The Correct Call!
Proactive vs. Reactive - Which are You?
We just had a great USA Softball of Utah tournament in St. George for the 10U, 12U and 14U's. The older girls are all busy with their high school season, so we got to enjoy the up and comers. We had a great crew of umpires and I was reminded of the concept of being proactive verses reactive in our umpiring mechanics.
REACTIVE UMPIRES - Being a reactive umpire is easy. You don't have to do anything special. You see something happen and then you react. That sounds good, but it can kill the credibility of a crew on any given play. Quick reflexes are not what we are talking about. Secondary coverages are also not what I am referring. I am talking about the umpire who has given no prior thought as to what could happen on a given play scenario and is simply reacting. Sometimes this is just from the fatigue of multiple games in a day, but more often than not is is due to the lack of developing good habits.
PROACTIVE UMPIRES - Umpires that are proactive are always mentally involved in the game. They incorporate prior pitch planning preparation that has them thinking about the game scenarios that could happen before the pitch is even thrown. Where are the runners? What if the ball is hit on the ground, line drive, or deep to the outfield. Proactive umpires have also studied their mechanics and when they do react, they are following the approved mechanics. Why is this important? Because it allows their partners to do their job knowing that their partner has their job covered.
PARTNERSHIPS - When assessing how well you have done in a game, you must include your partner in your evaluation. Were you an asset to the partnership, or a distraction. Was the partnership in credible positions on each and every primary play? Did the partnership react appropriately with their secondary coverages? Did the partnership communicate before, during, and after each major play? And what I always consider is the likeability factor. In other words, was it conveyed to the coaches, players, and fans that the partnership actually liked working together and were happy to be out on the ballfield for that particular game. If not, then why?
While officiating basketball I started to take a random 3-minute clip excerpt from my games and watch it closely for the movements and mechanics of the officials doing the game. When it was me, then it was even more revealing. Why? Because I could see my movements and know what I was actually thinking. I could see when my vision became too myopic, or if I was allowing coach chatter to affect my game. It was quite revealing and has helped me improve in that sport tremendously. I was convinced that it helped in basketball, so why not employ it in softball?
Why 3-minutes? I found that anybody can sit through three minutes of video, whether watching themselves or somebody else. I found that 3-minutes reveals a lot. And if chosen at random, then you could see what happens during the actual game. You can see habits, both good and bad. Body posture and physical mechanics can be assessed and subtle changes incorporated after the bad habits are identified.
Let's face it, we are all much better in our minds than we actually are out on the field. At least I am. I have proven that to myself as I watch my own 3-minute drills. But what I have also come to love is watching how well I work, or don't work with a partner. I can see when I am having to overwork because a partner constantly deviates from our approved mechanics. Wait a minute, I am deviating into what should be a completely separate blog entry. Let's get back on the positive track... Let's watch this 3-minute video of Doyle Sprague and myself from midday Friday in St. George. I will then add my own observations. But first, both Doyle and I really rock the white uniform!
Enjoy the video...
1) Beautiful Setting - Yes, this weekend was spectacular in St. George. The backdrops of red and white plateaus were very distracting throughout the tournament.
2) Heel To Toe - I have drifted back into older baseball habits. I need to tweak my heel to toe foot placement with a right handed batter. My right foot is too far back and this gives me more of a baseball squat verses the desired in the slot heel to toe stance. That is an easy tweak.
3) 16 Seconds - I like the way I keep the ball in my focus and watch the catcher throw the ball back to the pitcher. I also like Doyle's movement towards second base, even when the ball was just fouled off.
4) 33 Seconds - Hey, I came out from behind the plate even on the soft line drive to the shortstop. I love Doyle's firm stance for the throw back to first. We look very credible. At 38 seconds my Mack ends up in my right hand. I am not sure I like that, even though it is just for prepping to put it back on.
5) 1:03 - Doyle got beat on the steal to second and was still moving when the call was being determined. I see that I also just barely came out of the box to my left. Why did we get beat? In my mind, I always get out and head to towards third on steals. I got complacent on this one. NOTE TO SELF: Don't get lazy on steals.
6) 1:22 - I like my timing as I prep for the pitch. I also like the way I come out to the left afterwards knowing that there might be a throw back to second and the second set of eyes might be needed.
7) 1:59 - I look silly bailing out on the inside pitch. Yep, I need to be stoic and take it like a man (no offense woman). It makes it even worse on a ball four and I now modify my mechanic to watch the batter go to first while standing along the first base line. By book, on a walk we proudly step to the first base line extended behind the box, remove our mask, and watch the runner all the way to first base. NOTE TO SELF: Don't be a wimp and bail out.
8) 2:42 - My hands on my hip while the girls huddle at the mound conveys my disgust at the waste of time during this time game. It does not look good, yet it does accurately convey my feelings. NOTE TO SELF: Watch my body language. Then again, I may have also been trying to dry out my armpits, as the weather was causing me to sweat.
9) 2:56 - I appreciated Doyle's positioning on the catcher's left shoulder with the runner at second. I am observing too many of my fellow umpires are getting lazy in their positioning with regards to the shortstop as they are trying to prevent getting beat on plays at third base.
10) 3:02 - Great button hook from the C position Doyle. It got you inside the diamond where you could be of the most help. I like the way I came out from the plate ready to come up the line as needed, only returning towards home as the first runner crossed.
11) 3:10 - I then crossed into fair territory at the 3:10 point as a secondary coverage. It was purely reactionary, as I tried to stay out of the throwing lane to second (not that they would ever throw it there), while getting out of the way of any throw from the catcher at the backstop to the pitcher on a slide play at home. From the video, I can see that I also put myself into a possible throwing lane from the pitcher to third base. I am going to have to rethink my actions on this one. It would have probably been better to stay in foul territory.
I can see tweaks that I need to make, but overall Doyle and I worked very well together. We both appear to be very proactive in our officiating. I also like the way that we look as USA Softball umpires. We were both solid on our USA Softball mechanics and we knew where each was going to be and go on each of the plays. This made it a very enjoyable game to officiate... At-A-Boy Doyle!
Make it a great game!
Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah