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SportsTurf Magazine
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Research protocol released for crumb rubber turf study

September 29, 2016

Three federal agencies have released a research protocol for their study evaluating the safety of recycled crumb rubber used in athletic fields and playgrounds.

The 251-page protocol—released jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission—follows the joint action plan the agencies released in February 2016 to evaluate the health and environmental effects of chemicals released by crumb rubber in the ground.

Several studies already exist that examine the possible effects of exposure to crumb rubber infill, the protocol states in its executive summary.

“While, in general, these studies have not provided evidence for these health concerns, the existing studies do not comprehensively evaluate all aspects of exposure associated with these use scenarios,” the summary said.

According to the summary, the research protocol is designed to implement three crucial research elements described in the action plan. These are:

  • Conducting a literature review and data gaps analysis;
  • Performing tire crumb rubber characterization research; and
  • Performing human exposure characterization research.

The literature review and data gaps analysis is an important component of the action plan and necessary to guiding both near-term and longer-term research, according to the summary.

The tire crumb rubber characterization study will involve the collection of crumb rubber from recycling plants and synthetic turf fields across the U.S., it said. The study will include laboratory analysis of a wide range of metals, volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds found in tires, it said.

The exposure characterization study is a pilot-scale effort to collect information on the activities of synthetic turf field users that affect potential exposures to crumb rubber constituent materials, the summary said.

It also will involve a human exposure measurement study to further develop and deploy appropriate sample collection methods and the generation of data for improved exposure characterization, it said.

The agencies plan to issue a draft status report before the end of 2016, summarizing the progress of the research and identifying substances of concern in recycled tire crumb, the EPA said in a press release.

The joint federal research study is concurrent with two other crumb rubber research projects. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment began a study of possible chemical exposures from crumb rubber in 2015, and the European Commission called on the European Chemicals Agency to assess potential risks from crumb rubber in the early summer of 2016.

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Water-starved LA says no to grass and now, synthetic turf

September 29, 2016

Sprinkling a lawn is a great way to waste water, and it’s even worse when you’re in a dry place like Los Angeles. With that in mind, LA’s Turf Removal Program, which gave rebates to people who replaced their lawns with synthetic turf, seems like a great idea.

So why has the rebate just been banned? Because covering your land with plastic grass isn’t much different from covering it with a plastic sheet when it comes to preventing much-needed rainwater from soaking into the ground.

Fake turf causes runoff, which literally sends water down the drain, which is why it has been removed from the requirements to get the $1.75-per-square-foot rebate. Instead, LA’s Department of Water and Power now focuses on getting rainwater into the ground, and planting plants that will use it wisely.

In addition to this effective outlawing of synthetic turf, the program has made some other changes. For starters, it now requires 50% coverage (up from 40%) of California Friendly plants (plants which need little water or other resource-heavy maintenance), limits the amount of rock or gravel that can be used to 25% of the project area (down from 60%), and requires rainfall-capture techniques in designs. The limits on rocks minimize the “heat-island” effect, lowering the surface temperature on a property by not capturing and storing the sun’s energy. Plastic turf also retains more heat than regular soil, and the elimination of these two heat retainers should also reduce the need for air conditioning.

It’s a smart change that tweaks existing rules to better serve their purpose. Gardens require less water and maintenance, and they help to cool the city, but they also contribute to LA’s future, because the water that soaks into the ground helps feed aquifers. And because the changes are a part of a program that pays people to take part, there’s very little room for complaint. It’s win-win. Now, if only LA could do something about its cars.

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Flipping Nippert Stadium at Cincinnati from futbol to football

September 29, 2016

When Futbol Club Cincinnati moved into the home of the Bearcats, Nippert Stadium, a couple provisions needed to take place to turn it from a football field to a soccer field.

One of the changes FC Cincinnati made was the turf.

The soccer club installed new turf with soccer lines made of washable paint, in place of what was already in the stadium.

Before this replacement, Nippert’s turf had never been switched as it was a permanent football field, but now the entire field will not have to be switched again as FC Cincinnati’s turf will also be used for Bearcat and high school football games.

However, this does not mean sections of the field’s turf will not ever be replaced again.

Andre Seoldo, University of Cincinnati’s associate athletics director for facilities and operations, said UBU Sports ― a company that specializes in sports surfacing ― provides a crew of eight people to come and switch turf inserts from soccer-mode to football-mode. The inserts are located in the end zones and centerfield.

In addition, Seoldo said they partner with Pioneer Athletics to remove the lines from one sport and paint lines for the other.

In order to be sure the surface is playable for game day, the whole process can take some time.

“We’ve only done the initial one so far, which is when we had to put in regular turf. It takes some extra time the first time because you have to add the rubber and the sand,” Seoldo said. “So this is the first time we are doing it with the turf complete basically, we’re going through the process now, we predict it’s going to take somewhere between 24 and 36 hours to complete the job, and that’s with good weather and no snafus.”

What could be seen as the most important steps in the transition of the field is not until after the new turf inserts are laid.

According to Synthetic Turf Council’s official site, turf is manufactured in panels or rolls and each piece should be attached to the next with a seam to form the fabric of the field.

Once the turf is transitioned over, all the seams have to be checked to make sure the surface is safe, said Seoldo.

In addition to the seams, the lining of the field is also important.

“The lining of the field is obviously critical,” Seoldo said. “When we installed the turf we actually had them put, what is called, tick marks in, that designates where certain lines are, just points for the painters to go off of so they’re not constantly having to measure.”

One noticeable difference that will be seen on the turf during football games this year is the new designs of the end zones.

“Our design team within our athletic department had several ideas for a new end zone graphic,” Seoldo said. “They worked to come up with a final product and UBU manufactured it.”

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Opinion: driverless cars could be NFL game-changer

September 29, 2016

Television ratings are down in the NFL, and though it won’t affect the league’s revenue – the existing deals the league has with the networks are set through 2022 – officials are concerned about the slight decreases across the board.

After all, the NFL is a TV show. Live gates become less and less important as attendance at NFL games continues to drop, and home experience – big screen HD televisions, no parking or crowd issues – becomes a better option.

But if the better option – watching at home – begins to decline as well, that gets the attention of the NFL, though they won’t tell you that.

The NFL Players Association president, though, has come out and said, yes, it’s got everyone’s attention.

“This is a huge issue for us obviously,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told Pro Football Talk Live. “We spend a lot of time looking at trends. I was thrilled to see the game being streamed on Twitter. We’re interested about where media is going. Viewership is an important issue, stadium attendance is a very important issue to us. So as we look forward knowing that there are a couple of television contracts that are going to come up. I think it is smart for us to look at the impact of whether fans are watching on TV or not.

“I’m sure there after people at the networks who are trying to figure out whether or not there’s going to be labor peace in 2021 and how that affects the TV contracts that they’re entering into,” Smith said.

Yes, the NFL’s whole experiment with Twitter is all about chasing the viewers -mostly millennials – who are consuming TV in a non-traditional way. According to the web site Lost Remote, viewership on apps and computers continues to rise, while the decline continues overall on traditional TV viewing.

The NFL faces serious challenges – embarrassing off-the-field headlines, shifting cultural attitudes toward the sport and still no adequate answer to concerns over player safety. But watching the game itself is not going to be one of those problems.

By the time the NFL is signing new television contracts in 2022, there could be a whole new world ready to consume the NFL – and more mountains of money for the league.

I’m sure many of you have been on Interstate 95 on a Sunday afternoon somewhere between Boston and Richmond – often a 500-mile parking lot.

Now imagine all those cars driving themselves – with passengers who have nothing to do.

Driverless cars – referred to as “user-operated autonomous cars” – will be a game-changer for all of us, not just the NFL.

“Imagine a highway full of autonomous cars with their occupants sitting back watching their favorite TV shows in high definition,” Anders Tylman, general manager of Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center, said at the CES global consumer electronics and consumer technology trade show in January, according to the web site “His new way of commuting will demand new technology, and a much broader bandwidth to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.”

For most people in this country, their favorite TV show is the NFL.

“If you want to watch the latest episode of your favorite series, the car will know how long the journey needs to take and can optimize the route and driving control accordingly,” Tylman said. “With autonomous drive it is no longer just a question of just getting from A to B quickly – it’s about the experience you wish to have in the car – how you wish to spend the time you are saving. With our future autonomous drive technology we will provide people with the freedom to choose the way they would like to commute and the content they would like to experience.”

This “future autonomous drive technology” is right in the NFL’s wheelhouse.

“The NFL looks for opportunities of scale, emerging platforms of significance,” Marty Conway, professor of sports management at Georgetown. “They have navigated the largest emerging waves, cable, satellite, online, mobile, etc. There are estimates of 10 million or more driverless cars in the next decade. With that, the role of the driver and passengers in vehicles are being re-imagined. Currently, that experience is almost exclusively audio in nature. That will change with larger screens in vehicles.

“The NFL is the one and only sports league that grants rights by device and now we see the same games, Thursday, Sunday, etc. split over multiple platforms, to now include Twitter,” Conway said. “The autonomous vehicle is just another platform in that regard as far as the NFL would be concerned.

“Vehicle companies like Ford and Hyundai are sponsors of the NFL, and others like Toyota are media sponsors,” Conway said. “Auto companies recognize the relationship fans have with the NFL and are keen to capitalize on it. If there were an opportunity to have exclusive NFL programming inside the vehicle, I am sure they would jump for it.”

“User-operated autonomous cars” have significant safety concerns to address. A Tesla driver killed in June while the car was in autopilot mode was reportedly watching a Harry Potter movie. And earlier this week, one of Google’s autonomous cars was struck by a van in an accident.

But plans are moving forward all over the world. Singapore expects to introduce a fleet of automated taxis next year. Britain has a $20 million government-funded project underway of automated cars. And for Google – the heaviest of heavyweights – the autonomous car has become its signature future project.

When it becomes reality, Redskins vs. Giants in your car driving home from a visit to the grandparents will the next golden goose for the NFL.- by Thom Loverro, The Washington Times. Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.

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Why be a sports turf manager?

September 27, 2016

Here’s a Q&A from Pamela Sherratt, sports turf extension specialist for Ohio State:

Q: Why should I enter a career in turfgrass science and what jobs are open to me?

Bri Schneider, Sports Industry Major, The Ohio State University

A: Before we get into the nitty-gritty about salaries and job prospects I’d like to spend a few minutes talking first about what a career in turf involves and why you should definitely consider it as an option.

Careers in turf management involve working with plants and people, and so the fundamental knowledge needed to be successful in turf includes those related plant science, technology, engineering and math. Turf managers are also required to develop strong leadership skills in communication, project management, and personnel management, since a large part of their job may involve interactions with staff, field users, the general public, and the media.

One of the greatest advantages to working in turf management is that there are plenty of opportunities to work outdoors. If you love being outside, an outdoor work environment can feel fulfilling on many levels and definitely contributes to a high quality of life. Enjoying fresh air and sunshine beats being stuck in a cubicle in an office building any day of the week.

Most of us have experienced the feeling of utter peace and love for the job that occurs as you stand on an athletic field or a golf green at sunrise, just before a major game or tournament. That’s a feeling that can’t be beat. In addition to the love for outdoors, many people get into a turf career because they love and want to work around sports. A turf manager gets to play a role in success of the team by using his or her working knowledge of the sport to determine what field conditions are best for the athletes.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not state that a big advantage of working in turf is the turf community, the people. Basically, turf people rock. They possess a strong feeling of collegiality, a genuine desire to help young people succeed, and an uncanny ability to work hard but also enjoy life. If you want to work in an industry of genuinely good people, this is it.

Now let’s talk about the nitty-gritty.

Looking to the future, job security looks good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 178,000 first-line supervisors in turf management in 2014 (examples of job titles include Field Manager, Grounds Crew Supervisor, Grounds Foreman etc.). They predict that 39,000 job openings will be created in the next 10 years, with a projected industry growth of 5-8% during that same time period. If we assume that there are 50 university turf programs across the country, each producing 20 graduates per year (this number is high) it equates to 10,000 new turf graduates over the next 10 years, far below the needed 39,000 needed to fulfill industry needs. The bottom line is that there are far more jobs than people right now, and this trend will continue. A much-touted statistic is that more than 90 percent of graduates who earn a degree in sports turf management land a job right out of college. Few industries can rival that success rate.

Looking at salaries, sports turf managers can make $35,000 to $100,000 per year depending on where they work. The highest salaries are typically at professional athletic stadiums or large sports complexes. The STMA has salary figures for 2012 posted on their website ( and they are currently conducting a 2016 salary survey. Preliminary figures are as follows: A sports turf manager’s mean salary is $65,300 and the median is $62,000. An assistant sports turf manager’s mean is $45,149 and median is $43,000. (Disclaimer: Data provided in 2016 STMA Compensation Survey with 17.5% of members responding; the survey was still open as of this writing.) These figures are similar in nature to those reported by the BLS in 2015. In its most recent survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that the average starting salary for a 2016 graduate with a bachelor’s degree is ~$50,000. Remember that this is the national average, with some occupations much lower (education at 34K) and some much higher (engineering at 64K). Agricultural and natural resource careers were in the middle of that range. What’s important to keep in mind if choosing a career in turf is that there is prospect for growth and promotion within the industry is very good. As mentioned earlier, the demand for good people is far going to outweigh the supply.

Lastly, let’s look at the types of careers available in the turf industry. They could be listed as: sports turf and grounds management (taking care of sports fields and/or facilities), turf or sod production and sales, product sales and marketing (for example seed and fertilizer), field construction, renovation and consultation services, and academia (teaching, research and consultation). While each one of these careers requires knowledge of turf they vary greatly in nature. My job has a large teaching component; a sports facility manager may have a large part of their day dealing with budgets, staff issues and media communications; while a baseball field manager may be preparing to host an All-Star Game or a Rolling Stones concert. That’s also what’s great about the industry; each day has new challenges and opportunities to learn and grow. It’s never, ever boring, believe me!

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The King: remembering Arnold Palmer

September 27, 2016

I shook Arnold Palmer’s hand maybe 15 years ago and it remains my go-to story whenever a “Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?” conversation breaks out. My admiration for Palmer went way beyond golf since by the time I picked up the game he was well beyond his prime. Instead I was always impressed by his respect for “Arnie’s Army” and the millions of fans who loved his style, humble background, and charitable contributions.-Eric Schroder

Here is The Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte on The King’s passing, saying it better than I could:


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Link between injuries and infill weight of artificial turf

September 27, 2016

When it comes to artificial turf, there’s a simple, but firm analysis related to injuries that Idaho State University researcher Michael Meyers has documented: the greater the weight of the infill used with artificial turf, the fewer the injuries.

Conversely, greater numbers of injuries are associated with artificial turf with lesser weights of infill.

“What we found out it is that it is shockingly linear, that as the infill weight goes down, the injuries just accelerate,” Meyers said.

Meyers, an associate professor in ISU’s Department of Sport Science and Physical Education in the College of Education, studied the turf at 52 high schools participating across four states (Texas, California, Pennsylvania and Montana) analyzing injuries over five seasons from 2010 to 2014.

His study published this summer earned Meyers the first annual STOP (Stop Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries Award from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. This award recognizes top research leading toward significant awareness and change in the prevention of traumatic and overuse injuries in youth sports.

Results of Meyer’s study, which was the first to directly compare football injuries as they relate to infill weight, were picked up by media outlets worldwide, from Reuters to United Press International, and by a wide variety specialty publications and websites.

“I even received a call from India, from someone who wanted to do a story on the turf,” Meyers said.

Synthetic turf infill is generally sand, small rubber particles or mixture of each that are placed between the blades of grass. Meyers study divided turf into four infill categories, based on pound per square foot of infill, 9 pounds or greater, 6 to 8.9 pounds, 3 to 5.9 pounds and less than 3 pounds.

The total number of injuries and the number of minor, substantial and severe injuries was significantly less in the turf with greater than 9 pounds of infill, compared to the other categories. For example there were about 33 percent less total injuries on turf with more than 9 pounds compared to the 6 to 8.9 pound category, and the greater-than-9-pound category had about 46 percent fewer overall injuries compared to the 3 to 5.9 category.

Meyers concluded his study recommending that artificial football fields contain a minimum infill weight of 6 pounds per square foot.  This double-blind study looked at 485 variables and 52 categories of injury surveillance.

Meyers noted these conclusions warrant further investigation, and cannot be generalized to other levels of competition beyond those included in the study. This study continues to be ongoing, and Meyers is continuing to collect data.

The full title of Meyers’ study was “Incidence, Mechanisms, and Severity of Game-Related High School Football Injuries across Artificial Turf Systems of Various Infill Weight” and it was published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. The study was partially funded by FieldTurf.

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Dayton Dragons to expand netting next season

September 27, 2016

With added safety in mind and a prod from Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, the Dayton Dragons announced that protective netting would cover all lower-level seating at Fifth Third Field beginning next season.

“We’ve decided to extend a safety netting in a pretty dramatic fashion,” Bob Murphy, the team’s president and general manager, said during a news conference at the downtown stadium.

A Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, the Dragons always have had lower-level netting between the dugouts at Fifth Third, covering sections 108-111.

Starting next season, netting will blanket the entire lower level (sections 104-116).

Also, the height will be raised 5 feet to better protect upper-level club seating and luxury boxes.

The boost in spectator protection coincides with an address from Manfred during the 2015 winter baseball meetings in which he said all stadiums should have protective netting within 70 feet of home plate.

Murphy said seating behind home plate is a prime area that’s coveted by fans who feel more protected there from foul balls.

A Boston Globe report said an average of 73 percent of foul balls land in the stands of MLB ballparks.

A 2014 Bloomberg report estimated that 1,750 fans are struck by batted balls annually in major league stadiums.

Fan safety – and stadium liability – are major concerns at all levels of professional baseball.

“You will see foul balls and people will be struck,” Murphy said. “It’s incumbent on us that it’s as safe an environment as it could possibly be.”

The new netting will be thinner and have a smaller weave than existing netting. It also can be colored to further enhance stealthiness.

Dragons’ executive vice president Eric Deutsch oversaw the project that began early this year.

“I’ve learned a lot more about netting than I thought I would,” he said. “In 17 years of baseball, we’ve seen the dynamics of this ballpark and where foul balls go. It’ll almost have an invisibility to it. After you sit there you might not even know it’s there.”

The Dragons made their debut at Fifth Third Field in 2000.

The stadium has been the centerpiece of multiple efforts to revitalize downtown Dayton.

It’s been a hit with fans, too. With a capacity of 9,000-plus, Fifth Third Field owns the longest sellout streak in professional sports: 1,179, which is every home game the Dragons have played.

“I believe this is how netting in baseball stands will be seen in the future,” Murphy said.

“Commonplace and completely aesthetic.”- by Marc Pendleton, Dayton Daily News


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Youth soccer concussions increasing

September 20, 2016

As soccer gains popularity in the United States, there’s been a huge rise in the number and rate of injuries — especially concussions — among young people, according to a new Nationwide Children’s Hospital study.

Between 1990 and 2014, the yearly number of soccer-related injuries among 7- to 17-year-olds treated in emergency departments in the United States increased by 78 percent, according to a study by the hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy published online today in the journal Pediatrics. The annual number of injuries also rose by 111 percent over that time span.

The majority of injuries were sprains and strains (35 percent), fractures (23 percent) and soft-tissue injuries (22 percent), said Dr. Huiyun Xiang, senior author of the study and a research director at the center.

While concussions and other “closed-head” injuries accounted for just more than 7 percent of the injuries overall, the number of these injuries increased dramatically: Nearly 1,600 percent, the study found. And athletes with concussions were twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital as patients with other diagnoses.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen such a big increase; it was a big surprise,” Xiang said.

He credited the jump in injuries to the sport’s rising popularity with more than 3 million registered soccer players younger than 19 playing each year; a growing intensity of play; and year-round play opportunities with club, travel and recreation leagues.

Increased awareness about the dangers of concussions also has led more coaches and players to seek treatment for players as a precaution.

“While we can’t tell from our data why the rate of concussions among soccer players is increasing, it is important for athletes and families to be aware of this issue and what they can do to reduce the risks,” said Tracy Mehan, a research manager at the injury research center.

Young athletes take longer to recover from concussions than adults, she said. They’re also at risk of getting repeat concussions and “second-impact syndrome” — when the brain swells rapidly and catastrophically after a second concussion before the symptoms of an earlier one have subsided. Both can lead to serious, life-altering injuries.

That’s a lesson 15-year-old Joshua Zweydorff, a varsity goalie for Madison Christian School in Groveport, takes seriously.

The sophomore was kneed in the head during a game and suffered a mild to moderate concussion last year, he said. He doesn’t remember the impact — or anything that happened many days after — but still feels the effects because he didn’t sit on the sidelines long enough.

Eager to get back on the field, he fibbed about his frequent headaches and memory loss and resumed playing after about two weeks. He now realizes he made a dangerous decision.

“I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone,” Zweydorff said. “Before you get back in the game, you need to make sure you’re 100 percent recovered. People told me that but I was stubborn. I didn’t take care of myself like I should have.”

Researchers are still trying to find out what is the optimal amount of time a youngster should sit out after experiencing a concussion to avoid long-term problems, Xiang said.

The Nationwide Children’s Hospital study also found that players 12 to 17 years old accounted for nearly three-fourths of the injuries, and that girls were more likely than boys to sustain a knee or ankle injury.

The researchers offered the following tips to help avoid injuries:

* Participate in a preseason conditioning program that focuses on building core muscles, strengthening neck muscles and working on hip and thigh strength.

* Warm up before you play.

* Always wear the recommended protective gear such as mouth and shin guards.

* Follow and enforce the rules because many injuries occur during illegal play or when coaches or referees don’t enforce the rules.

* Know the signs of concussion and encourage players to report any hits to the head even if they happen in practice.

* Only allow heading once children reach age 11 and even then limit the amount of heading in practice for children 11 to 13 years old.

Despite the increased risk of injuries in recent years, parents shouldn’t keep their children from playing soccer, Xiang said.

“We’re not trying to scare them away from playing sports,” he said. “In fact, scientific evidence shows that playing sports can enhance children’s academic performance and offer good health benefits, such as preventing obesity. We just want them to go out and play safely.”-By Encarnacion Pyle and Alissa Widman Neese, The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

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NC/SC STMA host conference, trade show Nov 14-17 in Myrtle Beach

September 20, 2016

The North and South Carolina chapters of the Sports Turf Managers Association will host the eighth annual NC/SC STMA conference and trade show, an education, networking, and golf event November 14-17, 2016 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Registration is open to all sports field managers and crew members. Registration fees, a calendar of events, information about speakers, and details on accommodations can be found online at or .

Register at

Lodging information on the conference hotel, the SpringMaid Beach Resort a DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Myrtle Beach Oceanfront, 3200 South Ocean Boulevard, Myrtle Beach, SC is available at or (800) 916-4339.

The four day event will offer on the field maintenance training including skin management, irrigation audit tips, and STMA educational sessions featuring a panel discussion on sod quality plus presentations by Dr. Bert McCarty from Clemson, Dr’s. Grady Miller, Charles Peacock, and Fred Yelverton from NC State University, Jerad Minnick from Growing Innovations, and Craig Borland from Toro Irrigation. A golf outing at Burning Ridge Golf Club, Seminar on Your Wheels, and Irrigation Audit training are optional, with a separate fee. The Certified Sports Field Manager exam is offered for those prequalified through the STMA.

For further information contact Bruce Suddeth, director of Landscape Services at the University of South Carolina Upstate and past-president of the SCSTMA at 864-503-5514, , Tommy Walston, Sports Turf Manager at East Carolina University and past-president of NCSTMA, 252-737-2262 or, Jimmy Simpson, Facilities Coordinator and past-president of NCSTMA, Town of Cary,

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Playing on natural grass a rare luxury for Texas football teams

September 20, 2016

At an event last weekend, eight high school football teams played in the Cotton Bowl. We asked coaches to remember the last time they had coached a game on grass that wasn’t played at the old stadium.

It wasn’t easy.

“OK, I’m thinking,” said Rowlett head coach Doug Stephens after thinking for a few moments. “And I’m thinking that I’m going to have to keep trying to think.”

Synthetic field turf had been around for a decade and a half and now it’s everywhere. Among 6A and 5A programs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, only Cleburne plays all its home games on grass. The Frisco schools use Toyota Stadium on a regular basis but their other two home sites have artificial turf.

Grass stains are a thing of the past.

Mesquite Horn coach Mike Overton, whose team played in the Cotton Bowl Friday night, showed us a line of jerseys hung up in their laundry room that had been cleaned of all grass stains.

“Coach Wade, he spent Friday night, Saturday (cleaning these jerseys),” said Overton. “(He) came back up here Saturday morning. He sprayed every single grass stain.”

“You go out on turf, all you get is a turf burn,” said Chika Nwabuko, who plays linebacker and running back for Horn. “On grass, you get the stains to let you know you’re getting down and dirty, you’re playing good, you’re flying around on the field making plays and it just feels good.”

The change has been dramatic over the years. I’ve covered high school football on Friday nights for more than two decades. Two years ago, I came to Bishop Dunne for a game, and I distinctly noticed the smell of grass as I walked in. And I thought, I can’t remember the last time I smelled grass on a Friday night.

I asked Bishop Dunne head coach Michael Johnson how often he plays on grass, besides home games.

“Zero,” Johnson replied. “Zero times throughout the year.”

“When we was little, all we played on was grass, from flag to tiny mite, to mighty mite, we played on grass,” said Rowlett running back Kobe Morrow. “It’s like a Saturday morning smell.” “Anytime you get bad weather, you’re going to ruin your (grass) fields,” said coach Stephens from Rowlett. “Financially, it just doesn’t make sense to do anything but synthetic.

“But it sure felt good to go back in time a little bit.”

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NCAA, ACC will relocate events out of North Carolina

September 20, 2016

The NCAA has announced the relocation of seven previously awarded championship events – including NCAA tournament games in Greensboro – from the state of North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year as a result of the state’s House Bill 2 that discriminates against members of the LGBT community.

The NBA moved its All-Star game in Charlotte for the same reasons in July, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called the law “embarrassing” in an interview with USA TODAY Sports.

The NCAA cited “state laws that limit civil rights protections” and emphasized that its championship events must promote an “inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans.”

“Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events and are committed to providing the best experience possible for college athletes, fans and everyone taking part in our championships.”

Cyd Zeigler, LGBT activist and co-founder of Outsports, said the move is a big step in the right direction but still felt there was more work to be done on the NCAA’s behalf.

“I’m surprised and encouraged by the NCAA’s announcement,” Zeigler said. “They have previously fallen back on the idea that the national office has limited power and bureaucratic hurdles to affect change like this. Now that they’ve taken this step, they need to further protect student-athletes and coaches and ban all members with specific anti-LGBT policies. Removing events from North Carolina is nice, but the association continues to have members that discriminate against LGBT people. What they do with those members in the next year will tell us how serious they are, or if this was just a P.R. move.”

The seven events that will be relocated are:

2016 Division I Women’s Soccer Championship, College Cup (Cary), Dec. 2 and 4.

2016 Division III Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships (Greensboro), Dec. 2 and 3.

2017 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, first/second rounds (Greensboro), March 17 and 19.

2017 Division I Women’s Golf Championships, regional (Greenville), May 8-10.

2017 Division III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships (Cary), May 22-27.

2017 Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship (Cary), May 26 and 28.

2017 Division II Baseball Championship (Cary), May 27-June 3.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has followed the NCAA’s lead and is removing all its athletic championships from North Carolina over a state law limiting protections for LGBT people.

The ACC Council of Presidents last week to relocate the league’s championships until North Carolina repeals the law. The decision includes 10 neutral-site championships this academic year, which means relocating the ACC football title game that was scheduled to be played in Charlotte in December.

No announcement was made on where the championship events will be held.

“The decision to move the neutral site championships out of North Carolina while HB2 remains the law was not an easy one,” said Clemson President James P. Clements, chairman of the league’s council. “But it is consistent with the shared values of inclusion and non-discrimination at all our institutions.”

On Monday, the NCAA said it was relocating seven of its championships scheduled to be played in the state, including the men’s basketball first- and second-round matchups scheduled for next March in Greensboro.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford said after the NCAA’s decision that his league would review its next steps.

The law requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide antidiscrimination protections. HB2 was signed into law earlier this year by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who has defended it as a commonsense safety and security measure.

Clements said the leaders had an open, honest dialogue that took in all sides of the issue.

“There are a lot of parts to the discussion, how the community is affected,” the Clemson president said. “I’m really happy with how everybody came together.”

Swofford said the presidents’ choice was made on principle.

“I think it was the right decision. A difficult one in ways, but an easy one in ways considering the principles involved,” he said. “That’s where our presidents laid their bed so to speak, and I think we landed in the right place.”

Swofford said identifying replacement venues is in the early stages, but that he hopes to get locations lined up as quickly as possible.

Finding a football stadium as ACC-friendly as Charlotte might be difficult. The championship game has been played at Bank of America Stadium for the past six seasons with an average attendance of 69,641. In the previous two seasons the game was held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., and averaged 49,412 spectators.

Football is not the only sport affected. The ACC planned to hold 14 of its 21 championship events in North Carolina this academic year, with the majority of those at neutral, off-campus, sites, and the others either on the campuses or the home venues of Wake Forest (field hockey), Duke (fencing), North Carolina (softball) and N.C. State (wrestling, cross country).

The ACC decision came the same day the NCAA reopened the bidding process for those championships it pulled from the state. The NCAA said bids for those events are due Sept. 27 and hopes to decide the new sites by Oct. 7.

Swofford said the ACC will consider the issue again in the spring if nothing changed in North Carolina’s law. Such prohibitions can last for quite some time: The NCAA’s ban on South Carolina hosting neutral-site championships for flying the Confederate flag on Statehouse grounds lasted from 2001 until the flag came down last summer.


Categories: test feeds

STMA and Turf Republic partner on industry survey

September 13, 2016

At its summer board meeting, the STMA Board of Directors approved partnering with Turf Republic (TR) to conduct a joint study to assess the state of the industry. TR is the relevant source for solutions, information, and resources for professionals and enthusiasts of the Turf Generation.

Scheduled for October, STMA members and TR subscribers will receive a short electronic survey about sports turf management operations. TR will create the electronic survey and produce the results for release in January.

Participation is important for statistically valid results. Please take the time to fill out this important survey.

Categories: test feeds

New subscription app for sports tickets

September 13, 2016

Atlanta will be the first market in the country with access to a new subscription-based sports ticket application.

Technology meets demand of the new consumer with the launch of INWEGO, a market-based mobile service offering tickets to a variety of local sporting events at a moment’s notice for a monthly fee.

Call it the Netflix of Atlanta sports.

For $29 a month, fans will have the ability to attend Braves, Blaze, Silverbacks, Hustle, Hawks, Falcons, Dream and Georgia Tech games. In addition, local PGA Tour and NHRA events are included.

INWEGO was created and will be managed by Experience, the technology used by more than 300 live entertainment partners worldwide and nearly 75 percent of all professional sports teams including those in Atlanta. Experience is a division of Cox Enterprises, which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“The really cool thing to me is I’ve never seen a consumer application that is like this,” said Greg Foster, president and CEO of Experience. “It requires that in a market, you have enough breadth to make it worth your money. You can’t just pay the money but the Hawks are out of the package or the Braves are out of the package. You have to have breadth to it. We worked really hard to get those deals in place to make the value proposition really compelling.”

There is no limit to the number of events a user can attend a month. The technology also allows a group to attend and sit together. Once inside, fans have a number of other options, including ticket upgrades.

Atlanta will be the first market where INWEGO is available, although new markets will soon be considered. Users can get a list of live events and can make an instant decision to attend, even up to the last minute.

“Research has shown that young people are not necessarily planners to go to a game weeks in advance,” said Steve Koonin, Hawks CEO. “We see tremendous utilization of the app on weekend games and featured games where people are saying, ‘What do you want to do tonight?’ Sports in Atlanta are an entertainment option. We are fortunate to be in a city with great restaurants and a lot of things to do. If you are deciding what to do on a Friday or Saturday night, going to a sporting event is an option.”

Being included with the significant inventory of Atlanta sports is an important element, especially to Georgia Tech. The school has the ability to engage its student body and alumni with existing platforms. The new app will allow Tech to reach new audiences.

“All lifelong Yellow Jacket fans started with attending a first game,” said Rick Thorpe, Georgia Tech associate athletic director for sales and fan experience. “We are excited about the prospect of introducing new event-goers throughout Atlanta to

Georgia Tech athletics via choice, flexibility, access and value because that’s what today’s event-goers are demanding.

“The millennials are the largest segment of our population now. They are an on-demand constituency. Having an app that is available to them, we make sure that at any point that fans have the ability, with a technology such as this, that at a moment’s notice to make a decision and walk into a game. The opportunity to be tied in with all the significant sports properties in greater Atlanta, we consider it an excellent opportunity for us to continue to expose our athletic programs to event-goers here in Atlanta.”

Non-tickets sports, such as men’s and women’s tennis and track and field, will also be included on the app for Georgia Tech.

For local teams, the app provides a chance to fill seats that may have gone empty. It also helps provides important information for return fans or possible new season-ticket holders.

“For anybody with a high volume of games — baseball and basketball — they love this because if it’s a Tuesday night and a team is coming in that isn’t really going to draw a crowd, this is an excellent opportunity to pick up people,” Foster said.

“They still make most of their money on season-ticket holders but I’m going to get more people in the seats. You would rather have somebody in a seat at a discount than not have somebody in that seat.”

Experience has a relationship with Live Nation, which means access to a number of local concert venues is a possibility in the future.- by Chris Vivlamore

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Bringing your family to Disney for STMA?

September 13, 2016

You need theme park tickets!

STMA conference attendees who are staying at the Disney Coronado Springs Hotel or the All Star Resort through Thurs., Jan. 26 will receive one free ‘After 4 p.m.’ Disney Theme Park ticket. (One ticket per hotel room occupied). The ticket will be provided upon check-in. Disney also offers special park discounts. Go to The Coronado Springs and the All Star hotels are offering the special $159 room rate for three days pre- and post-conference. STMA’s room block begins on Sun., Jan. 22 and ends on Sat., Jan. 27. The room block is open for reservations, but is filling up fast. Reserve your room today. Click here.


Categories: test feeds

Recap from game at Bristol Motor Speedway

September 13, 2016

Allen Gregory | Bristol Herald Courier

The fans began arriving before sunrise.

By 7:30 p.m., Bristol Motor Speedway was a sea of orange and maroon.

While the lazy skeptics moaned over traffic, sightlines and long waits, the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol was a success by nearly all standards.

The sellout crowd of 156,990 witnessed an interesting tussle between regional rivals Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee.

As for atmosphere, a fan could not ask for much more. For the first time in recent memory, the massive stadium actually rocked following touchdowns.

For the first act of Bristol theater, NASCAR icons Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were interviewed on the set of ESPN College GameDay. The lively show was capped when quirky analyst Lee Corso donned a huge UT helmet after picking the Vols to win.

The pre-game toss included Tennessee folk hero Peyton Manning along with the ultimate general in Speedway Motorsports Inc. boss and BMS owner Bruton Smith. It was Smith who conjured up the ambitious idea of a marriage between football and NASCAR 20 years ago.

Admittedly it was bit surreal watching a football game in this stock car racing haven, but fans had the option to take it all in from the world’s largest, center-hung television dubbed Colossus. Talk about wide-screen TV.

It was fitting that both teams rely on offenses that move at warp speed and are directed by dual-threat quarterbacks.

The short-attention span millennial generation has grown up with smart phones that provide instant news and splashy video games that offer simulated versions of reality.

The Battle at Bristol not only broke the record for a college sporting event of any type, it attracted one of the largest gatherings to ever witness a sports event in the world.

That’s big stuff for a small city. Just think of the economic impact for a region that has suffered due to the decline in the coal industry.

High school and college football have long provided a source of hope and inspiration to the resilient residents of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

The makeup of Saturday’s crowd appeared to have a 70-30 breakdown in favor of Tennessee. But both sides were rowdy from the kickoff until the final whistle.

To the delight of Tech fans, former Hokie head coach Frank Beamer was introduced on the field after the first quarter. And the man who helped turn Lane Stadium in Blacksburg into a mecca, quarterback Michael Vick, supported his former team from the sidelines.

Tradition-rich marching bands, fireworks and five-star athletes, the Battle at Bristol had it all. Most importantly, the fun factor was off the charts. For Tennessee fans, the sight of quarterback Joshua Dobbs carving up another defense with his legs and arm was delightful.

There will another college football game at BMS next Saturday between East Tennessee State University and Western Carolina.

Beyond that, the future is limitless. As always when Bruton Smith is involved, the sequel to the Battle at Bristol will be cinematic in scope.

And rest assured, other track general managers, promoters and venue operators will look to the follow the example of Bristol Motor Speedway and stage sports spectaculars.

For now, BMS holds the record for attendance. In future generations, that crowd of 156,990 will expand to untold numbers.

Categories: test feeds

Lawsuit seeks fair pay for minor leaguers

September 6, 2016

Josh Wilkie found himself living with 11 other guys in a three-bedroom apartment. Some slept on futons. Some slept on the floor. None of them slept comfortably.

They’d make french fries on the stove, because what else are you going to eat when you’re, effectively, making $4.11 an hour?

“It was a joke,” said Wilkie, who spent seven years in the Washington Nationals system and four years at the Triple-A level. “We’re not high school kids at camp. We’re in our mid-20s; we had one guy in his early 30s. It was sad. It was really depressing.”

A small percentage of minor leaguers receive signing bonuses in the millions, and veterans can make as much as $25,000 a month, according to Baseball America. But without the protection of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association, a majority of the approximately 5,000 U.S.-based minor leaguers – players needed to fill out rosters to properly hone the skills of the future major leaguers – are working for as little as $1,150 per month, just $160 above the federal poverty line. Figuring 10-hour days, 28 days a month, that’s $4.11 an hour, well below the $7.25 federal minimum wage. First-year Triple-A players can make as little as $2,150 a month, one step from the majors with its minimum salary of approximately $2,800 per day.

This is reality for many minor league baseball players stuck in the quandary of being elite but not elite enough to be on a major league roster: Working for less than minimum wage and having no guarantee of a future in baseball.

A group of minor leaguers is pursuing a class-action lawsuit claiming that MLB denies minor league players a minimum wage and overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Professional baseball’s position is that it is already providing $500 million in various forms to support minor leaguers. The jobs are apprenticeships and not subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and raising the salaries to meet minimum wage could result in a drastic cut in the number of minor league teams and negatively impact communities that have invested in them, according to Stan Brand, vice president of minor league baseball.

Trading punches

Garrett Broshuis pitched for six seasons in the minor leagues after being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the fifth round of the 2004 draft. He never made it higher than Triple-A, and his career ERA of 4.10 is far from inspiring. But along the way, he noticed something that he couldn’t shake.

Some of his teammates were barely surviving.

“I played with a player who wouldn’t eat breakfast because he didn’t want to pay for it,” Broshuis said. “Guys have to either borrow money from their girlfriend, borrow money from their parents or run up credit card debt. I played with a player that would be getting calls from debt collectors on road trips.”

Broshuis, an attorney with Korein Tillery in St. Louis, gathered three former minor league players – Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto and Oliver Odle – and filed Senne v. Office of Major League Baseball in February 2014, alleging that the minor league system denies players a minimum wage and overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Several months after the lawsuit was filed, the case had 43 main plaintiffs. It became a class-action lawsuit over the winter, and about 2,300 individuals have joined the suit.

MLB pushed back in July. On June 30, U.S. Reps. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., and Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., introduced the Save America’s Pastime Act, which states that minor league baseball players are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. MLB quickly endorsed the bipartisan proposal. (Within 24 hours, Bustos withdrew her support for the legislation after receiving a large amount of pushback.)

MLB notes the challenges in applying hourly work standards to minor league baseball. If a player takes extra batting practice, does he need to be paid for it? Does he get paid for his time eating lunch in the clubhouse? Is traveling to games a commute or work?

MLB is responsible for paying the salaries of its minor league players, while the minor league clubs are responsible for paying their employees. According toBrand, MLB spends “upwards of half a billion dollars” on player development in the minor leagues – salaries, signing bonuses, manager salaries, training costs, healthcare, per diem.

“The major leagues are very interested in their welfare, which is why they spend half a billion dollars on them and have trainers and other medical insurance and other things to make sure they are taken care of,” he said.

Higher costs could be problematic, Brand said.

“The economic model for minor league baseball is based largely on the subsidy (of) the major leagues paying player salaries,” Brand said. “If that changes dramatically in a way that increases their costs and forces them to re-examine the level of support they have for the minor leagues, I think that threatens the viability of minor league baseball at the roots level.”

Brand said he was unable to define what designates a “dramatic” change, in large part because there is no definition for what “work time” would mean if the lawsuit were successful.

“The lawsuit challenges the major league clubs on a number of bases, alleging that time on the bus, time in the clubhouse, eating lunch, all this time they spend not directly playing baseball but with other activities is part of their work,” he said. “If that is upheld in court, that’s hundreds of millions of dollars that Major League Baseball would theoretically have to pay.”

Brand would not specify how he came up with the hundreds of millions of dollars figure.

Major league teams could give a $1,000 raise to each of their minor leaguers for less than many spend on a free agent to be a reserve.

MLB entered the 2015 season with revenue approaching $9.5 billion, according to Forbes. However, Brand said he “doesn’t know how meaningful” that number is.

“Every business has a worth,” he said. “That doesn’t translate into what it can afford to pay labor, necessarily.”

Cutting the roots?

Brand said the first place MLB would look to make cuts would be at the lowest levels of the minor leagues.

Enter the South Bend Cubs.

South Bend has been home to minor league baseball since 1988, when the Single-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox began playing in the heart of the downtown area. While the parent club has changed, baseball has been a focal point of the downtown area for decades.

What if it were to all go away?

“We’ve made a significant investment in our community to a facility that would largely sit vacant or dormant. That’s the biggest downside,” said Jeff Rea, president and CEO of the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce. “It’s been a good rallying piece for our community. We can all buy into our team.

“There’s been a little bit of an intrinsic value in terms of the pride that goes along with it. It’s our team, it’s our region’s team. Everybody owns it a little bit.”

The South Bend franchise has 17 full-time employees and 90 seasonal employees, and the team’s revenue increased 65 percent from the 2014 season to 2015, after changing its affiliation from Arizona to the Chicago Cubs.

“The ballpark is one of those elements that adds to the attractiveness of the (downtown) area,” Rea said. “If you’re thinking about moving your office there, you’re thinking about doing a condo or apartment, the ballpark is a real plus for those kinds of things.”

Dick Nussbaum, president of the Single-A Midwestern League, which the South Bend Cubs are a part of, said if the players’ lawsuit were to cause change, the 16 teams in his league would feel the brunt of the impact.

“A real possibility is that (the league) would be reduced by some number,” Nussbaum said. “Whether that’s two, four, six, eight, I can’t tell you at this point, but it’s a real concern for us.”

He said an increase in player salaries could “benefit a very limited number of minor league players, but it’s going to have a devastating impact on hundreds of (workers). They’re not going to have a team there. If there’s not a team there, they’re not going to have a job.”

It’s also possible minor league communities would have to find money to pay off stadiums they financed with revenue expected to be generated by the teams.

Where players, MLB and lawmakers will go from here is unclear.

“The bill is still alive, and there are a lot of minor leaguers still concerned about it,” said Broshuis. The trial is scheduled for February 2017.

Despite pushback, MLB has doubled down on its stance. Commissioner Robert Manfred said applying traditional overtime work rules to minor league players “makes no sense.”

“The administrative burden associated with the application of these laws to professional athletes that were never intended to apply to professional athletes is the real issue,” Manfred said at an annual meeting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in July. “And the litigation is going to run its course, but I have to tell you this is the area where excessive regulation could have a really dramatic impact on the size of minor league baseball.”

Brand said that if the lawsuit succeeds, it could cost MLB “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Broshuis said the “argument that it’s going to bankrupt the major leagues is simply not true.”

Senne agreed, citing MLB’s revenue stream.


“Being able to compensate each player in their minor league system the minimum wage for the hours they’re putting in would not make enough of a dent in their revenue to justify needing to remove teams or leagues,” he said.- by Matthew VanTryon, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Categories: test feeds

Rugby participation on the rise

September 6, 2016

Maddie Anama of Palatine (IL) still remembers the day she scored her first five-point goal, or “got her first try” as they call it in rugby.

She’d promised a teammate sidelined by injury that she’d score for her during that match. Anama scored not once, but twice, that day. She didn’t want to get a try only for herself, but also for the benefit of her team.

That elevated level of sportsmanship and camaraderie, plus the intense physicality of the sport, is what drives boys and girls from many of the surrounding suburbs to rugby clubs in Palatine and Arlington Heights.

“It’s just the energy you feel once you get on the field. When I get on the field, I start getting nervous. Once we kick the ball or the other team kicks the ball for kickoff, all those butterflies just go away,” said 13-year-old Anama.

Sometimes a new sport starts to take hold in the suburbs. First, it was soccer; then, lacrosse. Could rugby be on the cusp of newfound popularity among suburban youth?

History of the sport

Legend has it that rugby began in the late 1800s in Great Britain, but it’s been played in various forms under different names since the Middle Ages and remains popular across the globe.

Reinstated as an Olympic sport for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, Google searches about rugby soared during the Games this month. Local rugby coaches hope the Olympic coverage sparks an increase in rugby participation at the grass-roots level. But, already they are seeing participation in the sport grow.

Rugby clubs starting forming in the suburbs in the early 2000s and have steadily gained new members. When Rugby Illinois, the governing body in the state at the high school and younger level, was formed in 2007, only a few high school teams had been formed. Today there are 131 rugby clubs in Illinois including college clubs, adult clubs, high school, and youth clubs, said Stephanie Esposito, executive board member of Rugby Illinois.

The Arlington Stallions Rugby Club, Inc. – a community club that draws male middle school and high school students from District 214 schools, Saint Viator High School, Stevenson High School, and Christian Liberty Academy – started with 17 players, but now has 75 members who play on one of several middle school and high school teams. The high school boys team is two-time state champions.

And this rough-and-tumble sport isn’t just for boys. In fact, its popularity may be growing the fastest among girls, Esposito said.

“Hinsdale High School had more girls than boys sign up this year who are interested in playing rugby,” Esposito said.

Inclusion and teamwork

“No matter your body size, no matter your experience, you’re gonna play and everybody’s going to touch the ball. Everybody really has a good time,” said Joe Fasolo, 17, of Arlington Heights, who plays for the Arlington Stallions and the Rugby Illinois Tornados.

Joe and several other Stallions players recently returned from playing matches in South Africa with the Rugby Illinois Tornados select side, where they finished with a 3-2 record. Joe said his favorite part of rugby is the community.

“No matter where you go there’s always somebody who’s going to talk to you and be nice to you because you both play rugby,” he said.

Rugby is, above all, a team sport and one that “rewards individual creativity while requiring team play,” said Alan Burton, who in 2008 formed the Palatine Rugby Club, which is affiliated with the Palatine Park District, to offer boys and girls a chance to play on high school boys or girls teams or U14 coed teams.

“Rugby is a game where every kid gets to touch the ball, every kid gets a chance to play,” said Esposito. “Every kid’s defense, every kid’s offense and that’s a real morale booster for the kids because it’s not like they’re just there. They’re actually participating.”

High school rugby games with 15 players, or Rugby 15s, consist of two 35-minute halves of continuous play.

“There’s not just that one star player who’s always getting credit for doing something good. Every kid is praised on the field because you can’t score unless everyone on your team can work together. So I think that’s one of the reasons that kids are really loving it; because they all get to feel included every time they go out and play,” Esposito said.

Once the match begins, there’s little coaches can do to influence play, leaving split-second strategy decisions to players. Burton believes this self-directed play has a positive impact on their self-esteem.

Once the match ends, it’s customary for the home team to host the opposing team for a meal. The socials allow teams to connect and give them a chance to form friendships with students from different backgrounds and communities.

“We intermix with the other teams and then we have a conversation together and talk about the game,” said Alyssa Inacay of Roselle, who is captain of the Palatine Mutts.

Contact sport for girls

The girls who play rugby absolutely love the sport and many of them enjoy the physical contact that comes with it.

“There’s something really satisfying about being able to take down a girl twice your size,” said Anna Michelsen, 15, of Palatine. “And even if you can’t take down the girl and then your teammates come and help you take her down, that’s even more satisfying because you know they’ve got your back.”

“It is the only contact sport (for girls) that plays by the same rules and laws as the boys,” Burton says. “For a girl that wants the contact or wants to tackle, we’re really their only option,”

In the spring of 2016 the Palatine Rugby Club and the Chicago Wapiti joined forces to form a high school girls team of 23 players. They call themselves the “Mutts” because players come from different grades and places as far as Bartlett and Chicago to play on the team.

Kayla Vega, 16, of Bartlett, said she loves football and would play if she could, but she doesn’t have the opportunity. She turned to rugby as an alternative and hasn’t looked back.

“I love the intensity of it. I like to hit a lot,” Vega said. “It’s not as bad as everybody thinks it is. It’s more controlled than football.”

In their first year together, the Palatine High School Girls Mutts took home the 2016 Rugby Illinois High School Girls Division 2 and Rugby Sevens State Championship titles. They played against teams with much more experience, but the girls attribute their win to how well they gel as a team.

“We had the chemistry, we worked well, we accepted each other, helped each other get better and we won the state title,” Vega said. “It was a good experience just because no one expected us to win.”

Working hard, being safe

Not only does rugby improve players’ images of themselves, it improves their overall physical fitness and motivates them to stay active all year.

Joe Fasolo’s sister, Maddie, tried many sports before focusing on rugby, but she said none of them motivated her to work out and stay active like playing rugby has.

“Ever since the spring season I’ve been trying to work out almost every day because I want to succeed in rugby and get further, so I need to be healthy and fit for that,” she said.

While rugby is an intense and physical sport, coaches and players said it tends to be safer than other sports. It’s illegal for players to tackle anyone above the shoulders. Instead, players are required to wrap their arms around opponents in order to tackle, with best practice being to wrap their arms around rivals’ legs.

“You’re taught how to tackle properly so that no one gets hurt and how to fall properly,” said Kendall Rudolph of Bartlett, whose father, Grant, coaches the Mutts.

John Walker, president of Rugby Illinois, said an emphasis is placed on safety.

“I would suggest that parents and kids alike disregard anything negative they’ve heard about rugby and take the first step to go out to a practice, clinic or event in their area, and experience the fun firsthand for themselves. It’s one of the safest and most fun sports I’ve played and coached,” Walker said.

Future growth

All those involved in rugby encourage young adults and youth to consider giving it a try.

Rugby’s main season is spring, but clubs also have fall and summer seasons. Local teams play Rugby 15s, which allows for 15 players on the pitch, and Rugby 7s, which consists of seven players on each team and is the form of rugby played in the Olympics.

“There’s no harm in trying”, said Brianna Galvin, 16, who travels from Chicago to play with the Mutts. “The worst that can happen is that you get knocked to the ground and think, ‘Oh this isn’t for me.'”

Walker said one of the goals of Rugby Illinois is to get younger kids involved in rugby.

“One of our (Rugby Illinois) main focuses is to grow programs for kids as young as first grade. Getting a rugby ball in the hands of kids from first through 12th grade is what Rugby Illinois envisions,” Walker said.

While it’s always fun to win, Paul Bergman, founder and head coach of the Arlington Stallions, said it’s more about how the teams play the game and the friendships they make along the way. He remembers watching the first Arlington Stallions team bond after practice one day.

“I looked over at this picnic table and there were six kids sitting there and they were talking to each other like they had known each other all their lives,” said Bergman. “I realized of those six kids, they were from six different high schools.”- by Colette House, Chicago Daily Herald

Categories: test feeds

The Leo Goertz Grant nominations are open

September 6, 2016

A grant established to honor longtime SAFE Board of Trustees member and STMA member Leo Goertz is ready for nominations. Leo passed away suddenly last year, and SAFE and STMA created this grant to recognize his commitment to the profession.

The Leo Goertz Membership Grant awards up to $1500 annually for new, two-year memberships in STMA. The eligibility criteria for Nominees includes:

  • must be a Sports Turf Manager or member of a crew managing sports fields
  • should be an active local chapter member or strong contributor within his or her local community
  • should not have been an STMA member for at least 5 years
  • has infrequently or never attended the National STMA Conference

STMA national or chapter members or a fellow employee can nominate an individual. The grant also allows for self-nomination. To apply, fill out this simple, one-page form no later than Oct. 15.

Leo served on the SAFE Board of Trustees from 2006 – 2011. After his board service, he stayed actively involved with SAFE through helping with its fundraising events. He joined STMA in 1988. Leo was awarded one of STMA’s highest honors in 2010, the Harry C. Gill Founders Award. This award was established to honor an individual for their hard work in the sports turf industry and to acknowledge their dedication to STMA. SAFE and STMA believe that Leo’s biggest contribution to the Foundation and to the association was in his ability to ‘give back’. Through this grant, we continue his legacy of ‘giving back’.

The grant is funded through The SAFE Foundation and is made possible by a generous gift from Pioneer Athletics for 10 years.

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STMA scholarships, grants, and awards deadline is October 15

September 6, 2016

The annual deadline for STMA’s annual awards, grants and scholarship programs is rapidly approaching: Oct. 15. This deadline affects the following applications:

Field of the Year

SAFE Scholarships including the Dr. James Watson and Fred Grau

Leo Goertz Membership Grant

Gary VandenBerg Internship Grant

Terry Mellor Continuing Education Grant

2017 Innovative Award

Founders’ Awards Nominations

You do not need to wait for the deadline to submit. Don’t delay, submit today!


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International Resources