YOU WILL BE PROVIDED ONE OR MORE PLAYING FIELDS. The field may be of high or low quality in its design and construction, but it’s the field you’ve been issued. It’s not your field. Whether you manage a public or private field, it’s not yours. You’ll learn groundsmanship. Every day you’ll gain knowledge and experience that will help you better prepare the field for play and all of its intended uses.
IT’S UP TO YOU TO MAKE SURE THAT THIS COMMUNITY ASSET IS MANAGED WITH INTEGRITY AND IN AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND MANNER. You’re the field’s professional steward, for the time being. In all you do, realize that your facility is an integral part of your community’s cultural and natural environment.
YOURS IS A MISSION TO PRODUCE AND DELIVER SAFE AND PLAYABLE FIELDS. Vigorously but calmly advocate for the resources needed to do so. Learn how to effectively communicate this mission throughout your organization and your community. Always look out for the health, safety and well-being of your team, others and yourself.
MANAGING AND BUILDING A FIELD FOR ELITE ATHLETES IS NOT ALWAYS THE PINNACLE OF THE PROFESSION. Applying your craft to youth and recreational level sports fields can be just as cool, just as rewarding and perhaps more important considering the number of athlete interactions that take place at this level.
YOUR OBJECTIVE IS TO BE A PROFESSIONAL. Your success lies in your ability to continually develop in your profession and build your skill sets. The Sports Turf Managers Association’s (STMA) certification program is a great road map to professionalism. Dress like a smart professional. Keep a clean, well-organized shop and office with safe working conditions. Learn how your equipment operates correctly and become mechanically sound, understanding the basics of small engines as well as how hydraulic and power takeoff (PTO) systems work. Learn to tie and use several kinds of knots. Be a problem solver.
YOUR SUCCESS WILL REQUIRE AN EDUCATION IN TURFGRASS MANAGEMENT. You’ll be involved in the natural sciences every day. This will include competencies in the agricultural, biological, chemical, environmental and physical sciences. You can acquire this education in many ways and through many platforms, but you must gain a basic understanding of these sciences. A good post-secondary degree will serve you well every day of your professional career.
BE PATIENT. A career is a professional journey requiring a methodical building of specialized skills and knowledge — this takes time. Unless you retire or change your profession, the journey never ends. It’s not your job, it’s your life’s work. Instill excellence in all aspects of it. Set goals and review your progress routinely, but keep your focus on the next game or practice. Be process oriented. Seize opportunities to show your grit. Tough times never last; tough people do. Therefore, a positive attitude is vital to your success. Your surroundings and co-workers don’t set your attitude; you set it every morning, consciously checking on it throughout the day.
BE NICE. There’s no reason you can’t play nice with the other children. Treat your co-workers as professionals and as you want to be treated. Always be honest, kind and plain spoken with your field team. Drop the ego and own your mistakes. Dispassionately identify lessons learned and make corrections. People don’t always remember what you said or did down the road, but they do remember how you made them feel. You can’t do this alone. Build a team and be a leader, not a ruler.
BUILD AND MAINTAIN A NETWORK OF FELLOW PROFESSIONALS. Go to conferences and seminars where fellow field management professionals gather. Join the STMA and be active. No other professionals are more sharing with their gained knowledge and experiences than those involved with all aspects of the sports turf industry. Tap into that.
SEE WHAT YOU ARE NOT LOOKING FOR. Develop your “turf eyes.” Learn to read the field, observe its health and how it performs. React with appropriate corrective treatments. Build your turfgrass and field management program on proven fundamentals. Set your standards higher than your organizational standards. Pay strong attention to the details. This will cause field users and fans to subconsciously think “excellence.”
Ross Kurcab is a monthly columnist for SportsField Management magazine and is a certified sports field manager, consultant and owner of Championship Sports Turf Systems. He was the head turf manager for the NFL's Denver Broncos for 30 years and holds a bachelor's degree in landscape horticulture/turfgrass from Colorado State University. He can be reached at Turf444@gmail.com.