TWO DAYS BEFORE THE SEMI FINAL OF THE NATWEST VASE NATIONAL COMPETITION AND WE HAVE HAD A MONTHS WORTH OF RAIN IN 12 HOURS.
Last Friday our Director of sport asked me to guarantee the pitch would be playable for the match. I said if the weather played ball it would be ready so fingers crossed. How he expected me to know what the weather would do is anyone’s guess but on Tuesday/Wednesday we were out on the first team pitch. We mowed it with one RM 34 and yes it looked great, and by working late Friday and then Sunday it was fine, but I don’t own a crystal ball.
It has been too wet for our tractor and snake since the start of October, so we had gone out and bought the Allett RM 34, a very good piece of equipment and I can see why Twickenham used them. I just finished mowing the pitch Wednesday morning before it started to rain and after Thursday’s down pour the pitch still looked good.
On Friday we set up the crowd barrier with my two apprentices, just 12 hours after a months’ worth of rain it was so soft, I could push the sockets in by hand.
A dry Saturday then Sunday early hours and again later on we had significant rainfall, and yes the going was soft but the pitch held up well and we won. The school are arranging for us all to go on a grand day out, for the whole school at the Twickenham final.
We all have these difficulties to deal with, but I think us as managers, in schools get it more frequently and with more variety. I have a head of hockey demanding he gets a new carpet, now as I’ve explained to him, I’ve done all I can.
It is up to the bursar and the governors; he shrugs his shoulders and says it better be done this summer. He has also moaned to me that hockey gets less spent on it than any other sport which of course is totally wrong. A new pitch was built 15 years ago at over half a million, we spend £3000 a year on maintenance, plus this year it will a quarter of a million,for a new carpet.
I’ve now found out that permission has been granted for the pitch resurface so, that is great news.
We have a balancing act to undertake the whole time, dealing with the requirements of the PE staff and the financial restrictions from the bursary managing the budget, it is an art as they all want everything for their sport.
I can remember 15 years ago the head of girl’s sport telling me I should spend as much time preparing the girl’s rounder’s pitches as I do prepare cricket pitches for the boys. I did explain that I put as much care in both, that It wasn’t sensible or reasonable to spend the same amount of time on the 2 sports, now girls are playing cricket.
In the last 2 years we have from 5 squares to 8 to accommodate the increase in fixtures we spend equal time on producing match pitches depending on age alone.
I think the skills that are very important to have as a grounds manager in the school situation is diplomacy, the ability to speak to people at all levels and to manage expectancy. We have a teacher in charge of every sport, as well as a director of sport the deputy head. We also have of course the estates bursar all with their own agendas and sometimes they conflict with each other.
It’s not many years ago I had a master in charge of rugby, who wanted the pitches cut and the director of sport who didn’t, tricky so I spoke to them and we compromised. Our jobs are part groundsman, part office manager, part diplomat and part counsellor no wonder I forget my name sometimes.
A sense of humour is essential, would I change it no never, to see the reaction on the team’s faces after Sunday is priceless and for the headmaster to say we performed a miracle is all the encouragement I need.
This is a great industry and through a simple request, my youngsters and I are getting to go pitch side at Twickenham, thanks to all that has made it possible.
Jobs for this month coming.
-As the weather improves and the grass plant increases its growth rate them a light topping maybe in order as well as a feed if possible, still not too heavy on the nitrogen in case of some late frosts.
-If like me, your season is ending, its time if you haven’t already done it to order in the seed for over seeding and get the equipment ready or book the contractor.
-I have a feeling that after all this wet weather we will go completely the other way and have a very dry summer, so getting the seed established early could make all the difference. These jobs are all of course reliant on conditions with a month to go before the first cricket match the roller is still firmly locked in its shed.