Key #2: Traffic Management; Three Keys of High Traffic Grass Fields

Traffic Management 

Of the “3 Keys to High Traffic Field Maintenance”, Traffic Management should be considered just as important as the first key: Aggressive Cultivation. (Key 1: Aggressive Cultivation). Creative traffic management alone can give a high traffic field with limited maintenance a chance for survival.

With its importance, traffic management could be considered the most challenging key. Why? Because traffic management involves communication and cooperation from 2 sides: Field managers and field users. However, the communication and cooperation can curb field deterioration more than aggressive cultivation or nutrient management. Managing traffic effectively will allow all fields to meet the needs of the users and require less repair work.

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Traffic management includes two parts:

  • Moving around practice/ training work into low traffic competition areas
  • Re-sizing and shifting competition fields to adjust traffic patterns

Moving around practice/ training work into low traffic competition areas

A full size competition field has areas that get little use during the competition. For example, the corners of a soccer field or the end zones on an American football field. Likewise, it is not often that the full is used in full for practice. With that in mind, a few thoughts:

  • Always have 4 goals on a soccer field w/ small sided fields painted if needed
    • Having 4 goals on a soccer field eliminates the need for the competition goal spots to be used. Having additional boxes/ fields painted helps that even more
    • When the field is not being used for competition, goals should never be in competition place. Avoid the temptation!
    • Avoid installation/ use of permanent goals. New style portable goals look identical to permanent goals. If permanent goals are desired, install extra sleeves or have portable set for different positions.
  • Similar for other sports, provide alternate direction markings
    • Football lines going across a field for practice
      • Additional goal posts on sides of fields possible
    • Lacrosse crease areas on sides or diagonal in corners
      • Multiple lacrosse goals on each field to support movement

Ultimately extra lines on a field for practice/ training would be best avoided. But in the age of multiple sport synthetic fields, a wide array of colors and lines is already accepted. On grass, lighter paint application and timing for paint application for lines to fade or be mowed provides assistance.

Different fields are different colors

Different fields are different colors

 Re-sizing and Shifting Competition Fields

Re-sizing and shifting field layouts moves high traffic areas and provides the embattled turfgrass in those areas a chance to recover. Soccer and lacrosse fields have the most flexibility for re-sizing and shifting because the rules call for minimums and maximums on the competition dimensions.

  • Start with shifting the center of the field.
    • Core of soccer and lacrosse is played up and down the center of the field
    • High traffic areas such as goalmouths, referee lines, and bench areas get moved with the move of the field center.
  • Rotate sides of bench areas
    • Teams for all sports warm up directly in front of their bench
    • 1 day of 7 soccer matches, a minimum of 126 players stretch and kick to get loose in front of the bench
    • Rotating the benches in conjunction with shifting the field allows the field to experience optimum recovery while still in play
  • American football fields are much narrower than soccer or lacrosse fields, so they too can be shifted
    • Especially true for practice fields where goal posts are not required
      • Even a slight shift moves the heavy traffic area

 

Soccer field shifted over

Soccer field shifted over

Lacrosse field shift over

Lacrosse field shift over

The foundation of traffic management is communication and cooperation. Field managers and users should be in constant contact to ensure there are no surprises from other side. Both sides should strive to be respectful and understanding of the needs of the other.

With that, the days of field managers dictating to coaches how the field gets used are gone. The “stay off the grass” mentality creates negativity and resentment while promoting an environment of disrespect. In that environment neither the field nor the team wins. Field managers that are flexible to support and cooperate with user’s needs while communicating in a positive manner create education and empowerment. Coach’s equally should reciprocate and respect the work of the field manager. When the cooperation and communication is mutual, everyone wins with traffic management. Especially the field!

The success of “managing traffic” will be evident in increased quality of a high traffic field. With the extra work that goes into the cooperation and communication and field movement, sod work and field closures for repairs will be reduced and/or eliminated. And as your own traffic management process evolves, the condition of high traffic fields will continue to improve as you discover new ideas and try different approaches that fit your specific situation.

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