Recruit, Retain & Celebrate Sports Officials

How To Become A Softball Umpire

Softball is one of the most popular American sports. It has a long history dating back to the late 19th century and since its inception, the sport has become one of the most widely played throughout the U.S. Although softball is generally associated exclusively with female players at the scholastic and collegiate levels, it has long been popular among men as well as coed teams in the amateur and recreational space.

Why Real Officials Love What They Do

Things To Consider

Physical Demands

Expect normal physical demands. As the players’ competitive levels increase, the physical demands will rise. You will be required to jog several times to properly position yourself. You will stand several hours on end, occasionally in high heat.

Mental Demands

Softball umpires, regardless of level, need to know the rules and understand the game. Visual awareness is necessary to observe the pitches in a 3D environment. Mental toughness is important to handle criticism from coaches.

Training

You should join a local officials association where you can expect ongoing classes, demonstrations and exercises that will prepare you for what you’ll face. Most associations have an intensive introductory course for new umpires to get you ready for your first season.

Different organizations have different requirements, but most require at least attendance at a meeting to go over any current rule changes. Additional requirements may be a written test with a minimum passing score, payment of fees for the upcoming season and association meeting attendance.

Equipment

  • Polished, black athletic shoes. Either turf shoe or flat-bottom.
  • Black socks.
  • Heather or navy slacks, depending upon area. Check with local association.
  • Powder blue shirt. Some associations wear a red or navy golf shirt.
  • Black leather belt.
  • A fitted cap.
  • Officiating tools: pencil, flipping coin, indicator and a ballbag.

If you umpire fast pitch you will need these items:

  • A mask with a throat protector.
  • An inside chest protector.
  • A cup (for men).
  • Protective plate shoes.

Estimated cost: $450. Once you join a local officiating association, there may be veteran officials who are willing to give or sell you “hand–me–downs” to help you get geared up at a reduced cost.

Game Fees

Game fees vary widely based on the players’ age group, competitive level and the state you officiate in. You can expect the fees to range from $10-$50. To maximize your income, you can work a combination of levels several days a week, including weekend tournaments where you can work games all day. An official with a full schedule can make several hundred dollars per week outside their normal jobs.

Assistance

Ask a respected veteran official to be your mentor. That mentor will help answer your questions and provide crucial support. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about situations and rules. The more you talk about being a softball umpire, the more you will learn about it.

Certification

Here’s the path for starting and continuing your officiating career

Youth Level

Many officials start at the youth level. Contact your local recreation department leaders. Your local association should also help you make contacts to get games.

For information, contact:

USA Softball

Upgrading

After working youth games, you may feel you have the skills and confidence to work higher levels of competition. You may also start at this level if you have a good grasp of the rules and/or experience as a player. For Jr. High games, ask your association leader or contact your school district. For high school games, you’ll need to work with an assigner through your local association. Any work with sanctioned school games requires you to be registered through your state, to prove you’re competent.

High School

National Federation of State High School AssociationsAfter working youth games, you may feel you have the skills and confidence to work higher levels of competition. You may also start at this level if you have a good grasp of the rules and/or experience as a player. For Jr. High games, ask your association leader or contact your school district. For high school games, you’ll need to work with an assigner through your local association. Any work with sanctioned school games requires you to be registered through your state, to prove you’re competent.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) is the nation’s governing body for high school athletics. Through them you can get all the information you need from your state to register and start the process to work High School sports.

Begin your High School softball umpiring journey at highschoolofficials.com

In most cases, your state association can put you in contact with a local officials’ association. Local associations assign games, many times offer mentoring programs and assist in training.

High school athletic directors, association assigners and other officials can also you get games.

Plan to attend local camps and clinics. They are focused on helping officials learn and improve.

College

College umpiring is highly competitive. Umpires with one year of youth league experience would most likely not be a candidate even though there isn’t a designated number of years of experience to reach the college ranks. Obtaining a conference schedule and advancement within a conference is based on the league or conference. When first trying to enter a college conference either contact the conference directly or talk with umpires who are currently in the conference. They can give you valuable information such as the conference commissioner and umpiring camps to attend. College athletic directors or sports information directors can also be helpful.

High School umpires aspiring to move up into college can get valuable information and education through the College Softball Umpires Locker Room training website.

You may start your career working at the Community College level or work in the NAIA or for a NCAA Division III conference. You can advance to a Division II schedule, then on to a smaller Division I conference and culminate with a major Division I schedule. Attending officiating camps is an important tool to improve your umpiring. Not only can you learn from experienced umpires, you can be seen by those who assign games at that level, most often conference commissioners or umpiring supervisors.

The collegiate national governing bodies:

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
PO Box 6222
Indianapolis, IN 46206-6222
317-917-6222

National Association Of Intercollegiate Athletics

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
23500 W. 105th Street
PO Box 1325
Olathe, KS 66051-1325
913-791-0044

NJCAA

National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)
PO Box 7305
Colorado Springs, CO 80933- 7305
719-590-9788

National Association of Sports Officials

You may also consider joining NASO, the only nation-wide officials support organization. As a member-driven community; NASO exists to unite, celebrate, develop and protect all officials so that they can reach their goals and take pride in their contributions to the benefits that sports provide society.

Learn more about NASO at NASO.org.

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