I am the
Sports Turf Manager

For the
Waukegan SportsPark Waukegan (Illinois) Park District

What field care product/piece of equipment could you not live without?
Toro 4700 mower. We have a large fleet of vehicles/ equipment that are vital to our operation. We swap/share equipment with our golf course frequently. However, the 4700 is the only unit that is exclusive to this site and we have no backup. The 4700 is responsible for mowing the 13 soccer fields three-plus times per week.

Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a field care pro, I would be … ”
A consultant.

What’s your favorite sports movie and why?
“The Waterboy.” (I can’t say why, but it wasn’t because of the content).

What path led you to a career in sports field management?
While obtaining a bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, I worked summers for the Oshkosh Area School District maintaining and prepping athletic fields. Upon graduation I recognized that I preferred my summer work to my area of study. I went back to school and received a turf degree, which placed me into an internship where I developed the passion for a career in sports field management.

What types of fields and turf areas are you responsible for?
At the Waukegan Park District I oversee the maintenance and day-to-day operation of the 138-acre sports complex and assist with the district’s 12 other athletic fields. The sports complex is to be developed in phases, with the current phase I consisting of 13 natural turf soccer fields, a championship synthetic turf soccer/football field, four softball fields, two concession facilities, nine restroom facilities, a maintenance building, and a playground with a water spray feature.

What are the biggest challenges in maintaining the facility?
The vast array of staff and user expectations, our poor soil structure, and convincing management how important seasonal staff are. At times I feel like I could write a book on each of these and numerous other challenges. However, it’s these types of challenges that help make the job fun.

What’s the most memorable moment of your career?
Watching other co-workers and employees advance their own careers in this industry.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job?
How little I know and to use experts, peers, co-workers and anyone else to help accomplish the task at hand. Success would not exist without a dedicated crew and staff.

How do you predict the sports field industry will evolve in the future?
I feel the sports field industry will continue to grow. However, with growth, increased media coverage and higher expectations raise the stakes for everyone.

What do you wish spectators/players/coaches knew about your job? Grass grows by inches, killed by feet. The fields are not a gym floor and need to be managed appropriately. Additionally, that turf management plays a major role in the revenue process, just like anything else.

What is the most important quality required to be a successful field manager?
Listen to others (staff, management, users, vendors, etc.) and keep open communication between all parties.

What advice would you give aspiring field managers?
Expect the best, but prepare and plan for the worst — you’ll rarely be caught off guard. A favorite quote that I either stole or made up: The moment you start to feel satisfied is the moment you start to fail.

Who have been your biggest influences/mentors?
Connie Rudolph, head groundskeeper for the St. Paul Saints; Heather Nabozny, head groundskeeper for the Detroit Tigers; and Mike Trigg, superintendent of parks, Waukegan Park District.

 

PHOTOS COURTESY OF NOEL BRUSIUS