I am the… Athletic Grounds Superintendent
For the… The University of Akron (Ohio)
What field care product/piece of equipment could you not live without? I can’t really think of any equipment, in most cases there are always backups or alternatives. It’s the people who show up everyday and put in the effort and time. My job would be impossible if it weren’t for them. You can have the best products and equipment in the industry, but they’re worthless if you don’t have the trustworthy, hardworking people to operate them.
What’s your favorite sports movie and why? “The Natural.” Wonderboy.
What path led you to a career in sports field management? After my first year of college, I spent a summer on the greens staff at Wooster (Ohio) Country Club. The vast amount of responsibilities the superintendent handled and the ever-changing challenges of the job really appealed to me. Needless to say, after that summer I altered my career path, but it would be four years until I saw the “light” of the sports turf side of the industry.
What types of fields and turf areas are you responsible for? We manage eight acres of athletic fields, four acres of synthetic, as well as two and a half acres of landscape beds and common lawns.
What are the biggest challenges in maintaining the facility? Time. We are on a hardline, 40-hour workweek and the only overtime available is for staffing on gamedays. We have to be extremely efficient in our work and be able to set and change our priorities on the go.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career? Giving my father my MLS Cup Champions (2007) ring on Father’s Day in 2009. He had sacrificed so much for me to be able to reach my goals and I wanted to thank him for helping me and let him know that he means more to me than anything I’ll ever achieve professionally.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job? Try your best to see things from someone else’s perspective.
How do you predict the sports field industry will evolve in the future? I think that we will see a movement to more natural playing surfaces from synthetic. It’s our responsibility to utilize all the resources and knowledge that is now so readily available and stop that cycle from coming back around again.
What do you wish spectators/players/coaches knew about your job? We take a great amount of care to provide a safe, consistent and aesthetically pleasing surface for the athletes that use our facilities.
What is the most important quality required to be a successful field manager? Patience and communication. Not everyone understands or wants to understand what we do. It’s our job as professionals to educate those who are willing to learn.
What advice would you give aspiring field managers? Listen, ask questions and do your best. There is no substitute for hard work.
Who have been your biggest influences/mentors? My parents and my wife are my biggest influences. They keep me grounded and provide support. I’ve gained so much knowledge from the people I have been fortunate enough to work for and work with in the past. Matt Williams has been and still is someone who I admire and respect tremendously. He has helped not only myself, but countless people in the profession by giving them the confidence to be able to go out and apply the knowledge and skills that they might not yet know they possess.
COVER AND PHOTOS: BRETT TANNER