The Groundsman

February 2013

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20 IOG BEST PRACTICE the Groundsman February 2013 Wimbledon action on Centre Court. Image Courtesy of AELTC We have to understand the interaction between the two if we are to make improvements." It is this curriculum vitae – turf culture expertise combined with manmanagement, communication and business skills – that would have made Eddie "run a mile" when he started his career. "But, looking back," he says "there is actually nothing to be afraid of but you must have support from your club and team members, adequate and appropriate training, and an understanding wife. Of course, there are always compromises but these should only affect the detail not the end result which, in my case, was that the quality of the grass and therefore the playing surface was paramount." He continues: "I recall the time here at Wimbledon when we had a slight problem at the southern end of Centre Court and were trying a number of different cultivars to achieve the ground cover we had elsewhere on the court. We took the AELTC grounds committee up to STRI in Yorkshire, to let them see what we and STRI were doing in terms of testing and trialling cultivars. "When the committee actually saw what we were achieving, as a result of that visit I secured a large budget for research, which has been ongoing over the years. This has led, for example, to a number of developments at Wimbledon; to a slight (2 per cent) increase in clay content on the courts and to the club being the first tennis club in the world to switch to 100 per cent ryegrass, a grass until then thought suitable only for football pitches." Eddie says the team also decided to cut it to 8 mm rather than the conventional 6 mm. "I remember asking tennis coaches what they wanted from the Wimbledon playing surfaces and they said 'it would be good to reduce ball speed by one-tenth of a second over the length of the court'. We did our best to meet this request." Knowledge sharing "Since then, the AELTC has devoted a healthy budget to research to make Wimbledon what it is – though the club was adamant from the outset that the results and benefits of that research should be made available to the wider industry, which they have been via, for example, STRI White Papers and presentations. Tennis surfaces are different to football pitches, for example – the former is all about ball bounce while the latter is more concerned with the way the ball rolls – but there's no reason why as an industry we shouldn't share lessons in turf culture. "Vertical ball bounce is determined by the hardness and dryness of the court – too dry and the grass and soil get stressed and the court could crack, from the bottom up; an early warning that some courts will need more water in certain spots than others. "Very often I've been out on court (during Championship fortnight sometimes in the middle of the night, when there's no cameras around and under the covers, commando-like – I did say an understanding wife is essential!) with a bottle of water, precisely applying water to certain relatively small areas." Another instance of STRI's successful involvement with AELTC concerned the monitoring of light levels on Centre Court, when developing the retractable roof and a computer was used to plot the light on each part of the court "to ensure we got things just right". This continual quest to keep the AELTC courts 'ahead of the rest' has also seen Eddie involved in a number of machinery developments over the years, including the club's early use of the Koro, and he has not been afraid to learn from others. "One example concerns the covers that we saw Keith Kent use, during his time at Old Trafford, to protect the pitch against snow and ice. These were imported from Canada and were originally designed for golf greens – but we found them perfect for germination. In another instance, we sourced grow lights from Scandinavia, and had them made wide enough to cover a complete court, ensuing that the wheels were at the outer ends to avoid tracking on the grass." Eddie Seaward - Facts and favourites • My favourite film: musicals in general rather than one particular film. • My favourite book: no particular book but I like the work of Wilber Smith, Tom Clancy, John Le Carre and Anthony Beavon. • My interests outside of work: IOG, LDCA, Myerscough College. • The most challenging part of my career: adapting to the weather. • Who I most admire in or out of the industry, and why: Ron Morris former chairman of the Civil Service Club in Portsmouth; Norman Robb, Snr; Billy Bowles and Bob Corbin IOG; Alan Mills former referee of the All England Lawn Tennis Championships - all of whom had a positive influence on my career and they all proved you have to work hard to be successful. • The best piece of advice I can share with IOG members: join your Branch Committee and gain experience of meetings; preparing to put forward your point of view; assessing information and opinions from others; and evaluating the overall balance of opinion. 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