The SportsTurf Interview: Dale Getz, CSFM, CSE

Dale Getz, CSFM, CSE, is long-time STMA member who currently is the sports turf sales manager for The Toro Company. Before joining Toro, Dale had been athletic facilities manager at Notre Dame for 17 years. Dale has served as the STMA’s Commercial Vice President, and in 1999 was honored by STMA with the Harry C. Gill Memorial Founders Award.

SportsTurf: You arguably are one of the most successful people in the industry who began their career working as a sports turf manager and now works on the commercial side of the business. Why did you want to work for Toro?

Getz: While I was perfectly happy at Notre Dame and truly enjoyed what I did, I came to a stage of my life where I was ready for new challenges and opportunities.  I had always used and was very impressed with Toro products, and was invited to attend one of their customer feedback forums. Afterward, I remember thinking it would be a great place to work. About a year later, at the STMA conference in St. Louis, I ran into one of the Toro sales managers who said there might be an opening in the newly created segment that we now call the Sports Fields and Grounds Business. I applied and after a few months of interviews, I was selected for the position.

SportsTurf: What are the biggest differences in the two jobs?

Getz: At Notre Dame, much of my job was agronomically technical. While I still use a lot of that knowledge in my current position at Toro, the day-to-day activities are much different. At Toro, my job is technical from a sales and marketing standpoint as it relates to products and benefits provided. I have learned a lot about managing relationships, acquisition strategies, managing travel and public speaking. That said, the hardest thing to get used to in my position is the travel, not only for me but also my family. While at Notre Dame I worked long hours and weekends but I was home most nights. Today, I’m gone about 3 out of every 4 weeks but I am home most weekends. The other big difference is that I do not have to worry about what Mother Nature is throwing at us.

SportsTurf: How has social media impacted your work?

Getz: Social media is definitely changing the way we communicate and share information. Its use is only growing among sports turf professionals as a way to stay connected, to share and to learn from others in the industry. For manufacturers these channels allow us to learn from our customers, share our knowledge, and answer questions to issues. And I know immediately when something I did was good or not so good.

SportsTurf: What are the biggest differences in sports turf management today compared to when you were working at Notre Dame?

Getz: This is an interesting question. When I left Notre Dame, I felt like the turf management business would zoom past me. While some things have, the general basics of good cultivation practices, efficiently managing nutrients and water resources, and using IPM to manage insects and diseases still adhere today. What has changed significantly are the options for fertilizers and chemicals, technologies for managing water use, and of course, equipment. On the equipment side, we are now in the age of hybrid technology, propane and biofuels, fuel savings, productivity and total cost of ownership.

SportsTurf: You know a lot of sports turf managers. What are they saying are the biggest obstacles to overcome for them to be successful today?

Getz: Probably the thing I hear most is, how to manage “up.” Dealing with coaches, user groups and upper management are things that are not taught in turf school.

SportsTurf: How has the STMA impacted your career?

Getz: I was a golf course superintendent at Notre Dame when I was asked to apply for the position in athletics. I told them I knew very little about sports turf but they felt my background in golf was enough. It was a tough transition but what helped was joining the STMA national organization, as well as the Midwest chapter out of Chicago. This was the best thing I ever did for my career. It put me in contact with many professionals around the country who I could contact at any time to learn and discuss issues I was having.

SportsTurf: How do you think the natural turf vs. synthetic turf issue will play out over the next decade?

Getz: First, I am a natural grass person so may be a bit biased here. At some point, I think there will be equilibrium between synthetic and natural grass. I don’t mean it will be 50% of one and 50% of the other in terms of numbers but that once this equilibrium is reached there will be a lot less conversion one way or the other. My hunch is that synthetic will probably go into places it should not be in and some of that will scale back and that some natural grass fields will get “squeezed out” by adding sports and land locked situations.

I also think there needs to be more research on the safety of the entire system. I also feel that improving the education of sports turf managers will help provide safe, playable and appealing fields. I also feel there needs to be better education of the general public as well as administrators on synthetic vs. natural systems. Finally, there needs to be improved communication between turf managers, administrators and user groups about the maintenance practices required by both types of turf systems.

SportsTurf: What are your passions and interests outside of work?

Getz: I really like woodworking, it keeps my mind and hands sharp.  Of course I like to fish and golf too—but who doesn’t?