June 2017

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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Page 26 of 51 June 2017 | SportsTurf 27 communicating effectively creates opportunities to be recog- nized and be part of the conversation. It is equally important to appear and conduct oneself as a professional while performing any routine task. Staffing is another huge issue. Often cities/towns cannot hire the appropriate number of people required to manage turf areas correctly or the skill set of those hired is limited. Few have the science background or understand what is required to provide a high quality turfgrass product. The sports turf manager must do as much as he/she can to improve the knowledge base of the staff/crew so that the crew understands how their tasks affect the ability to provide a quality turfgrass surface and/or a safe playing field. Budget is another obstacle. There is a need to advocate for supplies, equipment, labor, and adequate field use. The sports turf manager must be able to communicate and justify what tools he/she needs for turfgrass maintenance in order to provide safe playing surfaces and meet user group expectations. Record keeping is critical. Here in Connecticut, we saw the majority of the school budgets remain the same or decrease as the pesticide ban went into effect. Pesticides were eliminated from the bud- get, and seed and fertilizer costs increased. Meanwhile, the la- bor required to care for the fields dramatically increased. Many sports turf managers with a limited budget are now recognizing that they need to strategically allocate their time, budget, and management strategies. Fields that are either highly visible or most intensely used must be prioritized over other fields. Advances in technology have provided tools to help com- municate and advance the value of the professionals in the in- dustry. Municipal and school managers really need to embrace technology rather than shy away from it. Technology can ef- ficiently support and communicate concerns about field safety. If the sports turf manager is reluctant or challenged to learn and integrate new technology into his/her management program, then he/she needs to hire someone that is familiar with the newer technologies to support his/her efforts. SportsTurf: What are the most impactful changes you've seen in sports turf management in your career? Wallace: Changes in technology have dramatically influenced how sports turf managers can make decisions and communi- cate about athletic field care. Think of it: we now can easily email pictures to university specialists and technical reps. We have apps that diagnose pest problems, GPS devices that map irrigation heads or help determine the square footage of your fields, access to real-time weather reports, and tools such as water sensors and devices like the Field Scout, which influence irrigation decision-making abilities. There are some really neat tools that can be used to support the turfgrass industry. All of us need to be open to new technological ad- vances and new opportunities. Also, many look to the Internet for answers first (it provides a quick answer, might be because limited staff, or budgets to attend events are unavailable) but often the information on the Internet is marketed and potentially unvetted. So, a knowledge gap using the Internet as the primary resource for information may also be an issue. With the rapid release of new products, university specialists and extension programs, such as field days, continue to provide unbiased information. Individuals that make the effort to network and attend university events gain perspectives that improve their decision-making abilities. That being said, university faculty also have to use new technology to reach their target audience. We need to think "outside the box" too. Mandated legislation for changes in pesticide use, nutrient management, and water conservation are greatly affecting the management of athletic fields. The need for sports turf manag- ers to be part of the dialogue is critical, since legislative deci- sions directly affect how they care for their fields. The pool of students entering college with a desire to attain turfgrass/plant science degrees is declining. Therefore, fewer students are entering the workforce with a plant science back- ground and the necessary skill set required to be quality sports turf managers. Increased demands of towns to provide sporting and non- sport related events on athletic fields, and the expectation that those fields be high quality safe playing surfaces, is another ob- stacle. There is less time for turf to recover from wear between athletic events and other non-sport related events. SportsTurf: How do you think the profession and industry will change in the next 10 years? Wallace: Changes will continue in the advancement and use of technology that will support turfgrass management and sports turf managers. Changes will be multi-faceted (in-person training, communication to town residents or user groups). Newer technology will continue to be adopted by those turf professionals that manage sports fields. SportsTurf: How has your career benefitted from being a member of STMA? Wallace: Friendships formed, first and foremost, is the thought that first comes to mind. Friendships are renewed each year at the annual conference. I have also benefitted by serving on STMA committees and the STMA board. Networking Municipal and school managers really need to embrace technology rather than shy away from it Continued on page 47

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