It would be ideal to have at the start of each sporting season fields with 100% turf coverage and have all the plants at least four months old. This is the ideal and may not always be attainable.
Fields will show distinct wear areas after 10 events (games, practices, etc.) and after about 25 the field appearance will be significantly reduced. The loss of that protective mat of vegetation will be gone between 25-50 events and the soil will be exposed ready to turn into a muddy mess when rained and played on. What can a manager do to limit over-use which creates unsafe and poor field conditions?
The grounds manager must be able to communicate to and develop a strong working relationship with coaches, administrators and field users so policies can be developed regarding field use and field scheduling. Many factors go into developing a field schedule especially at a multi-use facility. The type of sports, intensity of traffic, type of grass, field conditions at the time of play, the necessary time for the field to recover and essential management practices all impact field scheduling. All field users need to understand the challenges of maintaining fields in good safe condition when unrealistic expectations are made. Cooperation and communication are essential.
Some helpful tips:
- work to develop mutual respect and realistic goals so policies can be established and honored
- restrict use of fields when conditions are wet and would create unsafe playing conditions
- rotate areas of play to allow time for recovery
- find alternative areas for some of the activities (for example band practice)
- allow newly seeded areas to become established before use
- allow turf to recover from winter dormancy before using
Arrange for a meeting with key individuals prior to the field season to discuss components of the field use policy. Some managers have the authority to close fields if not in playable conditions and can levy fines.
Ultimately, everyone will learn that if field use guidelines are not followed and fields are used during rainy periods permanent damage can result and expensive repair work will be necessary.