The Correct Call!
UHSAA Logo Wear - FIRST IMPRESSIONS!
APRIL 3, 2018 - I was excited about the news that Utah High School officials were going to get the chance to wear a unique uniform. I also realize that I was severely in the minority. Many of my fellow officials do not share my enthusiasm to be a "Sharp Dressed Man!" :-)
In fact, when the vote came up for logo gear, it was immediately shot down by our local officials. I could sense their anger about being forced to upgrade uniforms, which up to this point in time meant anything non-logoed with navy hats, powder shirts, navy jackets, grayish slacks, and some type of blackish shoes. To be forced to buy new grated upon their souls and they only accepted the mandate by Jeff Cluff to get the new shirt this year if they wanted to do post-season games.
JEFF CLUFF - BAD GUY? - Stop Spreading Rumors!
I say bad guy with my tongue firmly in my cheek, yet the moment the announcement of logo gear came to light, the rumors and back-biting spread amongst officials in Utah. The greatest conspiracy theory still spreading is that Jeff Cluff personally gets a kick-back from Robert at Official's Time Out Equipment and Apparel every time a logo gear item is sold. To that I say "Phooey!" The justification for the rumor is that the Utah shirts are about $10-$13 more than some other states. Therefore Jeff Cluff must be a money-raking scumbag. Let's put these slanderous rumors to rest and be adults about the UHSAA's urging us towards a higher level of professionalism. The new gear looks good and to get it means that that portion of the uniform would be new. Let's admit the facts, many officials need to be pushed to buy a new uniform piece. And Jeff Cluff is NOT a bad guy!
UHSAA UNIFORM UPGRADES
Please don't think that Jeff Cluff and the UHSAA is picking on us softball officials. The UHSAA is arranging for logo uniform gear in each sport. Football had it this year. Basketball shirts were also new this year. This is NOT just a softball thing. They are raising our appearance and look of professionalism in all sports. There is no reason to grumble or "kick against the pricks" when it comes to this across the board change. Instead, just smile and make the upgrades as you are able. And if money is tight, then do your best to make what you have look its best.
OUR CURRENT UNIFORMS
In the years I have been doing high school basketball, baseball, and softball, I have had partners show up in all states of uniform condition. Pinkish wrinkled slacks, mustard stained faded shirts, purplish 20-year-old plus faded jackets, and hats not fit to muck the hogs. I have watched umpires exit their cars in the school parking lots and open their trunks and pull out each item of their uniform from a huge wadded pile of wrinkled mess that has not been washed even after multiple games. The job of being a high school softball umpire is simple. You get a one or two game assignment and they expect you to show up looking professional while officiating the assigned games. Then they give us money because we performed our work. If we have shabby looking uniforms, then we should self-regulate and treat ourselves to the delight of wearing something neat and new.
WE CONTROL OUR APPEARANCE
How we look in our uniforms is completely within our own control. If items our dirty, we can wash them. If they are wrinkled, then we can press them and take better care of them before getting dressed. And if they are faded, then we can upgrade them. When I come home from games, I immediately start a load of laundry. This is not my lovely wife Shelly's burden, and I have no expectations that anybody will do it other than me. It is part of the job. And so there is no misunderstanding, my full-time job is my own business and I take the same care with that uniform.
BUT IT IS EXPENSIVE
I tire easily of the complaints of not being paid enough. We now know that next year we will get a $7.50 raise and the year after another $7.50 raise. My prediction is that even after a $15 raise per game that we will still have umpires complaining about the cost of their uniforms. Why? Because it is easy to whine. Regardless of the expense, the first impressions are made by the coaches, players, and fans the moment we walk onto each field. We are in complete control of our appearance and we get to set the impression in their minds as to what kind of official we think we are.
Is it expensive to umpire softball? Absolutely. Does it make any difference whether the shirt is $36 or $48? Not really. Would it be cheaper to officiate basketball where all you need is black pants, a shirt, and a whistle? Absolutely! But we have chosen softball and we are paid officials. The judge has not mandated we do games for community service. We chose to step into the role that few others are willing to take upon themselves. Stand proud... and look your best while doing it!
Here is a photo of a pair of pants hanging on my hangar right now. It maddens me because they are just one year old. They lasted through about 300 games and the sun just zapped them. The second sad confession is that I have a matching pair just like them that suffered the same fate from their 300 games of service. I saw them a week ago and immediately called Duffy Latham and ordered 3 new pairs of slacks for this year's high school and USA games. These pants will be retired with my American Flag that has also succumbed to the hot summer sun.... Burn, baby burn! Maybe the solution is to just do night games.
IF WE COLLECTIVELY UPGRADED
As softball officials we need to collectively acknowledge that many officials have needed to upgrade their wardrobe 5 years ago. There seems to be a correlation with an aging crew and the lack of desire to fork out any money towards new uniform items. This means that any changes in policy are like fingernails running down a chalkboard. As I get older, I can somewhat understand. I believe that if we had been upgrading our uniforms at least every other year on our own collectively then there would be no grumbling or complaint amongst our ranks. The reality is that collectively we are not a sharp dressed group of officials.
SHARP DRESSED MAN
We wear lots of uniforms in life, and I prefer to always be in good looking uniforms. I was never in the military or on a police force, but as a 30-plus year Boy Scouter I always prided myself on being in a complete uniform. parents would whine that the uniform was expensive and that maybe just getting the boys a shirt was enough. I patiently explained the purpose of a full uniform in Scouting prepared the young men for their future full uniforms on sports teams, military service, LDS missionary service, and even their first future job at McDonald's. Presenting yourself in the appropriate full uniform makes an incredible first impression and their is little harm in being referred to being either a "Sharp Dressed Man" or a "Sharp Dressed Woman!"
NEW LOGO GEAR
I was excited to see what the new gear would look like. I immediately ordered new shirts for both baseball and softball.I then contacted the supplier and Robert let me know that he was working on the embroidery version which would allow for other uniform items to have the logo. The shirts are color dye sublimated and not embroidered.
SHIRTS - $47.95 - Our new UHSAA shirts in both baseball and softball are Smitty brand and a very soft fabric. In baseball we wear black, and baseball officials love the pocket on the front of the shirt. Why? Many prefer to keep their lineup card and their pen in that front pocket. I think it looks tacky, but it is a long time tradition. In softball we wear either the powder blue or navy blue. Both feature the color stripes on the collars and the lower sleeve termination. And yes, both feature the pocket. They also have the U.S. flag on the left sleeve and have a Smitty logo on the back near the collar.
HATS - $17.95 - 6-Stitch - I needed a new navy blue hat this season and I received one of the first off the embroidery machine. If you look at the embroidery it is different than the shirt logo. There is no white background and it makes it much less obnoxious. I wasn't sure if I liked it at first due to the different look, but now I think I like it better. They are Richardson fitted hats and must be ordered by specific size.
BALL BAGS - $12.95 each - I even ordered two of the embroidered ball bags. They are Smitty brand bags and the logo is the same exact size and pattern as the hat logo. I ordered a pair in both black and navy for baseball and softball.
Was this order tough for me to pull the trigger on and hit the "Pay" button. Absolutely, yet I am really glad that I did. The items are made from quality materials and they have both a good look and feel. Whether you buy the added gear is up to you. The ultimate goal is not for us to be in full UHSAA logo gear, but to be as sharply dressed as we can. If an item is old, then splurge and invest a bit in yourself. Remember, the feeling of self-pride and value will last long after the sting of the purchase fades.
Make it a great day!
Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah
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