Too Long in the roots
There has been an issue arising over previous years about the average age of grass roots groundsman, and the lack of the younger generation coming through the ranks.
I started in the industry as a voluntary groundsman at my local cricket club when I was just 13 years old, doing the simple jobs of marking out a wicket, moving a portable sprinkler around the square, and moving the boundary rope.
I’m now 20 years old working full time at a golf course, volunteering at the cricket club as assistant groundsman and also helping at a local bowls club, and I also fit in my own lawn care business in between.
Something I noticed very early on was the opinions of others of a similar age to me on what l was doing. For me it was brilliant, getting on machinery, learning the ropes of groundsmanship from the cricket club grounds manager, and building the foundations for a career whilst not even realising it.
But for young onlookers they see a mower going up and down a pitch and I’m sure 90% of those people would have the opinion that, it’s a retired guy keeping busy.
Ask any one below the age of 25 what they think to groundsmanship and you’ll get the same answer “it’s just cutting grass” let’s go back to the average age of grass roots groundsman, in a variety of sports. Let us be honest, it’s fairly high. Why is that?
Whilst in the last years of school, students get opportunities to go to career fairs. Most fairs are full of the British armed forces, engineering companies, maths and English departments from colleges. You will never see anything along the lines of groundsmanship or sports contractors at school or a college career events. So again, l ask, Why is that?
We have all of these small clubs who’re creating the best playing surfaces they can, with very limited budgets and equipment, most of these club grounds are maintained by a long serving, dedicated, voluntary groundsman. What is going to happen when the inevitable day comes where the groundsman can no longer do what they could 10 years ago?
I’m sure everyone will have their opinions about this but what should these small clubs be doing? They don’t have the budgets to bring in a contractor, they have very little interest from other club members to dedicate several hours a week to keeping the pitch standards up. So what should they do?
Should these clubs be putting money aside to offer someone a low hourly rate to do the basic work?
Investing money in putting a younger club member through a starter course to get them involved?
Or should we be looking down different routes such as school career fairs, offer work experience to students? Open days at local sports clubs for the groundsman and Greenkeepers to show students, what actually happens behind the scenes?
Jack Drury (Groundsman)