Amy J. Fouty, CSFM, athletic turf manager Michigan State University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics
What path led you to a career in sports field management?
I have always loved sports and being outside. I began my career at a golf course taking care of the clubhouse grounds 22 years ago. I worked on the golf side for eight years and attended Michigan State University (MSU), earning a turfgrass management degree in 1996. As time went on, I was given the opportunity to take care of the daily operations for football and soccer field management at the University of Michigan (UM) for five seasons. The ultimate opportunity to return to my alma mater came in December of 2003, when I was offered the athletic turf manager position at MSU for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. I have been here 10 seasons and take great pride and pleasure in doing what I love for MSU.
What are the biggest challenges in maintaining your fields?
Dealing with weather-related issues is typically the biggest challenge we face. All the fields react differently based on microclimate and soil types, so maintaining consistent, safe playing conditions can be very challenging. We embrace the adversity we experience and like the challenge in the preparation for each game.
What field care product/piece of equipment could you not live without?
The TDR soil moisture sensing technology and temperature sensing technology has become a big part of our daily operations. We use it to determine when to do many cultural practices, spray plant protectants, communicate field playability conditions to coaches and administrators, as well as teach staff and students turfgrass management.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career?
Personally, winning the STMA Dick Ericson Founders Award in 2012. Being honored by your peers is humbling and special. And, going with the Michigan State football team to the Rose Bowl was a dream come true.
What have been the greatest advancements in field care over the last 10 years?
The technology that is available to us. Every aspect of field management has some computer or microchip in it today. More science and less guessing today than 10 years ago.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job?
No one achieves success on their own. We are all part of teams and organizations that have to support one another to achieve greatness. “I” never do anything. “We” always have to be on the same page for overall success of the team and organization.
How do you predict the sports field industry will evolve in the future?
I would like to think that there will be a return to natural grass playing surfaces as field management gets better and construction of fields continues to get better. We do it every day in a challenging climate with limited resources and staff.
What do you wish spectators/players/coaches knew about your job?
I am very fortunate to work for an organization that values our field operation’s contribution to the team. People inside our department know the amount of time, effort, hard work and communication that has paved the way for the appreciation and success we happily and humbly share with our teams. We are always here to get the job done, and do not take that trust they have in us lightly.
What is the most important quality required to be a successful field manager?
I think there are two: being able to communicate effectively, and being able to change/adapt quickly. Our team is presented with a wide array of field-related requests for the five teams we directly support. When you have a small staff, as we do, being able to organize priorities and communicate is important to maintain solid relationships with each of them and accomplish everything that needs to be done.
MLB Groundskeepers Hall of Fame 2014 Inductees
The MLB Groundskeepers Hall of Fame has named its 2014 inductees: Dick Ericson, retired from the Minnesota Twins, and the late Harry Gill, formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers. The honors are the result of a vote by the Association of Major League Baseball (MLB) Groundskeepers. To be considered for induction to the MLB Groundskeepers Hall of Fame, a candidate must have ceased to be employed full time in the profession for at least five years and have made a significant contribution to groundskeeping and the sports turf industry at the Major League level. An individual’s impact on the community is also considered. From 1961 to 1981, Ericson maintained the field for the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings. In 1982, Ericson moved with both teams to the Metrodome, where he served as superintendent until his retirement in 1995. Throughout his six decdes in the industry, Ericson helped host three World Series and two MLB All-Star Games, as well as countless other events. Gill, founder of the STMA, was a golf course superintendent prior to being hired by the Milwaukee Brewers as superintendent of grounds and maintenance for the 1975 season. He became one of the most influential figures in his profession. He spent 16 seasons tending the grounds in Milwaukee, as well as for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. Gill passed away in 1990.
What advice would you give aspiring field managers?
1. Be patient, field management is a lot more than the lessons you learned in school. Continued learning on the individual’s part is a life-long journey. Understanding your abilities, developing leadership skills, and helping to develop those around you are critical to personal and professional success.
2. The field management profession is a lifestyle; it will be a part of every day, 12 months a year, and will require personal sacrifice on your part as well as your family’s.
3. We do this work because we have a passion for it not because we will make a lot of money doing it. If you are not happy with the work, when you start to think it will “get better or easier,” you are mistaken.
Who have been your biggest influences/mentors?
Influence – My grandparents were a huge influence in my life, all have since passed on. They were hardworking, honest and loving people who taught me to treat others as I want to be treated.
My husband and I have been married for 15 years. The influence and support we have for each other has always been positive because it is a challenge to be married to someone who is also married to their job. He is my rock, and I do not know where I would be without him.
Mentors – Jerry Keshasky, currently the golf course superintendent at the University of Wisconsin course in Madison, Wis. I worked for him the two years before I went to turf school (1994), and we have stayed in contact over the years. He was/is an intense, tireless, hardworking, wicked smart person to work for. If you could keep up with him, you could do just about anything.
Gregory Ianni, deputy athletic director (and my current boss) here at MSU. Friend and mentor for 10 years now. I could not be the professional I am today without his guidance, patience and support. He has helped me to see the big picture and be more diplomatic.
Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a field care pro, I would be …
An adolescent psychologist. I enjoy helping young people to transition through the difficult stage of young adulthood into adulthood. There were many people who were there for me in my youth. If I did not do this I would have stayed in psychology.
“Hi, My Name Is” is our new monthly column profiling field managers across the country. If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming issue, email firstname.lastname@example.org.