In the days when all fields were grass, putting down lines for upcoming games was the job of the booster club or the coach or the J.V. team or the team managers or even the players’ parents. In other words, it was grunt work, generally accomplished using either a line marker and chalk powder, or spray paint.
The enemies were to be expected: time, weather and use. Rain fell, grass grew and players ran across the fields – all leading to a frequent need to repeat the whole lining process. And, as the seasons changed and fields took on different uses, the markings needed to change as well.
Then came synthetic fields with inlaid lines. But the questions remain: Is it possible to have a variety of markings? Can new markings be added later? What is the best way to delineate spaces for different sports on one field?
While using the booster club to reline fields isn’t necessary to synthetic field upkeep, there are plenty of new developments in field markings. For instance, line paint – temporary and permanent – is available.
However, before using any product on a field, get recommendations from the company that installed the facility. Synthetic turf surfaces can vary, and not all products are suitable for all surfaces. If using an approved, removable paint on your field, use proper equipment for marking and removal. Many paint manufacturers recommend techniques and/or proprietary equipment for this purpose.
Since one field may multi-task, a variety of markings become necessary when hosting multiple sports, including football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, as well as marching band practice. Even within specific sports, variations exist in size between men’s and women’s fields or, on the high school level, boys’ and girls’ fields. So how is it possible to mark the field without it taking on the “gymnasium floor” (or, as some like to call it, the “bowl of spaghetti”) look?
Contractors say, in these cases, it’s essential to inventory the sports played, and then prioritize them. Look at the list of sports scheduled for that space (don’t leave out rec or club sports that might use the area), and then confirm:
- which sports will be played, and
- which sports will be played most often.
National governing bodies specify the layouts for specific fields and, in many cases, will mandate the color and width the lines should be painted. In order to avoid confusion, here are guidelines:
- For the sports played the most often and that are considered the facility’s main sports, choose lines with the greatest contrast to the turf. For example, many schools might consider football their dominant sport and those lines should be painted white.
- If soccer, lacrosse, field hockey or another sport is the second-most popular, mark with yellow.
- Other sports should use more muted colors, such as dark red, purple, tan, dark blue, etc.
- Creating “tick marks” or “hash marks” also may work well, depending upon the venue.
- Corner flags, cones, indicators and other equipment also can provide visual boundaries. The choice of equipment should be made based on the needs of the athletes, officials and coaching personnel.
As schools and parks become increasingly land-locked, it will become more common for fields to be marked for multiple sports.
These days, experienced field contractors create multi-sport facilities, and they can work with administrators and field managers to create a space that gives players and officials a clear sense of boundaries at all times.
Placement of logos in end zones and at mid-field is a long-standing tradition and a source of school pride. In many cases, logos and team names can be a permanent part of the surface.
If a new logo is needed on a field, talk to a field contractor about the best means to accomplish this. Do not attempt a do-it-yourself project.
Holding the line
Over time, turf infill can and will shift because of constant foot traffic, particularly in areas like the crease in a lacrosse field, and the lines may take on a slightly bent or wavy appearance. Make a regular check of your turf by standing on the bleachers or on a nearby hillside to get a good vantage point.
If something looks out of place, shoot a photo of it to your contractor and ask for advice. Your field is, after all, an investment, and you want to make the most of it.
It goes back to constant vigilance. Regular walk-throughs of your field will help you keep an eye on the facility and to be aware of any subtle changes as they arise. Addressing them while they’re still subtle is key to keeping your field in good condition.
A lot of decision-making has gone into creating your field. The same amount of energy should go into its oversight and maintenance. Your field will reward you and your athletes with years of good service.