A Plea for Funding Assistance
By Chris Charles
Many people will know me for looking after Non League football pitches. I have done this for a number of years and have often done so on a shoestring budget.
As I have stated recently, I used to live and breathe football, both watching and playing. Unfortunately my own footballing days were brought to a premature end through constant injuries, injuries that were often exacerbated by surfaces that were inadequate to say the very least.
Within a few years of not playing I got hooked on the art of Groundsmanship. As someone who works for a local authority, it gave me an opportunity to obtain hands on experience by maintaining bowling greens, cricket tables, hockey pitches, football pitches, golf courses etc.
I was asked how I felt about attending a course on Sportsturf and Greenkeeping. I jumped at the chance. Primarily to get back into adult education but also expanding my knowledge of the subject.
Things progressed from there. Over the next few years I really got into the education side of things and was asked to work on one of our municipal golf courses. I did this and was part of a team that made improvements to the course. I was then asked to be part of a team that would re-construct our other golf course. This was a tremendous experience for me as it gave me an insight into drainage methods, sand construction, and irrigation installation.
Throughout this time I did various NVQ's up to level 4, along with the IOG's National Intermediate Diploma. This was the clincher for me as the course went into the subject more deeply. All that I had been learning was being put into practice on a daily basis.
After sending a letter to the Head Groundsman at the time (Tony Eden ) at Villa Park, I was grateful to get a response asking me if I could help out on match days. Things developed from there. I began to feel that just because I couldn't play anymore, there was no reason why I couldn't give something back to football.
I began actively looking for employment within this industry of ours. I soon began to make more contacts with people who looked after football pitches. Mr Dave Saltman, Managing Director of this innovative Pitchcare site, was a big influence. He gave me the opportunity to help out on many occasions with what he did as Head Groundsman at Wolves and Northampton. I got to know and visit more of our peers who are widely respected in this industry. Most having either won or been nominated for the Groundsman Of The Year award.
More recently I responded to an advert in a local newspaper asking for a Groundsman to look after a Non League football pitch. On attending the interview I was asked what qualifications and experience I had. The rest is pretty much history. From that moment I developed a passion for improving these surfaces for all that use them. Both in terms of player enjoyment as well as safety.
I continued to take on courses that were relevant in my main local authority job and also the groundsmanship side of things. These included supervisory/management and health and safety courses. For a short time I was involved with training and gained an assessors award. I was asked to give talks on turf maintenance to our in house NVQ students. Although a little nerve wracking at the time, the experience was great.
The golf course that I worked on at the time had to close down because of lack of funding. This was a sad time for me as it meant my daily 9 to 5 job, as it were, was not to be involved in turf maintenance. At least I still had the football side of things to keep me going.
This is where I get to the point of the title of this article.
In the last few years it seems that "Grass Roots" football has come to the fore. It has been realised that we have to help the "lower level" pitches to improve. We need to make these improvements if we are to improve our "David Beckham's" of the future. I wanted to be a "David Beckham". However, poor surfaces played a major part in bringing my time in football to an early end. I feel so passionate about this.
Recently, I saw an article on the Pitchcare site that advertised an On Line Sportsturf Degree at a college in the north of England. After making initial enquiries, I felt a surge of passion that this was just the course for me. Due to the fact that I have both full and part time jobs, it is difficult for me to gain a qualification in the normal way of attending a college. Being On Line means that I can use the Internet to further my knowledge and gain experience along the way. There are plenty of avenues to explore regarding practical, hands on stuff too. There are many people out there with similar circumstances. It is fantastic to see that there are people who want to cater for our needs. Technology is advancing at a tremendous rate and we need to grasp this.
The downside from my point of view is that the course is not cheap. I have looked at ways and means of funding and would ask anyone reading this if they can offer any guidance. Whether it be information on where to get funding from or even sponsorship to help with the payment of the course.
If anyone can help me in this matter then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively contact me at 07977 247623.The football industry is a massive industry. I have always wanted to be a part of it in some way. There seems to be technical advances on a near daily basis. This course and others like it may go a long way in keeping people like myself up to date with these advances. People who may not otherwise be able to do so unless they are already a part of it in their own 9 to 5 jobs.