Athletic Training Lessons Learned As an Umpire

August 12, 2014 by NATA Admin

By Jeremy Hawkins, PhD, ATC

I have three boys who love to play baseball.  As a parent who tries to be involved as much as possible in their individual pursuits, I am at times asked to do things tha are out of my comfort zone; umpiring a baseball game has been one of those things. However, serving in this role has helped me to see being an athletic training student in a new light.

Last fall I showed up to a baseball game a few minutes before it was to begin.  Being fall ball, no paid umpires were there – parents were asked to fill that position.  On this particular evening our team needed to provide an umpire and our regular person was not there.  I inadequately said I would do it.  Needless to say it was a growing experience for me.  After blowing the first call of the game (I called a fake bunt a ball when it was indeed a strike because the kid didn’t pull the bat back, a rule I was not aware of), it took me about three innings before I felt comfortable.
Contrast that experience with one from this spring.  As with my other umpiring experience, I showed up for a game a few minutes before it began and was again asked to umpire.  This time, I was asked to assist a paid umpire, he behind the plate and me in the field.  Thinking back to my last experience, I agreed to do it, but asked a simple question before heading out to the field, “What are the basics of what I need to know to do this correctly and what are you expecting me to do?”  The umpire told me the basics of my responsibilities, his expectations of me (e.g., where to stand with and without runners on base, best angles to make certain calls, and how I could support him), and reassured me that he was there to help if I needed anything.  The game went smoothly and he asked me to help him again a few weeks later.  Both games were much better experiences than my first.
You may be asking yourself, 'what does this have to do with being an athletic training student?' As the school year begins you may find yourself in a new or different clinical education setting, one that you might not be comfortable with.  If so, good for you.  Embrace it as a learning opportunity.  But instead of just trying to do your best, ask what your basic responsibilities are and what expectations your preceptor has for you.  The old adage “ask and ye shall receive” applies.

Preceptors at times will determine how they will work with you by what they see has your level of commitment to the clinical education site.  If you are “hungry,” they will feed you.  Asking about responsibilities and expectations shows your hunger.  Perhaps more importantly, you feeling comfortable in the setting you are placed is tantamount in your ability to learn and excel in that setting.  Invariably, knowing your responsibilities and expectations will help you be more comfortable and able to take full advantage of the educational opportunity.  And, a quality preceptor will reassure you that they are there to help if you need anything.

posted on behalf of the author Jeremy Hawkins, PhD, ATC, by NATA News Managing Editor Jaimie Siegle (