There’s a lot more to sports ground maintenance than mowing the grass on a nice, sunny day! We have caught up with some of the best groundspeople in the business to find out their top tips.
- Wayne Duggan, ECB Pitch Advisor and Groundsman at Port Talbot Town Cricket Club for the last 18 years
- Tom Sully, Head Groundsman at FAW Trust
- Chris Gray, IOG Learning Programme Architect
Find out what’s involved
Tom: First, do some homework to find out what’s involved. Before you take on the role of maintaining a pitch, you need to find out if you have the skills (or if you can learn!) and how much time commitment is involved. Can you share the role with others?
Have a look online for articles like this: http://www.groundsmanship.co.uk/cricket/cricket-home
Get some training
Wayne: My best tip to anyone who is new to grounds maintenance is to get some training. It’s important to learn as much as you can. There are plenty of one day training courses, webinars and qualifications out there. Take a look at The Institute of Groundsmanship.
Learn from experts in the field
Wayne: There are online forums available (https://www.iog.org/learning/ask-expert) where you can post a question and you get replies from professionals and those at club level. The Pitchcare forum provides a lot of useful information. In cricket, each county has a Groundsman’s Association where we meet regularly and learn from each other.
Be ruled by the seasons, the weather and your sport
Tom: The way you prepare a ground will vary according to the sport. You keep the grass shorter on a football pitch, a bit longer on a rugby pitch and it’s different again for cricket!
There are lots of maintenance schedules online so that is a great place to start. It helps you to plan. But remember, the weather will be your number one boss.
Give yourself plenty of time
Wayne: It’s all about the weather conditions. A bad pitch can really spoil a cricket game. I start preparing a pitch at least 10 days before a game, but ideally I will allow for two weeks. A mistake that many groundsmen make is that they don’t get enough water in and then they roll when its too wet. The water must be allowed to percolate to about four inches before you start rolling otherwise you can create a crust on the surface. The top couple of inches must then be allowed to dry out before the game.
Chris: Always think ahead – make sure you have all the right equipment and materials ready. If you are not prepared, you might miss out on the right weather conditions and your pitch won’t be ready in time! Put a maintenance programme or plan in place so you know when to order in supplies.
Mow at the right time
Tom: It sounds simple but make sure you mow at the right time. Never mow when it’s wet or frosty. And don’t go on the pitch with heavy machinery if the grass is wet.
Look after your tools
Wayne: As well as regular cleaning and maintaining, make sure you schedule in time to service machinery and to do any repairs. If you need any replacement parts, order them promptly to allow time for delivery so they are ready when you need them.
Tom: The biggest issue we see in football is aeration. If this isn’t done properly, pitches tend to become rock solid and then very boggy in winter. Hiring kit can be expensive but think about teaming up with other local clubs and spreading the cost between you. Or maybe ask a hire company for some in-kind sponsorship?
Never stop learning
Chris: With the increasing innovations and changes continuously taking place in today’s work environment the need to stay as up to date as possible has, arguably, never been greater. New technology coupled with the need to reinforce and refresh well-established working practices means that investing in our own learning is key to the industry.
IOG training and qualification opportunities can by found via www.iog.org/learning or by speaking to an IOG training expert on 01908 312 511 or download your free 44-page IOG learning prospectus here:
Club Solutions was created to help sports clubs and volunteers in Wales. So, if you have any further questions about facilities and equipment please get in touch with our friendly team, or let’s chat on social!