A Personal Reflection from Growing Green Grass founder Jerad Minnick:
I want to share with you all about a fantastic experience I had the privilege to be a part of Wednesday of last week. It was one of the most empowering days of my grass field management career. Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey Turf Care, Mr. Paul Burgess of Real Madrid, and myself spent the day in the Seattle, Washington region with Mr. Kevin White of Seattle University as our tour guide. We had the opportunity to visit Mr. Scott MacVicar at University of Washington, Mr. Sean Vanos and Mr. John Wright with the Seattle Seahawks, Mr. Tim Wilson and Mr. Leo Liebert of the Seattle Mariners, and then ended the day at Seattle University with Mr. White and the tremendous men’s soccer coach Mr. Peter Fewing. Mr. Casey Montgomery, new Head Grounds Manager at the University of Portland also joined us.
WOW. What An Amazing Day.
Never in a single day have I experienced so many open-minded, positive, and PASSIONATE grounds managers. And of all the locations in the USA!! The general consensus is that natural grass fields have the least chance of survival in the Pacific Northwest. The cool damp weather certainly was a vast change from the California sunshine we had previously experienced from the renovation and demo days we had just left in LA. But from the managers to their staffs… smiles, happiness, positive statements… EXCITEMENT! Not to mention the magnificent grass fields we got to see!! It really made all of us step back and say WOW. What a special, special experience. THANK YOU to each of those people for that experience. The empowerment was intoxicating! Their work is fantastic!
That experience got me thinking. In 2012, this blog was founded to share and create new ideas for grass field maintenance as part of tour of several European grass sports field facilities. Growing since its inception, we have spent time-sharing, exchanging, creating, and globalizing the grass field management industry… all with one theme: Grass Fields Can Take More. One of the highlights of sharing ideas about the positive possibilities of natural grass fields came last month when I had the privilege to present the keynote address for the European Stadium and Safety Management Association Head Grounds Managers seminar. Held in Porto, Portugal, the event solidified something for me: We Are All In This Together!! There were 10 languages being spoken by Grounds Managers from as far west as Russia and as far south and east as Brazil. In every language we are were saying the same things and facing the same challenge with our natural grass fields: Increased traffic demands with the expectation of increased quality in deteriorating conditions (less time between events, bigger stadium roofs, shrinking construction budgets that impact field construction, etc).
But there was so much positive. Just like the amazing positive we experienced in Seattle last week. Even as we are all faced with similar challenges around the world, Grounds Managers are using new creative and forward thinking ideas to meet the demands of their situation. Many Grounds Managers (like the ones in Seattle), at home and abroad, are making things happen that before have been see as IMPOSSIBLE.
Impossible. Where did that word come from? Why is something impossible?
Many said it was IMPOSSIBLE to sail around the world because the world was flat… Christopher Columbus had no trouble sailing around the world!
Many told Henry Ford that it was IMPOSSIBLE for the car to replace the horse. Hhhmm…. I didn’t see anyone riding their horse to work today. Did you?
Many laughed at Steve Jobs and told him it was IMPOSSIBLE for the world to accept or want personal computers… Reading this blog would be tough then eh?
Many told us on staff at Maryland SoccerPlex last year that it was IMPOSSIBLE to seed a field from Kentucky bluegrass and play on it in 35 days… How does 35 days look to you?
I used a story in my keynote speech for the ESSMA conference (ESSMA Keynote Transcript) from well-known author and motivational speaker Mr. Harvey Mackay that illustrates a special point with IMPOSSIBLE:
“A college student who shows 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. The student didn’t give in though, 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.”
Now think about that story for us currently in the grass field industry. From our 1st day as students in turfgrass school or our 1st day on the job working on grass fields, we immediately are hearing about the limitations of grass fields. Then we advance to managers and continue that same discussions about limitations to our new generation of grass field managers. Many of our turfgrass teachers are teaching the same curriculum they were teaching 10 years ago. Researchers for natural grass are also researching synthetic turf. The professional organization for grass AND synthetic has an index on playing field quality that is designed to measure a field as “poor” if it has had heavy play on it… even if it is in perfect condition. All of these things revolve around the thinking that it is IMPOSSIBLE for natural grass fields to take more traffic.
All of these factors are NEGATIVE. Couldn’t all of these factors be limiting the creativity and open-mindedness of our own generation of grass field managers? Do we want to be the other students in that math class that turn in our test without even attempting to answer the “impossible” questions?
But with positive attitudes, improving technologies, a better understanding of plant responses, plant genetic advancements, evolving cultivation practices and techniques… Impossible is changing.
“Impossible is not something that can not be done. Impossible is just something that has not been done YET!”
As we go into the winter education season, I invite you to join us in carrying on the example of our friends in the Pacific Northwest to THINK DIFFERENT. Instead of focusing on limitations and boundaries, instead think about trying and testing new things. Instead of complaining about more events and more work, instead highlight the growing number of high quality, high use grass fields. Cut back on CAN’T, Increase the CAN.
Moving into the off-season, Growing Green Grass is going to dedicate more time to the possibilities and bright future of grass fields to help promote #Think.Different as well. Please share with us with your success stories! Email me directly at: Jerad.Minnick@gmail.com
I leave you with a real life example of reality: The field at Wembley Stadium in London finished a month of concerts on July 5. Following the concert season, the field was fraise mowed off and re-grown from seed. It re-opened August 11. Between August 11 and Oct. 27th, the field hosted 6 major soccer matches, 2 international rugby matches, 2 NFL football games, and Roger Waters “The Wall” Concert.
11 weeks = 10 major sporting events (4 being rugby and NFL) AND a concert (the same concert that spent the summer of 2012 bringing nightmares to USA Grounds Managers because of the damage it inflicts)
Result= The field on Oct. 27th for the 49ers v the Jaguars was in nearly perfect condition.
Oh… 1 small detail: NO SOD WORK TOOK PLACE!!!!!
What Mr. Anthony Stones and his staff did through that stretch is IMPOSSIBLE.
Well it WAS impossible. It is not anymore, because they did it. Kudos to them! And Kudos to our friends in the Pacific Northwest as well.
Welcome to the new world of high traffic sports field management. I am honored to be part of it with you. Here we go together into the bright future.
JiM just read your blog, got to say you are one impressive individual! Say hi to Paul Burgess and Mr Gumbrill look out in December for IOG award winners many of those you mention are in the frame this year for top honours.
Make sure you get booked for UK next December as you are welcome to attend and speak at our event!
Great article Jerad.
The impossible can only be achieved by those willing to accept change and innovation.
That change is coming now.