We asked members of our Editorial Advisory Board, “Why is athlete safety important to you at your operation, and what are some of the specific ways you work to provide a safe surface for the users of your field(s)?” Here’s what they had to say:

JOEY FITZGERALD

Superintendent, Camelback Ranch (Phoenix, Arizona)

“Field quality and athlete safety go together. The pillars of a quality baseball field also serve as the foundation of a safe playing surface. Seamless transitions from turf to clay areas, ability of the infield clay to take on water without softening up and a firm/ full stand of turf are all staples of a quality athletic field. These characteristics are also paramount to the safety of the players on that field. Lips forming around an infield can result in a bad hop or a rolled ankle. Poor footing from a soft, muddy infield can result in pulled muscles. The missteps from an uneven turf surface can contribute to knee and joint injuries. Although I choose to look at this issue more from the field quality point of view, athlete safety tops the list of credentials for what constitutes a quality surface.”

BRIAN WINKA, CSFM

Parks supervisor for the city of Chesterfield, Missouri, and president of the Gateway Chapter of the STMA

“Athlete safety at our facility is very personal for me, because I’m the coach for my kid’s teams — most of our soccer and baseball games are played at my facility. This gives me extra incentive and coaching gives me a different perspective on my fields. Injuries are a part of playing sports, but if I can eliminate the playing surface as the cause, I feel like I’m doing my job. We do routine, preventative maintenance and try to stay ahead of potential issues. We also do daily field inspections and perform quarterly tests for the STMA Playing Conditions Index (PCI). The PCI is used to provide a snapshot of our fields’ playability at that time. I use this as an assessment tool to help guide field management practices and judge if the current practices are effective or not.”

BRETT TANNER, CSFM

Head groundskeeper, Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati, Ohio)

“Athlete safety is our highest priority. Continual surveillance of playing surfaces and surrounding areas is vital for us to diagnose problematic areas, or to identify issues beginning to develop. Daily monitoring turf coverage, consistency and health are the primary ways we ensure a safe, natural surface. We’re in constant communication with coaches to keep them informed of field conditions — this allows us to divert traffic away from (or close) areas deemed unsafe for use. For synthetic surfaces, we ensure that they’re free from foreign objects and debris. Checking infill depth and consistency throughout the entire surface is also important. We’ve found that the more people understand the methods to our procedures, the more it allows them to get a better understanding and be proactive with the safetyfirst mission of our department.”

PATRICK COAKLEY, CSFM

Sports turf superintendent, Ripken Stadium (Aberdeen, Maryland)

“You never want to see anyone get hurt, especially when it could have been prevented. At Ripken Baseball, most our athletes are between the ages 9 and 12. They’re just learning the game and we want them to do so in a safe environment. Providing a safe surface consists of numerous things, but weather always seems to be out front. We utilize tarps on our youth fields, just like our professional field. The biggest thing is to not give in to the typical phrases you may hear: ‘It’s good enough,’ or, ‘We usually play on much worse.’ It’s up to the sports turf manager to sometimes raise the bar for everyone and not let people settle for something sub-par.”