Software solutions have become a major factor in sports field management practices. With laptop computers and smart phones giving most Americans Internet access from nearly any location, field use scheduling for sports programs now takes place 24/7. Tighter budgets and staffing cutbacks make coordination of personnel, equipment and supplies even more critical, with software programs an important tool in doing more with less.

For Rick Perruzzi, sports turf manager for the city of South Portland, Maine, tapping into the city’s event scheduling program keeps him connected to field use data in real time. The city started working with an event scheduling system called RecWare Safari from the Active Network (www.activenetwork.com) and has now upgraded to one of its newer programs, ActiveNet. The company’s programs are arranged by “communities” focused on specific market segments, such as parks and recreation www.activecommunities.com/parks-and-recreation-Software.htm.


An ActiveNet software form for facility reservations.
IMAGE COURTESY OF THE ACTIVENETWORK.

Scheduling control

With Internet-based scheduling programs, the city can establish different degrees of access to serve those who wish to register for programs and pay for them online, for the coaches of an active sports program, for the volunteer coordinator of a sports program, for city personnel who only have a need to view data, and for city personnel who need to work with the data in varying ways. Generally, users are assigned a qualifier, or password, that allows them to log in to the specified level of access.

Most programs allow the field user group coordinator to change field reservations to more efficiently manage the group’s overall scheduling. Some programs may allow the user group’s coordinator to set limits on the number of field reservations each coach can make within a preset period. This could be over a week, a weekend or the season. This keeps coaches from using more than their team’s fair share of field time or from dominating a specific field deemed better.

The city’s designated scheduler and the sports field manager can override any coach or user group organizer scheduling. These changes may be necessary to accommodate previously postponed games or to shift tournament participant field locations for better traffic flow. The sports field manager’s changes might be due to weather-related field conditions, the need to schedule maintenance procedures, or to rest a specific field.

How it helps

Perruzzi says, “Having access to all this information allows me to see the big picture of overall field use at any specific day and hour, even if multiple leagues are using the fields, a tournament is in process and different sports seasons overlap. It also gives me focus-ability. I can look at a single field and track what’s happening on it in terms of use for a day, weekend, week, month or year. I can do the same kind of focus on any grouping of fields, making it easy to compare which ones are getting more or less use than the others.”

Perruzzi can view field use data specifically by user groups, as well. He says, “We have six soccer fields on one site. When one user group has scheduled all those fields, I can easily shift play to shut down one field for a few hours or a few days if needed to reduce excessive wear. Since all the teams are playing within the same group, they just have to move to another field, not another site.”

Weather for much of 2010 was so good there was little downtime on field use. Perruzzi says, “By checking the scheduling a few weeks in advance, I was better able to plan ahead, monitor that use, and shift fields when possible to keep up on maintenance procedures. Looking ahead for a week, a month or a season lets me forecast long-term needs based on anticipated wear patterns and plan in advance to alleviate them. For major tournaments, I can plan ahead to make sure resources are allocated to the main fields at the best timing to keep them in top shape. It also helps me better balance our staff’s workload.”

The overview of the master schedule allows Perruzzi to see the non-sports applications that will affect the field space. He says, “I can plan maintenance procedures to keep noise, dust, debris or irrigation system operation from interfering with the enjoyment of the participants. We also can schedule site preparation or cleanup activities more efficiently by making timing adjustments to work around those activities.”


A SchoolDude software work order form.
IMAGE COURTESY OF SCHOOLDUDE.

SchoolDude

Mike Tarantino is director of maintenance and operations for the Poway Unified School District in Poway, Calif. Two of the district’s administrative personnel tag-team the role of sports field schedulers using Internet-based software from SchoolDude (www.schooldude.com). The company offers options tailored for public schools, private schools and higher education with a comprehensive, integrated “suite of solutions” offered in three general areas: administrative operations, facility operations and technology operations.

Tarantino says, “Because I’m in charge of our building facilities as well as the grounds and sports fields, I primarily use the program to view the big picture and monitor the flow of activity at all of our sites. Our fields and facilities often are rented to outside user groups, and the program tracks that, too. I can look ahead and make personnel adjustments in specific areas and more effectively allocate resources to proactively prevent problems, rather than just react to them. I also can compare use patterns to cost variations in my budget projections and make adjustments to better control costs.”

Microsoft Office

Nick Gow is athletic facilities manager for the city of Muscatine, Iowa, with multiple sports venues at multiple sites. Sports field scheduling is handled through the parks and recreation department recreation supervisor. No interactive Internet-based program is currently being used to coordinate it. Gow developed the initial parameters for his own Microsoft Office-based program about five years ago. He says, “It started as a thought process, determining what I wanted to know and how I wanted to be able to use that information. Then I reviewed my ideas with my staff, making adjustments to incorporate their input. At that point, I took all that information to our in-house IT person, relying on him to create the structure that would be technically accurate to function as we envisioned it. I would definitely recommend a specialist like that to anyone.”

Gow knew what blocks of information he wanted to record, monitor, manipulate and generate reports with, and he wanted that information integrated so that an entry made anywhere within his system, when entered once, would translate to all the other components of the system that data would impact. He also wanted any type of information he might be required to provide to others within the parks and recreation department, those in other departments, the mayor or any other governmental offices, easy to deliver in a format compatible with the city’s primary software system.

The system is interactive, with information flowing between Access, Excel and Outlook. It’s accessible from any computer or smartphone with Internet access.

“We use it to for every aspect of our field management program,” says Gow. “We track our fertilization program; our irrigation program; our insect, disease and weed control; seeding; sodding; overseeding; topdressing; aeration; mowing; field use; field layout and painting; and equipment maintenance. We use it to develop our budget and track expenses. We’ve built in a spending limit, which requires a purchase order to be generated for all purchases over $100. The system can generate that purchase order form, but only specific designated personnel can access that.”

Gow can pull data for a big picture overview, focus on a single field or a group of fields. He can track field use or a specific maintenance procedure by day, week, month, season or year, and make comparisons of any time block or category to previous time periods and to projections. He says, “I use the system to schedule both full-time and seasonal personnel, too. I can pull up an overview of staff levels for a day, week, month, sports season or year and compare that to previous years’ activity and to my projections. I can isolate data by individual, by day or time of day, by field, by field groups or any combination of these.”

With the information so easily accessible, Gow’s staff is essentially linked in to the master plan. Monitoring and comparing the data enables them to catch variations, examine usage patterns and maintenance details to determine why the fields are performing as they do, track the factors contributing to problems and develop effective preventive programs.

Gow says, “Tapping into the technology helps us become better sports field managers, improving our programs and our fields.”

The author is a contributing editor for SportsField Management.