Sports turf management, especially at the collegiate and professional levels, can mean moving frequently, most often to take a higher-paying job. If you are considering relocating for work, here are three perspectives that might be of interest.
Abby McNeal, CSFM
Assistant Director of Parks
City and County of Denver
I was actively researching jobs of interest that would allow me to grow more in a leadership role and share my knowledge. I had wanted to get more into an administrative role and did not see that happening in my previous position (director of turf management for Wake Forest University). I was wearing lots of hats (and still am in Denver) but was truly confused about where my expertise was at. I realized that I loved sports turf and would like share what I know in that area as well as the facilities maintenance and field and building construction aspects that I have learned along the way.
I was also missing being closer to family and Colorado is “home” so it was natural for me to look there. I started my career in Parks and Recreation and thought that I would be able to share what I know and grow in the areas that I wanted to, so I focused on that area but in my job search I did not limit my options.
I thought about how this would affect my family and me. Being close with my sister and her family, and having life-long friends nearby would provide me support and great opportunities for my kids to experience. Nothing replaces family and most of my life-long friends are my family. Returning to where some of this extended family were was an easy thing. I already have seen my sister more since relocating than in the past 4 years I was away. My kids were excited to be near their aunt and uncle and cousins and embraced the chance to meet new friends.
We talked about it openly once I accepted the position and we worked together to make it good for all three of us. I addressed various concerns about how things would make it from point A to point B and we talked about what we might miss and what new things we might discover. I feel like I have very resilient twins (6 1/2 years old); we still talk about the friends we miss today and when we will see them again.
My main focus was on the excitement of what was ahead for all of us. I would not have to work as many weekends of late nights and we would be able to spend more time together doing fun things. As a result we are all submersed into various sports and activities that would have been a challenge had I not changed positions.
You asked what was important to my kids about the move… my son needed to understand how everything in the house was going to fit into the moving truck! They both dove in and helped pack things and understood how things would make it from “here to there.” They got to fly back while mom and the dog drove across country. I sent pictures along the way and they followed me via a map. Then they had to help unload things and set their rooms up. Just keeping them involved I think helped a lot.
I spent time asking myself what I really wanted and why I was searching. In the job changes that I have made I’ve learned that you leave one set of problems and inherit another set. The “grass isn’t always greener” but the view maybe a little better. Every job change has presented a new set of opportunities and challenges from which I have developed professionally.
If you chose to search for a new job or relocate take a 360 look at the entire picture. Again, things will not always be better just different. What are you leaving? What are you gaining? And how does this/that get you to where you want to be? It is not an easy process but fortunately for me I have lots of great friends that I came back to (and family) that support me no matter where I am at. Thankfully most of us have moved away from address books because I know I have worn out their pages with my address!
It’s always hard being the new person at any job. For me it is submersing yourself into getting to know people and establishing the relationships for the big picture/long haul. I at least have a good sense of directions so no matter which move I have made I could figure out the city! It’s an opportunity to explore and be open to adventure. The staff needed to have energy for a team environment and be able to have fun; after all, we get the best office around most days. Having a full understanding of the employer that you are going to is very important, so make sure and research them too. Remember during the interview process it’s a two-way street.
Assistant Sports Turf Manager
I was actively searching for an assistant sports turf manager position. In Ohio, I worked for an athletic field contractor; sometimes in that kind of business you don’t get to spend as much time perfecting one field since you are responsible for many fields.
I was concerned about leaving my family. Thankfully, they understood that this relocation and job was necessary for me to work toward my ultimate goal of becoming a head groundskeeper. I think anyone who is considering a relocation and new job should ask themselves if the new job will be a step up from their current position. Will it help you achieve your long-term goals? I think researching the city you will be living and working in is a good idea.
You need to know that you can fit into your new environment. Starting a new job is always stressful and adding relocation to the mix can be messy if you don’t prepare yourself. As I write this I’m only 2 weeks into my relocation. No matter how much you prepare yourself for it, it will be difficult. You’re going to miss your family and friends, but if you love what you do, and you know that this is the right step in your career, I don’t think you will regret it. My experience has been great with the Reno Aces. Everybody I have met and worked with are easy to work with and even easier to get along with. I am happy with my choice to relocate.
Manager of Grounds/Automotive
University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA
I moved across the country for a new job.
I wasn’t looking for a new job that October several years back nor did I have any idea in 3 months I would be living 3,000 miles away. My previous boss, who had hired me at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, had a Manager of Grounds position open at The University of Puget Sound. He had left 3 years earlier but we had stayed in touch and he even had his grounds manager at the new place contact me about some things over those years. A coworker and I called him to harass him about the opening we saw at his place. During that conversation, as he mentioned he didn’t think I would be interested in moving, it became clear to me that I might be. I bounced it off my wife and we both felt I had nothing to lose and if anything it would give me a chance to see a part of the country I had never seen.
I fell in love with the location as soon as I saw it and really clicked with some of the other staff and crew. The interview went well I thought and I just needed to see what they thought of me. In the mean time I sat down and made a list of pro and con issues that I felt were important to me. I admit I was disenchanted with running snow operations for years and wanted to gain my life back in the winter. I also had been infected twice with Lyme disease and was convinced I still suffered from its side effects. This list would change during the process but I needed to start somewhere:
Little or no snow Overcast rainy winters
No ticks, very few bugs Much smaller Campus
Free education for kids Already have free education for kids
Great growing conditions Unfamiliar with a host of plant material
Fresh start Leaving friends and family behind
New and different Could do job in my sleep (Groundhog Day!)
Life style change
When I heard that the job was mine if I wanted it and what the pay and benefits would be, we added this information to the list. The two biggest questions I kept asking myself were “Do I want to do what I’m doing right now for the next 10 years?” and “Would I regret not trying this?”
We were in a situation that my wife was also ready for a change in her career; she spent some quality time looking at homes, schools, and jobs in the area of the university. I have two children, one in middle school and the other in high school at the time, and we chose to keep the initial interview and process quiet until we knew more and had thought threw a lot of issue ourselves first.
When it became clear that this was something we may want to do we sat down and talked with the kids. Even though it was a decision my wife and I needed to make, we wanted them to have a voice in the process. One child was all for it, one was not; the concerns were normal, e.g., leaving friends and family, etc.
The last thing my wife and I did was to take a trip at our expense, wrapped into a small vacation we had planned, to go back out for her to see the area and meet the people. We then went on our vacation and made the decision.
One big issue after accepting the job was timing. My interview was at the end of October and I ended up living in Washington by the second week of January, roughly 14 weeks start to finish. I needed to be out in January to start getting the athletic fields ready for spring sports and we still needed to deal with packing and selling the house and the kids finishing the school year. The hardest day in my life was the day I drove off across country leaving my wife and kids behind and going to a place I knew little about and knowing only one person.
Biggest reasons to do it
We wanted a life change and felt we would have better opportunity if this worked. I wanted to move my career in a different direction and to have more freedom in what I did. Although the job was new, I knew who my boss was. We both knew our good and bad points and I didn’t have to worry that I wasn’t going to fit into his organization. I felt this was a huge plus with such a big change. I also felt I was respected enough that if it did not work I would be able to find a job back in New England.
Professionally I had many conversations with several trusted people in the industry to get their input and opinions. I wanted to hear their concerns and fears along with the benefits and possibilities. I chose not to do that with extended family members, as for me it was a decision for only my wife and kids to be involved with. I also believe that sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward and that can mean anything[DASH HERE]financial, title, position, etc.
What I learned
Moving across county sucks! Sell everything and buy new when you get there, it’s cheaper. That is not true for everything, but you really need to think about what’s important and what you can replace.
The USA is an amazing, beautiful country. I drove across it twice in 4 months and it was a humbling, trying, beautiful experience even with the minivan loaded with a wife, two kids, three cats and a rabbit.
I recommend not going back to where you moved from too soon; it opens up too many emotions. Live the adventure that it is first. All four of us hit home sickness at the 6-month mark. We now live in an area with many military families. I would compare what we went through to what our armed forces families go through; it always helped put things in perspective for me.
Professionally, it was hard to start fresh with all new vendors and suppliers again. It takes time to build up that group of people you count on when things need to get done but it’s time that needs to be invested in as the payback is well worth it.
More advice: embrace change but rely on your knowledge and experience; and, take advantage of the clean slate, both professionally and personally.
Reach out to fellow colleagues and educators in the area along with professional organizations to help. STMA, PGMS and ISA and their local chapters all helped in the transition for me.