There’s No Upside...
NOTE: If you are interested in Michael’s business inspection related blog, then click on Bloggers in the left column and select Michael - Inspector.
TAKE A LEAP - True Confessions - Sports Officiating
GO FOR IT!
April 6, 2015 - The first quarter of 2015 is over and it is time for me to share one of my big goals for 2015. For years I have officiated different sports on the amateur level while devoting most of my free time to coaching my kids and enjoying their sports and arts activities. Now that our youngest child Aaron is a junior in high school, there was little opportunity to coach, so I shifted my focus to serious officiating. For the past 6 years I have been umpiring baseball on the youth level and was getting very proficient at it as the rule books became part of my soul and instinctual instead of forced. For decades I have officiated LDS church basketball on the local and regional level, but never took it any further because of family time constraints.
2015 GOALS - At the end of the summer baseball season 2014 I decided it was time to make the leap and figure out what I needed to do to become an official on the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) level for both basketball and baseball. This seemed like a lofty goal and I had nobody to turn to as a mentor to help me into the fold, so I went online and started searching for the "How To's" in becoming a high school official.
SCARY - I still remember driving up to Jordan High School in Draper, Utah and going into the auditorium waiting for the orientation meeting for the 2014-15 high school basketball season. Yes, I was the first one there and it was a lonely experience as about 350 other people showed up and all seemed to be part of the group. I felt like the odd man out, and learned that there were 700 high school basketball officials in the state of Utah and I was number 701. I had already taken my online tests, paid my fees, and now I had to figure out how to make an impression with the right people. I figured out who was the head of the organization and who was the assignor of games in Utah County. I went straight up to them after the meeting and introduced myself, told them of my goals, and gave them a business card and stressed my availability for games. It was then about 3 weeks before my first game assignment came through. I was so relieved, as I figured my boldness was deemed as being overbearing and thought I might never get a high school basketball game assignment.
BASEBALL - Even scarier for me was trying to jump levels in baseball officiating. Once again, I had no mentors to help me make the leap. Last August when I was done officiating the PONY State Baseball Championships I was done for the season. I took a few weeks off and it was then that I decided to get into high school so I did my research. Once again I found out who the assignor was in Utah County and found that he also assigned for a men's baseball league in our county so I sent off several emails his direction, all receiving no response. I did, however, make it onto his notification list and I learned about a 3 day umpiring clinic being put on here in Orem, Utah by some NCAA and Major League Baseball officials so I immediately signed up. I showed up at the Utah Valley University event, not knowing a soul, and dressed in the wrong color uniform. Way to make a strong first impression Michael. I made some acquaintances, but felt a lot like the outsider throughout the entire event... See BLOG ENTRY - BRUISED BUT HEALING
The Black & Blue Umpire Camp was another huge accomplishment for me, but it required stepping out of my comfort zone to both expose my ignorance and improve my skills. I made me some contacts, but it was so very hard because I did not have a mentor to help me through the process. I still remember the fear I felt as I walked into the UVU dressing room at the Bill Brown Stadium and seeing 35 fellow umpires who all seemed to know one another while I did not know a soul. I had to introduce myself and once again try to be bold, but not overbearing... It was a very fine line!
MENTOR - EVAN QUILTER - I shared with you my mentorless experience with both high school baseball and basketball, but I want to take a moment and reflect on my unexpected surprise of 2014. Baseball had been over for about a month and my batteries were finally replenished from a long Spring/Summer season of being yelled at by coaches and parents. It was a beautiful September evening and I saw the lights on across the street at the Windsor Park ballfields. I flashed back over a decade when Shelly and I sponsored a slow pitch coed softball team that played at those same fields. I thought it would be fun to go watch a game, and I even secretly thought it might be fun if some team needed an extra player and I could join them and play.
Walking over to the park I realized that this was not coed softball being played. Instead, it was girl's fast pitch softball. Each team was fully uniformed and while four teams were playing, four more were warming up for the next game beyond the home run fence. I reflected back on my daughter Jessica's miserable experience trying to play when she was about 11. And then I thought of how much fun it was going to my neice Delaney's games as she went through the junior high and high school years in Southern Utah. I thought it would be fun to watch a game so I continued over to the bleacher area and watched a few minutes on the north field. I then migrated over to the backstop area of the south field and I recognized Evan Quilter out on the field as the base umpire. "Wow, what is Evan doing out there?" I wondered.
I have known Evan for over twenty years from the LDS Orem North Stake. Evan was always the elite of basketball officials and I always cherished those tournament games when I could partner up with him and learn a few tips. I had no idea that he also officiated ASA girl's fast pitch softball.
In between innings I got to talking with Evan and he knew of my years as a baseball umpire and he invited me to start officiating softball. He said they really needed umpires and that there was lots of work. I was initially appalled at the idea... "Softball?... Sheesh... That would be a hit to my manhood!!!" I truly was feeling as though that would be a huge step down, while I was then contemplating taking a huge step up in the officiating ranks. In my ignorance, I had always felt the girl's game was a lesser game than boy's baseball. But I kept standing at the backstop and waiting for the next half inning to end so that our conversation could continue. And all the while I kept watching the girls play, and play they did. The game was quick. The girls could hit. The fielders could field. And I was amazed at how well those girl pitched! Within about an hour, I was won over with the idea and asked Evan who I should contact. The rest is a flurry of history.
In the next two months I accepted 209 fast pitch and slow pitch game assignments. I didn't take the time to dip my toes in the water. Instead, I jumped right off the 100 foot cliff and made a huge splash while making good impressions with the Utah County game assignors, Phil and Becky Cappadoneia. I wanted to learn the ASA game and get the unique mechanics ingrained in my soul. As for Evan Quilter, I strategically used his name in conversation as a badge of credibility, but I did not bother him as I took the leap into ASA last fall. Instead, I waited to bother him (I am sure it was no bother), until this year as I made the decision to continue with both ASA and NFHS fast pitch softball. His knowledge, friendship, and desire to see me improve has been invaluable in my immediate acceptance into the program. Evan Quilter has been my mentor and this relationship saved me all of the apprehension and angst that I had to endure while attempting to break into NFHS baseball and basketball. If I had any advice to others taking a huge leap of faith in 2015, it would be to get a mentor to help you as you jump.
2015 SUCCESS - I can now say that I am a 3 sport High School official in basketball, baseball, and softball. I have one season of basketball under my belt and I have been behind the plate and on the field in both baseball and softball. And what is really cool is that I feel proficient in all 3 environments. I walked up to the top of the cliff. I then jumped off and screamed like a giddy little school girl. I hit the water hard, three times over. And now I have come to the surface breathing a huge sigh of relief taking relaxing strokes back to the shore. It is great to feel successful. Venturing far out of my comfort zone has been worth it.
Take the Leap... Make 2015 a Great Year!!!
Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah
What Leap of Faith Are You Taking in 2015?