How we’re helping volunteers now, and in the future is a Blog by Geoff Webb of the Grounds Management Association , on there efforts to recognise and raise the profile of Groundsmen and provide them with affordable training.
Geoff Webb, CEO of the Grounds Management Association
At the Grounds Management Association, we know the sector has been through a really difficult time over the last year. With people told to stay at home for months, many of our pitches are in dire need of attention. While some volunteers may have been able to use their daily exercise quota to ensure pitches were looked after, many may not have been able to get out during the pandemic, with families to look after, or due to being in vulnerable categories or shielding.
With grassroots sport set to return, we know people across the country are excited to get back to play. But many won’t fully understand the challenges that grounds staff and volunteers have been facing, and how this may impact play. That’s why we recently launched our first ever #GroundsWeek, a week launched to call on the nation to celebrate the vital contribution of grounds staff and help shed light on the hard work involved in ensuring sport and physical activity is possible.
As well as this, we wanted to encourage people to join us. Many don’t realise that volunteers are the backbone of enabling play; they make up 56% of the grounds management sector and overall contribute a value of over £120 million. Over 37,000 grounds volunteers in England offer their time to ensure sport at grassroots level can go ahead, supporting the 3.8 million children who would ordinarily play weekly. But our Back to Play report, launched in May 2020, showed us that we desperately need more individuals to dedicate their time to ensure sport can continue.
Volunteers: the lifeline of sport
Covid-19 has showed us all how important sport and physical activity is to us. As schools and gyms closed, families everywhere turned to local outdoor facilities to get the exercise they needed. Professional grounds staff, alongside volunteers have been central to ensuring these local facilities are cared for, and with sports’ return just around the corner, we are going to see many people turning back to these pitches as they look to resume leagues and matches across the nation.
Following the initial lockdown in March 2020, grounds volunteers and staff had to ensure surfaces were good enough – and safe enough – for people to play on once sport and physical activity resumed. After months of “staying at home”, many surfaces had been unused, or had been used primarily by dog walkers, families and the general public. Volunteers had to adopt different skills and learn new ways of working, especially with the 2-metre distance rule still in place. The GMA’s industry guidance was developed alongside national governing bodies and aimed to help volunteers understand how to return and when it was safe to do so. This guidance has been viewed over 10,000 times by grounds volunteers hoping to get back out there and provide high quality, playable surfaces.
A key element of ensuring volunteers are supported – and that other volunteers can join us – is through providing affordable and accessible training. Following the first lockdown, the GMA, alongside sporting NGBs, launched the L1 training courses. Since then, the GMA has created 6 online courses, with more to follow, which are proving to be very popular. These are tailored to volunteers of any age or background and can help bring anyone who wants to be involved up to speed on grounds management. These online courses were a way to ensure volunteers who were stuck at home had the tools to learn, even if they couldn’t get out there – amazingly, these courses have been completed by 1064 people since they were launched. Sport clubs need great pitches, and they need volunteers to make that possible. We know the vital contribution that grounds volunteers make to sport. At the GMA, we’ll continue to work hard to ensure they are supported – and that others understand the vital work they do, too.
How we’re helping volunteers now, and in the future by Geoff Webb on behalf of the Grounds Management Association.
Did you see the blog we did with leading ECB Grounds and Pitches advisor Andy Mackay- https://turfcareblog.com/preparation-of-a-cricket-square-turfchat-summary-andy-mackay/