Transcript of Keynote: ESSMA Head Grounds Manager Seminar

PPT 16 10

Jerad R. Minnick

ESSMA Head Grounds Managers Seminar
Estadio do Dragao, Home of FC Porto

SEE PRESENTATION HERE:  

ESSMA Keynote Presentation

#Think.Different

(Slide 1) Welcome to the 2013 ESSMA Head Grounds Managers Seminar!  Thank you to Ricardo Carvalho, Stadium Manager FC Porto, and all of FC Porto for hosting us.  Let’s all give FC Porto a hand to say Thank You again!  (Applause)

(Slide 2) And Thank You to Dimitri (Huygen.. Managing Director of ESSMA) for the introduction.  I am Jerad Minnick from the Maryland SoccerPlex in the USA

(Slide 3) Maryland SoccerPlex is a 22 field, 160 acre park on the northwest of the Washington, DC metropolitan area.  (Slide 4) DC, the capital city of the USA, it approximately 4 hours south of New York City by car. (Gov shut down joke… its Day 2 of the shutdown)

(Slide 5) Amazingly, to illustrate how large the USA is, the place I grew up and started my career is 16 hours to the west of Washington, DC by car.  That would be the equivalent of driving from here (Porto) to somewhere like Frankfurt, Germany.  Yet that is barely only HALF WAY across the USA.  Absolutely we are a big country, with a wide range of challenges when it comes to grass fields and stadiums.

(Slide 6) Speaking of American stadiums, the place 16 hours to the west of DC is where my management career started… at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City w/ Head Grounds Manager Trevor Vance.  (Slide 7) I then had the privilege to work with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer in establishing their training ground and working towards building their magnificent new stadium.  The challenges and lessons of those experiences prepared me for current roll at the Maryland SoccerPlex (Slide 8).

More about SoccerPlex…  Our facility boasts 22 full size fields.  (Slide 9) Of those fields, 10 are Kentucky bluegrass.  (Slide 10) 5 Kentucky bluegrass fields are on a native clay soil w/ topdrain, 4 are native clay soil w/ no drainage, and 1.. SoccerPlex Stadium.. is a full sand based field w/ the American version of fibresand.

(Slide 11) 9 more of the SoccerPlex fields are bermudagrass.  (Slide 12) 7 of those bermudagrass fields are on native clay soil and the 2 other fields are newly constructed on pure sand.

Why the 2 kinds of fields?  DC is in the middle of the “transition zone” where both grasses grow actively for about 6 months.  Temperatures range from -18 C (0 F) in the winter to 40 C (105 F)  in the summer.  So in the DC region, we are able to use each grass as a “tool” for extra events.  In the heat of the summer, bermudagrass is nearly indestructible and can be played on and played on and played on.  Then in the spring and fall, we can equally load up the Kentucky bluegrass w/ extra events such as trainings and clinics in addition to the regular scheduled matches.  All fields are always open, but the stronger grass in its prime season allows for extra use above and beyond.

So as we talk about events (Slide 13), currently our facility hosts somewhere around 8,000 events per year.  That is an average of 350 matches/ trainings/ events per field equating into about 700 hours.  With the amount of traffic, we all (management staff AND grounds staff) feel that we are still only at about 75% of our available capacity.  Our grounds staff goal is to reach a total of 500 matches/ trainings/ events per field per year by 2015.  That equals 11,000 total events.

OK… obviously this is an AGGRESSIVE goal!!!  I can see the look on your faces! haha

(Slide 14) And via industry accepted thinking and historical data….  THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE!!

(Slide 15)  RIGHT?!?!

(Slide 16) Just like it was IMPOSSIBLE to sail around the world because the WORLD WAS FLAT!!

This IMPOSSIBLE word reminds me of a story that is told in the USA about a college student who showed up late for his math final exam.  The student rushes in, grabs his test, then sits down and diligently goes to work.  Only being a few minutes late, the student is alarmed as other students were wrapping up and turning in the test with several minutes left in the class period… yet he was having a bit of a struggle with the last 2 problems on the test.  But the student didnt give in.  He worked and worked until the time ran out, though he was the only person left in the class.  The next day, the professor phoned the student and proclaimed “Congratulations!! You are a genius!!! You answered the last 2 questions!!”.  Confused, the student asked the professor what he meant.  The professor explained that the last 2 questions on the test were “brain teasers” for extra credit… that they might not have had an answer.  Yet the student had answered both when no one else in the class even made an attempt at answering them.

Turns out the student, in his tardiness, had missed the announcement that the last 2 problems were extra and might be “impossible”.  Knowing no different… the student found a way to answer them both.

Amazing what can be accomplished when the negative thinking is kept out.

(Slide 17) “IMPOSSIBLE is not something that can not be done.  It is actually just something that has not been done YET.”

An example from my childhood:  I illustrated how I started my career 16 hours west of the Washington, DC area in Kansas City.  Well until I was 18, I grew up/ raised by my parents in a farm village called Lock Springs, that is about 2 hours north of Kansas City.  Back home, and all across the heartland of the USA, farms operate nearly independent of any major piece of society support.  There is never “won’t” or “can’t” when it comes to a challenge, farmers are forced to find a way to make the impossible possible.  Their livelihoods depend on it.  Without facing challenges, the crops don’t succeed and/or they do not eat.   Never in my 18 years of home life did I hear “impossible” or “can’t” from my grandfather or father’s mouths.  Even today as we speak, my dad is out there on the farm “finding a way!”. Nothing is impossible when there is no other option!   

(Slide 18) So for us to achieve 500 matches a year on a field at Maryland SoccerPlex (or on any field in the world), we must abandon historical inside the box thinking…. and #THINK.DIFFERENT.

So then I ask the group.  When/ who decided anything in life is IMPOSSIBLE?  Who decided that grass fields can’t take more? (Slide 19) Are they the same negative people in the early 1980’s told Steve Job, the co-founder of Apple, that people do not need a personal computer?  That computers never will be popular/ useable?  Well who today has one of these? (pull out my IPhone and show the group… and every hand goes up) SURPRISE!! (Slide 20) Personal computers are rather popular!!!

Are the people who decide grass fields can’t take more the same people who told Henry Ford that horses were an acceptable means of transportation?  (Slide 21) Ford commented that when he asked people what they needed, they responded by saying “we need a faster horse”.  Well that’s a fast horse!! (Slide 22).  Not only did thinking leave the box of a faster horse… we advanced to airplanes (Slide 23), space shuttles (Slide 24), and even a car on the moon!!! (Slide 25).  (Slide 26)… is that the original Ford car on the moon?!? haha.

WOW that advanced QUICKLY!!  All because of thinking outside the box and not accepting the “normal” thought that something is IMPOSSIBLE.

(Slide 27) #THINK.DIFFERENT 

(Slide 28)  An example from my career:  During my time serving with the management team at Sporting Kansas City, we were faced with a challenge.  The existing stadium was no longer available.  But before a new stadium was built, a temporary home had to be found and prepared.  The facility that best matched the organization’s needs was not a soccer stadium:  It was a baseball stadium!  Baseball and soccer had shared the same field at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC… so it had been done before.  But when done, the expense was massive in 2 parts:  1) the field suffered for baseball and for soccer, and 2) sport conversions cost was over $80,000 American dollars.  Neither of these could be an option for us if the team was going to be able to win and organization make any money at all.

So the team Development Vice President, Mr. David Ficklin, and myself hopped a flight to Washington, DC to study and learn from the baseball and soccer set up at RFK.  We studied each of the pieces of the baseball to soccer/ soccer to baseball conversion.  It was never that we “can’t” do this.  It was never considered that the feat was “impossible”.  I can recall vividly how confident and committed Mr. Ficklin was to the fact that we WOULD find an answer to make the conversion cost more affordable AND to make a playing surface where neither baseball or soccer suffered.

(Slide 29) And then the “ah ha” moment came.  You have those right?  The “ah ha” moment where everything just makes sense?  Where the dots all get connected? Well with thinking about what was POSSIBLE… instead of what was IMPOSSIBLE… it hit me.  Starting my management career in baseball, I knew the ins and outs of baseball field maintenance well.  The use of the baseball dirt areas is not as common as it would seem that it is.  Grass repair work on a baseball field generally always takes place because the 2nd baseman and the shortstop both spend a good amount of time playing back on the grass arch of the infield.  Also, the baselines do not get used as much as one thinks:  Watch a baserunner slap a basehit to the outfield.  He is going to round 1st base wide, not using the baseline.

(Slide 30) So the answer to our challenge was clear.  Turning the dirt infield skin into grass with dirt sliding areas around each base.  The concept was being used on multiple fields around the country; though each of them was synthetic.  But still, with aggressive grass maintenance, I was convinced we could make it happen.  The surface would be consistent and smooth.  And we could cut our conversion costs down to around $10,000 American dollars for the field.  Neither sport, or the budget,  would suffer from playing both sports.

The negative feedback from field “experts” for both sports was endless.  “Can’t”.  “Impossible”. Even “ridiculous” are things I heard about the grass infield concept.  Yet in 3 seasons, the field won Field of the Year awards from both baseball and soccer.  The concept not only worked… it worked WELL.  We had hoped that the example would set a trend for baseball fields to go to grass infields across the south US, as the grass would help baseball teams cut down their rain out potential by reducing the amount of dirt needing covered.  But No.  Even with the positive example, the negative thinking was not turned.

(Slide 31) Another example:  Last fall at SoccerPlex, we did a stadium field renovation.  An organic layer build up and poa annua infestation had reduced the field’s ability to sustain heavy use, so it was time to improve the surface.  But as we considered replacing the field, I had 2 concerns.  1) The best bluegrass genetics were not available in sod yet as growers across the US had not started producing the newest and best for sod.  And 2) the introduction of a sod /organic layer limited our ability to use the stability fibers in our stadium sand.  Our fibers, the American version of fibresand, were not being used correctly when sod was unrolled across them instead of seed being sewed into them where the plant roots could weave completely into them and form stability.

During a trip to the UK, France, Holland, and Spain last May, the common question from Head Grounds Managers (many of whom are in this room, and I THANK!) was why sod when you I should be seeding?  Seeding in the USA is not common.  In fact, it NEVER happens.  I spent some time with Jason at Leeds rugby last week and he told me about his field renovation last winter…  the field was re-built, then sodded as it was the dead of winter and in the middle of the season.  Yet when the season ended, their 1st action was to come in and cut out the sod and SEED the field to remove the sod/ sand interface.  WOW.  If Jason told that story in the USA, half the room (Academics and Grounds Managers alike) would get up and walk out of the room as if Jason was claiming he landed on the moon!!  We. Do. Not. Seed. To. Establish. Fields.

With that said, we decided to seed SoccerPlex Stadium.  The negative feedback equaled the positive feedback.  “Can’t”.  “Won’t”.  “Impossible”.  It was a common theme… even (Slide 32) people took to social media and publicly voiced their dis-belief.  One day I am going to be giving a talk with this slide in it, and this guy is going to be in there.  Guess I owe him a beer… but ultimately I think he owes ME a beer…  Because 35 Days after seeding, the field was open (Slide 33)

(Slide 34) #Think.Different:  If we keep the thinking of the negative people who publicly proclaim things are impossible, we will never advance.

(Slide 35) The ESSMA Stadium Partners set a fantastic example of #Think.Different and outside the box.  It is why it is an honor for me to be here with you in Porto giving this talk.  Examples:

In the middle 90’s Ko Rodenburg would not accept the fact that poa annua control and seed clean up was not possible.  (Slide 36) Hence the KORO Field Topmaker was born and the KORO Renovation Revolution began!

(Slide 37) Nico van Vuuren knew that he could grow roses inside, year round.  So why couldn’t grass grow inside?!?  Now it can!!! (Slide 38) SGL was born.

(Slide 39) #Think.Different

(Slide 40) Sand base fields are necessary for drainage and compaction.  But stability issues, especially with rye grass, are common on sand.  (Slide 41)  Desso decided stability can just be sewed right into the sand!

(Slide 42) Stadiums of the 21st century ARE multi use venues.  They are entertainment venues.  Not just sports fields. (Slide 43).  Concerts happen the night before athletic competitions now.  (Slide 44). But with Terraplas, that becomes possible!  This photo, from FC Dallas Stadium (the premier soccer surface in the USA) shows damage from a concert the night before.  Wait?  What damage?  (right side shows a small amount of yellow.. look CLOSE though!)

(Slide 45) #THINK.DIFFERENT! 

(Slide 46) GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE!!!  

ESSMA’s core values are the foundation of how grass fields can take more.  Friendship is at work here in the room today.  Respect is what we have for our colleagues hard work and results.  Excellence describes that work.  Teamwork is base for excellence to gain respect.  And Integrity wraps it all together in an ethical manner.  All of these values build the foundation for positive thinking and communication.  Communication.  Communication.  

(Slide 47) Open communication (taking place right here in this room!) around the world is what leads to innovation. I use a Steve Jobs story again, fittingly as he is the modern world example and founder of #Think.Different:  In 1983 in an award speech for innovation, Mr. Jobs references the importance of experience on innovation.  Experiencing situations outside of our own is how creative thinking is born.  Sharing ideas and experiences just as we are here in this room today with 10 different languages being spoken and a multitude of challenges being faced…  Today we all sit here together as ONE.  As we communicate and exchange experiences, we realize that the person next to us has answers to questions that we have.  We have answers to questions that they have.  And together we all have answers to questions that others may not even know that need to be asked!!!

WOW!!!  Now that is POWERFUL!!!

Think about that...  right now, someone in this room has the answer to a question that before the day started, they didn’t even know needed to be asked.  I have shown examples:  We at SoccerPlex didn’t even think about the question needing to be asked was “what seed”… not “what sod”.  Henry Ford said himself… people didn’t know they needed to be asking for a new CAR, they wanted a faster horse!  Imants invented the new Universe rotor for the Field Topmaker for Desso… but we have found its amazing on bermudagrass.  IDEAS. IDEAS. IDEAS.

(Slide 48) And THAT ladies and gentlemen… is why we are in the middle of  REVOLUTION.  We are no longer changing the answer to the questions.  We are now changing the questions that are being asked.  #REVOLUTION.

(Slide 49) I leave you with a simple conclusion….  We are here discussing the challenges that we all face, all over the world.  But ultimately, none of the challenges go away if we do not change the way we approach them.  “If we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we always got.”

Very, very simple.  #THINK.DIFFERENT.

(Slide 50)  THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT!!! Innovation is happening all around us.  It is evening happening in this room at this very second.  Someone in here could have the next “big thing” when i comes to maintenance and management.  Genetics are improving. Science is evolving.  The human mind is thinking.  We all are communicating as ONE unified industry.  #THINK.DIFFERENT. Grass fields CAN take more.

ESSMA Head Grounds Manager Seminar Keynote

ESSMA Head Grounds Manager Seminar Keynote

Advertisements

ESSMA Head Grounds Managers Summary

The ESSMA Head Grounds Managers Seminar took place in Porto, Portugal on Oct. 9 & 10.  The seminar as ESSMA’s second such event, the first being at FC Barcelona in 2012.

Estadio Dragao, Porto FC

Estadio Dragao, Porto FC

THANK YOU to ESSMA, the expert pitch committee, and the stadium partners CampeyImants, EVERRIS, DESSO GrassMaster, SGL and TERRAPLAS for asking me to be present at the seminar at the Estadio Dragao, home of FC Porto.  It was an honor to become the first American to take part in an ESSMA event.  Hopefully it is just the first of many!

Secondly, and equally as important, THANK YOU to the participants who came from far and wide to Porto to be part of the ESSMA Head Grounds Managers seminar. This being my first opportunity to share at an event outside the United States, the nervousness in preparation for the event came from the fear of the unknown.  Yet amazingly, it only took my introduction  to the group to make it clear….  American, German, Russian, Ukrainian, British, Dutch, French, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian….  no matter the nationality,  no matter the language:  We Are All The Same!!  And in the grass field management industry, we are all facing the same type of challenges.

WOW!  What a POWERFUL realization.

Even with over 10 languages represented in the room, we all were united as one with one goal; to share and creating new ideas about the possibilities of grass fields.

So THANK YOU to all the participants who also moved past any nervousness and/or fears of the unknown to open up, share, and spread their experiences and their passion with the world.

Congratulations to each of the people that shared during the 2 day event.

Mr. Jonathan Calderwood, Head Grounds Manager of Paris St. Germain (France)
– Welcome remarks and background on ESSMA Pitch Management

Mr. Sebastian Breuing, Head Grounds Manager of Vfl Bochum (Germany)
– “Budget Control on Pitch Management”

Mr. Luis Silva, COO of Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
– “Preparation for the 2014 World Cup”

Mr. Maxim Kobzin, Head Grounds Manager at Donbass Arena (Ukraine)
– “New Season Preparations”

I also had the privilege to share on Thursday in addition to my Keynote
“Intergration of European and American Maintenance Techniques”

A special feature of the program was a round table debate that featured the stadium partners exploring the globalization of the grass field industry and issues that Grounds Managers face around the world.    Thank you to the participants of that round table for allowing me to moderate their session and for answering the questions presented so openly and candidly.

Mr. Simon Gumbrill: Campey/ Imants (Cultivation/ Renovation Tools)
Mr. Yves DeCocker: Desso Grass Master (Sand Stability System)
Ms. Ellie Parry: Everris (Fertilizer/ Seed)
Mr. Pierre Debleme: Terraplas (Field Protection System)
Mr. Xavi Tordera- SGL (Stadium Grow Lights)

Stadium Partner Debate

Stadium Partner Debate

Many, many Thanks to Mr. Ricardo Carvalho of FC Porto for hosting, sharing with, and leading the tour of the ESSMA group.  Also Thank You  Mr. Miguel Bastos and Mr. Manuel Pedro Melo for presenting some of their maintenance information for the pitch at Estadio Dragao and at the FC Porto Training Ground.

Mr. Ricardo Carvalho, FC Porto

Mr. Ricardo Carvalho, FC Porto

And finally, applause for the entire ESSMA staff for organizing such a tremendous event.  Every detail was covered, from arrival through departure.  Even the social component of port wine tasting  & dinner w gorgeous views of historic Porto was magnificent.   Cheers to Mr. Dimitri Huygen, Mr. Jan Stryckers, and Mr. Kevin Raveyts.  Bravo to them and their support staff for all the hard work!

Events like the Head Grounds Managers seminar are laying the ground work for the great things ahead, not only for grass fields but for our entire world in general.  Thank You again to everyone involved for their open minds, their energy, and for their commitment to making natural grass fields around the world as strong and durable as they can possible be.

More to come on the content of the seminar, along with the transcript of the keynote speech:  “#Think.Different”

Md. turf guru makes history as keynote at top European groundskeepers seminar

Many thanks to Mr. Charles Boehm for this fantastic piece:

http://www.soccerwire.com/news/facilities/md-soccerplex-turf-guru-makes-history-as-keynote-speaker-at-top-european-groundskeepers-seminar/

Md. turf guru makes history as keynote at top European groundskeepers seminar

By Charles Boehm

WASHINGTON – The U.S. soccer community often looks east to Europe for information and inspiration, and the game’s leading groundskeepers tend to do the same.

But this week an American turfgrass guru will be the star speaker at one of Europe’s biggest meetings of professional groundskeepers, sharing the philosophies and skills he’s developed over 15 years of managing sports fields in this country’s heartland.

On Wednesday, Maryland SoccerPlex sports turf manager Jerad Minnick will deliver the keynote address at the European Stadium and Safety Management Association’s head grounds manager seminar in Porto, Portugal.

ESSMA is a partner organization of UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations) and Minnick can expect a warm welcome as he discusses the “grass field revolution” he sees unfolding across the sports world amid new technologies for growing, maintaining and regenerating natural surfaces.

“We need to keep growing innovation and spreading a positive message about the possibilities of grass fields,” Minnick told SoccerWire.com via email over the weekend. “The more idea-sharing and technology we employ, the bigger the possibilities become.

“My keynote is taking that a bit further to encourage and illustrate the importance to ‘think different.’”

While such appearances tend to suggest peak mastery in one’s field, Minnick approaches his work from a humble, curious perspective, regularly praising his European counterparts’ high levels of expertise and ingenuity. So he’s making practical use of his trans-Atlantic trip by visiting a long list of top stadiums and sports facilities in England and Spain over the course of two weeks.

Minnick visited with his colleagues at London’s colossal Wembley Stadium, home of the English national team, and attended the NFL game that took place there on Sept. 29, then hustled through an ambitious itinerary that included the homes and/or training facilities of the Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday football clubs as well as the Headingley Carnegie and Twickenham rugby stadiums, the Sports Turf Research Institute and St. George’s Park, the chief training center of the English Football Association.

And on his way to Portugal, he also stopped in at Real Madrid to visit Paul Burgess, a friend who serves as “chief of pitch maintenance” at the Spanish powerhouse.

It’s a turf pilgrimage of sorts that’s become an annual practice for Minnick, who routinely works wonders on the SoccerPlex’s showcase stadium, Maureen Hendricks Field (home of the NWSL’s Washington Spirit), as well as the 21 high-quality fields that surround it.

“The best part of visiting colleagues is how warm and open they are,” he wrote to SoccerWire.com. “It’s just a lot to have an American come in and want to talk and share when they are in the heart of the season and winter preparation is taking place. For example: Mr. [Anthony] Stones at Wembley had just hosted American football the night before. Mr. [Paul] Ashcroft at Emirates [Stadium] was hosting training for the Italian team [Napoli] Arsenal was playing the next night in Champions League.

“Every training ground was either hosting training or preparing for training. The Leeds Rugby guys were preparing for a big game that night. Etc, etc. And for me, that’s what is most helpful; everyone being open and sharing ideas when under the highest demands. Every field I saw was in immaculate shape. And every head grounds manager had a positive and driven attitude.”

Though three of his his facility’s fields feature artificial turf, Minnick is a devoted advocate of natural surfaces and urges his industry to put aside old ideas about the levels of traffic and use that grass can bear.

“Several head grounds managers around the world are proving that so much more is possible, many times at LESS expense!!” Minnick explained.

“Ultimately, my keynote is about the bright future for our industry…Soon the answer to the questions about grass fields will turn from ‘Grass can’t take it’ to the question instead being, ‘How many more events can we manage this year?’”

With the phrase “Evolution is changing the answer. A revolution is changing the question,” as his mantra, Minnick hails the work of several European companies who are designing specialized new methods and equipment to maintain top-quality grass fields that allow for more hours of play – and under more demanding conditions – than ever.

“Any industry improves by sharing ideas and communicating,” he said. “Our industry is the same. And the field quality across the UK illustrates that.

“[Apple co-founder] Steve Jobs talked about how important it is for people to collect new experiences and learn other perspectives in order to create innovation. Well, when these guys open their time and share and show me around, it hopefully leads to more innovation for SoccerPlex and for American grass fields.”

Day 5: Final Day in the UK, Manchester!

Day 5 in the UK was in the city of Manchester, home of 2 EPL powers.  Mr. Simon Gumbrill was kind enough to return as the tour guide, thank you to him for the continued hospitality and kindness!!

Our 1st stop of the day was to see Mr. Lee Jackson at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.  Mr. Jackson, one of expert group member on pitch management for ESSMA, was gracious with his time and communication.  Many thanks to Mr. Jackson for that.  And even after a heavy stretch of use, the pitch was absolutely fantastic.  Kudos to him and his staff for the hard work!

Mr. Lee Jackson

Mr. Lee Jackson

Leaving the Etihad, we traveled over to the training ground of the other team in Manchester, Manchester United.  Great to see Mr. Joe Pemberton at his own facility after he dropped in to say hello on holiday when we were fraze mowing bermudagrass for the 1st time ever this spring at FC Dallas Park.  Mr. Pemberton and his staff have the ground looking fantastic.  When we visited last spring, much of the facility was still under construction.  Wow the results are impressive!  Thank you to Joe for taking the time to show us around and to share some of his thinking around large facility management and pitch maintenance.

Mr. Simon Gumbrill and Mr. Joe Pemberton

Mr. Simon Gumbrill and Mr. Joe Pemberton

As the week in the UK closes, I can’t thank Simon Gumbrill enough for his time and guidance around the country.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Simon’s personable nature and British charm is single-handedly drawing the worlds of US and UK groundsmanship together.  THANK YOU Simon for putting up with my questions all week.

And THANK YOU to all the UK Head Grounds Managers who took time out of their day to talk with me.  I commented to someone earlier today, the warmth and openness of the UK Grounds Managers is amazing.  My last trip over the pond left me thinking the same thing.  Steve Jobs, in an award speech to the Academy of Achievement in 1982, stressed the need for different experiences in life to make new connections with reality to feed innovation.   The Grounds Managers that spent time with me discussing even the most basic of issues are laying the ground work for innovation, with both themselves and with us in the US.  THANK YOU to them for allowing me to be a part of their experiences!

Off to Madrid, Spain for the weekend before Porto, Portugal next week for the ESSMA Head Grounds Managers seminar.  Cheers to all of you for a fantastic weekend!

Day 4: W/ Premier Pitches

Day 4 of the tour around the UK started w/ more conversations with Mr. Carl Pass, Managing Director of Premier Pitches, and Mr. Russell Latham, Sales Director of Premier Pitches.  Premier Pitches is unlike any sports field contractor in North America.  They specialize in renovation/ pre-season conditioning of fields with many pieces of equipment that I have never seen before.  Thank You to Carl and to Russell for the insights about their methods of improving field quality.

Carl and Russell then were kind enough to take me along to visit a couple of stadiums as well.  Our 1st stop was Nottingham Forrest FC.  Many thanks to Head Grounds Manager Ewan Hunter for taking the time to show us around an absolutely fascinating stadium.  Mr. Hunter also took us out to the Forrest training ground as well.  Kudos to the fantastic work he, his assistant, and their staff do in presenting fantastic fields.

Mr. Ewan Hunter, Mr. Russell Latham, and Mr. Carl Pass

Mr. Ewan Hunter, Mr. Russell Latham, and Mr. Carl Pass

Upon leaving Nottingham Forrest, we drove over to Sheffield to Hillsborough Stadium, home of Sheffield Wednesday FC.   Hillsborough, another old style stadium with character and history, is an amazing place.  And the pitch is equally as amazing.  Thank You to Head Grounds Manager Steve Kiddy for visiting with us and sharing his experiences.

Mr. Carl Pass and Mr. Steve Kiddy

Mr. Carl Pass and Mr. Steve Kiddy

Again, many thanks to Mr. Pass and Mr. Latham for spending time taking me to visit these great Head Grounds Managers, and for exchanging different ideas and experiences  from their work.  With communication and idea exchange like that, all fields around the world can continue to improve!

 

 

Day 3: Go, Go, Go!

Day 3 in the UK started at St. George’s Park, Home of the English FA.  Having hotels in the center of a soccer facility is unique and very convenient for us!

As mentioned, the training ground is absolutely fantastic.  Many thanks to Mr. Alan Ferguson and Mrs. Carol Ferguson for their hospitality and kindness.  With studying reinforcement, in particular Desso, the 1st couple of days of the trip.. it was fitting that the Desso sewing processes was taking place on a field for us to observe.  Very interesting and thought-provoking stuff!

Desso Sewed Into Sand

Desso Sewed Into Sand

The 2nd stop of the day was at the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI).  Know for their research and consultancy around the world, visiting STRI was even more interesting than I could have ever expected.  Many thanks to Dr. Christian Spring and Mr. Ian Anderson for the tour and the in-depth discussions.  The research trials at STRI were eye-opening on a few different topics related to high traffic grass fields… topics that we will be discussing in the future on this blog.

IMG_3500

Upon leaving STRI, we next stopped in at Headingley Carnegie Stadium.  Home of Leeds Rugby.  Unique to anything I’ve ever seen, Leeds Headingley is back to back with the Leeds Cricket Ground, actually sharing a stand with it.  Fantastic environment for both sports!  Also fantastic is the pitch produced by Mr. Jason Booth & Mr. Ryan Golding.  Wow.  What great information they shared with me and an even more fascinating story on reconstruction that is a bold elimination of the difference in US and UK groundsmanship.  Many thanks to them for their time.  Great great stuff…  Obviously more to come on that!

Mr. Ryan Golding & Mr. Jason Booth of Headingley Carnegie Stadium

Mr. Ryan Golding & Mr. Jason Booth of Headingley Carnegie Stadium

The day ended with spending time with Mr. Carl Pass, owner of Premier Pitches. Many thanks to him for his time and hospitality! Premier Pitches is one of the most specialized field contractors in the world for field renovation.  Mr. Pass’s unique and special Desso renovation tools aided in the birth of many of the renovation techniques discussed on this blog.  Many thanks to Mr. Pass for his time and his hospitality.

Premier Pitches Renovating Desso at St. George's Park This Past Spring

Premier Pitches Renovating Desso at St. George’s Park This Past Spring

2 more days left in the UK before heading off to Madrid for the weekend…  Day 3 absolutely was eye-opening and has aided in many, many new ideas being created.  I am looking forward to more great things to come!!

Day 2: Visiting the National Associations

Day 2 of exploration took us to the home of both England Rugby and England Football (soccer).  And wow, what a highlight both were!

First, in London near Heathrow Airport is the crown jewel of the Rugby Football Union, Twickenham Stadium.  Mr. Keith Kent, Head Grounds Manager for the Rugby Football Union, was kind enough to spend a good bit of time with us.  Many thanks to him for taking time out of his day!  Twickenham is another field reinforced w/ Desso for the rigors of rugby, and the field is tremendous.  Home of the upcoming rugby World Cup, the stadium was all around fantastic!

Twickenham Stadium Staff: Mr. Ian Ayling, Mr. Keith Kent, and Mr. Andy Nuir

Following Twickenham, it was off to St. George’s Park, home of the English FA.  With 2 hotels on the property, we were able to spend the night in the park as well.    WOW how the facility has matured and progressed since our last visit back in May of 2012 when it was still under major construction.  The work the Mr. Alan Ferguson & Mrs. Carol Ferguson have done with the 1st class St. George’s Park Staff is tremendous.  More to come on that tomorrow as well.

Day 2 solidified many thoughts from Day 1, and then set the stage for a very big day on Day 3.  More to come!!