Professionalism in Turf Management

Andrew Turnbull BSc (Hons)in Industry News
There are many hard working and skillful turf practitioners and managers in the UK, dedicated to providing the best turf surfaces they can. However, what does the term "professional greenkeeper or groundsman" mean?

Some take the view that a professional is anyone who earns a full-time living from an occupation, eg professional lorry driver. Whilst I would never denigrade any occupation, nor the skills required to carry out any job of work, I would debate that to be a professional greenkeeper/groundsman requires more than being very good and consciencious in your work. A dictionary definition of a professional is;

A professional is a worker required to possess a large body of knowledge derived from extensive academic study (usually tertiary), with the training almost always formalized. Typical professions include Accountants, Architects, Engineers, Lawyers or Doctors. (Wikipedia)

A key aspect of professionalism is that recognised professional occupations are self-regulated through a membership professional body who rigoursly applly agreed standards, and also protect the interests of its members individually or collectively according to the standards. Expulsion of members who persistently have standards below those accepted by the membership can occur, and is expected. Members are expected to have Higher Education qualifications, usually a first degree as minimum, and also have to demonstrate occupational competence through gaining post graduate awards, eg become a Chartered Engineer or a Chartered Accountant.

Education can be a subject that raises emotions in the turf industry, but my view is that you must study to gain the depth of knowledge required to carry out your occupation. I am a believer in the quest for knowledge as the key to a successful career. As long as you admit you are ignorant you will keep asking questions and learning the answers.

The work we carry out must be on the basis of knowing the effects of our actions on the plant and soil and also the long term effects on the playing surface. We must understand how turf grows and interacts with soils before we try management practices or new products. It is then through careful observation and correct interpretation of the effects of what we do that leads to successful management of our playing surfaces.

Just being able "to do" will not progress our industry but lead to a gradual decline in standards and professional standing of turf managers. Qualifications come out of studying and should not just be for waving around at interviews. You will soon be caught out when it becomes obvious you have no idea how to carry out your expected job role.

Another sore point for many greenkeepers and groundsmen is that recognised professionals usually have autonomy in the workplace - they are expected to utilize their independent judgment and professional ethics in carrying out their responsibilities. This means employers should be able to trust qualified staff to carry out their jobs without undue interference.

The key points of a professional are;

  • To possess a large body of knowledge derived from extensive academic study
  • Have a set of values and ethics that are self-regulated by members of a professional body
  • Autonomy in the workplace- they are expected to utilize their independent judgment and professional ethics in carrying out their responsibilities

If the occupation of turf manager is to be taken seriously by employers I would argue that many, if not most, people in the industry need to honestly re-evaluate what their knowledge, values and work brings to their employer's business.

Questions to be asked are;

  • To what depth of knowledge have I of turf and soil science?
  • Are my qualifications accepted as professional knowledge, or they an indication of my training and occupational skills level?
  • Can I present information in a way that gains respect by both Senior Management and subordinates
  • Does my behaviour enhance my standing with my employer and increase the value of being a turf manager?

To have the respect of your employer does not happen because of your job title. Most employers expect from their managers; dedication, loyalty, a deep knowledge of your subject, ability to use and present your knowledge to get the resources required, and the ability to organise and treat your staff correctly.

Andrew Turnbull BSc (Hons), Dip. RSA, Cert. Ed.
Course Manager for Sports Turf, Warwickshire College
Article Tags:
Industry news