Over 70 softball umpires from all parts of Europe met at the II. Blue Convention in Prague, Czech Republic, over the second weekend in March. The Blue Convention event first took place four years ago in Rome, Italy, based on the idea of Andrea Marcon, former ESF Director of Umpires. This year’s edition showed that this concept that Marcon started in 2014 was a great way to strengthen, develop, and support the indispensable group of people, who make our championships and cups possible.
Raoul Machalet, Umpire in Chief for Development was responsible for the three-day program. He worked closely with the ESF Director of Umpires, Carolien Stadhouders to cover the major theme of the Convention – game management.
Bob Stanton, WBSC Softball Umpire Director joined our umpires and conducted the main session on game management. Umpires themselves dedicated time to discussions on time-savers and other elements that may help them run the games smoothly. Stanton also took some time to clarify and explain the news in 2018 softball rules.
A special guest, an Olympic ice hockey umpire Jan Hribik was invited to share his from-another-sport view of umpiring. The main topic of the convention suited him perfectly, the attendees appreciated his session which covered not only the game management topic but also his experience with communication and intense games.
The Czech National Team coach Vojtech Albrecht offered the coach's view of the game and started some interesting discussions and for sure made the umpires think about different approaches to the game.
Geneviève Gaudreau came all the way from Canada to talk about how umpiring system, and development and educational program works in their country. She also included the topic of softball umpire exchange programs. The exchange program topic was covered in detail by Jan Hora, who had the opportunity to umpire at the Australian National Championship last year, as well as by Francois Mays who talked about his experience with slowpitch exchange program.
Various sessions were conducted by Umpires in Chief as well as by Director of Umpires. Raoul Machalet made sure that different methods were used for a number of sessions, so the program was not monotonous but enjoyable.
On Saturday night, four special umpiring awards were given to some of the best European umpires:
Galip Sönmez (GER) – Homeplate Umpire at the World Championship Final (Men’s WC 2017)
Gianluca Magnani (ITA) – Homeplate Umpire at the World Championship Final (Women’s WC 2016)
Rita Ceuppens (BEL) – Significant Commitment to the Sport (most ESF competitions served over the past four years)
Franck Lautier (FRA) – Significant Commitment to the Sport (most ESF competitions served over the past four years)
The II. Blue Convention is over, but the season and the hard work is about to begin. Attendees of the Convention return to their homes and share the newly acquired knowledge and inspiration with other umpires in their national federations. It is now up to them to take what they were offered at the Convention and to work with it to their best abilities. In four years, the European umpire family will meet again.
“The ESF’s overall aim is for softball in Europe to be well maintained in all areas – players, coaches, TCs, umpires, scorers, administration…Only if we all work together with commitment, we can improve and move forward. The Blue Convention was a very successful event. Big thank you goes to everyone who took part in the preparations and sessions, and to all the umpires who are always eager to become the best versions of themselves, ” said the ESF President, Gabriel Waage, who most of all values the friendly atmosphere of the three days he spent with the umpires.
/photos by Jan Beneš/