When you have a game to umpire, although you may do it subconsciously, you plan a way to get there, and you plan what time you'd like to arrive. As simple as it may sound, you've just created a goal. And a deadline.
It might not seem like much of a goal, but in very simplistic terms, that's how it's done. You set a clear, reachable goal, and you put a time frame on it.
Quite plainly, if you don't have any goals, you won't improve as steadily or as much as someone will who has goals. And if you don't have any goals, you won't improve much as an umpire, supervisor or mentor.
But there's more to it than just saying you're setting a goal.
To get the most out of goal-setting, you need to make specific, measurable goals with a reasonable timeline. If your goal is to "become a better umpire" how is that specific? How can you measure that? How will you be able to tell you're a "better" umpire? And when is the deadline for that?
Your goal also has to be realistic. You might want to set a goal of becoming a Major League umpire, for example, but if you're 50 years old with limited experience, is it a realistic goal?
Or maybe your goal is to never, ever, get a pitch wrong again. Is that realistic?
To set proper goals, you would do well to keep the acronym SMART in mind.
SPECIFIC - The more specific the goal, the better the chance you have of obtaining it. A goal of "being a better supervisor" isn't very specific. But if you want to be able to give five good tips to five different umpires, you can make a specific plan on how that's going to happen.
MEASURABLE - You have to have some way to record your progress. You won't know if you're halfway to your goal if the goal is to just become "better." But if you have specific plans, such as the above-mentioned five tips to five umpires, you'll know exactly where you are in the journey to that goal.
ACTION-ORIENTED - Detail how you're actually going to do your goal. Breaking it down into specific steps may help. You may want to improve your plate stance, but without writing down the specific steps that takes, it might never happen.
REALISTIC - As mentioned earlier, you have to stay grounded in reality. Don't set a goal that you are unlikely to achieve. You may want to be an astronaut, but again, if you're 50 without any education in the sciences, you're just setting yourself up for disappointment. That being said, you don't want to set goals that are too easy to achieve. You need to stretch yourself, to learn, to challenge yourself. And you won't do that if you set easily reachable goals. So the goals should be somewhere inside that large area between unrealistic and too easy.
TIME - If your goal as a supervisor is to help five umpires move up to the next level, but your deadline is "whenever" or "someday," it's not really a goal at all. After all, as self-help author Napoleon Hill said, "A goal is a dream without a deadline." Without that deadline, it remains a dream because it will never be finished.
In addition to the deadline, you should set some in-between timelines so you don't end up squishing all your efforts into the last few days to meet your deadline. In other words, if you set a deadline of August 1 to help those five umpires, perhaps you should also set a goal of July 1 to be halfway done.
Another important aspect of goal-setting is to make the goal important. Sure, I could set a goal of ejecting 30 players and coaches this year, but how does that specifically help me become a better umpire?
To set important goals, I first need to know what I have to work on. There's little sense in saying I want to sharpen my strike three mechanic if it's already good. Let's find something I really want to be better at that I also need to be better at.
When you're doing your specific steps (Action-Oriented) to get to your goal, don't forget to list the obstacles as well. Failing to account for setbacks or predictable problems will just make you abandon your goal.
Two other key points:
Write your goals down, in specific terms. Writing it down makes it real, and writing out the details sets out a plan that lists how you're going to go about it.
Tell someone. Someone who will keep you accountable. Some one whose opinion matters to you. So when they ask you "How are you progressing toward your goal?" you won't want to tell them you haven't done anything yet. If their opinion matters to you, you'll want to work on your goal so you don't let that person down.
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Umpires were given the authority to impose fines on players for illegal acts.
National League umpire Richard Higham became the only Major League umpire ever expelled from the game after the National League judged him guilty of collusion with gamblers.
This Week's Umpire Quote
“No two umpires, or no two referees, have the same strike zone or call the same kind of basketball game. And ballplayers and basketball players understand that, depending on who the umpire is and who the referee is, the game can be called entirely differently.”
- Herb Kohl
American businessman and politician
This Week's Quote That Applies To Umpiring
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible."
- Tony Robbins