By Daniel Fuller
A lot of work goes into making the playing field that your favourite team will play on next weekend look the way it does. Have you ever thought that you could be the person performing that job?
It’s easy to underestimate the skills needed to work in sports turf. If you think that putting “I’ve mowed my own lawn for 10 years” on your resume is going to cut it, you’re about to be sorely disappointed.
There is a lot more to it than just mowing, irrigating, pest and disease management, coring and de-thatching. A good ‘Turfie’ is able to anticipate weather conditions and act accordingly to ensure optimal playing conditions. They have an in-depth understanding of what the players expect from a sports field, and they can operate those fancy turf rollers that put the pretty patterns on the field.
If you live in Melbourne, it’s hard to look beyond AFL and cricket. But golf, lawn bowls, soccer, rugby league and rugby union, as well as a range of other sports, all have their own premier leagues where you can find work. You can quite literally travel the world as a turf expert, and it can be a dream job when you work at the top level on world-famous sports fields.
Just like arboriculture and viticulture, sports turf is a horticultural niche that takes years of education and practice to develop competency. Focusing on grass alone, rather than other plant types, means that a lot of what you learn about in a general horticulture qualification isn’t enough, but it will help you earn some Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and save time on your Certificate III in Sports Turf Management, which is the industry standard qualification.
I had the pleasure of interviewing TAFE NSW Sports Turf teacher Dave Little on my podcast, and he recommends that an apprenticeship is the best pathway. Sure, you can study Sports Turf off your own back while you study or take a lower wage as an apprentice, but your employer pays for your studies which means you’re better positioned once you become fully qualified without any student loans to repay.
He also said that many of his students start with a passion for their own turf at home, and fall into a rabbit hole that leads them into a Turf Management career. Turf can be quite addictive, and it’s only natural to continue the path of turf excellence once you’ve taken the first few steps.
As Aussies, we love our sport, and there’s a good chance that you grew up playing at least one. Working in this sector means that you can stay connected to the game in a meaningful way in your career, even if you’re not likely to make it as a professional athlete.
Marcus Saddington, another recent podcast guest of mine, spoke about his experiences working at Marvel Stadium and his career progression to where he is now as an operations manager for GLG Greenlife Group. As long as you’re striving for best practices and networking within the industry, that’s a great career pathway to look forward to beyond your apprenticeship.
Let’s face it: you’re probably never going to get rich in Sports Turf Management, unless you make it into the big leagues, so to speak. But that’s nothing new for us horticulturists and landscapers anyway, is it?
Just like in most areas of horticulture, there’s currently a skills shortage for Sports Turf professionals. If you’re an outdoors-type of person, and you’ve got the passion and the drive to pursue a career in Sports Turf, consider finding an employer that will invest in your apprenticeship. Check my bio below for a link to my job board.
M: 042 6169 708
\Main photo: Working in Sports Turf Management you can stay connected to a sport you love (Image: Pexels, Pixabay)