In this edition of the SportsField Management Interview, we meet Elliott Josephson, sports facilities superintendent for the City of Ankeny (Iowa). Josephson holds a 2-year AAS degree in Golf Course and Athletic Turfgrass Management from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He served on the Iowa Sports Turf Managers Association Board of Directors from 2015-2018, having served as president in 2017. In 2016 his facility received the STMA’s Environmental Facility Certification. Since 2019, Josephson has served on Iowa Turfgrass Institute Board of Directors. In January 2020, he was recognized as the 2019 Iowa Sports Turf Manager of the Year.
SportsField Management (SFM): Please tell us about Prairie Ridge Sports Complex, how many fields you manage, your crews, and your typical duties (under normal circumstances).
Josephson: PRSC is 132-acre youth sports complex with 36 baseball, softball, soccer, football and lacrosse fields. Playing fields are about 45 acres. Crew is two full-time, year-round staff; seven, nine-month seasonal staff; and 20 to 25 high school/college kids to work on the weekends. Normal office duties include hiring/training/overseeing staff, managing relationships/scheduling of our five club groups plus outside tournaments and overseeing budget and capital improvement funds. I’m considered a “working manager” in the field, so duties include everything from irrigation and fertilizer to mowing to field prep on baseball/softball fields or painting soccer/football/lacrosse fields or aerating fields.
SFM: What attracted you to the sports field management industry?
Josephson: In high school and college I worked in lawn care, and in college we started taking care of the owner’s high school fields. I enjoyed making the fields look good for the game. I had friends enrolled in golf course turfgrass management programs, so I decided to switch my major to that. I always enjoyed working outside doing manual labor, and I like baseball and football, so I thought it would be fun as a career.
SFM: What would you say are the biggest accomplishments of your career and/or what are you most proud to have achieved?
Josephson: This past offseason, I was nominated by a peer/good friend for Iowa Sports Turf Manager of the Year, and was humbled to be given that award from the ISTMA Board of Directors at our annual state conference.
SFM: What are the biggest challenges you face (or have faced), and what advice do you have for other sports field managers when it comes to facing similar challenges?
Josephson: Over-usage and sharing of fields. A lot of our fields are used for multiple sports. For example, as soon as baseball is over, the outfields on five fields are turned into football fields, so there is no offseason. With adding lacrosse, three of the football fields now are used in the spring and summer when they used to not have any events. Also, we are redoing one soccer field a year, which we have moved all games and practices from that field to another football field.[In terms of advice,] control what you can. For us, the fields are over-used, but when we do have a break, they recover. We just try and do what we can to keep them in the best playing condition that they can be, and safe for the youth that are using them. Also, try to manage your work and personal time the best you can. Our jobs require us to work a lot of hours due to game schedules, weather, field maintenance and staffing, but sometimes you just have to walk way and take a weekend off. Spend time with your family and enjoy your hobbies. This is something I still struggle with, but have got better at just walking away at the end of a workday and going home knowing that the work will still be there tomorrow.
SFM: Who are your mentors, and what is the best advice you received during your career?
Josephson: My dad, Jerry Josephson. He got me interested in turf and taught me what a good work ethic was. He taught me how to do things right the first time and to always do my best. He and I still talk turf and field maintenance every time we are together. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for him and his work ethic. Another would be my first employer in sports turf, Chris Schlosser, head groundskeeper for the triple AAA Iowa Cubs. When I was first getting into sports turf, I was lucky to be hired by Chris and learn from one of the best. 15 years later, he and I still have a great relationship, and I know I can go to him with any ideas or questions.
SFM: Your facility achieved STMA’s Environmental Facility Certification. What does it mean to you to be recognized for your environmental sustainability and stewardship, and what advice do you have for other field managers with regard to achieving this certification?
Josephson: I am proud to have the certification, and we try and make sure people know that we are certified. We have banners hanging around the complex so users/visitors know about the certification. If nothing else, it helps let people know that we are trying to do it the right way. Our industry is always being watched by the public, and whatever we can do to show that we are responsible and doing things the right way will help us to be looked at as professionals.
SFM: What is the best part about being a member of STMA?
Josephson: I enjoy the social media relationships/followings that I have, going to national conference and meeting/hearing other sports field managers talk about their facilities, and then being able to follow them and see what they are doing. There are so many ideas and good information shared among each other on social media.