The Groundsman

March 2013

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20 IOG BEST PRACTICE the Groundsman March 2013 Kingston University is top of Mike's hit parade Colin Hoskins finds out how Mike Hitt's continual quest for top-class playing surfaces has characterised his career spent in groundsmanship and, at Kingston University, has recently resulted in an IOG Award Author: Colin Hoskins hen Mike Hitt talks about his passion for groundsmanship and his unequivocal quest to present playing surfaces to the best possible standard, it's no surprise he won the IOG 2012 School, College, University Sports Club Groundsman of the Year Award. As head groundsman at Kingston University, Mike has a total of 55 acres under his control, including pitches for football, rugby, cricket, lacrosse and American football – and his year-on-year improvements have consistently attracted favourable comments from staff, players and spectators including, of course, the IOG Award judges. W Mike says his regime for improved presentation has always been based around frequent cutting, spiking and divoting, and using lightweight rollers with ride-on mowers, which give a better finish than gang mowers. "There's much less compaction with a ride-on compared to tractordriven mowers and this really is a key to successful pitches. In the past, I've actually used a lightweight tennis hand roller over a complete pitch rather than put a tractor on it. All this is incorporated with a feed, weed and worm control programme." Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions Getting started This quest for continual improvement has been the same wherever he has worked and his innate desire for highclass playing surfaces is a passion he has held ever since an early age and one he suspects that he inherited from his father. "Dad was the head groundsman at the Acton London Transport Ground – one of a total of 11 LT grounds around London – and I was probably just 12 years old when I started helping him during my holidays," Mike reflects. "I well remember working on bowling green banks, and cleaning the ditches and cutting the grass with hand shears. I didn't mind what I did – though the Health and Safety inspectors today would undoubtedly raise their eyebrows if I told them we used lawn sand that included mercury content. But it was the norm in those days; we knew no better. "As I was finishing my school years I tried to move away from groundsmanship – perhaps just because I wanted to be a rebellious teenager trying to 'better' myself – but I realised I loved the work.

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