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Updated: 1 hour 2 min ago

Is inactivity among kids a health time bomb?

July 18, 2017

The percentage of children ages six to 12 who were physically active three or more times a week had its biggest drop in five years and is now less than 25%, new data show.

Making matters worse, households with incomes less than $50,000 have much higher rates of inactivity than families making more than $75,000 annually, an analysis by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association and PHIT America found. In fact, low-income Americans are getting more inactive while high-income Americans are becoming more active.

The level of inactivity increased from about 33% in 2012 to nearly 37% in 2016 for families making less than $50,000 per year. Meanwhile, inactivity levels for those earning more than $75,000 dropped from 22% to nearly 19%.

“This is very concerning at several levels (with) long-term implications for societal costs, including health care, but in my view it’s basically a moral issue,” says Tom Cove, CEO of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. “There is no reason lower income people in America should be more inactive than others.”

Jim Baugh, a former president of Wilson Sporting Goods and founder of the non-profit PHIT America, analyzes the Physical Activity Council’s data every year to glean the trends beyond team sports. The increase in inactivity among young people is what he calls the “health care time bomb.”

Children who have physical education (PE) in school are two to three times more likely to be active outside of school, Baugh found.

“PE is the grassroots program for all activity in America,” Baugh says. “It’s the real solution to the health care crisis.”

Former National Football League players Herschel Walker and Roman Oben were doing their part recently on Capitol Hill to lobby for legislation that would give adults and children a financial incentive to be more active. The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act would allow the use of “Pre-Tax Medical Accounts” to pay for physical activity expenses for adults or children.

Walker, 55, won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player in 1982 and was a member of the 1992 Winter Olympics two-man bobsled team. Oben, 44, played offensive tackle 11 seasons for four NFL teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who won Super Bowl XXXVII.

Walker is a business owner, whose holdings include chicken processing plants. Oben is the NFL’s director of youth and high school football. They answered questions about diet and fitness, especially for young people.

Q When should young people start trying to get healthy?

Walker: I started in high school doing 750 push-ups and 2,000 sit-ups a day. I didn’t bother with the weights. I still don’t. So I’d say start as early as you can.

Oben: Playing football (in high school and college), you go through training from an early age. You don’t go through all that hard work to make poor health decisions later in life. So health decisions are a habit you get into. Good habits are important.


Q How do you stay fit?


Walker: I expect this is different from what you will normally hear, but this is me: I eat one full meal a day, usually just at dinnertime. I may have some soup, salad and bread, and that just works for me, along with my pushups and sit-ups. I’ve been doing this for a long time and no complaints.

Oben: I played (in the NFL) at about 305 pounds. I am about 6-foot-4. I try to watch what I eat, and if there’s something I want that I know may not be good I look for a healthy substitute. And I try to ride the exercise bike for about half an hour each day. That burns calories and helps the heart rate. But it’s tough. I’m at about 280 now. I’m trying to get down to my “prom weight.”


Q How should a young person choose the best approach?


Walker: You have to find what’s best and works for you. Everybody, and every body, is different. So you may have to experiment. For instance, I’m always interested in finding alternatives to red meat. You can really do a lot with chicken, if you don’t get stuck on having it one way, like fried, all the time. There are plenty of alternatives to candy, like fruit. So always keep your eyes open for healthy options.

Oben: You’d be surprised what you can do in everyday life that will help you stay active and get fitter or stay fit. You can walk to the store instead of driving. Bike for a longer distance instead of a car. If you see a game of pickup basketball, you can jump in.


Q Any tips that might surprise high school students looking to get fit or stay in shape?


Walker: Sleep is very important and often overlooked.

Oben: Eight hours of sleep a night is my goal. I find that that keeps my mind clear throughout the day, helps me focus, get done what needs doing. It may take some discipline, especially when you are young. But here’s a tip: turn your phone off! Give your mind a break.


Q How should young people reach and maintain their best weight?


Walker: Doing anything other than sitting around is better for your body. Getting some exercise like playing a sport with your friends will help you get to the weight you want.

Oben: The best resource is their schools. They are in schools most of the day and some students get two of their meals there, so trying to (get) their schools to have healthier food options and trying to get physical education back will help them maintain and reach the weight they want.- by Jayne O’Donnell and Joshua Mitchell, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

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STMA Board of Directors sets 3-year direction

July 18, 2017

The STMA Board of Directors held a facilitated strategic planning session during its summer board meeting. Led by Dr. Jeff Suderman, strategy planning consultant, the board concluded that four areas of focus will help to advance the mission of STMA. The four overarching goals include:

1) Association growth — membership, internal administration, and growth through leveraging relationships;
2) Education – use innovation and technology to expand our continuing education offerings, focusing on relevance and engagement of members and non-members;
3) Brand awareness – continue to focus on making STMA and its members known outside of the industry to employers, coaches, athletes and fans through PR and marketing;
4) Diversify and grow revenue streams – look outside of our conference and sponsorship income to create a broader-funded association.

STMA will have completed its current three-year plan in December. The new plan will be further developed with strategies and an annual business plan before it is adopted, which will be at the fall Board meeting, Nov. 4-5. The plan will begin implementation on Jan. 1, 2018.

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Researcher aims to help difficult relationship between turf, earthworms

July 18, 2017

By Mary Hightower

Anglers love earthworms. Gardeners love earthworms. Golf course superintendents and golfers, not so much.

Earthworms ingest dirt along with any microbes, fungi, decomposing leaves and anything else that might be food, the resulting poop is expelled. Worm poop, or vermicast, is much sought after by gardeners as a rich fertilizer. Worms often expel this poop on the soil surface as dense mounds of tiny pellets.

These mounds are what gives golf course managers and players fits, especially in golf greens whose fine dwarf grasses are trimmed as closely as possible to the dirt. Vermicast can clog mowers and affect golf strokes.

Paige Boyle, a master’s student at the University of Arkansas, is looking to better understand what might discourage earthworms from areas where they are unwanted. Her research, with Mike Richardson, professor-horticulture and turfgrass expert with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the Bumpers College of Agricultural Food and Life Sciences.

She has three objectives: To see if soil temperature and moisture make a difference in earthworm pooping in bermudagrass tee boxes; to see if root zone or top dressing affects either the amount of vermicast or the diversity of earthworm species; and to see what species are present under golf courses in the “transition zone.” Arkansas is a transition zone, a place where are areas where neither cool nor warm season grasses are completely adapted.

Topdressing is the application of sand on top of the grass at a golf course. Various rates of application can add firmness and smoothness to the course and improve the soil.

“Pesticide use on earthworms is illegal in the United States and the United Kingdom and a lot of other places,” she said. “There isn’t a pesticide that’s labeled for use on earthworms. They are a beneficial animal.”

There has been some research into how the pH level of soil affects worm populations, but varied results and concerns about turf health rendered this method a big question mark.

Location, location, location

Relocation has been tried, but worms tend to like their turf.

“Even if you remove all the soil from an area, they return to the area over time,” she said.

They can also be moved around by cultural practices, with their cocoons – their eggs – catching rides on equipment moving soil or sand from location to another, or in the very sand that’s being used for topdressing. The cocoons “are viable regardless of whether the sand or soil is super dry,” she said.

Boyle said that one key to control with topdressing is the species of earthworm involved. Some Arkansas native species are tiny – just 2 to 3 centimeters in length. The big worms most familiar to people are invasive – species from Europe and Asia — and have been in the U.S. for years. These are the big worms that wind up desiccated on the sidewalk after a rain or end up as bait on the end of a fishhook.

Boyle is collecting DNA samples from the worms in her 16 research plots to determine what species they are. At each plot, she collects and counts casts, and takes the soil temperature.

She took her first cast samples in the fall of 2015 and her first earthworm samples in the fall of 2016, and will complete her research this fall.

How does she get her samples?

“We go to our plots and dig a 1-foot hole, 8 inches deep and hand sort through all of the material we dig up,” she said.

Earlier research suggests that “some of these native earthworms may have higher temperature/lower moisture tolerances, especially in sand-based greens, where the temperatures are higher than the surrounding soil,’” Boyle said. “Knowing what species is important and they can change over time.”

Species that burrow horizontally tend to deposit casts in the burrows. Those that move vertically tend to deposit casts on the surface.

Why earthworms?

“There’s not a whole lot of research going on with earthworms,” she said. “Most worm research is old – 1950s.”

Boyle’s undergraduate adviser, Mary Savin, professor of microbial ecology within the Division of Agriculture, had done some work with earthworms. Savin, along with Richardson, created the project for Boyle.

“The work that Paige is doing is very interesting and has been well received by the golf course industry,” Richardson said. “It is a topic that has not been researched enough and the industry is seeking some insight and answers into this issue.

“Although the results of this project may not eliminate the problem, it will give us a better understanding of the ecology of the worms, which could lead to future solutions,” he said.

For more information about horticulture, contact your county extension office or visit or


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Opinion: proposed budget cuts threaten green industry programs

July 18, 2017

If ever there was a time for us to stand up and prove that the green industry isn’t just ornamental, it would be now. Beautiful plants? Yes. Gorgeous landscapes? Of course.

But just another pretty thing, the icing on the cake? Nope. Much, much more than that.

We’ve fought long and hard to earn a reputation beyond that of pretty plants and flowers. And the work is ongoing. There’s sound, solid, scientific proof that ornamental horticulture – as distinct from the production of edibles – contributes to the health of the planet, both ecologically and socially. I’m preaching to the choir here, I know, so I’m not going to start spouting statistics. Just a few little tidbits, though:

  • Remediation of soil, check.
  • Support of pollinators, check.
  • Carbon sequestration, check.

Need I go on?

  • How about social, societal contributions?
  • Reduction in crime, check.
  • Relief from anxiety and depression, check.
  • Community economic benefits, check.

If you think you’ve detected a little impatience in this voice, perhaps even a little anger, you’d be right. But my parents taught me well: There are three things one doesn’t discuss in public. Money. Religion. Politics.

Well, this is about politics, so I’m dancing around it. In private, among friends, I’ll let loose. Here? I don’t want to tiptoe, but I know that Mom and Dad are watching. So, here goes:

Get on the phone. Write a letter. Fax something. Email something. Tell your representatives, whoever they may be, that the budget the White House has proposed cannot be passed.

Thanks to Craig Regelbrugge, AmericanHort’s Senior Vice President – Industry Advocacy & Research and Man on The Hill, members received a short but to-the-point analysis that shows that some critical programs that support the green industry are in the crosshairs. Proposed significant cuts to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would result in the elimination of the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI), as well as ARS support for the IR-4 Program.

Why? They fall into the category: “Low impact or significance to national priorities.”

That’s how the current administration’s proposed budget deems programs that are indisputably of high significance to the green industry.

FNRI is a partnership borne out of the strength of the ARS, industry contributors and academia – and it works closely with both AmericanHort’s Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) and the Society of American Florists, both of which help to determine the direction of its research. In fact, HRI often contributes funds to support the agency’s efforts – dollars that come from industry leaders. You, as a grower, as a landscape professional, directly benefit from this research. So does the country. So does the environment.

According to Regelbrugge, “USDA-ARS support for the IR-4 Program’s minor use pesticide registration efforts would … end. ARS projects are responsible for approximately 25 percent of ornamental horticulture trials at IR-4 that contributed to about 67 percent of the regulatory registration decisions made over the last 10 years. [my emphasis] This will translate to fewer available tools in the future for growers to combat pests.”

I can’t even.

If ever there was a time to stand up and support the kind of sound, scientific research that helps growers, breeders and landscape professionals perform their best, most responsible work, it would be now. If ever there was a time to show just how strong this industry is, and just how much it contributes to the health and well being of our natural environment and our society as a whole, it would be now.

Will this budget pass as written? Probably not. But don’t take the chance that critical programs deemed to be of “low impact or significance to national priorities” slip through the cracks.

OK, sure; we may be pretty. But we’re also tough. And we’re strong. And we’re smart.

And guess what? We mean business.-Sally Benson, American Nurseryman

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STMA need your votes for Conference education

July 11, 2017

Every year STMA conference attendees request repeat sessions. Now you have the chance to vote for the sessions you would like to see repeated. Click Here to view the education sessions taking place Wednesday, Jan. 17 and Thursday, Jan. 18 at the annual conference. Choose the three sessions you would most like to see repeated on Friday afternoon (Jan. 19). Cast your vote by July 14 so you don’t miss your favorite speaker!

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Interview with Karl Standley, head groundsman, Wembley National Stadium

July 11, 2017

Katie McIntyre, CEO of Sports Venue Business, chats with Karl Standley, Head Groundsman at Wembley National Stadium, to get his insights on the challenges of managing and maintaining the world-class venue’s hallowed turf.

As Head Groundsman at Wembley National Stadium, what are your main responsibilities? And what does a regular working week entail?

Standley: My job is to ensure the Wembley Stadium pitch is maintained to a world-class standard. As the National Stadium, Wembley hosts a full calendar of events all year round and it’s my responsibility to keep the playing surface in prime condition.

A regular working week before an event would start with removing the lighting rigs and setting up a cutting plan for the week, which will be based around weather and any event rehearsals. The playability of the surface is continually monitored by taking daily tests of the pitch. I’d also spend the week working closely with the stadium’s event team to ensure the event day runs to plan.

What kind of pitch system do you have installed at Wembley? i.e. grass type, undersoil heating, grow lights, turf protection, etc.

Standley: At Wembley we have a Desso Grassmaster system. The infrastructure in the stadium consists of a SubAir system (the same system used at Augusta National and MLB Met’s Stadium in the US), integrated undersoil heating system and an artificial lighting system. Due to the stadium’s microclimate, we have to artificially grow our pitch due to Wembley being in complete shade from late September through until late March.

As England’s National Stadium, Wembley not only hosts a number of different sporting codes, but also large-scale music concerts. What are the specific challenges of retaining the ‘hallowed turf’ in perfect playing condition when it comes to a multi-use venue such as this? And how do you address these?

The stadium bowl creates its own microclimate, which can make growing grass difficult. We have to use several artificial practices with our lighting rigs, under soil heating and sub air systems. In the cold of winter the air temperature may be 1-2 degrees within the stadium, but due to the infrastructure we have, I now have the capability to keep the soil temperature at a constant 17 degrees to ensure we keep the pitch at a world-class standard for all the events at Wembley.

Management, planning and teamwork into each event are critical.

For concerts, the pitch is covered with a Terraplas turf protection system.

What should a successful Pitch Management System include?

Standley: To be honest, my most valuable management system is having a strong team around me. We see ourselves as a family and work hard to make the pitch look its best. The job is about looking after the pitch but it’s also about having a team that is happy, and able to continually learn and develop their skills for the future.

How important is regular maintenance and what kinds of maintenance would you perform on a weekly/monthly basis? How does this change pre- and post-sporting & non-sporting events?

Standley: Due to the stadium’s unique microclimate and busy event schedule, regular maintenance is essential. We cut the surface daily, weekly aeration, use artificial lights to create the right environment for growth and implement a planned specialist fertilizer schedule to ensure the plant has all the nutrients it needs going into events for performance and out of events for recovery. The variation in events is a huge challenge for us but something we thrive on. No event is ever the same and with Wembley having football, rugby, NFL, concerts and boxing, we are constantly thinking outside the box.

What kinds of cutting-edge technologies do you currently employ?

Standley: We have a sub-surface aeration system, which controls moisture content and oxygen levels in the upper root zone. This is beneficial as it ensures we can grow a healthy grass plant within our microclimate and busy event schedule.

We have 18 sensors within the pitch that give us constant up-to-date data on pitch temperatures and moisture levels via mobile phone. We also have two SGL cubes, which transfer information such as salinity, humidity, leaf moisture, canopy temperatures and light levels to my mobile phone, which keeps me constantly up-to-date with how the pitch is performing.

How do you keep up-to-date RE: emerging technologies, best practices, etc?

Standley: I’m always reading relevant articles and magazines, but probably more importantly I’m always communicating with other groundsmen. As a Head Groundsman, I’m always developing. Talking, listening and learning from others in the industry, not just in the UK but also in the USA and Asia, is so important and has taught me a lot in my career.

What types of developments do you have planned for Wembley in the next 12-24 months?

Standley: We’ve got a busy season ahead with the England team playing some important 2018 World Cup [2018 FIFA World Cup Russia] qualifiers, Tottenham moving into the stadium for their [English] Premier League (EPL) and European fixtures, and two NFL fixtures to look forward to. This year will be mainly about management and working closely with the events team to make sure we successfully deliver an increased calendar of events.

Having worked your way up from Assistant Groundsman to Groundsman, to Assistant Head Groundsman and now Head Groundsman, what advice would you give to someone looking to start their journey or what piece of advice do you wish someone had given you when you were starting out?

Standley: My advice would be to listen and learn. Never look as things as problems, but rather as challenges. Get experience within the industry at all levels; get involved in everything you can get involved in and never hold back.

The advice I wish someone had given to me: listen and learn more at school.

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Share your voice & vision

July 11, 2017

The STMA Nominating Committee is issuing its annual call for interest from volunteers who wish to be considered for national STMA Board service. Please click on this link to indicate your interest.
The time commitment and responsibilities of board members can be found here.
Voting members from each category of membership are eligible to run since we have one at-large Director position that is open. Three other category-specific Director positions are up for election. They include:

  • Director Academic
    • Director Parks and Rec
    • Director Higher Education

Nominations close September 1.

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Cal Ripken, Sr. Field benefits from grounds management seminar

July 11, 2017

Several years ago, the baseball diamond at Aberdeen High School received a much-needed facelift. It also received a name: Cal Ripken, Sr. Field.

On June 20, the infield portion of the field received a much needed update as part of the 2017 Sustainable Grounds Management Seminar, hosted by Harford County Public Schools, Ripken Baseball, The Town of Bel Air, Pro’s Choice and The Mill.

More than 130 attendees lent a hand to bring much needed improvements to the school’s main baseball field, while learning about new maintenance practices. The event was designed for Grounds Maintenance professionals from around the region to learn about proper turf and campus management practices.

“This is actually the second time we’ve done it. I try to do an annual sustainability conference through the schools,” HCPS Resource Conservation Manager Andrew Cassilly said. “Sometimes I’ve done sustainable school construction, a couple of sustainable ground maintenance workshops. Just to let our folks, as well as other people that are on the front lines, kind of see what’s the latest and greatest, what are the new practices and concepts that are out there. This is the biggest one we’ve had yet. It went very well, we were very excited.”

Pro’s Choice and a team of professionals worked with the workshop attendees to clean base paths, apply soil amendments, and re-construct the pitcher’s mound. Pro’s Choice and The Mill in Bel Air, donated the supplies, estimated to be roughly $2,200.

Dave Boniface, an employee of The Mill, was a speaker at the workshop. “My forte is nutrients, turf grass because I was a golf course superintendent for 18 years,” Boniface said. “I do a lot of speaking and educating on the proper care of turf grass and of course athletic fields are turf grass.”

Boniface says The Mill owner Henry Holloway and staff were invited to attend by Harford County and they joined up.” We had a pretty good event,” Boniface said. “We had speakers from tree care and no mow areas. It was all done in a fashion to be safe for the environment, the biggest bang for your buck and use of the right products at the right time is what my talk is about.”

Workshop attendees represented five school systems and four local governments from around the region as well as several commercial landscaping companies.

“I’m telling you, if it’s taken care of and this works, which it looks like it will, it could be the best field in the county,” former Aberdeen High baseball coach Tim Lindecamp said. Lindecamp, who announced he was stepping down just a month and a half ago, is still the Athletic Director at the school. “It’s pretty sweet, I was surprised.”-Randy McRoberts, The Aegis

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Last Call: Stars and Stripes Mowing Contest closes Sunday, July 9

July 5, 2017

This is your final opportunity to mow your way to greatness! Friendly reminder the second annual “Stars and Stripes” contest closes Sunday, July 9. Don’t forget to submit your best mowing pattern this week.

Craft unique Fourth of July-theme field designs with mowing equipment for eligibility to win complimentary registration to the 2018 STMA Annual Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Entries must be submitted via Facebook before July 9 and the winner is announced on Wednesday, July 19. Only STMA members are eligible to enter.

For added inspiration, “Freedom on the 50 Yard Line,” “’Merica” and “God Bless the USA” were among the 2016 designs submitted by turf professionals from major sports leagues, NCAA, and parks and recreation sectors.

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Ascochyta leaf blight

July 5, 2017

Most resources indicate that Ascochyta leaf blight is a minor disease because injury is usually temporary, and does not result in turf loss. Kentucky bluegrass is most commonly affected, but infection of other cool-season grasses is also possible.

Symptoms. Ascochyta may appear in isolated spots, or as large patches of straw-colored turf (similar to drought stress, but soil will likely be moist). Symptoms commonly appear following wet weather from late spring to summer, but infection may occur all season. Infections may also appear uniform and diffuse. Individual leaves bleach from tips, and sometimes have dark brown elliptical lesions with dark fruiting bodies called pycnidia.

Management. Disease development is most common in continuously wet turf areas, so irrigation management is most important to limit injury. Irrigate deeply and infrequently, and only early in the morning to limit the duration of leaf wetness. Early morning irrigation has the added benefit of knocking dew from leaves, further reducing the period of leaf wetness. Frequent mowing, especially when turf is wet or with a dull blade increases severity. Mow when leaves are dry. Most sources indicate that fungicides are not necessary unless development is severe, and that broad-spectrum active ingredients will protect turf. We have an outbreak of Ascochyta leaf blight on a perennial ryegrass fairway on campus, and haven’t yet seen benefit from applications of a number of different fungicides. Knowledge of effective fungicides in currently limited.

Bottom line. Ascochyta leaf blight may be confused with injury from drought stress, dollar spot, etc. Excessive, improperly timed irrigation and mowing increase severity. Unfortunately, knowledge of fungicide efficacy for this disease is currently limited, and the best way to prevent disease is with sound turf management.-Cole Thompson, Asst. Prof. & Extension Integrated Turfgrass Management Specialist,


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BrightView reconstructs historic Bowman Field for LLWS MLB game

July 5, 2017

Bowman Field, the second-oldest minor league ballpark in the U.S., is getting a “Big League” makeover. The field will play host to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals Aug. 20 during the Little League World Series.

BrightView Design Group created a new field design and handed it off to BrightView’s Sports Turf and Development teams, which descended on a snow-covered Williamsport March 1. After a full survey of the field to confirm grades and overall field conditions, the BrightView teams began by removing 1 ½ feet of material from the existing field.

“We started by installing a new drainage system and irrigation, then four inches of pea gravel and the root-zone level of the playing surface, followed by four inches of infield clay mix,” said Dennis Winkler, General Superintendent of Construction at BrightView Landscape Development. “We faced some initial challenges getting the new material to subgrade due to the weather.”

BrightView brought in 6,000 tons of sand and root-zone material to build the field. To get the surface to precise MLB standards, a laser hooked up to a tractor operating a box blade brought the surface to within ¼ inch of the finished grade.

In addition to the field, BrightView will oversee the installation of new foul poles, bullpens, a batter’s eye, and backstop net to meet MLB requirements.

The pitching mound and home plate were recently installed. Sod for both the infield and outfield was scheduled for installation the week of May 30.

“We use a surveyor to identify foul pole locations, the first and third base lines, and the exact locations and heights of the pitching rubber and home plate,” said Kevin Moses, Account Manager at BrightView Sports Turf. “The entire field is constructed from home plate with the pitching rubber set exactly 10 inches higher, which we installed to a tolerance of 1/100th of an inch.”

After the sod is installed, final grades will be set and additional measurements taken to ensure the field meets all MLB specifications before the Williamsport Crosscutters’ home opener June 20. BrightView will continue to maintain the field during the team’s season leading up to the MLB Little League Classic game.

The game is evidence of Major League Baseball and the Players Association’s commitment to growing the game of baseball at the youth level.

Players from both the Pirates and Cardinals plan to attend the Little League World Series games taking place that day before welcoming the Little Leaguers and their families into Bowman Field for their game that evening.

The game will air live on ESPN’s ‘Sunday Night Baseball’ and ESPN Radio.

“We’ve worked with Major League Baseball for several years on fields around the world and we’re honored to work on this project in Williamsport,” said Murray Cook, President of BrightView Sports Turf. “The Crosscutters and our other partners onsite have been great and we can’t wait for game day.”

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Tennessee introduces safety rating for youth leagues

July 5, 2017

Last week, Vanderbilt University in Nashville partnered with the Tennessee Department of Health to develop the nation’s first statewide safety rating for youth sports.

The goal of the rating is to cut down on injuries within the sports and to enable parents to make informed decisions about which leagues to participate in.

Alex Diamond, a pediatric sports medicine physician at Vanderbilt, told FOX 17 News, “We know sports are a wonderful thing for kids. It provides physical activity and confidence and health and well-being. There are risks, but a lot of those risks we can mitigate.”

The rating system, called Safe Stars, presents registered leagues with a bronze, silver or gold star to indicate how many precautions they have taken against the risks of youth sports.

The lowest requirements to earn a star include implementing an emergency action plan, doing background checks on potential coaches and training staff to recognize and respond to concussions, sudden cardiac arrest and other high-risk situations.

Diamond said, “It not only raises the bar, it sets the bar for the country. This is the first program of its kind.” The Safe Stars ratings will go public on July 13.-by Courtney Cameron, Athletic Business

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UMass Amherst researching tennis turf

June 23, 2017

Some of the most accomplished amateur lawn tennis players in the country have tested the footing for a groundstroke or an overhand smash at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Joseph Troll Turf Research and Education Center in South Deerfield to help researchers there evaluate how different turfgrass surfaces affect play and stand up under real-life, match-play punishment.

The research is funded with a $60,000 grant from the New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation. For the work, J. Scott Ebdon, professor of agronomy and turfgrass science at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, with colleagues including associate professor Michelle DaCosta, established three official-size single courts at the research center to evaluate turfgrass tolerance under actual tennis play.

At the recent event on June 10, six experienced players from the Longwood Cricket Club (LCC) in Chestnut Hill came to play at the turf research center in South Deerfield to, in Ebdon’s words, “impose a useful level of traffic injury on grass courts to allow for evaluation of wear.” Using results of preliminary research, he and DaCosta, with Ph.D. student Alan Michael Turner, narrowed the number of grass cultivars and species in this test to eight. They use a combination of expert visual inspection and a light-reflecting machine and software to evaluate turf damage.

There are about 20 lawn tennis facilities in the United States, located mostly in the Northeast from New Jersey to New England, where 10,000 to 20,000 amateur and professional players seek out grass courts for friendly matches to tournaments, says Michael Buras, LCC grounds director and a 1997 graduate of the UMass Amherst turf program. He says that of Longwood’s 1,200 members, probably 1,000 regularly play on grass. He adds, “Of course, one of the world’s most prestigious Grand Slam tournaments, the Wimbledon Championship, is also played on grass.”

Buras says the grass court pro tennis tour starts in mid-June in Germany and is followed by three tournaments in the U.K., this year from June 10 to July 1. Wimbledon begins on July 3 and closes on July 15, after which many up-and-coming young players will travel to Newport, R.I., for the Hall of Fame Open from July 16-23. Buras says the LCC, sometimes host of the U.S. Tennis Association amateur grass court championships won by Arthur Ashe at LCC in 1968, will hold its annual exhibition tournament in August, which draws many Hall of Fame players.

Ebdon says UMass Amherst is the only institution in the nation conducting research on natural grass for lawn tennis. “This research will directly benefit the turf manager responsible for maintaining any grass court and indirectly will benefit the player and society by improving the tolerance of the grass to traffic in match play,” he adds. The research is expected to offer valuable new information to managers of other turf areas such as golf, grass sports such as football and soccer, and residential lawns.

DaCosta points out that research to identify the best turf for playing fields not only benefits turf managers at ball parks, soccer fields and golf courses but it also increases player safety by minimizing slippery and bare spots that can lead to injury. It took a full week of measurements and other evaluation after the recent tennis matches to assess turf wear. She adds, “Grasses are important to our culture, and not just for athletics. A lot of what we study here is applicable to other crops including to cereals and grains.”

In addition to UMass Amherst researchers and graduate students who collected turf wear data, Buras and Larry Wolf, Longwood’s director of tennis, collected player feedback. Buras says, “All of us, and I’m not just speaking for LCC, see constant play through the season and for all the tournaments. We all always are looking for ways to keep the grass courts in good shape over those weeks and months of use.”

Buras adds that of special interest to him from Ebdon and DaCosta’s studies will be their evaluation of different grass types for not only wear but factors such as surface firmness and ball bounce. “UMass Amherst is a top research leader in the country looking at grass courts,” he notes. “It is one of the few places that conducts wear trials on different species and compares newer to older cultivars. In the weeks leading up to Wimbledon at the end of June, where the play is on grass, it’s exciting to be taking part in this turf research at UMass.”

As Ebdon points out, grass courts are more difficult to manage and, like golf greens, require a high level of training to maintain. In fact many grass courts are associated with golf courses, he notes. “This project is notable as the first and only funded research project to investigate turfgrasses that are optimal for tennis.”

Founded in 1877, Longwood Cricket Club has played a pioneering role in the evolution of tennis. Originally a cricket club, its members took up lawn tennis, began organizing regional tournaments and moved to its current Chestnut Hill location in 1922. Today the club has members playing all levels of tennis and participating in a wide range of social activities. Its transition from cricket to tennis began in 1878 when the club added its first lawn tennis court.

The New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation’s research trust funds turfgrass research and produces and distributes a research newsletter to share current information on turfgrass research done in New England. The trust works with universities and industry members by sharing research information.

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Irvine releases maintenance guide for organic athletic fields

June 23, 2017

The city of Irvine, CA has released a 91-page guide for organic maintenance of athletic fields in response to interest in replicating the program elsewhere.

The detailed report covers everything from turf management to soil analysis, as well as time spent maintaining baseball and softball infields. It also contains the organics first policy that the City Council adopted in 2016 and product information for alternatives to synthetic pesticides.

In the months since, cities across the region and beyond have contacted Irvine to ask about costs and methods for maintaining fields through manual and mechanical labor.

Additionally, the nonprofit Non Toxic Irvine plans to share the online guide in an effort to eliminate use of chemicals such as Roundup on fields across the U.S.

“We’re going to set up meetings with Little League and Pony nationally to meet with their staff and get it out there,” said Kim Konte, a founder of the group. “I’m so happy it’s finally live. People just want the information. This way it’s coming from a city that’s already implemented it for over a year now.”

The report can be viewed at:

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July is Smart Irrigation Month

June 23, 2017

Join STMA in recognizing Smart Irrigation Month. Taking place in July, this industry campaign’s goal is to increase awareness of the value of water use and grow demand for water-saving products, practices and services.

Join other irrigation companies and professionals to:

  • Educate customers about efficient water-use.
  • Grow demand for water-saving technologies, products and services.
  • Provide real solutions to today’s water challenges.
  • Position your company as a leader in smart water-efficient practices.

Click here to learn more about the initiative and how you can support the cause.


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Christine Brennan examines impact of Title IX 45 years later

June 23, 2017

On the 45th anniversary of Title IX, I want to take you to the 90th anniversary of Title IX.

It’s 2062. Women have been president of the United States for so long that men are starting to wonder when they’ll get the chance again. It has been 22 consecutive years, we think, although it’s easy to lose count.

There are 60 women in the U.S. Senate and 250 in the House of Representatives. There are so many female doctors and lawyers in America that it is becoming rarer every day to hire a male lawyer or go to a male doctor. In fact, some make the point that they “go to a male doctor,” a twist on the “woman doctor” adage from their grandparents’ day.

Women have taken over quite a few boardrooms. Hundreds are in charge of universities and major corporations. A record number own or run sports teams, in the pros and in college.

What does this have to do with the girl next door playing weekend soccer, or your daughter playing on her high school volleyball team, or your niece playing AAU basketball?


“The benefits will be in what happens after the playing days are over, namely more women in leadership positions in our society,” Big East commissioner and former WNBA president Val Ackerman wrote in an email. “Whether doctors, lawyers, engineers, CEOs, senators, university presidents, tech titans — the pathways for women will keep easing because sports can pave the way.”

For much of the 20th century, this nation made a huge mistake. It denied half of its population the opportunity to learn about teamwork, sportsmanship, physical fitness, confidence and winning and losing at a young age. Boys were allowed to play sports. Girls mostly were not. This happened for generations.

Then, on June 23, 1972 — six days after the Watergate break-in, ironically enough — President Richard Nixon signed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibited high schools and colleges that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of gender in any program or activity, including sports.

It took a decade or two for Title IX to get going, but the floodgates were ready to open, and they did. What happened is what you see in your neighborhood, multiplied by thousands of neighborhoods: Millions of girls and women playing sports, filling the athletic fields you drive by every day, so omnipresent that they barely attract your attention anymore. Had you driven by those fields 45 years ago, the only girls you would have seen are those who had run over to tell their brothers it was time to come home for dinner.

To put it mildly, the law has become wildly successful. America has fallen in love with what it created. The 1999 Women’s World Cup soccer tournament was one of our first big hints. (The only event ever to make the covers of Time, Newsweek, People and Sports Illustrated the same week.) The record success of U.S. women at the Olympic Games, leading the way in the medal count, is another. College scholarships? Are you kidding? Name a father (or a mother) who isn’t as into their daughter’s games as they are their son’s.

And those remaining naysayers? The three men hiding under a desk somewhere in Montana who despise Title IX? Come out now, guys. It’s over.

“The passage of Title IX 45years ago changed the trajectory of American women, thus transforming our culture,” Donna de Varona, Olympic gold medalist and Title IX advocate, said in an email. “We found our way into space, onto the Supreme Court and into the high echelons of politics. In the sporting arena, we became visible affirmations of what is possible, offering up strong, confident role models for future generations.”

Title IX is still relatively young, but its impact has been far more dramatic than most of us realize. An Ernst & Young and espnW survey found that among businesswomen now in the C-suite (CEOs, CFOs, etc.), a stunning 94% played sports, and 52% played college sports.

Every year, this nation pumps millions of young female athletes into our culture, into the workplace, into the world. They are now in their 20s, 30s and 40s. They’re not going away, and they’re not going to stop playing sports recreationally, which is why the U.S. Golf Association now features women and girls in practically every one of its TV commercials, while cities big and small are adding half-marathons and triathlons by the dozens every year.

If a sports governing body or a state or local organization is not racking its collective brain trying to figure out how to attract these women into their sport, it is missing a massive, long-term financial opportunity.

Perhaps most important, these young women are not going to forget what they learned through sports.

Tennis legend and women’s sports icon Billie Jean King thinks they will have a profound effect on the future of this country. “The young women graduating college in the next few years may be the first generation of women to receive equal pay for equal work in their professional lifetime and Title IX is helping secure their future,” she wrote in an email.

There still are concerns, certainly. While Title IX permeates every suburban girl’s life, girls and young women in less-privileged areas of urban and rural America have been missed. Men, not women, still get hired for many of the plum women’s college coaching jobs. And noted Title IX attorney and Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar worries that, “without some heavy backpedaling soon, the Trump administration could cripple the Department of Education for generations to come.”

But, all in all, this is a very happy anniversary for Title IX. To celebrate, why not go to a girls’ or women’s sporting event? That 10-year-old girl out there on the soccer field? You’re going to vote for her someday.- by Christine Brennan, USA TODAY


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Routine maintenance on synthetic turf

June 22, 2017

Soccer season is still a few months away, but there has been some activity on the field at the Dr. Gehrig Johnson Athletic Complex.

Mark White: “What we are trying to do today is get some professional eyes on our fields. People who are installers and who are in the industry to look and see how we are doing after 11 years.”

Presque Isle (ME) has the only turf field north of Orono. The field is now 11 years old and normally a turf field has to be replaced after 10 to 15 years. White is hopeful that maintaining the field and doing routine maintenance will extend the life before it needs to be replaced. Houghton who is the Regional Director for field care for Field Turf says the maintenance includes several steps

Luke Houghton: “We are coming in and decompacting the infield which is your sand and rubber base. We are decompacting that and brushing, leveling and adding sand and rubber to high traffic areas. Penalty kick areas, face off areas, corner kick areas. When I say add materials we add sand and rubber to protect the fiber.”

Houghton and his crew also looked at the safety aspect of the field

Houghton: “We also offer G Max readings, if you don’t take care of the field you don’t decompact it and you have very high G Max readings that goes back to concussions and head injuries. Your G Max readings with the decompacting makes it more like a brand new field. Safety playability, longevity is what we are here for.”

Houghton and White agree that the goal of the maintenance is to extend the life of the field.

Houghton: “You are adding two three or years on the other end. Instead of replacing the field you are prolonging the life of the field.”

White: “The plan right now is to get on a maintenance program that is going to help us maintain what we have and protect our investment.

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Resolution could put moratorium on synthetic fields

June 22, 2017

The Westfield (MA) City Council’s natural resources committee has drafted a resolution that could ban crumb rubber use on city property in Westfield.

The resolution, drafted by Ward One Councilor and committee member Mary Ann Babinski, would allow the City Council to vote to adopt a three-year moratorium “on the construction or installation of certain synthetic turf” with infill, such as crumb rubber, on any city-owned property.

“This resolution will prohibit any use of crumb rubber on any city property,” Ward Four Councilor and committee member Mary O’Connell, said. “Any parks, any school playgrounds, anything like that.”

The resolution comes as members said that residents have become increasingly vocal of potential health effects crumb rubber use may carry. However, recently the Board of Health opted to not ban the material, claiming that there weren’t studies showing whether or not a health risk exists with the material. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) though, are currently still conducting studies on the material and its potential effects.

And in the resolution as it is currently drafted, it acknowledges the lack of conclusive evidence but reads that “in an abundance of caution” the resolution is put forth.

“Even though the EPA has not come out with a definitive ruling on crumb rubber and carcinogenic effects, I feel that there is enough evidence out there for us to be very cautionary and to protect the health of Westfield residents and whoever else uses the parks and playgrounds,” O’Connell said.

“Sometimes it takes a while for regulations to catch up,” she added. “And in an abundance of caution our committee is putting forth this resolution.”

O’Connell was clear though, that the moratorium would not ban the use of crumb rubber on city property forever, but would rather provide time for more studies to be concluded before the material is used. Additionally, if studies show that there is no link then the moratorium can be revisited.

The resolution is set to now undergo revisions and changes according to O’Connell, and Babinski is set to meet with the city’s law department regarding the draft. From there, O’Connell expects the draft to go back to the committee when they next meet June 26, and then possibly go to city council as early as July 6.-The Westfield News

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Artificial slope lets you ski through summer

June 22, 2017

Skiing on artificial turf — to most Americans it’s a concept that sounds like some lame amusement park ride. But the fairly common practice in Europe might be catching on for the first time in the U.S. All we can say is, finally.

Residents of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, low-lying countries with few domestic skiing options, have known about synthetic skiing mats for years. A number of artificial slope companies have been immensely successful in tapping into these previously ski-deprived countries. Skiers and snowboarders in Europe flock to dry slopes for their convenient accessibility, year-round opportunities to train, and most of all the surprisingly realistic simulation of the feeling of snow.

Now Americans are getting their chance to find out what the craze is about. This month Buck Hill Ski Resort in Burnsville, Minnesota, known as the old stomping grounds of Lindsey Vonn, will inaugurate their first summer ski season with a Neveplast artificial ski slope.

An Italian company known widely throughout Europe, Neveplast has brought its innovative snow-simulating synthetic material across the Atlantic to join the ranks of just a handful of other dry slopes in North America. The synthetic material is arranged in a series of concentric bristles, sort of like your run-of-the-mill toilet scrubber or toothbrush, which, according to Neveplast’s website provides a “high degree of slipperiness without the use of water” guaranteeing “conditions equal to those of natural compact snow.”

The material isn’t only useful on barren, snow-starved hilltops in the summer months. It’s also designed for use throughout the year, providing an extra layer of slickness when snow hasn’t piled heavily or evenly.

Buck Hill had rolled out an initial stage of its four-acre Neveplast slope last fall, allowing ticket-holders to get a jumpstart on ski season before the first snowfall. But this will be the first time guests will get a chance to ski and board on the hottest days of the year.

The Neveplast slope will also have a new look than past visitors may remember. The resort announced on its Facebook page that it was in the process of reconfiguring the setup for the upcoming season, stating, “This new layout will be a blast and will better suit our guests’ needs.”

In an interview with CBS Minnesota, Buck Hill ski trainer Jacob Olsen said, “A lot of the competition we’re racing against in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains get to have a much longer season, so we’re hoping to gain a competitive advantage by [offering] being able to ski all year.”

With a similar artificial dry slope made by British company Snowflex on the Liberty University campus, and an already-massive popularity in the U.K. and the rest of Europe, we could be seeing the start of a summer skiing boom in the States.

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AstroTurf merges manufacturing to one site in GA

June 22, 2017

AstroTurf Corp., the Dalton, GA maker of athletic playing surfaces, is merging all its manufacturing under one roof as it moves to meet rising demand for its products. The company, bought last year by Germany-based SportGroup Holdings after AstroTurf LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has seen sales jump by 40 percent so far in 2017 and it’s undertaking a multimillion- dollar investment in equipment, officials said. AstroTurf Chief Executive Heard Smith said all the operations to produce synthetic turf are shifting to one 400,000-square-foot building on Callahan Road in Dalton.

“We’re going to significantly reduce transportation costs and waste while improving the quality and efficiency of our manufacturing processes,” he said in a statement.

AstroTurf Marketing Director Sydney Stahlbaum said the company is shifting from three separate locations to the one building it’s leasing to house manufacturing. The company’s headquarters will remain on Abutment Road, but operations management, human resources, information technology and research and development will have offices in the new facility.

“With this type of investment, we have a long-term intention to be there,” Stahlbaum said. “We have state-of-the-art equipment.”

The new facility will enable the company to control every step of its production process and make turf quicker, she said.

By the beginning of July, the company will employ more than 400 people in the manufacturing, sales, and installation of North American sports fields, the marketing director said.

“Investing in the new manufacturing facilities was critical to keep up with the rapid growth of both AstroTurf for athletic fields and SYNLawn for landscape use,” she said.

AstroTurf North American revenues are in excess of $300 million, Stahlbaum said. Sales are higher due to its relationship with SportGroup Holding and organic growth, she said.

Looking ahead, Stahlbaum said, the company is expecting rapid growth domestically and abroad, with plans to expand operations to Europe, India and Asia.

Stahlbaum said one of the facilities it’s leaving has housed AstroTurf operations since 1968.

“There’s a lot of history in that building,” she said. “We’re excited about the future and growth but sad to move out of that building.”

AstroTurf LLC filed for bankruptcy reorganization last year after a court granted a $30 million judgment against the company stemming from a patent infringement lawsuit brought by rival FieldTurf USA.-Mike Pare at

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