The Groundsman

October 2013

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20 IOG BEST PRACTICE the Groundsman October 2013 The Sketty Lane site is a popular venue " There are certainly more challenges with a natural surface, as presented by the weather - for example, for seeding and renovation " As a keen rugby player and cricketer –"but not quite good enough to be professional" – and at 48 years of age still playing for his local Mumbles team, John realised that groundsmanship would be the next best thing if he was to maintain a strong link with the sports he loves. His father, who worked in Swansea's Victoria Park, mentioned there was a vacancy in the park's team and suggested John apply. That heralded the start of 20 years working on local authority playing surfaces before six years at the St Helen's Rugby and Cricket Ground where John says he "learned a lot from former head groundsman George Clement" who retired in 1984 and who was an inspiration to John throughout his childhood. Then came the move along the road, literally, to Sketty Lane. "This site is around 55 years old," says John, "though the artificial surfaces have obviously only been down relatively recently, eight years ago in fact." With no real experience of the maintenance of synthetic surfaces, John was clearly not phased by the prospect of maintaining what was then regarded as a ground-breaking playing surface technology, especially the water-based pitches. Smart approach "In the early days, in addition to learning as we went and gaining any knowledge we could from articles and conversations [with users and suppliers], all the team also enlisted onto the IOG training course – twice over a five-year period; the second occasion as a refresher - and it was crystal clear that, like natural turf, the secret of success is a good maintenance programme. "There are certainly more challenges with a natural surface, as presented by the weather – which you obviously have to work in synchronisation with in terms of, for example, seeding and renovation," John Courtney – Facts and Favourites My favourite film: Oliver My favourite book: A Christmas Carol My interests outside of work: Anything to do with sport The most challenging part of my career: The weather Who I most admire in, or out, of the industry and why: Nelson Mandela, what he did for South Africa and humanity The best piece of advice I can give to IOG members: Keep machinery and pitches well maintained. Visit for more information and digital editions

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