Get to know the Groundsman -Bob Watts is a blog consisting of nine questions, straight to the grassroots groundsman.
What’s your name and which club do you work at in what capacity?
Bob Watts, I am the volunteer groundsman for Horsted Keynes Cricket Club, where I am also the secretary.
If you have one what is your day job?
In normal times I run a small company who design and produce events and festivals… obviously, it’s been fairly quiet recently.
How did you become a Groundsman?
We had a small group of us who did it together, but after moving house right next door to the ground (my back gate opens onto the outfield) I took on more of a lead role with it.
What do you enjoy most about being a Groundsman?
Marking out the crease is the process or moment I enjoy the most, there is something about white paint on grass that transforms even the greenest of strips into something completely different and exciting, especially if it’s been a hard week to get it ready.
In general, though I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my ground through each season, what jobs needing doing when and how the grass will respond to certain patches of weather. In the first lockdown I made a real effort and kept everything looking great, this meant that lots of people could use the outfield for their daily exercise. That was nice to see.
What do you least like about being a Groundsman?
Machinery that doesn’t work as it should. This is partly because I just don’t have any technical knowledge of mowers, when there is a weather, work and childcare window to get something done and I can’t because of something mechanical it’s a real downer.
As a player/groundsman I really hate preparing a track and then getting first baller on it. Especially if it also doesn’t turn when I’m bowling! As I can’t blame it on the pitch in the pub later…
What’s your dream purchase in terms of kit to make your job easier?
My wild dream is to have a completely battery powered fleet of mowers charged by solar panels on a new clubhouse roof. Less noise, less vibration, fewer emissions.
But if you are reading this Mr Treasurer… then a powered roller would be really nice in the meantime!
How many hours do you spend down the club each week and do you have any helpers?
I have a gang of 3 or 4 players who are happy to lend a hand when required.
Hours is hard to quantify because I live so close and see the pitch as an extension the garden, I often pop out and do-little jobs without really thinking about it. As an estimate though: In the summer probably an average of 5-6 hours a week, in the winter more like 2 hours.
What’s training or learning gaps like to bridge?
I was due to do a practical in person course this spring, but it was cancelled due to Covid. The Facebook group has been really helpful, as usually someone else has the same issue and is happy to share advice.
One advantage of this summer was that I had no work at all, so I was able to spend a bit more time reading about and actually preparing wickets so I feel like my knowledge of that has come on.
I didn’t find the learning curve too steep; it was more of a confidence curve. Trusting that I was doing the right things at the right time… and that they would work.
While you have a captive audience anything else you would like to say about being a Groundsman and the challenges this brings?
Speaking only on a volunteer groundsman front as I’m sure in larger clubs with professional staff it’s a different situation, but in my size of setup I think it’s important not get too protective of the role or access to the kit or add any unnecessary mystique to it. Obviously, you don’t want someone who doesn’t know what they are doing mowing a cat over… but there are probably a few folks around who will want to get involved but think it’s too complicated or that help isn’t wanted.
Cultivating an atmosphere where anyone can get involved or make a suggestion ultimately lightens the load.
If you enjoyed this take a look at a couple of get to know the groundsman blogs-https://turfcareblog.com/get-to-know-the-groundsman-david-sans/ and https://turfcareblog.com/get-to-know-the-groundsman-john-deeney/