The Groundsman

March 2014

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IOG BEST PRACTICE 20 the Groundsman March 2014 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions Jason's role will be to lead and manage the advisors, and he will be a key conduit between the sports bodies and the IOG, leading the programme's strategy and its local delivery. He admits he is passionate about the standards of sports surfaces – a trait that is widely recognised by his peers and aptly reflected by his actions as head groundsman at Leeds Rugby and his consultancy work in recent years for the RFL, The FA and the IOG, as well as by his contracting activities with Headingley Sports Field Contractors. "I love a challenge and the Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme certainly offers that in terms of upgrading grassroots pitches throughout the country and up-skilling the people responsible for their care and maintenance," says Jason. "The sector is simply lacking suitable and sufficient groundscare knowledge and understanding, and by aiming to boost the level of much-needed awareness the new programme will, in turn, allow me (and I'm sure the regional pitch advisors, too) to demonstrate not only the practical benefits (in terms of improved playability) of high-class yet cost-effective sports turf management but also our passion for the groundscare industry and the desire to up-skill, where appropriate, the people within it." He continues: "The framework for the programme's success has already been laid down – the blueprint was devised and has been successfully applied in recent years by the IOG/ECB regional advisor network and, more recently, also by the RFL Pitch Improvement Programme. "The task now is to broadcast the message – and the resultant benefits – on a much wider scale, to reach many more sports grounds and clubs and, in particular, to communicate also with the swathe of volunteers who persevere day in and day out with little or outdated, or even no equipment. In addition, another major target area are local authority sites that have been negotiated locally with local community groups and clubs as asset transfers, leaving the problem of maintenance further in the hands of the volunteer and where seemingly the art of groundscare has been 'lost in translation'." Jason is convinced that one strategic aspect of the programme will depend on backing for the project from high-profile groundstaff together with the clubs and stadia: "Their support will be crucial," he argues. "With the support of famous venues and their recognised head groundsmen, the programme's concept will be easier to 'sell' into the grassroots sector. Rest assured, I will be using my full network of friends and contacts to encourage full involvement in this respect." Cascading message Another major aspect will, he says, involve communicating the programme benefits 'downwards' via meetings with the respective sports county networks within each region, engaging clubs and leagues across each sport. "The message will cascade down into grassroots clubs far quicker if we meet these groups rather than trying to immediately have each regional pitch advisor attempting to personally visit every sports pitch in the country." That said, the regional pitch advisors will as a result of the messaging and on invitation, make site visits and subsequently draw up recommendations for improvement to the playing surface(s) as well as suggest appropriate education/training routes to the many club volunteers and those involved in groundsmanship locally. They will also manage the development and delivery of the IOG's renowned Performance Quality Standards. My interests outside of work: Cricket, horse racing My favourite meal: Nando's What annoys me most: People in the industry who say they want to help but never do My favourite sport: Horse racing Who I most admire in, or out, of the industry and why: My mentor and IOG Lifetime Achievement Award winner Keith Boyce - for the simple reason that I would not be where I am without his influence. The best piece of advice I can give to IOG members: It's your industry: if you ALL get involved we can make a massive difference; if you don't, we can only make a small one. Facts and Favourites i Jason, for one, is convinced that the project simply cannot fail because at its heart is a team of passionate groundscare experts who will be offering independent advice that many grassroots clubs are simply unaware of; advice which can drastically improve the playing performance of natural turf surfaces. "It's a process that the whole turf care industry should champion, including suppliers and manufacturers. Never before have we as an industry had such an opportunity to make significant improvements throughout sports and right down to grassroots level," he adds. Those who know Jason will also understand what the nation's sports clubs can expect when he says he's "extremely fired up by the challenge." l The sector is simply lacking suitable and sufficient groundscare knowledge and understanding, and by aiming to boost the level of much-needed awareness the new programme will allow me to demonstrate not only practical benefits but also our passion for the groundscare industry " "

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