From Horse to Petrol
By Clive Liddiard
The year is 2003 and groundsmen everywhere are hearing some fateful words like:-
- This rain must be doing wonders for the ground
- The driest June since 1976 and the hottest
- Roll the wicket for at least 20 hours
- Never needed all those new fangled gadgets in our day
- How much! My garden only uses a few pounds worth
- Can you get me three quotes for the next meeting
- Things are a bit tight at the moment
So, let's start at the top. Yes, the rain would be doing wonders for the ground, but do you realise the next statement contradicts the first?
Is it really the hottest and driest since 1976? I would never had noticed, being out in it all day every day. Mind you that is very important information for me to bear in mind for my next report!
I would roll my wicket for 20 hours if you can tell me exactly why I need to roll it for that long. Ah, it said so in a book did it?
New fangled gadgets! And what about your colour telly, video, toaster, computer? Do you have a machine that you have so far only managed to switch on and, when it beeped, you turned it off? And you must have a kettle. Oh, an electric one at that! Point made! Yes, I will call you later on your mobile!
So you don't mind if I bring 22 blokes around for a kick about on Saturday and Sunday, and any other time to raise a few quid. Now don't forget to let the kids in from the estate and, one last thing, you need to damage your back fence to complete the picture. By the way, mind those needles and those discarded bottles of lager, they usually don't contain what they started out with.
Three quotes? No problem. Have you got the other suppliers numbers? Oh, you have? In your mobile? But you can't get them out as you forgot to charge your battery last night? I'll just see what I can come up with then, as I have so much free time!
And my comment on the last one? Are things ever any different?
So, have I just had a bad meeting and I'm letting off steam? No. Am I just writing a comedy piece? No. What I am trying to do is make a point.
We all work in an industry that has, in the most part, line managers that do not know what we do or why we do it. As such, all they see is a department continually drawing funds for cutting grass.
Should the Grounds Department be responsible for training its own line managers in our industry? Well, yes it should. Whether it be an old Head or a university graduate, they need to understand why we need funding.
You do not pay out £20,000 on a new car without knowing exactly what it can and can't do. You certainly would not buy it just because someone at work said it was a really good car. Well I hope that you wouldn't!
You would read reviews, take it for a test drive, you would grill the salesman and, at the end of it all, you would shop around for the best price. You would shop around even if you were a personal friend of the salesman, just to make sure.
Yet some Groundsmen just walk in and say I want and, only occasionally, with a very quick why they want it.
A word keeps coming to mind - communication. Yes, I know what some of you are thinking but, as a modern industry, we must start to communicate and pass on an understanding of what we do. It is very surprising to see how many line managers become quite interested when they realise it could be of benefit to them. So, word it well and, who knows, you might get lucky.
As an alternative, buy your boss a T-shirt with Chairman of the Greens written on it, and ask him/her to attend the local golf committee. Let them see what it's like in the firing line. It's known as a steep learning curve!
The grounds industry has moved on so much in the last twenty years and, inevitably, some people have been left behind. Even some very good Head Groundsmen. But, don't think they are ignorant or that they don't give a hoot, perhaps they just do not know or understand yet.
Just remember how your kids look at you when you can't programme the video or can't use a PC or a mobile phone to their full potential.
If all else fails, then just remind them that most machines are now driven by petrol not horses.