Ken Czerniak, Sports Turf Manager, Florida Atlantic University
What path led you to a career in sports field management?
My father was a golf course superintendent for 20-plus years. I played baseball all my life, so it was in my blood to work in this profession.
What types of fields and turf areas are you responsible for?
I am the sports turf manager for Sports Field Management, LLC. As sports turf manager, my responsibilities include maintaining 29 acres of bermudagrass and one synthetic field at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). The 29 acres include two baseball fields, one softball field, six soccer fields, two practice football fields and one game football field.
What are the biggest challenges in maintaining the facility?
FAU has an agreement with the city of Boca for two teams to use nine of the 15 acres of soccer fields for eight months. The other 6 acres are for the FAU students, but there is also a middle school and high school that use those acres as well. This gives us little downtime to let the fields recover and rest.
What field care product/piece of equipment could you not live without?
The piece of equipment I can’t live without is my Wiedenmann Super 500 verticutter/sweeper. In south Florida, the bermudagrass grows very quickly and needs to be verticut often.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career?
Seeing my former employees becoming sports turf managers.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job?
That you can learn every day. Never stop talking or listening to your employees or other sports turf managers. If you listen, you will hear good ideas other people are doing that can help your business.
How do you predict the sports field industry will evolve in the future?
With an increase in pesticide and fertilization application laws there will be more training required to apply such products. Also, as field use increases each year, cultural practices and time management will become much more important.
What do you wish spectators/players/coaches knew about your job?
That the job has countless hours that no one sees. There are numerous early mornings and late nights, and days off are few and far between. They just see the final product.
What is the most important quality required to be a successful field manager?
Communication is one of the most important skills for a sports turf manager. We all have multiple coaches to deal with, each with different needs. Communication with the coaches and your employees is essential for a successful turf management program.
What advice would you give aspiring field managers?
Don’t think that you’re bigger than the place you’re at. Try to learn something new every day and network as much as possible. Always communicate with your coaches and try to do what they ask. Getting them on your side will go a long way in the future.
Who have been your biggest influences/mentors?
I would have to say that my biggest influences/mentors are Tom Burns and Tom Vida, the sports turf managers at the Texas Rangers spring training complex where I worked. I was very lucky to have them take me under their wing, share their past experiences and knowledge, and help me become who I am today.
Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a field care pro, I would be …”
If I weren’t a field care pro, I would be a meteorologist. Every day I have to look at the weather forecast and try to interpret their predictions. I love the guessing game of what a storm is going to do and where it will hit.