The assistant sports field manager’s role, like the business model at our stadiums and ballparks, has changed – the job has become much more complex and demanding.
Today’s increased field use requires us to look at a more retention-based approach to hiring assistants, rather than the outdated two-years-and-out model that many use. It often takes at least two years to fully train the new assistant in meeting today’s complex field/event management challenges. There just aren’t that many head field manager positions opening up to make this business model practical any longer.
Salary and benefits are the two elephants in the room.
At the facilities where all this new event revenue is pouring in, they can more than afford to adequately compensate the assistant sports field manager well enough to get the retention and performance required to successfully manage today’s playing surfaces.
It’s no longer an entry level job – the assistant must be able to run the show in the head field manager’s absence, maybe the second half of a 24-hour day. Field managers get this; it just isn’t appreciated enough upstairs.
The mission to watch over and manage the use of these high-revenue, high-performance playing surfaces and also maintain them to very high standards requires a tag-team approach, not an apprentice/craftsman approach.
I don’t really like the term “assistant” for the second in command of the most viewed public face of the franchise – the club’s playing surface. Everyone on the staff assists the effort and each other, including the head field manager. To me, assistants are the personal assistant to a company’s CEO – honorable work, but not descriptive of what today’s responsibilities are in our industry.
The airlines don’t have an assistant pilot in the cockpit, they have a co-pilot. Law enforcement officers employ deputies, not assistant police and sheriff’s officers.
It’s time for the deputy turf manager, or whatever you want to call it, but something that better represents the position than “assistant.”
Pay them better than an entry level job at Home Depot.
Pay them enough to attract experienced groundskeepers with the proper field and management skill sets.
Pay them at least as much as top-end assistant golf course superintendents that work at sporting facilities that don’t generate anywhere near the hundred-s of millions of dollars in yearly revenue that some stadiums do.
Pay them better because they’re crucial cogs in the stadium revenue machine with technically demanding responsibilities that require a huge commitment.
Look, with the meteoric rise in non-sporting event business at the ballpark, the assistant field manager has become so much more than the field manager’s helper. He or she often must be the acting turf manager in a challenging, long-hour, high-revenue entertainment venture that can’t practically be managed correctly by one person any longer at some venues.
A poorly paid, yet highly-skilled, motivated assistant will often leave for better compensation and a lower pressure job within a couple of years, many times outside the sports field industry.
We lose too many young, smart professionals because of poor pay.
Why shouldn’t such a critical position be compensated to the level that allows one to stay for a while if they choose – maybe a long while – or even buy a home and raise a family?
It’s time we updated our organizational charts to better reflect the new complex realities of managing a high-use, high-revenue event space.
It’s not just a playing field anymore, and they’re not just assistants anymore.