A lot has changed in plastic grass since the original AstroTurf came on the market. I remember walking on some of the first installations and wondering how knees, ankles and feet could survive running on that surface compared to natural turf. Falling on it had to be even worse. Rug burn was another problem. I still have a scar on the back of my left hand from when I slipped running a course at an NFL Experience over 10 years ago.
A lot has changed in people’s attitudes about synthetic surfaces, also. I can still hear the remarks from some people the first couple of years that these products were exhibited at trade shows. A number of people were incredulous that companies selling such products were even allowed to exhibit—and that is a mild description of some of the comments.
Synthetic surfaces are here to stay. Like it or not, they do serve a purpose —but, just like natural grass, there isn’t only one answer to field questions. There are many variables.
As a sports field manager, it is important for you to learn all you can about all the options. If you have a field that is not performing up to the users’ expectations, you should welcome the responsibility of helping to determine why. Your expertise on field management needs to be communicated to everyone involved in making decisions about what is going to be done about it. If the problem is due to mistakes on your part, own up to that and present the steps you are taking to mitigate the problem. If the problem was even partly caused because of something you didn’t know how to handle, find someone who does know and ask for help. If any problems are due to circumstances or conditions you can’t control, you need to make that clear without sounding like you are giving excuses.
In some cases, a decision is made to install a synthetic field without even consulting the person that should know the most about such fields. This is another reason to work at making sure that you are familiar with all the options. Besides keeping up on the latest developments, you need to communicate that you are the go-to person when questions come up. The more input you have, the easier it is going to be to maintain a field that will meet—or exceed—expectations.
If you want to be recognized as the expert on sports field care in your area, you need to have great fields. It doesn’t matter whether it is bluegrass, ryegrass, bermuda or plastic, if it is safe, playable and looks good, you have done an important part of your job.
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