Let’s hear it for STMA Chapter officers!

The Sports Turf Managers Association affiliated its first chapter more than 25 years ago, and now has 34 chapters throughout the US that represent more than 6,000 sports industry professionals. STMA believes that all agronomy is local, and its affiliated chapters serve a key role in delivering regional information. Chapters hold many educational events including field days, workshops at which they address relevant, topical issues. Every chapter has its officers and it is these dedicated volunteers that make the chapters go.

For years there was a chapter officer training session (known as “COTS”) at the annual STMA Conference, which is now more of a networking event. We asked some veteran chapter officers about their experiences:

Bruce Suddeth currently serves as the secretary for the South Carolina STMA chapter, and he has been an officer since the chapter’s inception in 2004. “The SCSTMA chapter early on wanted to know how more seasoned chapters ran their operations in regard to the business end, for example, to have or have not an executive director? Who would that person be? Who, what, and when newsletters would be relevant and what content would go in them? How do you get passionate volunteers for chapter officers and committees? All these questions were discussed and we’ve go through revisions in how we do things,” Suddeth said. “It’s always great to communicate with other chapters and apply what they have learned. Every state and chapter area is different and a lot depends on the chapter officers, board, and committees.”

Suddeth said the SC chapter has continued to be strong in serving on national committees, which in turn helps the chapter excel. “We’ve also worked closely with the NC chapter with joint meetings and our Southeast Regional Sports Turf Conference. Many of the lessons we apply have come directly from the NC/SC STMA chapter members being involved at the STMA national level.”

Ben Polimer is president-elect of the New England STMA chapter. “The most important thing I have learned is that networking with other chapter officers is really important to see how other chapters are running their organizations. It turns out we all have similar accomplishments and struggles,” he said.

“I feel the most important thing I learned as a new chapter officer was how to conduct a meeting (communicating) and what was involved in running a chapter,” Mike Tarantino, CSFM, and president of the Southern California chapter, said. “Everything else was a benefit like hosting events, retaining membership, and recruiting members. Every chapter does things a little different, however, we are all looking for a successful outcome. Listening to other officers express how they retain members, recruit members, and the types of events that they held were beneficial to me and in many cases served as a model of how to operate the SoCal chapter.”

Don Savard, CSFM, CGM, has been involved with the Sports Field Managers of New Jersey chapter for many years. “My becoming a Chapter officer was the result of showing up for and helping out at Chapter events. I began to interact with our Chapter’s Board of Directors, its members and commercial vendor sponsors. Together we worked on planning and producing successful Chapter events. I joined STMA. There I met new people and learned new things. The late Dr. Henry Indyk was our Chapter advisor and he encouraged me to become a CSFM in 2005. Soon, I was presenting at conferences and writing articles for publication. As my knowledge and skills developed, the quality of my sports fields improved. Just like an athlete moving up and playing at a higher level, I began to grow professionally in ways I never imagined. Most of all, I have learned the importance of doing the little things well,” Savard said.

Nick McKenna, CSFM, is treasurer of the Texas STMA. “I think the biggest thing that I’ve gathered from these events is that you’re not alone as a state chapter or as a chapter officer. There are numerous chapters and many of them are encountering the same successes and failures that we are. The great thing about STMA is that it not only helps to provide you with information and resources, but it also helps to create and build a network of your peers that you can utilize for ideas and assistance.”

Affect on careers

Troy Crawford is president of the Texas STMA. “In the short time that I have been involved I have had the opportunity to meet several new people in the industry. Having the opportunity to talk with these professionals and helping them with questions that they have has been quite rewarding,” Crawford said. “I enjoy sharing some of my knowledge with them and trying to glean some new knowledge from them.”

“I have met so many great people in New England being involved with NESTMA,” said Polimer. “I have been involved in NESTMA since 2006 and will be serving as President starting in August for a 2-year term. I don’t think I would ever be in my position with the Town of Weston without my participation in NESTMA. I have great relationships with commercial partners and fellow sports turf managers.”

Suddeth said, “USC Upstate has been extremely supportive to me serving as a SCSTMA officer. They have allowed me to do chapter business during work hours for several years. It helps bring more exposure and notoriety to USC Upstate through the STMA and SCSTMA. Being a chapter officer allows one to know all the inner business dealings with the chapter and I’ve made some fantastic contacts not only at the state level but the national level. I feel fortunate to have those contacts that can help our chapter reach the next level.”

McKenna said, “I think for me, serving as a chapter officer has benefited my career in a couple of ways. First off, it has helped connect me to other leaders in our industry (both locally and nationally) and help me to further build a network of my peers that I can use at anytime. We are all encountering a lot of the same issues, so it is very useful to be able to share and exchange our challenges and solutions with one another.

“The second way that being a chapter officer has helped my career is that it helped to prepare me to serve others. Whether that is through my job, the Texas STMA chapter, my local community or STMA at the national level, it has made me a better serving leader to others,” McKenna said.

“My career changed at the district from starting as the Grounds Supervisor to becoming the Director of Facilities,” Tarantino said. “My early involvement with COTS provided me with knowledge of how to work with BOD members, run a meeting at the work place and prepared me for dealing with Superintendent Cabinet meetings, public meetings, and school board meetings. Basically, dealing with conflict, leadership, and defusing conflict. All with clear communication.”

Chapter challenges

Savard said, “Chapters are made up of diverse people who have their own reasons for being members. As such, some become active members, others, not so much. Among the challenges I have faced was how to encourage the Chapter leadership to be cohesive, engaged and energized. We seem to compete with our past successes, but how do we stay relevant today? Another challenge is how to create and deliver value to both the membership and commercial vendor sponsors in a sustainable way.”

“Some challenges for us and what I have heard talking to chapters officers around the country: managing to have events throughout New England to serve our large geographical membership, trying to get members interested in committees and chapter board service and showing value in retaining your membership to chapters,” Polimer said.

Suddeth said, “There are many challenges and all of us chapter officers could probably write a book on them. Being a chapter officer takes dedication and commitment and with sports field managers demands it becomes difficult to obtain committed officers year in and year out. The SC chapter has been fortunate in having a great group of volunteers year after year to help guide the organization in what it is today.

“I will have to say that our sponsors and commercial membership is key in making our organization as strong as it is,” he said. “Our commercial members are out there every day on the road promoting the SCSTMA and that is what it takes to reach sports turf managers and get them involved with such a great organization,” Suddeth said.

Crawford said, “I think the major challenge here in Texas is just sheer size. We are a big state so trying to reach all of the different Regions and professionals is difficult. Our executive administrator does an amazing job coordinating and communicating with our board and chapter members, so that is extremely helpful! Another challenge is trying to show the young professionals that there is value in attending our field days. They are able to find a lot of information they are looking for through social media so they have a hard time seeing the value in being a local chapter member.”

Tarantino said, “I believe that the biggest challenges in any management role are: listening/make sure you heard what the person said/repeat; understanding/no ideas are crazy; communicating; action/no action/communicate; and follow through/communicate. This list could go on indefinitely, but these are my go to points when a decision needs to be made at any committee level meetings. To me it all starts with those five points.”

“I think each individual chapter has its own unique set of challenges although a lot of them overlap from region to region. Some of the biggest ones that I hear are recruitment and retention of members, organization/hosting events and field days, fundraising, and just overall association management. One of the biggest challenges that we face in Texas is just the sheer size and geography of our state and trying to maximize our membership numbers along with the locations and agenda for chapter events. We’re trying to grow our membership as much as possible and provide meaningful events for sports turf managers across all of Texas and that can be difficult when you consider the size of our state and all the different climates and demographic groups that we are trying to reach,” McKenna said.

Form a chapter

If you think you are ready to begin forming an STMA Chapter, or if you would like to discuss the possibilities of doing so, please call Kim Heck, the Chapter contact at STMA Headquarters (800-323-3875) for the basic background information to start you in the right direction.