Planning to Make Mistakes.
So you think you won’t make mistakes — You WILL! The important thing is not that you made a mistake but what you do after the mistake. Do you throw up a smoke screen to cover it up? Do you beat yourself up and dwell on it? Do you make excuses and deny responsibility? Or do you accept the fact that you are human and learn from it?
To be a successful (happy) umpire you must learn from your mistakes. You must develop action plans to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. You must also have a plan for when you make a gross mistake.
Field Mechanic mistakes – These are the mistakes that occur in every game every week. On an average night most of these will go unnoticed. They can be anything from being slightly out of position, poor timing to poor communication.
Action Plan: Pre and post game meetings! You must set your ego aside and honestly and objectively discuss and evaluate your performance with your partner(s). It is imperative that you recognize and rectify these mistakes every game because eventually these little mistakes will lead to the BIG ONE!
Mental mistakes – These are caused from a lapse in focus. Players and or coaches will notice. They range from losing track of the count, not noticing a check swing to missing a timing play. This must be corrected immediately on the field.
Action Plan: Make sure you’re hydrated. The onset of dehydration will lay waste to your concentration faster than a score of 30-1.
Mental repetition – Before every pitch repeat your top two or three umpiring priorities over and over in your mind. Be sure to keep them in order of priority. For example: With no one on — the base umpire might say in his mind “Did he go? Fair, foul. Did he go? Fair, foul. Did he go? Fair, foul.”
Let the circumstances of the situation dictate your top priorities. For example: Fast runner on first, no outs – Your priorities as the plate umpire would be (in order of priority): 1- Balk, no balk, 2- Strike or ball, 3- Batter’s Interference on the catcher’s throw to first or second, 4- Rotate to 3rd on a base hit 5- Slide at second on a double play ball.
Slow runner on first, no outs — Your priorities as the plate umpire would be (in order of priority): 1- Balk, no balk; 2- Strike or ball; 3- Batter feet in the box; 4- Fair, foul; 5- Running lane
Gross Mistake- This is when both teams know you blew the call. This is not a close or questionable call. This is a pitch in the dirt called a strike or a batter called out on an infield fly with two outs. The only logical explanation for these mistakes is interplanetary misalignment or temporary insanity or both.
Action Plan: Keep Control! Do not let this escalate into the “Big One!” If it’s not a judgment call correct the error. If the coach is yelling from dugout or coach’s box face him and let them know you are not going to listen to that from there. Whatever you do, don’t look away and/or hang your head. This will only encourage him to continue his cat calling.
The Big One!- This is when a gross mistake is combined with just the right amount of pressure and /or circumstances. This is a Category 6. Everyone notices this mistake and everyone is yelling for (and possibly preparing for) your public flogging. The fallout from this call will affect not only you but possibly your entire organization.
Action Plan: When head coach comes out (and he will come out) try to calm him down. Give him some latitude because it’s your mistake that has created this confrontation. Don’t let any other coaches or players approach you. Your goal is to get the game going again as soon as possible! If the coach will not calm down and is inciting the players and the crowd, DUMP HIM! Remember the quicker you get control and start playing the better for everyone.