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In Association with
Cash in Retirement

Be A Whistle-Blower


by Anthony Evans
Illustration by Barbara Pollak

Hey, seniors! Floundering in a sea of golf, tennis, and card-game boredom? Want to make a few extra bucks for that rent payment or trip to see the grandkids?
What you need to do is get up out of that easy chair-stop watching sports on TV, and start officiating sports in person. You will not only get some exercise and fresh air, but you will have the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends your own age.
Did you know umpires and referees-"sports officials" we like to call them-all have one thing in common? They are all businesspersons, students, and retired folks from all walks of life enjoying themselves. And, while you're up in the stands or at home hollering, "Bad call, ump," these adventurous, enterprising people are laughing all the way to the bank.
Big bucks? Maybe not. But if you're tuned in with the right knowledge, you can pocket upwards of $1,000 a month working a few hours each week or on the weekend as a sports official.
The demand is there. All you have to do is pick one or more sports that interest you, attend a few meetings, get certified, and start making some money. Best of all, once you get the hang of it, you can work almost every day of the week, officiating whatever sport is in season in your area.
Talk about making "pocket change"! I'm over sixty and I've been officiating high-school varsity baseball, junior-college baseball, and high-school and city-league soccer for years. A third of the men and women I work with are over 50 years of age or close to it.

The Demand for Referees
Finding enough people to officiate all the sports in your area is never ending. Usually, there is an "assigner" who handles one or two sports programs, attends all the meetings, and in general is the liaison between the officials and athletic directors of the various schools and city programs. I have been in the varsity soccer and baseball programs in central California for years, and the shortage of officials is a continuing problem. I can't count the times an assigner has called me on the phone at the last minute to ask if I was available to do a game because another official called in sick or was unavailable. Most sports activities take place after 3pm weekdays, making it inconvenient for people who work 8-to-5 jobs to make an appearance at the school. That's where the "over-fifty gang" comes in.

How to Become a Certified Referee
Let me use high-school baseball as an example of how easy it is to become an umpire at this level. No experience is required. In February, the sports section of most local newspapers will announce a meeting of baseball officials. Anyone interested in becoming a baseball umpire is invited to attend. If you miss the announcement, call the sports editor of your local newspaper or the athletic director of any high school to find out when the next meeting takes place.
You are required to pay an application fee (usually about $70 for the season), which entitles you to receive all the paperwork (baseball rule book, for example) that you will study and remember for future reference. There are meetings during February when speakers spell out new rule changes and how they apply to you on the field. Somewhere along the line, you will take a written test (the answers are in the same book), which you cannot fail, and sometime in March you will become a certified baseball official ready to work when the season opens in April. (The certification process for several other sports begins later in the year).
You will also need umpire equipment, and a good place to start is at those early meetings where "slightly used" equipment is offered for sale by members who are upgrading. All of the equipment you need, if purchased new, would cost about $175. Good used equipment would cost close to $50.
Once you're certified, equipped, and ready to work, the assigner will place you at various schools during the season at the freshman, JV, or varsity level. Since you are a newcomer to umpiring, you will probably start at the frosh and JV level, where you will work alone behind the plate calling balls and strikes but also will have to hustle to call plays in the field. It will keep you on your toes, but the pressure will be less at that level of play.
However, the pay is good. Prior to the start of each game, the coach of the home team will present you with a check. The game won't start until you get paid. How much? For a one-umpire game at the JV level, $49. If you do a double-header, it's $98. Not bad for two-and-a-half hours' work. And, if the assigner likes you and the way you handle yourself on the field, you can get as many as three-maybe four-games a week. If you notify the assigner that you are available to cover games on short notice, you can get even more games. At the varsity level, two umpires are used-one behind the plate and one on the bases. The plate umpire gets $49; the base umpire, $46. These fees may vary according to your area but, generally speaking, the amounts paid baseball umpires remain universal.

How to Get Referee Jobs in Your Area
You can't get referee or umpire jobs without attending classes, paying your dues, and getting certified. This applies even at the local city level. They don't want you out on the field if you haven't sufficient knowledge of rules or how to handle an unruly crowd, angry parents, coaches, and players. Matter of fact, you don't even want to be out there in an officiating capacity if you don't know the rules of the game.
Decide what sports you want to participate in (you can choose from the list below), and locate the assigner through your local newspaper sports department, or call the athletic director at your local high school. For city league and youth sports, the pay is much less, but the stress level is low, and it's more fun. Contact your local Parks and Recreation department, or just visit any sports field where kids play and talk to one of the coaches.

What to Expect as a Referee/Umpire
Money enough to pay many of your bills. Exposure. If you get really good at your job, you can move to a different level of officiating-junior college and college, where the pay rate jumps to nearly $110 a game (pay rates are higher for basketball and football, lower for soccer).
When you consider that officials are needed for both boys' and girls' (or men's and women's) sports at several levels of play-youth sports, city league, high school junior college, and college-you begin to understand why there are never enough officials to go around.
Give it a try. It's a lucrative field for both men and women. Where else can you meet nice people, make supplemental income, get some exercise, and have fun at the same time?

About the author: Antony Evans has been blowing whistles for soccer and umpiring baseball/softball for over 15 years. He has just written two new books, is a former pro-baseball player and lives in San Luis Obispo, California, with his wife Joyce, and two cats.

Ten Homes A Year


by Frances Turney
Illustration by Barbara Pollak

Last year changes in my life left me living with relatives. I found it hard to adapt. Frequently, my desire for quiet times reminded me I needed a home of my own. So I borrowed ten.
This adventure began when a friend asked me to house-sit. While I watered her Blooming Idiots and comforted her confused kitten, I decided I liked the situation, and the idea of becoming a "professional" house sitter was born.
I ran this brief ad in my local newspaper: "House sitter: Sensible grandma will care for your home, pets, and plants."
The result was prompt and gratifying. Within three weeks I had a full six-month schedule-perhaps a natural result of living where snow birds are abundant! By the end of the year I had lived in ten homes and made nearly a hundred new friends-many of them people, but more of them pets.
The advantages of employing a house sitter, for the homeowner, are many. Most obvious is security. A home is less vulnerable to thieves while it is occupied. There's a car in the drive or garage. A house sitter ensures the continuance of routine home care. Garden and house plants are watered, the paper brought in and the garbage put out. The furnace is kept at a level appropriate for the winter, or shades and open windows set to cool the home in summer.
Equally important in the households I cared for were the animal friends who didn't have to stay in a doggie motel or any other home away from home.
As a country mother of four children with eclectic interests, I have cared for most kinds of critters at one time or another, from turtles to orphaned piglets. As a house sitter, I have become friends with 15 marvelous mutts, several reclusive cats, three white rats, a miniature goat, and two pregnant hamsters.
My reward (besides wet kisses and a warm lap) was a place to read, write, and muse in a quiet time that these borrowed homes provided. Time in residence became my own mini-vacation: a time to experience new vistas from fresh windows and explore the unique offerings of new neighborhoods-although in the rural north where I live, the neighborhood is likely to have more moose than museums.
Length of residency varied from ten days to three months. Beyond the budget benefit of rent-free shelter, house sitting with pet care provided a small income based on an amount slightly less than the cost of boarding animals away from home.
House sitting can be a reasonable answer to a variety of temporary situations: a stretch from cramped quarters, a place to stay while remodeling or while waiting for escrow to close, or while attending a college too far from your home for a daily drive.
A house sitter is a boon for any home owner. It's a friendly trade.
When preparing to move on, I clean and place furniture, books, and knickknacks just as I found them. A plate of fresh cookies or small bouquet may greet the travelers. The best welcome is a light on and a calico cat happily curled on the couch. Providing, of course, they had a calico cat when they left.

Guidelines for House Sitters

  1. Meet owners and pets in their home at least two weeks prior to your stay.
  2. Provide written references.
  3. Say "no" if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe with the location, home, pets, or owners.
  4. Obtain emergency numbers of vacationing owners or available family members or friends.
  5. Tour the residence completely; learn the operation of essential appliances, and emergency shut-off locations for alarm systems and utilities.
  6. Take time to build trust in your pet charges before the owners leave, and learn their daily routines and feeding schedule.
  7. Bring your own "kitchen," i.e., the staples you prefer, like honey or low-salt spices. Purchase other food as needed, as you would at home.
  8. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers for police, fire, medics, and family veterinarian near phone. Know the exact address and phone number of the residence.
  9. Never disclose personal information about the residents to friends or family, or in response to phone calls. You are entrusted with more than property when you care for another's home.
  10. About the author: Frances Turney has retired from police communications to pursue freelance writing. She used house sitting as a temporary measure during a transitional move. She lives in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and is a member of the Idaho Writers' League.

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