This blog looks a little deeper into what does a groundsperson do, there can be a common misconception a groundsperson just cuts grass, as a homeowner does to their lawn. The title of this blog has been searched for over four million times on search engines, so is a very relevant topic.
We unpack what a groundsperson actually does and the associated benefits a sports pitch can potentially receive, subject to availability resources.
What does a Professional Groundsperson do?
1- Cutting grass
A groundsperson will be working to a set out height of cut, not only is cutting aimed at keeping the sward presentable but the cutting heights is assessed for pitch performance characteristic which is often down to site/team specific experiences.
The plants’ ability to recover after play has also has to be factored into setting of the height along with not putting the grass plant under too much stress during any one cut. Other considerations of setting the hoc pre-cutting are disease management, density and ball performance and more.
Setting up a professional mower is not rocket science, but it’s a skill in understanding how to set the cut on a machine worth quite a few thousand pounds. This needs to be done by someone experienced in the aim of gaining a good cut, which will prevent turf disease and stress and assist in pitch performance.
Also setting the hoc ranging from 40 mm down to 4-5 mm in some sports with the understanding of what is suitable and when for your sport and standard is key.
2-Fertilisation in the form of micro and macro nutrients, knowing when and how to apply at the optimum times for presentation, growth and recovery.
Understanding of the soils pH levels and how this can affect the grass plants uptake of nutrients and ability to function in growth and repair is also key.
Soil testing and analysis testing in order to plan when and what nutrients are required, throughout the year in what measures and then work at putting these into some form of annual application plan.
3-Pitch Preparation can be very site specific, knowing your pitch and how it performs is often built on site specific experience and knowledge. Understanding the team’s aim and balancing that against the weather and available resources is a skill.
Ensuring the game can go ahead safely and to a given standard, overlooked by a referee or umpire.
Marking out to a given standard takes time, knowledge and a high level of detail in most cases to conform with governing bodies rules on setting out of sports pitches.
Presentation takes time and an eye for detail from the cutting, feeding, grooming of the surface and finally the marking out is all part of a groundsperson skill set.
4- The three Rs of renovations
Renovations done ineffectively can result in a sports facility deteriorating year on year. Effective renovations result in maintaining the performance of the surface going forward.
A skilled groundsperson will understand how to plan and integrate the three r’s of renovations below annually to protect the integrity of the surfaces.
Removal of dead organic litter, thatch etc.
Re seed – ensuring an even recovery of the grass canopy to levels prior to the season, to ensure weed, weed grass and moss don’t invade.
Restoring the lost levels in soil erosion during play and restoring these back to pre-season levels.
5-Knowledge of the soil profile. Understanding the link and importance of the grass plant and what is under the surface, what you see on top is a result of a healthy plant and root structure and rootzone combined.
Underlying issues such as root breaks, black layers, organic material build up, compaction pans, soil incompatibility are just some of the issues a groundsperson will need to have an understanding of to manage and rectify, where resources are available.
Additional Skill Set Required by a Professional Groundsperson
· Watering, why, when and how to do it effectively and sustainably.
· Stock procurement.
· Machinery maintenance.
· Aeration practices and forms.
· Control of desirable and undesirable grasses and weed species by cultural management and seed choice.
· Management of a growing number of pest and turf disease, that left unmanaged can cause serious turf die off and possible unsafe playing surfaces.
· Pitch and fixture allocation.
· Squaring up of pitch via the Pythagoras theorem.
· Application of herbicides/fungicides which is only permitted for those licensed to use such products.
If you’re a Senior or Head Groundsperson then you have to Factor in the below list
· Health and safety including COSHH and frost aid along with a duty to care for staff.
· Estimation of resources required along with budget management and knowledge of the procurement process.
· Staff rotas and management of staff.
· Decision making and innovation.
· Ability to communicate and the presentation of reports verbal or no verbal.
· Lifecycle planning of renewal of equipment and machinery
· Time and task management and planning Recruit, train and management of staff and their development.
· Project management.
· Managing player/coached expectations and communication of this.
Personally, I have spent around eight years of my career to gained a NVQ level 2 and 4, added in are also my PA1/PA2/PA6 spraying licences. If l wanted to do another six years l could try and gain a bachelors and master’s degree.
Most professional grounds persons are professionally trained and or are also undertaking further forms of training and education.
Some grounds persons including myself, need to be better communicators, but communication is a two-way process we all can do better. We need to explain our position better but also, we need to also see things from their point of view and finding the balance, knowing at times you will win and others you will lose.
I think the very best modern-day head groundspersons are very capable in this area and are often great communicators.
Look beyond the obvious
It’s also important that the employer tries to look beyond the mower, when recruiting do you want a groundsperson who can get the very best out of your sports pitches to maximise pitch performance and presentation.
Or do you just need a grounds maintenance operative, but let’s not confuse a qualified, experienced and knowledgeable groundsperson with someone just paid to top the grass when it grows.
If you want your groundsperson to improve their knowledge and skill set to include the above skills listed there is an array of training courses.
We are happy to pay an electrician or a plumber or carpenter very well, but should we also be considering the real value of an experienced and skilled groundsperson and how our pitches could see the fruit of that.Tweet
What have l missed above, any comments please leave in the comments box below.
Brian on behalf of the TurfCareBlog Community.