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It's Baseball Season. Respect the Coach. Respect the Umpire.
A lot of hard work goes into those bad calls
Beginning with baseball, from age 10 on, I played organized sports on the youth level. When I outgrew youth baseball, I coached. After coaching a while, I became an umpire, too. Through all of this, the most important lesson I learned was that coaches and umpires are the hardest working people on the field.
Oh, yeah, from time to time you hear stories of players who achieved great success through hard work, perseverance, and dedication to their sport. And, from time to time, you'll also be reminded of the players who worked just as hard, but didn't make it. Very rarely, however, do you ever hear about the hard work any coach, or umpire has put in, but, believe me, most work just as hard despite spending most of their careers in almost complete anonymity.
If a player does well, and has success, he or she is the one who gets the accolades, not the coach. But, the truth is, every time a player gets up at 5:00 a.m. to practice, there's a coach there, too, and a good coach cannot rely simply on his God-given talent for success, either. The coach not only has to read, study, and know his or her stuff, the coach has to know when, and how to apply the knowledge, too. Additionally, it's the coach who is at the practice field long before any players arrive preparing for practice, checking the playing conditions, and getting out the equipment needed. Sure, many coaches have assistants to help them, but the coach has to do all the planning, all the arranging, and all the coordination.
On every level, in addition to required scholastic education, the coach must also take coaching classes, yearly concussion prevention training, and First Aid/CPR/AED training every other year. Coaches are also required to keep up with the latest training techniques, rules changes, and equipment requirements. Coaches must learn to mediate with parents, Athletic Directors, schools, and organizations. The training and responsibility never stops. And, if anything goes wrong, the coach will be the first to account for the mishap, especially if his team does not win as expected, or one of his players does not perform as anticipated.
Then, there's the umpire. We may curse him or her, shout obscene names, and stomp up and down about our team being "robbed," but the truth is that no fan knows the rules better than the guys on the field, and no one in the stands has a better look at any play. Umpires are constantly tested on rules, and required to attend clinics to learn the mechanics of the game, management of the game, and management of the fans.
How many fans are aware of the rules changes, and points of emphasis just this year? Any umpire working at any level has to know all of those, and how to apply them. Most umpires work different levels, and must know not only Pro, College, and High School variations, but must also be up to date on various leagues like Connie Mack, Legion, Babe Ruth, NABA, CABA, USSSA, and the variations imposed by various leagues at various levels as well.
If that weren't enough, the umpire is an Independent Contractor responsible for purchasing, having, and maintaining all needed equipment, uniforms, and supplies, which may vary from organization to organization, too. I have heard of young umpires working an entire year and only netting a few hundred dollars after spending most earnings to acquire equipment, pay for transportation, or pay for housing accommodations.
Yes, many players work very hard with no promise of reward, or success, but every single coach and umpire works just as hard with the virtual guarantee that the only significant reward he or she will ever receive will be just the satisfaction of having done a needed job well, and professionally.
So, the next time you are at a sporting contest, and you have the urge to chastise the coach, or any official, stop for a moment, and think about all the work, and effort each put into the game you are watching. Think about what you would or would not be seeing if someone had not taken the time, and put in the effort to make it all happen. Without people willing to jump through all the hoops necessary to put a team together, and without people willing to jump through all the hoops required to become officials, there would be no games Yes, coaches, and umpires will continue to make mistakes because, after all, they are human just like you and me. Go ahead, and shout your disapproval, too, because that's your right as a fan. But, while you are doing this, just remember all of the hard work, devotion, and commitment that went into those bad calls, and temper your disagreement with respect for those unsung facilitators without whom the game could not go on.