The SportsTurf Interview: Neil Hosick

This month in “The SportsTurf Interview,” we meet Neil Hosick, Facilities Coordinator for the City of Hermitage in Pennsylvania, which is north of Pittsburgh, close to the Ohio border. For someone with a job title of “coordinator” he sure has a lot on his plate:

SportsTurf: What are your current responsibilities?

Hosick: My official title is Facilities Coordinator for the City of Hermitage. I am responsible for all building and grounds maintenance for our Municipal Building, eCenter (which is our Business Incubator, Training and Workforce Development Building), Linden Pointe Innovative Business Campus, Hermitage Athletic Complex and all other park buildings and structures. These responsibilities include all HVAC, electrical, plumbing, painting, phone and building access related items. The grounds responsibilities include all maintenance-related items for our parks and sports fields. The sports fields located at our Hermitage Athletic Complex include one minor league baseball field, two softball fields, one multi-purpose field (soccer/football) and we broke ground on another multi-purpose field in the fall of 2018. Additionally, we assist our neighbors, the Hermitage Little League, with weekly mowing and infield maintenance.

Another field I manage is the Rodney White multi-purpose field. This is located near our local high school and our municipal building. There are other, smaller practice facilities and parks located throughout our city as well. I manage the fertility programs for all sports fields along with scheduled mowing, infield maintenance, trash and all other field-related items.

I oversee capital projects that include upgrades to our phone systems, A.V., software upgrades, electrical and HVAC at various city facilities, storm water basin maintenance projects across the city, new field construction and annual fall renovation projects on all of our athletic playing field facilities.

I also oversee a full time staff of four and a part-time staff of four.

ST: How did you first become involved in Sports Turf Management?

Hosick: I began my turf career in the golf industry when I was 16 years old. I always enjoyed working outside and was offered the opportunity work on a local public golf course. After a few summers of working there, I moved up to a more exclusive private club. Then, while in college, I interned at another exclusive country club in Cleveland. Though a great opportunity, I decided I wanted to move on from the golf industry and give landscape construction a try. Several years after, while I really enjoyed working in landscape construction, I accepted an opportunity to work for a stream and wetland construction company. After 10 years in landscaping, I was offered the opportunity to oversee the facilities, parks and sports fields in my community. This afforded me the opportunity to get back to my roots and begin working again in the sports turf industry. Managing the different sports fields at all of my facilities is enjoyable because each field comes with its own unique challenges.

ST: How did you first become involved with STMA?

Hosick: I became a member of the STMA in the spring of 2012. That was when I began to take over all building and grounds responsibilities for the city. Our sports fields at the time needed some serious attention. I began doing research on what products I needed for infield maintenance and other turf maintenance; and after discussing with colleagues and sales persons, they suggested I become a member of the STMA. I researched it and decided it would be a great opportunity to connect with peers in the turf industry who have similar positions as mine. I always like to run projects by people who have been in similar situations in the past. It is nice to get a second opinion prior to jumping into a larger project. Being a member of the STMA has helped with recognizing on what our community has to offer and why we feel so strongly in investing in the upkeep of our facilities.

ST: You are preparing for the CSFM exam: why did you decide to seek certification and how have you found the preparation?

Hosick: I believe becoming a Certified Sports Field Manager sets managers apart from the rest in this line of work. I always strive to push my staff and myself to a higher level, setting high standards that most would never think possible. One should never stop striving to improve. The process of becoming certified is ultimately the point of desiring the certification; honing the necessary skills to ensure excellent results.

ST: What specific challenges do turf managers at the Parks and Rec level face that differ from your peers in other STMA membership categories?

Hosick: Many of the challenges I deal with that differ from those in other disciplines is the input from the public, be it community members, coaches, or parents from the various sports groups. Many people do not fully understand why managers value turf the way we do. Therefore, I make sure I take the time to explain why I make the decisions I do regarding field usage. While in season, I do my best to keep the league presidents informed of field conditions, both infield and outfield. It is important to me that I communicate why a certain section of a field is closed or why the infield is playable and not the outfield. Once I communicate this in a professional manner they better understand my position as I protect the field. They see the difference between our local fields that are well cared for, compared to others that are not. Working with the community in such a way requires a level of public relations that I wasn’t used to in previous positions. However, now that I take the time to educate interested parties, I see the benefits through the positive feedback from the community.

Of course, some will always believe that what we do in our profession is just “grass cutting.” In the parks and rec world, we may not have the budget of a professional facility, but we do value the knowledge and effort it takes to keep the fields in top shape. When you do it well, turfgrass management is a profession carried out through science-based practices. Our efforts are proactive, not reactive.

ST: How has social media impacted your work?

Hosick: Social media has forced me, more than ever, to pay close attention to the details both inside and outside of my facilities. Many people today use social media as a means to point out something wrong, something out of place, or about staff working on a project and they quickly jump to conclusions. If someone notices an alleged problem, they take a quick photo and will post it, telling a one-sided story. One of the areas I would like to work on is using social media to inform the community of projects or field closures due to wet conditions. I feel a social media platform, if used responsibly, can be an effective tool in building communication between myself, coaches, league presidents and the community.

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

Hosick: My first passion outside of work is spending time with my family. I have a son who is 11 and a 9-year-old daughter. My wife and I really enjoy being a part of their extracurricular activities, which include golf and flag football for our son, and cheerleading for our daughter. We also enjoy swimming in our pool. I am a hands-on type of person so I always have a home project. I really enjoy working on restoring my home and pool house. Landscaping and woodworking are a great way for me to de-stress because I don’t get to do many hands-on tasks at work. Other interests include 60’s and 70’s muscle cars, and most recently, riding my BMX bike at indoor and outdoor pump tracks and bike parks. Yet another great way to de-stress. I used to ride BMX bikes as a kid and now getting back into it as an adult brings back a lot of great memories…and it’s a good workout, too.