As an outdoor sports fan, this is a great time of year. The Major League Baseball playoffs are happening, as is the Major League Soccer postseason. Football is hitting its stride — both the American and European versions. No doubt, as a sports turf manager there’s a good chance you’re hosting big games this time of year. And just as the coaches are preparing their pregame speeches for the athletes, maybe you as a field manager should do the same for your crew.
Whereas a coach may try to fire his team up emotionally, I believe a good turf team pregame talk should stress the opposite. As a team, we’re here to calmly support this giant production, but we need to stay in our lanes and not get caught up in the event excitement.
There are, of course, a few routine points you’ll make before every game. These may include safety and emergency information and contingency severe weather plans developed by the club’s administration. The field staff has to understand clearly its responsibilities and how to stay safe. As always, make sure your plans and policies are well coordinated with overall stadium/facility policies.
Other turf team pregame talk items might include:
- Perhaps a quick review of the previous game and any issues you and the staff had.
- We aren’t security. This job is well covered by security staff, law enforcement and other officials trained in this type of work. But we can help them do their jobs by keeping our eyes open. Watch the event, not just the game and playing surface performance. If you see anything untoward – behavior or items – report it right away to the nearest security staff and let them handle the situation. Never handle or otherwise engage a suspicious-looking item; notify security and follow their instructions. If you get into an argument with a spectator, you’ll lose it whether or not you’re right. Again, let security and guest services handle the issue.
- If an animal or unauthorized human trots out onto the field during the game (and one eventually will), we don’t give chase on our own unless a referee or security official asks for assistance. Even then, do not ever grab the vermin or other otherwise closely engage it. The poor fellow will likely be wild, terrified from the noise and is likely to bite or scratch. Same with the animal! Let the pros handle it.
- We may not be security nor animal experts, but we are experts on the field. There are certain times and conditions where we must work on the field during the game. Make sure your shirt is tucked in and you look presentable. Your family, friends and millions of others could be watching you on national television.
- So, don’t pick your nose, as you could become the star of a viral video. These days we must keep in mind that media are not just watching us prep the field in the hours leading up to the game. Now, they take videos and pictures of what they see and post it to social media, sometimes with little to no vetting.
- Any in-game field work must be approved by the head umpire or referee and coordinated with the head sports turf manager. Different sports have different rules about what must, can and can’t be done on the playing surface and who makes the calls. Know these rules and make sure your staff also knows them. Once we’re out there dragging the infield, straightening the corner flag, positioning an end zone pylon or anything else, we work professionally. Be quick with the work but not frantic or scrambled.
- Review the forecast and responsibilities for various weather possibilities. Do we have things ready for each of the possible weather outcomes? If you as the head field manager are responsible for reporting weather information to game officials, review them with your team so they understand the process better. Also, inform them how you’ve already confirmed communication lines with any weather experts used and the appropriate game and venue officials. Explain to the turf team how you’ll keep them informed and communicate information to them throughout the game.
- Ask a different turf team member to repeat each point after you address it.