“Sports field managers at some professional stadiums and ballparks are working too many hours and too many days. There, I said it. Someone had to.”
Those words were written by SFM columnist Ross Kurcab, CSFM, in 2015. Kurcab, who spent 30 years as the head turf manager for the Denver Broncos, is an unquestioned expert within the industry. He’s worked countless long days/weeks/months in his sports turf career. But in that 2015 column he authored, titled “Crisis Situation: Big-Time Burnout at the Ballpark,” Kurcab pointed out that “as we work to build our reputations as professionals, it would serve field managers well to shed this outdated notion in scheduling our time, and start making the case for adequate human resources to do the job to the required high standards, which we always try to exceed. It’s time we offered some resistance to the chronic 18-hour day, the 100 (or more)-hour workweek, and the 330 (or more)-workday year at some venues.”
Kurcab also accurately ascertained that professional stadiums have changed into year-round event centers — a reality of financial necessity and the billions-of-dollars business of pro sports. “It’s not an issue at every stadium or ballpark, and it’s not just the turf team working ridiculous schedules,” he wrote. “Some of the stadium/ballpark operations personnel fall into this same Chinese finger trap in scheduling their work. The stadium and ballpark operational staffing model hasn’t kept up with the meteoric stadium event business model, not even close. It’s an issue that can’t be solved with more part-time workers.
“Are we are pounding a round 21st-century stadium revenue model into a square 20th-century stadium staffing model?”
Earlier this year, we spoke to Miami Marlins grounds manager Chad Mullholland about the strain the long hours most sports turf professionals work puts on family life.
“I have to be honest, I don’t have a balanced home/work life,” Mullholland told SFM. “It’s heavily tilted toward work. When my kids were young, my son came to work with me a lot during the season — he played video games in my office, helped at times and lived at the ballpark. My wife and daughter would occasionally come to the games to have a little bit of family time. Now, my children have both left the house now and my wife works long hours. So, we try to set aside at least three hours a night to eat dinner, watch TV, go watch bands or whatever. We also do gym time in the mornings.”
Mullholland added that as he’s progressed through his career, he’s realized that with helpful assistants and employees, he can “cut an hour here or there, or leave earlier. It has gotten easier to step away as I’ve advanced, because I have more qualified assistants who have their name stamped on this product as well.”
To cope with long hours and days (and keep your own and your employees’ sanity), it’s imperative to identify what problems and stressors you face at your facility. According to an article titled “Action Research as a Burnout Intervention” from The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, “Your best resource is your employees. Collaborate with them to find out exactly what is going on. Not only will they help to identify problems, they will also likely have great insight into the opportunities that exist for improvement and change.”