The Groundsman

June 2015

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Visit for more information and digital editions AHEAD OF THE GAME 20 the Groundsman June 2015 Things moved at a fast pace, and so did I. Upon arrival, I was told that you cannot grow 'quality' grass in Azerbaijan, generally because they had tried before with little success, firstly in Gabala (North Central Azerbaijan, next to the Caucasus Mountains) then in Baku, in the far east of the country, due to the high summer temperatures and high humidity. I managed all the natural grass pitches and artificial surfaces for the FIFA World Cup tournament here. This belief was proven wrong. At the time, being the only professional groundsman in the country, the task ahead was enormous. There was no data on what to expect from disease pressure, what sports turf grasses are/were suited to the climate, (summer 40 degrees, winter down to minus 10 degrees), what the expected weed types were, what the likely ET rates and humidity would be, and no soil testing labs. There was nothing, including no trained staff, nor dealer infrastructure (sports turf), machinery, fertilisers or pesticides. So, we needed to start, literally, from scratch – including importing all the equipment, fertilisers and pesticides from the UK, and staff training. How do you begin to train staff with no background in turf management, not just for general groundsmanship but also for managing first-class professional soccer surfaces, and all in a very short period of time? These are people with initially very little knowledge of the English language let alone sports turf terminology and processes. Strategic thinking I suggest there are three key points when it comes to getting novices quickly up to a high standard: the attitude of the employee; the knowledge and attitude of the trainer; and the need for a good, well thought-out plan. We started with the interview process to ensure we employed people with the right type of personality. My background in turf management also included a nine- year stint as a turf lecturer so I understood the training process (and understood how important it is to have a trained 'trainer' to carry out this 'training' process). So, a methodical approach was adopted, starting with getting the basics right at the start - ensuring the guys understood the concept of the growing process and what influences it, so that the plant can be managed sympathetically. Also, understand when to push, when to rest and allow recovery and how to manipulate the growing process to advantage without stressing the plant. The initial theory sessions ensured that everyone understood the meaning of Construction underway (above) of one of the four suspended water table pitches at Gabala (top)

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