A football Groundsman and just for the love of it
I have been involved with Holmesdale FC for 21 years, first as a player, then a manager and now fixture secretary and Groundsman. All of my time at Holmesdale is given up voluntarily all for the love of the game!
In the working world I am the Health & Safety Manager for BCM Construction Ltd.
I started as Groundsman about 5 years ago when the club moved to a new facility in Bromley, Kent. I sort of got the short straw as my job at the time was flexible enough to enable me to cut and mark the pitch while there was still daylight.
In the last five years I have picked up tips from the Pitchcare website, magazines and from my own mistakes. I have no formal Groundsmanship qualifications but after talking to various Groundsmen at this years award ceremony I think that I need to build up my knowledge of what are the correct and wrong things to do.
People ask me about my budget, what budget! For the first few seasons we struggled financially as a club, I actually paid for a fair bit myself and we begged, scraped and borrowed where we could, the only money we normally spend out on is on grass seed, I try to get the sand through local sponsorship.
This season we started a sixty club to raise money that will give us about £500 towards the summer works.
We have had approx 40 matches at home (with another 10 to go), training sessions are every Tuesday and Wednesday nights throughout the season.
My relationship with the team managers is very good, they know that they always have to warm up / warm down on the training area (as it helps the pitch) and they understand when I have to call games off (3 this season). They appreciate the damage that can be caused if the pitch is played on in the wrong conditions and they know it's only me who does all the divoting and other remedial works.
I think we have been lucky this season as we have not had too much rain, the main problem I have had during the winter is that our pitch is quite soft and I have to spend a couple of hours after each match turning over and repairing all the divots by hand, followed by a quick sweep of the dragmat over the pitch and training area.
I would like to vertidrain the pitch in the autumn but I don't think we can afford it, but I feel it would help improve the surface.
When it comes to the machinery that I have available, well don't laugh.
I have a Nickerson Turfmaster 360 (at least it's British), a drag mat, an old Sims 24" walk behind and an 18-inch petrol push mower.
I would love a small Kubota tractor (or similar) with hydraulics to enable me to have the facility to cut and spike the pitch, as at the moment we do not have a spiker. We have a large roller which when needed is pulled by a fellow Groundsman's tractor from the cricket club down the road.
I don't really know the composition of the soil, which is why I need to educate myself to understand what would be best for our pitch. We really need some professional advice. It would be good to have the pitch either vertidrained or earthquaked but we will not have the funds. We managed to pay for an 8-inch spike last season, which did help the drainage.
Hopefully over the next few years I will be able to raise enough money for these tasks.
If all of the above was bad enough there's the fact that I haven't fertilised at all in five years. Again it's a lack of knowledge and lack of funds.
At the moment my average week consists of divoting after each game. I do the same on a Monday morning (at daybreak before work) and maybe run the dragmat over the pitch during the week (if the weather allows). I tend to mark out either on a Friday or Sat (weather and work permitting) and now the grass is growing I will be cutting at least once week again after work and at the weekend.
I think the Groundsman of the Year awards are great recognition for all the Groundsmen out there, like myself, who give up a lot of their spare time to help keep lower level football going. It's hard work, but the rewards are seeing your team playing on the best surface you know you can produce, especially when they win!
I will hopefully continue to be the Holmesdale Groundsman and will try to raise money for better equipment to make my life easier. If I get good enough I might try and get a full time job somewhere.
I really enjoy being a Groundsman, it's become a bit of an obsession for me (don't need to ask the wife about that!) as I am always looking at the Pitchcare website and magazine as they are excellent, especially the message board area, weather forecast and news items, it's a great way of accessing information I did not know existed. The message boards in particular, help me to look at the sort of problems and solutions that could affect my pitch.
For those of you interested in the club and perhaps giving Holmesdale a helping hand please take a look at http://www.holmesdalefc.co.uk/id14.html and perhaps give me a call.
Mark Hayes-Regional Groundsman of the Year
Some years ago the FA decided to recognise the contribution Groundsmen make to their club and launched "The FA Groundsman of the Year" awards.
Judges travelled the country, looking at pitches, equipment available, financial support and overall knowledge. They discovered that the standard ranged from top experts who really knew their stuff, to those doing their best with a limited budget and next to nothing in terms of machinery. All circumstances are taken into consideration when judging a ground.
Sir Trevor Brooking says of the awards "The outstanding contribution made by these people and the effort put into keeping the pitches in such excellent condition, all year round, make it possible for players of all standards to enjoy and improve their game. This award recognises the dedicated work done by the people who are out in all weathers, ensuring that thousands of games take place every weekend up and down the country. Their effort deserves every accolade."
Mark Hayes was first awarded the Kent Award and then named as the regional winner as well. Mark will now compete in the national award, which is awarded in September.