It started with a Chris. Or, to be more precise, a Christina Aradipiotis, the Managing Director of CMS Training Centre in Cyprus, who had been searching for a company to supply a formally accredited training course on the maintenance of synthetic sports pitches for the grounds team responsible for the British Forces' facilities on the island.
A call to Pitchcare, followed by a few days of email correspondence and the exchange of references, and we were well on the way to organising a November date for the Lantra accredited course. "There may be one slight issue," mentioned Christina, just as we were finalising our arrangements, "because of the current high alert situation, the course will have to be run at our training centre in Limassol, and not on the Sovereign Base Area."
Slight pause in the conversation. "So, the instructor won't be able to see the synthetic pitch or take the trainees onto it to discuss specific issues?" I responded. "That's correct," said Christina, "but we can send you some images."
Hasty discussion with Martin Sampson, our senior instructor based in the south of England, who decided that, with the images and our own materials, plus the first-hand knowledge of the trainees, he was confident of being able to deliver the course.
So, the deal was done, flights booked and Martin was on his way. Little did he know that not being able to get onto the pitch surface would be the least of his problems!
Martin continues the story: "On arrival at Paphos airport, my partner, Sarah and I were welcomed with sunny weather and temperatures in the mid-70s, a totally different proposition to the autumnal conditions we had when we departed from Gatwick. We collected the hire car and commenced our 60km drive through the picturesque mountains and arrived at out hotel in Limassol, positioned a short stroll away from the beach.
After checking in, we felt compelled to try out the local beer, Keo, and to sample the local food, which we thoroughly enjoyed throughout the duration of our short stay. After a good night's sleep, the training day had arrived and, after a good breakfast, I made my way down to meet Christina and Elena at the CMS Training Centre in the centre of Limassol.
The Training Centre was fully equipped with impressive training and canteen facilities, and I was taken to the training room where I was to deliver the course.
The twelve delegates were already at the Centre, and they were very keen to start the course as soon as possible, so they could finish earlier (typical groundsmen)!
Christina advised me she would conduct the formal introductions to the Centre for the delegates, along with safety induction and the housekeeping for the day. I was very happy for her to take the lead as it was my first visit to the Centre so I, too, required the same induction as the delegates.
Christina took centre stage and, initially, she spoke to the delegates in Greek. At this point, I was waiting for a swift change to English, as I was under the impression, as a result of initial arrangements with Pitchcare, that all the delegates were English speaking... How wrong I was!
When Christina had completed the introduction, the Grounds Manager of the group, Maria Michaelidou, had a very brief conversation, in Greek, with Christina.
I sensed things were not quite what we had anticipated and, it was at this point, I was told by Christina; "We have an interpretation problem; we hadn't realised a translator would be needed (I thought it was my Welsh accent!)." It came to light that only one of the delegates, Maria, could speak fluent (ish) English!"
At this point, my heart missed several beats and I thought to myself, is this a set up? Whilst thinking to myself, "When is the next flight home?." Christina advised me that three other delegates could speak some "very small English" so, the eight remaining delegates were only able to to speak Greek. Christina then left the room and it was down to me to deliver our first LANTRA Synthetics Surfaces course in Cyprus!!
It was 8.45am, I took several deep breaths and thought; "Well, if I last until the tea break at 10.45am, it will be a miracle. I feared I would not last to the lunch break, scheduled at 12.45pm."
Having to think on my feet I, somewhat surprisingly, managed to deliver the course with the assistance of the delegates who spoke some English. We undertook a number of practical exercises to enable me to deliver the course fully, by allowing the Greek speakers to relay their answers to the English speaking member of their group. Additionally, I was glad that Laurence from the Pitchcare office had supplied me with a selection of photos which were a great part of the course. (It made me think…was Loz aware they were all Greek?)
I am pleased, and relieved, to say that the course was a success and the delegates thoroughly enjoyed it. I most certainly learned a lot from a trainer's point of view. At the conclusion of the course, I was kindly invited to visit the RAF Akrotiri and Episkopi Garrison, specially arranged by Maria. It was something I thought would not happen because of the security situation.
The morning I spent visiting the synthetic facilities on the bases is something I will always remember. I would like to thank Christina and Maria for making the whole trip a memorable experience."
Author: Martin Sampson, Pitchcare Senior Training Instructor.