We sports field managers don’t know how good we all have it these days. Ours is a craft that does not come with a set of instructions. Instead, we rely more on a set of principles, both scientific and anecdotal. This is why we rely so heavily on networking and sharing of information. No one has all the answers, so we rely on each other’s observations and experiences to help us better manage the fields we are charged with.
Twenty-nine years ago, as a young greenhorn sports field manager fresh out of college, I was pretty much limited to site visits and phone calls with a small handful of other sports turf managers in my immediate area. The STMA was still a fledgling national organization, and we wouldn’t have a local chapter for another six years. Few people took pictures of their work, and nobody shot video. Our networking and support opportunities were much more limited than they are today. We had no Internet and certainly no social media.
You might not like Facebook or Twitter in your personal life for a variety of reasons, but as a sports turf professional, you should get over it and get on board. The networking and learning resources can be substantial, and it stands as a great complement to our professional memberships like the STMA. Social media use continues to grow and has become the center of most people’s online experience. Business has jumped on board social media for brand development, and professional collaboration will grow even more in the future.
What does this mean for the sports field manager? I believe it is another opportunity to advance our profession and increase the sharing of knowledge. Sharing your experiences with other turf professionals makes you a better sports field manager because you’ll get feedback and often constructive advice from your online turf community. Sure, you can just join the groups and pages and read the posts if that’s your preference, but it’s always better to participate than just spectate.
Most of us carry smartphones these days, and there is always something going on with your fields that would be interesting to your colleagues. Snap a picture or a quick video with your phone and post it. I’ve seen unfamiliar diseases diagnosed with comments from turf professionals all over the country. I’ve cemented relationships with key suppliers. I’ve found innovative new equipment, products and services that will solve problems. I’ve seen links to hundreds of news stories about turfgrass and sports fields. I get heads-up posts when our latest research is developed at the top turfgrass research universities in the world. I get to see all the cool projects my colleagues are working on, and they see mine. We have discussions about them. I’ve read with great interest long debates from European golf course superintendents on the benefits, or not, of using composted tea solutions for building soil health.
Some parks and schools have set up pages just to keep the stakeholders (athletes, coaches, parents, referees, vendors, etc.) up to date on field management plans and weather/scheduling issues. This would be a great tool for organizing volunteers for renovation projects. Best of all, I have found a great way to make new friends in the industry and maintain the ones I already had. I’ve gotten to know a few of the top sports field managers in Europe and all over the world. All this without leaving home. I’ve experienced that great feeling one gets when he/she helps someone. What’s not to like about that?
A few thoughts from my experiences. Facebook, I believe, lends itself better to networking and collaboration than Twitter, which is more of a microblog. Twitter posts go out to anybody who wants to read them, but Facebook allows you to keep your posts limited to a group of friends you choose, or everyone if you like. Both can be useful for professionals. Twitter tends to be more immediate, with topics and conversations running their course in a few days, whereas Facebook posts tend to last longer in terms of comments and participation.
As with all online experiences, you should know what you are getting into in terms of privacy. Be sure to follow any policies your employer may have on social media use before you post. My understanding is that while you will still own your works posted (images and video), the host site often makes you agree to let them use or license the use of your image or video in any way they see fit. I’ve never heard of any problems with this, but it’s good to know going in.
When it comes to video, I prefer to post them on YouTube and then post a link to it on Facebook for all my turfie friends. They can click on my channel and see all the other videos I have posted. YouTube better allows for high-definition (HD) videos in my experiences, but Facebook is getting better. I don’t really see YouTube as social media, but I do want to mention what a great tool it has become for me. I sometimes watch sports turf videos for hours, covering every topic you could imagine. Want to know how to rebuild your pitching mound? You can watch two MLB groundskeepers actually do it and guide you through the steps. Have an equipment issue? I’ll bet you can find a YouTube video that shows the remedy. What’s going on at our turf research universities? Many of them have YouTube video pages and are good resources.
Those who can sift through all the worthless drivel on social media and find useful information stand to gain an edge on those who think it’s all drivel and a waste of time. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are a good fit for our industry; we are known for open sharing and advancing the craft. Go socialize!