Start your new year’s resolutions by looking back. Review the past year. Flip through your calendar or computerized notes for the past year and record the high points and the low points.

With this overview fresh in your mind, set up a brainstorming session with your staff. You’ll want this session to be an open forum for ideas that gives everyone an equal opportunity to contribute, so explain the guidelines before you begin. There are no right or wrong answers. You want people to think outside the box, so no idea is too off the wall to consider.

Involve staff

Throw out questions and go around the room allowing each person to contribute. Have someone write everything down on poster paper or enter it into a computer.

Start with the broad view: From your perspective, what’s the best thing about this past year workwise? What’s the worst?

Then move on to more specific questions: What one thing would you change to make your job easier? What one thing would you change to make your job more efficient? What one thing would you change to make your job more effective?

The answers will vary depending on the specifics of your program and the responsibilities of the staff members. Once everyone has contributed, go through the list again. Have each person rate each answer or each idea by how important it is to them. Use a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least important and 10 being the most important. Add up the points for each answer and rank them according to the overall staff response. This will likely confirm some points you are already aware of and also offer some surprises.

For example, a top-ranked item for making the job easier may be something simple and relatively easy to accomplish, like having all equipment cleaned and serviced at the end of the day so it’s ready to go when the staff arrives for work the next morning. A top item in the efficiency area might be the addition of a piece of equipment such as a ride-on field painting unit or a mower with a wider mowing deck. A comparison of the time savings in painting or for covering more field area in a shorter time could make these purchases justifiable line items in your budget.

The ideas may come from anyone. Some may be too big and bold to work in your program. Some may not be practical or workable. Where applicable, incorporate this input into your resolutions. The object is to consider the big picture and how the staff can work together as a team to increase productivity and accomplish goals.

Record keeping and documentation

Review your record-keeping system and evaluate how well it works for you. Is data entry easy enough to ensure it’s done regularly?  Is all the applicable data tied together in an easily retrievable format? What could be added to make the information more beneficial to the overall program? Analyze the steps needed to improve your system and add them to your list of resolutions.

A picture may be worth a thousand words when it comes to documenting construction or renovation details or documenting the changes made when correcting potentially unsafe conditions. Resolve to make photo documentation a part of your management program.

Review planning

With so many outside factors affecting the field management program, plans often must be adapted to the current situation. Review the past year and compare the original plan to the events that actually occurred. Identify the problem areas and resolve to fix them. Develop a master plan, plugging in all of the scheduled on-field events. Work backwards from the dates of key events to plan out field maintenance to hit peak conditions.

Improve communications

Communication touches every aspect of your management program, from interacting with your staff to working with coaches and players, officials and administrators, field user groups, fans, the public and the media. Review the past year to identify where communication brought out the best, and the worst, in various situations. Identify what went right and what went wrong. Develop a list of areas for improvement and resolve to work on them each day.

Get involved

The sports field management profession is facing many challenges. As demands for field use and expectations for field quality both increase, budgets often remain the same or even decrease. Many facilities have little or no space for development of new fields. Others are losing field space to building construction. There is a growing focus on environmental concerns, with water use an increasingly critical factor.

Working alone, the future is overwhelming. Working together, it’s exciting. Resolve to get involved in advancing the profession. Network with your peers. Develop an intern program. Become a mentor. Work with community youth sports associations and help train volunteers in proper field care. Start the new year as a proactive advocate of your profession.

To contact the author, e-mail stevetrusty@sportsfieldmanagementmagazine.com.