Evaluators: What are they looking for?
6. Grass Roots: How to teach new umpires the Plate Mechanic basics

Through interactive demonstrations, group discussion, and video analysis, participants will analyze, in depth, plate mechanics and their role in the complete umpire.

Instructor - Serge LaFlamme
Psychology of Umpiring
We are never enough prepared for a ball game, physically and mentally. The way to be prepared mentally is very different from one to another and there is no standard to follow. This workshop will provide you some tips to be sure that you cover all the aspects of the mental preparation, being then ready to face all kind of situations.

Concentration, visualization, goals, auto evaluation, and ways to
communicate with all participants (players, coaches, spectators, ground crew, scorer) will be covered and, of course, all the questions of the participants will be answered

Instructor - Joel Balberman
One Pitch at a Time - the Mental Skills of Umpiring
Joel will be presenting an informative session which will include topics on focus and concentration, anxiety reduction strategies, emotional control, self-talk and self-evaluation. A workshop not to be missed.

Instructor - Doug Cundall
Clinics - Their Presentation and Tricks to Their Success
Doug will work his way through some of the ways of making a clinic presentation upbeat and informative without the boredom of reading from the manual or off of the screen. The theme is really "working the crowd" and having them leave with the knowledge base that you wanted them to have.

Instructor - Frank Omoe
Hints, Clues and Politically Correct Calls
Good umpires understand and apply the rules and they use their good judgment in enforcing the rules. They work with the players, coaches and managers, use preventative umpiring techniques, are not nitpicky, and pick up on the little hints and clues the players give, in order to make correct, or at least politically correct, calls. This interactive session is designed for the umpire who is looking for "the edge" in those situations that may arise many or few times during a game and which can "make or break" an umpire.

Instructor - Murray Harvey
Slo-Pitch… Goin' Solo
This presentation is directed towards those officials who most frequently umpire a “One Person Slo-Pitch Game”. Murray Harvey will attempt to illustrate the proper diamond positioning for a variety of game situations. He will also provide a brief description of the inside plate position and the plate umpire’s use of the set position. The dissertation will end with a few interesting game scenarios and umpires’ reactions to those occurrences.

Instructor - Jonathan Lieberman and Ed Otterman
Importance of Team Work - Backing Your Partner(s) Up the Right Way
Importance of Team Work - Backing Your Partner(s) Up the Right Way
Umpires are the third team on the diamond and just as any other team, they need to work together to survive. Many times umpires come off the diamond thinking “How could I have handled that situation differently?” or “How could I have better backed my partner in that situation?” This workshop will interactively explore various techniques umpires can use to become a more efficient and effective team and keep control in various situations.

Instructor - Brian Sharples
Line-up Cards, D.P. & Replacement Players

Instructor - Bob Henning
Coaches and Players - Working the Two-Way Street
Ever wonder what the coaches and players are thinking about you?
What is their game plan to try and work you?
How do players and coaches try to take advantage of the rules?
When something goes wrong, how can you get them back on your side?
How can you earn their respect and increase their confidence in you?

Learn all about player/coach – umpire relationship management.
Speak with a national team world class player.
One on one with a world class coach.

This may be the most interesting session ever as we unlock the secrets of Working the Two-Way Street.

Be there.

Instructor - Kelly Hunter
Putting Fun Back into Umpiring
Need to put the fun back into umpiring? Kelly Hunter will show you how with a fun and action packed presentation with photos and video of weird things that has happened to umpires. She will also give tips on different ways of instructing clinics.

Instructor - Gary Skjerven
The Local Umpire - The Desire to Stay at Home
This workshop, instructed by Gary Skjerven, will focus on individual commitment and how do we best support the umpires that choose to contribute to the game at the local level. This workshop will be filled with tips and ideas – so ensure to bring yours too.

Instructor - Bonnie Gostola
The Best Team on the Diamond
This workshop will address communication issues; umpire to umpire, on and off the diamond. We will discuss various tools, techniques, and approaches, which will assist the working umpire to have more control of the games, especially, when outnumbered by the players, coaches, and the fans.

Instructor - Mitch Zuk
As effective umpires it is drilled into us how important it is to keep your eye on the ball. But, how is one to make an obstruction call while watching the ball? Often the OB happens away from the ball. If your eyes are focused on the ball, you will miss the OB call and find yourself swarmed by unfriendly types in a hurry.

In this seminar, I will use softball images from around the world to help you understand your role as an umpire and how best prepare yourself for the tougher calls. You’ll learn the various game scenarios and circumstances that increase the likelihood of obstruction taking place so that you can be ready to make the call.

Questions like:
• Does contact have to take place for OB to be called?
• What if the fielder lines up in a runner’s line of sight on a fly ball tag scenario, does this constitute OB?
• When does play stop on an OB?
• How can umpire prevent an obstruction from occurring?

will be answered in ways that appreciate a simulation-based, visual approach to learning.

If you are planning on attending this seminar and have a question about OB, send it to me, via the Softball Canada office, and I will make certain it gets addressed at the presentation.

Instructor write-up:
Mitch Zuk is a Level 5 ISF umpire. He is a principal at Erin Public School in Erin, Ontario.

Instructor - Jack Van Bynen
Attitude - On and Off the Diamond
It seems in our sports today, the concept of good sportsmanship has been lost. The image you project as an official is a product of your character. Good sportsmanship is not just what you do on the field, it is hopefully the way you conduct your life both on and off the field. Join Jack Van Bynen in this workshop for the golden rules of good sportsmanship.

Instructor - Gabe Babineau
Game Control

Instructor - Carley Parish
Blue Legal Liabilities
Umpire Liability - on and off the field. What are the current insurance policies in place to protect umpires from being sued? To protect them in case of injury. In addition, what are their responsibilities on the field and how do they become liable. How can we as umpires avoid being liable.

Carley Parish will be looking at the Softball Canada Insurance provided to the umpires, along with the Provincial Insurance and addressing issues such as compensation, perhaps what happens if an umpire is attacked on the field, if there is lightening etc.

Instructor - Lucie Carmichael
Training Young Umpires

Instructor - Mark Gough and Joyce Bellini
New Mechanics - 3 and 4 Umpire Systems
There have been many changes in the past few years to reflect the ISF rules. This is a workshop not to be missed. An informative presentation with Mark Gough on New Mechanics in the 3 and 4 umpire systems. Joyce Bellini will be present should there be questions in French. NOTE: An entire French workshop may be offered depending on registration numbers.

Instructor - Brian Van Os and Denis Belanger
New Rules for 2007 – 2008
There have been many changes in the past few years to reflect the ISF rules. This is a workshop not to be missed. An informative presentation with Brian Van Os on new rules for 2007 and 2008. Bring your questions because Brian is the rule guru. Denis Belanger will be present should there be questions in French. NOTE: An entire French workshop may be offered depending on registration numbers.