The Correct Call!
Uniforms - How Often Do You Buy New?
I have posed the question to many umpires over the years, "How often do you plan on buying a new uniform?" The answers have been very interesting, as most do not have any plans on upgrading their wardrobe, unless forced. I have found this attitude very interesting, especially since we take great pride in being independent contractors and we like the feeling we get to call our own shots. And yet, most umpires have regular employment where they don't get to call their own shots in their full time employment. With most being independent contractor umpires on the side, they do not realize the power and responsibility that comes with being your own boss. And looking good is the sole responsibility of the independent contractor umpire.
HOW DOES YOUR UNIFORM LOOK?
Take a moment and look at your current umpiring uniform. Is it old, faded, missing buttons, stained, wrinkled, and/or just plain looking shabby? If so, then consider for a moment that you were heading out to buy some fast food and you walked into the place and the worker was wearing an old and shabby uniform, would you feel confident in their abilities to get you a good meal? If they look shabby, then they have to work much harder to win our confidence. Whether we like it or not, uniforms say a lot about the individual wearing it.
WRINKLED IN THE TRUNK
I pulled up to a recent tournament and noticed an umpire pulling his wadded uniform pants from the bottom of his trunk. They had been wrinkled up down there for quite some time. His shirt was stained and equally wrinkled. His hat was sun faded and tattered, being 3 generations old. When he put it on, it did not look any better? He looked like an old, shabby, wrinkled umpire. I was amazed because I know he has a regular job. He has a house. He has interior plumbing and running water, complete with a washer and dryer in his home. The fact that everything about his uniform was old, I understand there may be economic concerns. The fact that his trunk is the ongoing dirty laundry basket of which rarely sees a clean uniform, is completely the choice of the umpire. And just so you know, the most recent umpire I watched was just one of many I have seen over the years with similar trunks and uniforms.
WE HAVE CONTROL OVER OUR APPEARANCE
I think this is what gets a bit lost in the discussion over logo changes and new uniform implementations. We each have complete control over how we look when we walk on the filed. If we can't afford the new, then we can do our best to wash our current uniforms. We can then press and iron our pants and shirts. We can also budget to upgrade older portions of our uniforms. If we need a new hat, then go do an extra game somewhere and spend $15 bucks. If we need a shirt, then we may need to do two games for shirts that now cost about $25 to $35 each. Pants are the most expensive and they are about $50 by the time you get them hemmed. Oh yes, there is the jacket. These run about $60, yet I have never seen anybody bat an eye when a 20 plus year old model gets brought out on a cold night, regardless of the generation of the logo.
IF THEY ARE PINK, THEN DON'T WEAR THEM ANYMORE
Heather gray slacks are notorious for aging and fading by displaying a pink hue. I have very little patience for those umpires who are currently wearing pink hued heather gray slacks. Why? If they are pink, then that umpire has done lots of games in them and he has earned lots of money with no thought of budgeting to invest in himself and his uniform. That's right, we are paid when we umpire and a certain portion of our fee is needed to be set aside for future uniform upgrades. It is a cost of doing business. Looking good is part of our job description. Wearing well maintained uniforms is part of being a successful independent contractor. If your pants are hueing pink, then you are telling the world that you are a poor businessman. Is that really what you are wanting to scream?
I am rather new to ASA, now USA Softball, but I have now been exposed to my third logo. With each change there is a huge amount of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth over the change. Why? With each change comes a 3 year grace period to phase in the new logo. Shouldn't everything that makes up a logo portion of your uniform be changed out within 3 years anyway? This means that you use what you have in the normal fashion and plan on buying new after 3 years. What's the big deal? Is it the money? It is, isn't it? Let's explore that aspect....
IT IS JUST TOO MUCH MONEY
Let's say you do a minimum of 100 games a year and you set aside $1 per game fee for your uniform and equipment expenses. In 3 years you have saved $300 towards uniforms. That is all associated with a cost of doing business. It is a pure expense that you get to deduct from your IRS forms. Now let's say you set aside $2 per game, it becomes $600 in 3 years. Or better yet, make it $2 per game and do 400 games a year. This would be $2,400 in 3 years and you could have all new gear every year. So like I asked, what's the big deal about a logo change? The bigger issue seems to be that we have many umpires that don't want to face the fact that uniforms should be upgraded every 3 to 4 years anyways.
So to bring this topic full circle, I encourage USA Softball of Utah Umpires to start budgeting for normal uniform upgrades. You will like the way you feel as you wear newer gear. And if you just can't afford it now, then take the extra time to wash and press your current uniforms until you can make the upgrade. New logo or not, this is just a normal cost of doing umpire business. Now if you want to explore the raising of game fees, then that is an entirely different topic. But even if you were paid more, it would still require the responsibility to budget for future needed uniform expenses.
Make it a great day! Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah
P.S. It is interesting, because I have probably invested more money and time in my Electric Frankenstein Umpire uniform in the last two years, for just a handful of Halloween themed tournaments, than many of my fellow umpires have invested in their full-time USA Softball uniforms in the same space of time. Have a happy Halloween!!!