By John Kmitta

STMA recommends utilizing the Playing Conditions Index (PCI) to assess the playability of your natural grass fields. According to STMA, the data gathered through the instrument will provide excellent insight into the readiness of your fields’ playing surfaces and your athletes return to play post-COVID-19. The instrument addresses the complexities involved in conditioning sports fields for safety, playability and fan enjoyment. Information from the PCI should be shared with administrators, coaches and athletic directors. It will provide a basis for your joint decision-making regarding play.

Mike Tarantino, CSFM, was on the original task group that developed the Playing Conditions Index in 2008. He said the PCI originally came about when the STMA Board of Directors hired a public relations company to increase the visibility of the association and the sports field managers’ expertise of their playing fields.

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“The PCI was originally developed as a tool to gain attention to promote professionalism for the sports field manager,” said Tarantino. “The PCI would draw attention to what we do, how we do it and why we do it.”

According to Tarantino, the original PCI was a simple tool to use but left room for a lot of subjectivity. “You really needed to be honest with yourself when filling in the data on the sheet,” he said. “It soon morphed. New technologies were being developed – new products, new equipment, etc. There were better ways to do what we were doing. The PCI added categories to incorporate many of those new technologies, products and equipment.”

Tarantino added that the PCI provided sports field managers with a tool that could be used when addressing the media, the public, coaches, management and staff.

“The PCI gave me the flexibility to write notes on, for instance, products used, time of year, and weather conditions,” he said. “By using the PCI, I could determine how products performed based on the time of year, weather conditions and staff utilized. This is vital information when making budget decisions and purchasing of products, and staff development for the following year. My PCI was a scribbled mess (organized to me) but those notes were invaluable. You still need to be honest in your evaluation.”

According to STMA, the PCI captures STMA members’ knowledge and expertise of turfs and grasses, the effects of weather, proper maintenance and care, as well as other factors affecting field-playing conditions. The PCI packages and presents the members’ expert evaluation of the field in a concise and easy-to-understand manner. The PCI allows STMA members to provide relevant information to the media and become a consistent provider of this information.

“The PCI has been an essential tool to not only ensure an athletic field’s safety and playability, but also a valuable resource in demonstrating the complexities needed to maintain high-quality playing surfaces,” said Travis Stephen, sports field manager, Park District of Oak Park (Ill.).

Tarantino recommends using the PCI four times or more per year. “Using the PCI on that frequency allows you to determine the playability of your sports fields, determine what type of renovation you may opt to do, determine if what you did to your sports field previously worked, any in-season renovations, product evaluation and needed staff development,” he said.

“The first time I saw the PCI score was on my FOY application, and I found it to be a great overall tool to see the current stance of the field,” said Andy Ommen, sports turf manager, McLean County (Ill.) PONY Baseball. “We get caught up on each individual part of the field, and this tool brings it all together into a good overall rating. It helps point out the areas of the field you need to focus on for improvements.”

Ommen added that the PCI worksheet forces the sports field manager to look at every aspect of his or her field. “I know it forces me to go out and pay attention to some of the minor details that get overlooked,” he said. “I have also used it with my board of directors to show them areas of our playing services we can improve upon.”

According to STMA, the PCI makes field conditions a more easily referenced and more precise piece of information for use by the media and other communication professionals. It will also help to establish STMA as the acknowledged expert and provider of playing conditions data, and “institutionalize” STMA in the minds of the media as an important contributor to the success of sporting events.

The PCI also adds value to STMA membership through increased exposure of the organization and by establishing STMA as an organization that actively involves and promotes its members.

Interpreting and sharing the data is huge, said Tarantino. The more data you add to the PCI only helps your decision-making process. 

“The data would assist me in the budgetary decisions, staff development, addressing my supervisor concerns from the public and the media,” he said. “The PCI is a professional report that shows the sports field manager’s expertise in the field and his/her decision-making process.

“I cannot overstate the importance of the PCI as it pertains to staff development,” Tarantino added. “How many times have we thought we selected the best staff members to perform a renovation only to see that the expected results where not met? Is it possible we selected the wrong staff members to perform the task or that the sports field manager failed to relay the expected results or did not train the staff properly? Communication is paramount to having success.”

According to Tarantino, the PCI provides a tool for a proper field assessment; however, it is up to the sports field manager to take the PCI to the level he or she wants by adding notes that pertain to the specific sports field being assessed, and using the data to provide a safe and aesthetically pleasing sports field.

“The Playing Conditions Index is a great way to look at your field each year and lets you look back at previous years to see where you have come and where you need to be,” said Lee Clinton, CSFM, sports turf manager, Clover School District (Clover, S.C.). “Using the PCI allows us to notice things we can improve on that we wouldn’t see without the PCI.”

John Kmitta is associate publisher/editorial brand director of SportsField Management.

[Editor’s Note: For more information about the PCI, or to download the PCI form, visit https://www.stma.org/knowledge_center/stma-playing-conditions-index-pci/]

PCI Media Advisory Bulletin

STMA encourages sports field managers to use the PCI Media Advisory Bulletin and work with their media departments on providing game day field conditions to their fans and other constituents. 

PCI Media Advisory Bulletin instructions and guidelines

• If you do not already have a relationship with your sports information director and/or local media, be sure to introduce yourself and begin building a professional relationship.

• Prior to beginning the program, it is recommended that you have a short conversation with your sports information director in regards to the Playing Conditions Index and what it entails.

• It is recommended to set a specific time aside each week for the completion of the PCI; this will make it much easier to prepare the media advisory.

• The media advisory should be completed the day of an event several hours prior to game time. In many cases sports information directors release “game day notes” with specific references to current weather, temperature, injuries, etc., an hour or so prior to game time. The advisory will need to be completed and given to a member of the sports information office in time to be included in these “game notes.”

• To fill out the STMA PCI Media Advisory Bulletin

– Note the venue, time, date, and what sport is to be played on the field.

– Transfer the corresponding number from the PCI Worksheet to the Media Advisory (5 – Excellent, 4 – Above Average, etc.).

– Indicate how the performance of the field will affect the performance of the athletes using the surface.

– In the comments section of the advisory, make note of specific conditions affecting the field including weather, temperature, amount of precipitation received, etc.

– Provide the STMA PCI Media Advisory Bulletin directly to the public relations or marketing arm of your athletic department or organization.

• Although there is not a PCI assessment for synthetic surfaces, there is a section in the Media Advisory Bulletin for synthetic surfaces. This is to allow members who manage synthetic fields an opportunity to provide information to the media on how the field is playing based on temperature, precipitation, age of the field, etc.

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