Baseball Umpires’ Learning Blog

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Trained, “Focused” Eyes and The Need for an Additional Official

As a sports official, one the most important skills that we need to develop and constantly maintain is the ability to focus on the player activity that is assigned to us per recommended mechanics. Trained eyes make it possible to see most of what we are supposed to see so we can properly officiate our games.

This following video helps me make my point about “focus” and the need for additional officials. How did you do? Could you count the number of passes by the white team? How aware are you of what happened. Please take time to read the rest of this blog entry after watching the video.

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Most officials will agree that at the high school level in most sports, we would benefit greatly by having an additional official. The way that basketball has changed over the years (esp. 3-point line and motion offenses), we can serve the game best by having three (3) officials. In football, officials cannot cover some blocking infractions and actions against receivers without five (5) officials. In baseball, we can cover a game best with three (3) which allows umpires to move into the outfield to rule on catches, accurately rule on base-touching and fair-foul balls, and have the ability to create good angles and be close enough to plays. Hockey also needs to move from two to three (3) officials. When you are focused on a potential off-sides call, you are not capable of seeing the whole play related to a possible penalty call.

However, given the financial times and some resistance to additional officials amongst some of our coaches and athletic administrators, we must try to do our best with one less set of eyes. This makes our pre-game conferences and adherance to prescribed mechanics even more important. We must know our responsibilities and strictly follow required mechanics. These mechanics (positioning, signals, and use of the voice/whistle) determine how we view and rule upon what we see. We all know that we make hundreds or even thousands of rulings during each contest we officiate, only to interrupt games (making calls) at appropriate times.

Some officials quickly and easily learn what to focus on early in their officiating careers. Others take a great deal of time to properly train their eyes. Some never master this part of officiating. “Focus” is very important but we must be careful not to focus our eyes or our mind too much on one or more concerns. Looking for that illegal screen/block or holding (basketball, football, and hockey) can sometimes avert our focus from seeing the entire play that is often necessary. With an additional official, you may be able to focus on one thing (and sometimes the mechanics provides for this).

When we say to ourselves/others that we would like to see that play again, do you think we might have focused in on something a little bit too much? I know that I have been caught by this many times. Now that it has come to my attention, I know that I need to add this comment and thought to my pre-game preparation checklist.

April 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments