The Tennessee Valley Sports Turf Managers Association (TVSTMA) established an “Excellence in Sports Turf” award to recognize the efforts of sports turf managers in the region who maintain high-quality athletic field surfaces. The first recipient of this award is Dustin Wilson, athletic director and head football coach of Springfield High School in Springfield, Tenn. TVSTMA interviewed Wilson following the award announcement:
TVSTMA: Tell us about yourself and the turfgrass you manage.
Wilson: I am currently the AD and head football coach at Springfield High School. This is my seventeenth year in education as a business teacher, coach and athletic director. I was raised in Robertson County, and grew up in the hay and tobacco fields on a family farm. I am now proudly working at the school from which I graduated from in 1998. In 2017, our on-campus stadium was built. The surface was installed by Ryan Moriarty with SportsTurf and provided by Tri-Turf Sod in Paris, Tenn. We have a practice field as well. I continue to use it as a “farm” for repair, but it receives but much more traffic being a practice field.
TVSTMA: What led you to turfgrass management?
Wilson: Athletics/coaching – I have been involved with sports my whole life. I can remember every uniform I have ever worn. I can remember every field I played on. I want people to remember Springfield Football when they visit. Whether in person, clips in the paper, on social media or on a TV broadcast, everyone is looking at the field. I want it to be the best. With those desires and the lack of resources we have in public education and education-based sports specifically, I had to learn a lot. I had to lean on a lot of experts. I raised tobacco, corn, hay, tomatoes, so now I had to learn about grass.
TVSTMA: What is most rewarding about the position?
Wilson: Hearing and/or seeing our players treat it like the staff does. The comments, the identity, the pride they have in the field. It spreads in the community. Not to the degree of spreading that I strive for, but the boys take pride in it and is enjoyable.
TVSTMA: What is most challenging about the position?
Wilson: Time management – it is another job that we are not reimbursed appropriately for. I am a teacher, a coach and an athletic director. When you add field maintenance, it is tough to balance and manage your time. Our players help us paint, but nobody else gets on the mower but me!
TVSTMA: What is your favorite “tool” in your turf maintenance toolbox?
Wilson: The phone. I pick it up and call Billy Clark, Stephen Callis or Matthew Powell. I continue to learn about it, but I can’t take credit for it all because of the people that give me advice when called upon. Don’t reinvent the wheel, just trust the people you call and ask.
TVSTMA: What tool would you most like to add to your turf maintenance toolbox?
Wilson: I would love a small-horsepower tractor unit with a bucket that has turf tires. Something to do maintenance. We have a two-wheel-drive Gator that was donated by Stevie Howell at Industrial Staffing of Tennessee that provides most of the maintenance now.
TVSTMA: Why do you do it?
Wilson: To represent our community the best it can be. To make Springfield a destination – not just a stopping place. The football program (and in some cases the athletic programs) is something I am in control of. I choose to put time and other resources in the athletic fields because we have visitors that leave here remembering Springfield just as I did when growing up traveling to fields across the country. The football field here is an example of something that is beginning to be mentioned when talking about Springfield Football. I have a vision that includes facilities that are better than average, better than “good.” Also, I strongly believe the better the field looks, the better the boys feel about it and the better they play on it!