The Groundsman

May 2014

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here is no doubt that teamwork is the key to the success of the grounds team at The Woollam Playing Fields in Hertfordshire. This 73-acre site accommodates rugby, cricket, hockey and tennis for the pupils of St Albans School. It's also the training centre for the Saracens rugby team and home to the Old Albanians Rugby Club (notable OAs include cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, and lyricist Sir Tim Rice). Such is the calibre of the team's actions – and the resulting playing surfaces – that last year they collected the IOG Industry Award for School, College or University Sports Club Grounds Team of the Year. "The award has certainly given the team a spring in their step," says estates manager Gary Douglas, "with local media coverage, an appearance on the front cover of the school magazine and publicity on the school website in addition to stories in the turf press." Curious minds Head groundsman Steve Ascott leads the team on a day-by-day basis. He is supported by Ian Smith, the site's sports turf and amenity consultant, Chris Copley, groundsman/mechanic, and team members Jason Lightfoot and Darren Symonds. And it is their policy of constantly questioning 'why do we do T Lessons in teamwork at St Albans Constantly questioning what, how and why they do things is proving the key to success for the award-winning St Albans School's grounds team, as Colin Hoskins discovered By: Colin Hoskins things this way?' that drives playing surface quality improvements at the site. For example, recent events include trials with new grass seed (Barenbrug RPR) and a growth regulator - Promow Maxx - to determine its efficacy at reducing mowing frequency and improving sward density, as well as a substantial investment in new machinery that will help the team to work smarter and therefore be more effective and efficient in their day-to-day roles. The ethos of constantly questioning things can only produce benefits; for example, developments in grass seed mean "there's no reason why any site shouldn't have the ideal seed to suit its own particular environment", says Ian Smith. Ongoing education The team represents a broad spectrum of multi-skills, which is underpinned by the school's constant support for their training and education. "Team members are trained from IOG apprentice though to degree level, including NVQs, the latest example being Darren Symonds who is currently studying a sports turf degree via the IOG/Myerscough College," Ian adds. The St Albans team, from left: Darren Symonds, Jason Lightfoot, Steve Ascott, Gary Douglas, Ian Smith and Chris Copley IOG BEST PRACTICE 32 the Groundsman May 2014 Visit for more information and digital editions

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