The Groundsman

February 2014

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IOG BEST PRACTICE 18 the Groundsman February 2014 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions Steve Fidler has built up an impressive portfolio of turf care equipment: • Allett C20 pedestrian cylinder mower • Ford 1920 32 HP tractor with 1 tonne tipping trailer • Groundsman HD460 pedestrian aerator • Hayter Harrier rotary mower • Kubota ZD28 zero-turn ride-on rotary mower • Major 1.9m roller mower • SISIS Quadraplay, Maxislit and Mk 5 Auto Rotorake • Wessex tractor-mounted fertiliser spreader, plus • Stihl strimmer, Stothert & Pitt cricket roller, a pedestrian sprayer, fertiliser spreader, linemarker and knapsack sprayer. Machinery matters "But there has since been a steady investment in the necessary equipment (see panel item, bottom right) some bought new, others secondhand – and all purchased on the basis of ease of use and maintenance, efficiency and cost-effectiveness." With a background in groundsmanship – 28 years in the industry – including the last 11 years as grounds manager (nine years) then club manager (two years) at the NPL Sports Club in nearby Teddington, Steve knew what machinery he needed and how to use it. "Having experienced a number of different jobs, at 28 years of age I 'fell' into the industry when my cricket club, Hampton Hill, decided to employ someone – me - to run the grounds and pavilion. While I knew how I wanted the cricket pitches to look like and play, I obviously had no experience of groundsmanship so I spent time reading, then started enrolling for IOG short courses (over the years, bowls, tennis, cricket, winter games, Performance Quality Standards and Management). I gained the IOG Intermediate Diploma (awarded the Frank Goddard trophy for best results nationally), IOG National Diploma in Sportsturf Management and BTEC Diploma in Sportsground Management (Distinction). I also hold NPTC Pesticide Application certificates. "I joined NPL and progressed from head groundsman to grounds manager, then club manager. But this latter role gave me little scope for hands-on groundsmanship – though I'm pleased that a number of my former trainees have progressed in the industry; including two of them becoming head groundsmen and one a deputy at a Premiership football club. So, I jumped at the opportunity when the position came up at St James' School. The new job would allow me to return to the type of work I had come to enjoy and, of course, I was excited by the challenges being presented. "The site had been a girl's school for many years and was now to become a private all-boys school for circa 400 pupils. Rugby posts had been installed, the synthetic hockey pitch and cricket nets built and a new cricket square had been laid. The rugby pitches weren't too bad – there were a few undulations – but the cricket square was all wrong: totally unsuitable soil had been used and the turf was poorly laid. I immediately Koro'd off the turf, ameliorated the soil with 30 tonnes of Surrey Loam then re-seeded. That was in late October; but we managed to achieve play on the pitches during the following summer." Rigby Taylor seed is used on all the surfaces. Another major project for Steve, albeit not on playing surfaces, concerned four lawn areas that were in very poor condition. "The headmaster wanted to see an immediate improvement so, with the help of a contractor, 20 tonnes of topsoil was put down and 500 m 2 of turf was re-laid." No synthetic surprises The maintenance of the school's synthetic surfaces didn't faze Steve – he had encountered artificial surfaces at NPL – "of course, it does need to be maintained" - but initially ensuring the lake was free of algae was "interesting" he says. "One company came in and tried to sell me £18K worth of 'crystals'. The successful alternative which was of much, much lower cost, was to simply apply a dosage of 'dye'." In addition, Steve is also responsible for budgets, equipment and materials procurement, project management, health and safety management (he uses the IOG generic risk assessments alongside the school's site-specific documents) and the outsourcing of specialist operations. Describing the weather as "frustrating at times", he not surprisingly tries to work with nature as much as possible, obtaining up-to-date forecasts and adopting a flexible approach – which can mean working later to complete weather- dependent tasks or working at weekends. The original sports field has no drainage nor irrigation; the new field will have both. For the future, the new sports field project will certainly keep him occupied – not least because of the logistics of having to bring all the site materials through the school's main thoroughfare – as well as his current trials with growth regulators and controlled release fertilisers. "If these achieve what the suppliers say they can, it could mean cutting the grass once a week instead of three times, and that will be a great help." l Rugby is a main winter sport at the school

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