The Groundsman

February 2013

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IOG BEST PRACTICE 19 "The grass was just one aspect of the job, which is also as much about building relationships with people and departments, and taking care of the requirements of our members," he says. "People tend to forget that the AELTC is open all year-round – the grass courts are opened up during the third weekend in May; the hallowed Centre Court is used only for the Championships. The site also has to accommodate external tournaments as well. "The world sees Wimbledon as a two-week event; but for the club and the groundscare team, it is a year-round process of turf maintenance and always with the aim of getting the courts to 'peak' condition during The Championships fortnight," he says. This was fully supported by the AELTC, with close collaboration with industry experts such as STRI, to make the 41 grass tennis courts the best in the world. Eddie reflects that while this is a process that will undoubtedly continue under his successor, Neil Stubley, his role of head groundsman has also meant many hours spent in meetings, discussions and debates. "Such activities are inherent in running such a venue, and providing input and involvement with, for example, various specialist suppliers," he says. In addition to man-management skills, Eddie says, in fact, most business skills are needed for the role, as well as turf culture expertise. There have been numerous media interviews (certainly around Championship fortnight) and industry presentations – in, for example, the US, Australia, Portugal and Holland as well as throughout the UK - that have placed Eddie centre-stage in terms of highlighting his work at Wimbledon and, in turn, making him a revered figure throughout the profession. People person Of course, the Championships have brought Eddie in contact with some of the world's leading players – one of whom once commented that a court was both 'too damp and too dusty' – with whom he has generally enjoyed a good relationship, he says, as well as with the rich and famous, including a tennis-loving mega pop star who, for various reasons, Eddie had to politely ask to move to another court. The tournament has also brought him into contact with referees, the people who 'own' the courts during a tournament. "I must say that not one of them has ever interfered with what I wanted to do to maintain the courts in the best possible condition," he says. His role also brought him into close contact with the media, including a multitude of TV crews and producers. This has presented some unique challenges, especially the grand opening for the Centre Court roof when the appearances of a host of celebrities was timed to the split second and Eddie had to tell one female singing star that she couldn't have a sound check because she was 40 seconds late. "I was actually relieved when the tennis started," Eddie admits. Change for the better According to Eddie, the industry has certainly changed over the years - and for the better. "It has become much more scientific," he reflects. "Thankfully, long gone are the days when health and safety was not even given a second thought. I remember in my early days working on a playing field that was full of molehills and we treated the problem by applying (without using gloves) a cyanide compound. We had to stand up-wind of the treatment because one whiff would have knocked you out; two whiffs would have killed you! That's how crazy it was. "Modern-day turf care is certainly a science," he says. "There is a need to understand the chemistry of soil and grass. Eddie Seaward – 53 years in the industry Eddie has been involved in the groundscare industry since he was 15 years old when he joined the grounds staff at an independent boarding school. At 24 years of age he then became head groundsman of the Civil Service Sports Ground in Portsmouth then, in 1978, an instructor in groundscare at a community school in Berkshire. After two years, he was appointed head groundsman at the Recreational Society Sports Ground at Aldermaston. During his nine years there, Eddie took an active interest in developing the COSSH hazardous substances regulations and other safety initiatives, as well as helping to establish the foundations of the NVQ system. He joined the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 1990 and was head groundsman there until his retirement in August last year. Eddie Seaward at the AELTC Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions t the Groundsman February 2013

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