At the recent SFMA Conference in Savannah, Ga., Victoria Wallace, extension educator, University of Connecticut; Jason Bowers, CSFM, Parks System in Maryland and VP of MASTMA; and Ben Polimer, fields and grounds coordinator, Town of Weston, Mass., presented a session titled “Understanding the Value of STMA’s Best Practices Document.” This presentation detailed the “Best Practices” document and discussed how these best practices advance the protection of the environment, support the sports field manager, and elevate the professionalism of the industry. SportsField Management magazine recently caught up with Wallace, Bowers and Polimer to discuss the BMP guide.
Q: You each had a hand in development of “Best Management Practices for the Sports Field Manager: A Professional Guide for Environmental Sports Field Management.” Can you provide some insight into what the process was like for development of this guide, and the team effort that went into bringing it to fruition?
A: The development of the document was an arduous process. The task force of 22 included members of [SFMA], Kristen Althouse from [SFMA] staff, and the person hired to “write” the document. Task force members were selected because of the sector of the membership they represented, a region of the country and/or a skill set.
We first met via conference call late December of 2019. The committee then met in-person at the 2020 STMA Conference in West Palm Beach, Fla., and discussed the direction of the document that we wanted to pursue, the timeline, and how we would complete the process. The rest of our meetings occurred virtually throughout 2020 into the early part of 2021. Once we determined what our chapters were to be, we divided into subcommittees to develop each chapter. Each task force member had at least two chapters to which they were “assigned” to participate. The subcommittees provided not only direction of a chapter, but also reviewed the chapter as it was being developed to make sure we captured all that it was intended to relay. Each subcommittee met multiple times to develop and review their assigned chapters – some weeks there were three different subcommittees meeting to discuss their respective chapters, and the review process took multiple weeks to complete.
Aside from subcommittee meetings, the task force met about four times throughout the process. With the completion of the document, we then convened [SFMA] members to “peer review” the document on its accuracy. The entire process took 15 months to complete.
Q: Your presentation session at the 2022 SFMA Conference was titled “Understanding the Value of SFMA’s Best Practices Document.” For those who were not able to attend or who have not yet seen your presentation, can you give us a brief oversight about that session and the topics covered?
A: The original intent of the presentation was to deliver the message about the value of the BMP with personal experiences relayed from the presenters. The document was originally released in April 2021, at the height of the spring season, and we certainly recognized that many did not have the time to review the document – and many are still unfamiliar with the document and the value it offers to our members. We used the session to provide historical context to the task force effort, and then we wanted showcase how we can use the document with comments from the panel, as well as answering questions from the audience.
Q: The BMP guide covers a wide range of topics (Planning, Design, and Construction; Turfgrass Establishment; Mowing; Nutrient Management; Irrigation; Cultivation and Surface Management; IPM; Pesticide Management; Sustainable Landscaping; Synthetic Turf; Maintenance Operations; and Emergency Preparedness), as well as the subtopics within those categories. What is your advice to sports field managers regarding how to use the guide and optimize this resource for their situation and/or their level of play?
A: First and foremost, all sports field managers need to take the time to review the document and feel comfortable with it. It is a tool that they should be able to use as a resource for themselves, as well have it available to reference when speaking with their administration, user groups, town constituents and legislators.
Sports field managers are the professionals – the experts; this document helps solidify the fact that they are dedicated to keep playing fields safe. The BMP guide supports their actions and management practices. It also helps to unify and clarify why sports field managers do what they do, regardless of whether the sports field manager is working for a municipality, a university or a professional facility.
Q: Obviously, various areas of the country have their own climates, turfgrass growing conditions, and pest management needs that may necessitate a dedicated regional approach. How can the national BMP document be adapted to meet regional needs?
A: In certain regions of the country, many [SFMA] members have been forced to adapt to laws made by legislators. We did not have this document to support our practices when challenged. The national document has been designed as a template that can be amended to support local state or regional concerns. Now, not only do we have a national document that supports us and provides insight as to what we do, but we have a good number of our chapters that have initiated or have completed their own chapter document. Inclusion of local laws can be specifically mentioned within the document whether in a chapter or added as an addendum.
The Mid-Atlantic chapter (MASTMA) was the first of the completed chapter documents, and it “personalized” the document for their geographical region through the inclusion of pictures, personal testimony and with reference to the regulations in place within that region.
Q: In general, what is your hope for how this guide – and the corresponding customizable template – will be used by industry professionals; and/or what do you think will ultimately be the benefits of widespread use of the BMP guide?
A: Widespread benefits related to the use of this guide include education and support of the sports field manager in many of his/her daily practices, as well as provide credibility and validate both environmental stewardship and the professionalism of the sports field manager to those outside the sports field management industry. The document can be used to educate staff, administration, user groups, town constituents and legislators. Sports field managers are professionals, trained with educational degrees, often credentialed with multiple certifications that direct or provide us with guidance about management practices that provide safe playing surfaces for recreational and professional use. As we all know, decisions about field care are not made on a whim; they are based on sound agronomic practices that protect our natural resources. The BMP document showcases our professionalism and dedication toward environmental stewardship.