Advancing the field management profession one word at a time

Think about the word “TURF.” It has been used to describe natural grass and synthetic surfaces. This ubiquitous practice of using it to describe both surface types confuses everyone—the public, the athletes, and decision-makers. We need a universal definition. Definitions allow us to have a common understanding of a word or subject.

“TURF” does not provide clarity around the type of field surface that will be played on, viewed by fans, and maintained by sports field managers.

The STMA Board of Directors worked with the Information Outreach Committee in 2018 to define for our profession this important terminology regarding field surface type. They also worked with the Synthetic Turf Council, the trade association that advocates for the synthetic industry. This issue is so important that it is an objective specifically included in STMA’s 2018-2020 strategic plan.

Moving forward, in STMA’s external communications, we will refer to our turfgrass fields as “natural grass fields” and to artificial surfaces as “synthetic turf fields.” We ask that you to do the same.

As the leaders in sports field management, the term “natural grass” is key to re-solidifying the importance of natural playing surfaces. After all, 99% of our members manage one or more natural grass fields. That being said, 47% of STMA members also manage one or more synthetic surfaces in their inventory, according to the most recent STMA Compensation and Benefits Report. STMA recognizes the utility of both surface types to our membership, and we provide continuing education and information on managing both. Safety of athletes—no matter what type of surface—has always been the number one priority for STMA members. 

Within academic institutions and technical resources, the word “turfgrass” or “turfgrass systems” will, of course, continue to be used.

We encourage you to adopt the nomenclature of “natural grass fields” and “synthetic turf fields.” If you find the word “turf” in use, help us educate our non-technical audiences, parents, coaches, athletic directors, and other, to better understand the types of playing surfaces and how to accurately reference them.