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This summer I’ve had the opportunity to serve as a mentor to new umpires in the Owatonna area. As some of us grow a bit long in the tooth (or in my case, the knees), we need to train in a new generation of competent officials. I’ve been happy to work with these new members of the fraternity and guide them as they start their journey.

I’ve spent a little time with some of our local high schoolers who have umpired for us as well. Plus, as a coach at the 12U level, I often see youngsters umpiring our games. I like to visit with them and set them at ease that I’m unlikely to be that coach who complains non-stop.

Mentoring has been an enjoyable experience. I get to ump the bases while the new umpire works behind the plate. We visit between most innings regarding specific plays that happened or just general advice based on things I’ve done that work. Examples of that are ways to communicate with coaches and players, how to keep the game moving, and positioning to get the best view of pitches and plays on bases. It’s great to see these newbies get better as the game goes on, and I’m sure they’ll continue to find success as they ump more and more.

Mentoring is so important in every endeavor. No matter what your job, it seems unlikely that you know it all coming in. And most of you likely recognize that even when you’ve been at something for a long time, you still find new ways to try something and encounter unique experiences that no amount of training prepared you for. As both an experienced umpire and teacher, I still find numerous opportunities every year to say, “Well, I’ve never seen that before.”

We have a mentoring program for any new teacher at NRHEG. There are always a couple teachers that someone new can go to for questions and help. And in reality, there are many more resources in the school outside of those individuals. I can’t imagine any of my peers telling someone new to figure it out on their own if approached for help.

Teaching is hard. Many of your jobs are difficult. We constantly need some guidance, and then there are times where we do need to figure out some solutions on our own. But we all need that support in our occupations in case we run across something unexpected. This is where it’s awesome to have mentoring programs in place. And it doesn’t just have to be for a set amount of time. Hopefully a great relationship is formed between mentor and mentee so that ideas can be bounced off each other for years to come.

I had two mentors when I started, Mr. Nordlie and Mr. Pelzl. Both provided invaluable insight into teaching, and each did it in his own inimitable way. There are times I wish these gentlemen were still in the building; some of their good advice would be welcome. I find myself repeating some of their adages as I advance in seniority and have recognized that they were right about many things 20+ years ago.

One reason mentoring is so important, no matter the job, is that we want capable people in place to help our businesses run smoothly. We all know instances where someone couldn’t fulfill their part of the job and we got more dumped on us. If we spend a little time working together to make new employees better and more comfortable in what they are doing, it will likely save us headaches down the road, either from increased workload or staff turnover.

Every job has a form of evaluation. But the reality is that to become good at what you do takes more than the boss popping in occasionally to see what you’re doing. It takes a group effort to help each other. There’s no reason someone with the experience I have in my job can’t learn something from a new teacher. That reciprocation is vital to keep us all fresh in what we do.

That’s one other thing I got from working with these new umpires this year. I saw their energy and enthusiasm and found myself invigorated. I found that the next game I worked on my own, immediately after helping these rookies, was always what I thought was a well-called affair. I was refocused and re-energized.

So while we might sometimes breathe a deep sigh when asked to help someone new, maybe we can look at it as a chance to make ourselves better too. If we’re better at what we do and the new person becomes better and better through the help of us and others, work isn’t as much work. The machine is well oiled and moves along smoothly.

I’m going to throw this out there. We need more officials for all sports. If you’ve ever had an interest in football, basketball, or baseball or softball, I’d be happy to mentor you as you begin on that path. One of my mentees this summer was older than me, so it’s never too late to start! Contact me if you’d like to learn more, and we’ll work together to bring fresh blood to a great job.

 

Word of the Week: This week’s word is palinoia, which means the compulsive repetition of an act until is it performed perfectly, as in, “The new umpire performed strike-calling palinoia until everyone at his first game had no doubt when a strike had been called.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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