Conference Education Sessions by Day

STMA’s Annual Conference takes place January 17-20 in Savannah, Georgia. Click below to see the exciting line-up of education organized by day and time.

Education sessions are still being determined for Monday, Jan. 17. Check back soon!

8-9:30 am

General Session – Labor of Love: Strategies for Overcoming the Labor Shortage

A panel of experts will be discussing the labor shortages affecting the industry. We are witnessing a variety of trends:

  • Seasoned sports field managers are pursuing positions on the commercial side
  • Fewer young people are pursing turfgrass science as a career path in college
  • Fewer interns are available to gain on-the-job experience
  • The pool of qualified job candidates is shrinking for employers trying to hire

We have assembled a diverse panel to address these issues from various angles. Your moderator, Keith Winter, Head Groundskeeper for the Fort Wayne TinCaps, will lead the discussion in an interview style format and add his own experience with difficulty finding and hiring personnel. Dr. John Sorochan, Distinguished Professor at University of Tennessee, will address the decreasing rate of enrollment in turfgrass science programs at the collegiate level and some strategies to attract young people to the field. Abby McNeal, CSFM, CPRP, CABI, Field Superintendent, City Wide Operations for Denver Parks and Recreation will discuss unique ways she has been balancing the labor shortage. Andrew Miller, Program Director for Brentsville Turfgrass Management Program will discuss his recruitment and retention strategies at the high school level. Tyler Bloom, Owner of Tyler Bloom Consulting, will discuss opportunities available in the industry that provide training to prepare individuals to enter the sports field management profession. Questions from the audience will be encouraged during the conversation.

9:45-10:45 am

Chemicals (e.g., Glyphosate) Exposure for Employees and Players: Health Concern?

Bryan Hopkins, Ph.D. – Brigham Young University

Recent legal actions have resulted in alarming concerns for the general public and for those using pesticides and fertilizers. Most notably, there are serious legal, insurance, etc. concerns with use of glyphosate (Roundup). Many facilities are banning fertilizers and/or pesticides. Often these decisions are based on emotion and hysteria rather than facts. What are the real facts about public exposure to chemicals?  What precautions need to be taken to minimize risk? What resources are available to help alleviate founded and unfounded concerns? This presentation will address fundamentals of environmental toxicology, facts on public exposure to pesticides and fertilizers, as well as resources to educate the public on pesticide and fertilizer safety issues.

Baseball Field Expectations/Maintenance on a Tight Budget

Andy Ommen – McLean County PONY Baseball/Professional Outdoor Solutions

This presentation will discuss Andy Ommen’s time volunteering for a 501c3 organization and managing a turfgrass program which has produced a successful product. He will explore his priorities and successes in building a grounds crew program and the daily work to successfully host 1200+ games on 6 fields of various levels of play. Topics addressed will include safety concerns at a youth/school level, best practices to keep fields as playable as possible, as well as motivating athletes to take care of their positions.

Mowing: Getting Beyond the 1/3 Rule

Matt Anderson, CSFM, CSE and Boyd Montgomery, CSFM, CSE – The Toro Company

This presentation will provide a more in depth look at mowing and how it impacts a sports field management operation. We will discuss current trends in sports field mowing heights, proper cutting unit setup and how those factors can impact after-cut appearance.

Sports Field Grass Selection to Reduce Inputs

Gregg Munshaw, Ph.D. – Pratum Seed Co.

Perception has become reality in terms of chemical and fertilizer applications to sports fields across the country. Even if a product is being used properly and in the safest manner possible, the perception still exists that the inputs applied to sports fields are either hurting the environment or are unsafe for our kids to play on. Because of these perceptions, restrictions are being imposed by local governments in the northern U.S. as well as in Canada. There is a strong likelihood that we will continue to see increased chemical and fertilizer limitations across the country in the coming years. This presentation is not to promote reducing inputs in the green industry, rather it’s focus is on how improved genetics in all grass species can help to reduce inputs and help change the perception that sports field management is inherently bad. The focus will be on grass options for sports fields and specific cultivars, blends, and mixes that have been shown to thrive in tough environments with little or no chemical assistance.

Attendees will learn:

  • How improved cultivars can reduce the need for additional chemicals, fertilizer, and water.
  • The pros and cons of different grasses as well as a list of cultivars that have been shown to require fewer inputs including their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Specific management practices for these improved cultivars including establishment of, or renovation to a new low input cultivar.
Sports Field Design, Construction, Renovation: What Works, What Doesn’t

James Puhalla – Retired

Knowing “what doesn’t work” is as valuable as knowing “what does;” that’s the way to avoid mistakes. This is called “learning by past mistakes.” Learn techniques that can be used by designers and contractors in the development of new fields as well as sports field managers in renovating existing fields.

Attendees will learn:

  • How the Principles of Sports Field Design helps in decision making for construction or renovation projects.
  • To analyze plans and specifications for building new fields and to find solutions for existing problem fields.
  • To calculate percent of slope by using a laser level and direct elevation rod; tools for every sports field manager.

11 am-12 pm

Novel Lab Tests for Baseball & Softball Infield Mixes

Evan Mascitti – Penn State University

Engineered soils have greatly improved the quality of infields. Current specifications revolve around particle-size analysis (PSA). PSA is useful, but it does not directly consider the soil’s behavior. New laboratory tests provide more information by directly measuring a soil’s response to applied loads and to changes in water content.

Attendees will learn:

  • The best infield soils are those that remain playable over a wide range of water content.
  • Mechanical behavior and water content should be directly measured when assessing an infield soil.
  • Various clays and infield mixes can behave differently, even when their particle-size distributions are similar.
Understanding the Value of STMA’s Best Practices Document

Victoria Wallace – University of Connecticut, Jason Bowers, CSFM – Parks System in Maryland, Ben Polimer – Town of Weston, MA

Sports field managers are dedicated to providing safe, uniform playing surfaces of the athletic fields and recreational areas for which they are responsible.  Pressure from introduced environmental legislation has prompted STMA to develop best management practices (BMP’s) that provides guidance related to sports field management practices and efforts to promote environmental sustainability. This presentation will introduce the “Best Practices” document and discuss how these “Best Practices” advance the protection of the environment, support the sports field manager and elevate the professionalism of the industry.

Back to Basics: Troubleshooting Your Irrigation System’s Electronics

Brad Jakubowski, CIT – Penn State University

In this hands-on and interactive workshop, attendees will learn the fundamentals of troubleshooting an irrigation system. Attendees will use multimeters to identify electrical problems with controllers, solenoids, common wires, and valve control wires. StationMaster® testers will be covered as well. Attendees will also learn step by step methods to troubleshooting hydraulic problems in irrigation lines, valves and sprinklers. A basic comparison of standard irrigation wiring and 2-wire systems will be discussed.

Be prepared to actively make multimeter measurements during the presentation to determine whether a valve’s solenoid is working correctly or not. We will also consider voltage measurements and how they are used to determine problems in an electrical system.

Spraying Efficacy for the Sports Field Manager

Don Frantz – PBI-Gordon Corporation

This presentation will address pesticide terminology and definitions, differences in formulations in products used on sports fields, application techniques, tips and tricks for better spraying efficacy, mixing and calibration of equipment, better interpretation of labels, and how pH and water hardness influence pesticide control success on sports fields.

Attendees will learn how to:

  • Improve spraying at your facility.
  • Understand product labels.
  • Overcome water quality factors in applications.
New Trends and Technology in Sports Fields

Representatives from STMA Commercial Companies

Ten of STMA’s commercial companies have been selected to give a five-minute presentation to introduce and explain the benefits of a new or improved product or service currently available to sports field managers.

2-3:15 pm

What’s the Deal with Soil Health and How Can I Use it in My Sports Facility?

Beth Guertal, Ph.D. – Auburn University

Soil health is a term being used by a whole lot of folks, yet it is largely undefined.  This seminar will talk about the various definitions of soil heath, and those that fit into turfgrass management.  We’ll talk about the various ways we measure soil health, and how you could use those to quantify soil health at your facility.

Attendees will learn the following:

  • What currently available ‘soil health’ tests measure.
  • How your management tactics may affect soil health.
  • How to talk about soil health to clientele and users of the facilities and communicate how various practices improve soil health.
Using Soil Sensor Data to Manage Your Ballfields More Efficiently

Greg Goudeau – Spiio, Inc. and Casey Carrick, CSFM – University of North Carolina Athletics

This presentation will provide an introduction to the various soil sensor technologies on the market today.  It will also provide details on how sports field managers are using data as an agronomic and irrigation management tool, as well as an effective communication tool with coaches, athletic directors, and front offices.

With the use of soil sensor data on ballfields, sports field managers can be more efficient with their daily and long-term management plans: 1 – Manage soil moisture in turfgrass and infield skin areas to conserve water and labor. 2 – Limit the amount of inputs applied to ballfields by making agronomic and pest control decisions based on soil temperatures and growing degree days. 3 – Produce a consistent, high-quality playing surface by monitoring the conditions in the soil.

Research, Trial, and Error; Selecting Warm Season Grasses for Stadiums

John Sorochan, Ph.D. – University of Tennessee

This session will focus on using evidence-based research and real-world trial and error to guide proper species and variety selections for warm season grass stadiums. Participants will be able to make sound decisions to help with species and variety selection for their warm season sports fields.

Lost, On My Way to Becoming a Sports Field Manager

Alpha Jones, CSFM – Fayetteville Woodpeckers

This presentation will be an anecdotal story detailing my career path from high school to Director of Field Operations for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, minor league affiliate of the Houston Astros. The details will briefly follow how my career path and college major choice of computer engineering, led to a job opportunity in IT that became the starting point for my side hustle lawn cutting business.

The story will continue to show how these, and other experiences helped me to grow my startup business, as well as myself, into a reputable landscaping company and owner. There are highlights of other moments that put me in a position to begin managing sports fields and working as a Game-Day grounds crew member that helped me to see what I am passionate about and sharing that passion with others.

I chased other pursuits but never truly left sports field management. Every direction taught different skills that are significant to being a leader.

There are some family experiences that helped me to understand leadership, such as my father’s connection to Dr. King, being a father, and a husband, which helped to shape my definition of leadership:

  • Leadership requires humility and an “attitude of servitude.”
  • Leadership is about casting vision and empowering those around you to make the group successful.

Examples and explanations to each of these points will help round out the presentation and will challenge members of the audience to get clarity on their understanding of leadership, understand their attitude towards leadership and how they can practice these skills to prepare themselves for when they may find their way to a leadership opportunity.

Paul & Luke’s Excellent Adventure – Infield Soils Around the U.S.

Luke Yoder – DuraEdge Products and Paul Zwaska – Beacon Athletics/DuraEdge

Paul and Luke will take a “road trip” across the country to bring clarity and define the aspects of infield soils on a regional basis and how it relates to everyday maintenance and playability in the field. With over 1000 soil tests to pull from over the years, they will interpret and simplify the data for infield materials throughout the lower 48 that are used on a broad spectrum. The presentation will detail an ideal infield specification and how to address an existing infield with issues.

When selecting an infield material for new construction or existing infields, the “go to” for most end users is to order whatever is local and has been used in the past. Sometimes that works and other times it brings problems that are associated with that specific material. Sitting in on this “road trip” across the country with Luke and Paul will bring clarity to just about every material out there used by SFM’s across the country and provide “outside the box” thinking for new approaches that can simplify maintenance and increase performance.

3:30-5 pm

Understanding Plant and Soil Interactions

Adam Thoms, Ph.D. and Nick Christians, Ph.D. – Iowa State University

This presentation will outline the basic principles concerning soil science as it relates to turfgrass management. Participants will learn the basics of soil science and soil testing.

Performance Testing and Player Safety: What the Research Tells Us

Gerald Henry, Ph.D. – University of Georgia and Chase Straw, Ph.D. – Texas A&M University

Performance testing of sports fields is necessary to quantify surface properties such as hardness and traction. Enhancements in sensor/sampling technology and increased concern for athlete safety and field performance has driven interest. Spatial maps created from sensors/samplers can depict variability of soil and plant parameters that directly impact turfgrass health, field playability, and player safety. This presentation will teach attendees how to operate current sensor/sampler technology and integrate their use into daily athletic field management practices. Current athlete-surface interaction research from Texas A&M University and the University of Georgia will be discussed in order to convey the influence of field conditions on player safety.

Attendees will learn the following:

  • Understand the basic premise of performance testing, its application, and potential benefits to athletic field management.
  • Comprehend the influence that within-field variability of soil and plant parameters has on the location of ground derived injuries.
  • Become familiar with current athlete-surface interaction research and the implications it may have on player safety and field maintenance.
Living with a Legislated Pesticide Ban: Perception, Inaccuracy and Fact

Victoria Wallace and Jason Henderson, Ph.D. – University of Connecticut

Connecticut’s 2010 pesticide ban on municipal and school grounds has been legislated since July 1, 2010. An in-depth survey to school grounds managers was distributed late 2020. This presentation will address perceptions and management practices that have changed over the past 10 years and how changes have impacted the playing surface quality of school athletic fields and the care of school grounds.

Attendees will learn:

  • How school grounds managers’ perceptions of Connecticut’s 2010 pesticide ban compare to perceptions 10 years later.
  • How school grounds managers in CT have adapted management practices since the state-wide pesticide ban was enacted in 2010.
  • What pests school grounds managers have identified as a challenge to manage with a legislated pesticide ban.
Is There a Best Grass for the Transition Zone?

Mike Goatley, Jr., Ph.D. – Virginia Tech, Jesse Pritchard, CSFM – University of Virginia Department of Athletics, Josh McPherson, CSFM – University of Missouri – Athletics

Continued breeding advancements expand grassing options for transition zone sports fields. Improvements in pest and stress tolerance continue to enlarge the boundaries of both cool season grasses and bermudagrass.  This presentation details strengths and weaknesses of grassing options in the transition zone from the perspectives of CSFMs and a university researcher.

Attendees will learn:

  • The general strengths and weaknesses of improved bermudagrass and Kentucky bluegrass cultivars with demonstrated tolerances to the environmental extremes associated with the transition zone and where improvement in other grasses might lead to sports field uses.
  • What special tools, equipment, or management strategies are needed to optimize the performance of these grasses on transition zone sports fields.
Addressing Concerns with Synthetic Pesticide Use in Sports Fields

Joseph Roberts, Ph.D. – Clemson University and John Inguagiato, Ph.D. – University of Connecticut

Public concern with pesticides has been increasing in recent years. While many are familiar with biological control, concerns of efficacy and costs have hindered widespread adoption. This seminar will provide an in-depth look at research on biological means of pest control along with new methods for understanding how they work.

Attendees will gain:

  • Background knowledge in current trends of public opinion and understand key areas where synthetic pesticide laws have been impacted.
  • A working knowledge of biological control of turfgrass pests, understanding your options, and how current products work to improve pest defense.
  • An understanding of how cultural management practices can impact biological tools

8-9:15 am

Irrigation Troubleshooting Using Sight, Sound, and Smell: Maybe Shovel Too?

Brad Jakubowski, CIT – Penn State University

This presentation is intended to help improve irrigation troubleshooting skills before any digging or in-depth work occurs. Being able to evaluate what is being seen, heard, or smelled can potentially reduce the amount of wasted work and disruption to the field. When digging is required, that can be discussed as well.

Applying Business Lessons to your Sports Field Operations

Boyd Montgomery, CSFM, CSE and Matt Anderson, CSFM, CSE – The Toro Company

The goal of this session is to provide attendees with the key concepts in business and how they apply to their everyday jobs managing turfgrass and their teams. Topics will include:

  • Teamwork – the importance of developing your team and how to foster teamwork within your own team as well as within your organization.
  • Communication – discussion on the key aspects of proper communication (verbal and written) and how to make sure that both parties understand the message.
  • Data – how to use data to develop your game plan and support or bolster your requests to management or in communicating with your stakeholders.
  • Managing the P&L – how to effectively manage your budget.
  • Sales & Presentation – everyone is in sales. We will discuss how to craft your message and make sure that your presentation is positioned for success.
  • Self Confidence – approaching things with the right attitude and confidence level is key.
Biostimulants: What Are They and How to Use Them?

Bryan Hopkins, Ph.D. – Brigham Young University

Biostimulants are increasingly being promoted, with a wide variety of products being sold in the turfgrass markets. This is the fastest growing sector among the fertilizer industry.  What does adding various biostimulants do for turfgrass and what is just “snake oil” tactics? These questions will be answered showing the results of various research trials as well as demystifying the science behind this latest promotion.

Attendees will learn:

  • What biostimulants are and the 7 categories of these products.
  • Legitimate uses of biostimulants.
  • How to recognize when a biostimulant will not be beneficial in sports field management.
Synthetic Field Maintenance: What the Research Shows

Kyley Dickson, Ph.D. – The University of Tennessee

The presentation will detail the minimum maintenance needs for a synthetic turf field and what the research has found on these different maintenance techniques. The presentation should show the key factors to look for when determining when to apply maintenance on synthetic fields. Attendees will be taught useful tips to improve field playability and performance. The presentation will also cover the basic synthetic turf maintenance needs for any budget.

Attendees will learn:

  • Basics of field maintenance and its importance.
  • What research has shown to improve synthetic field longevity and performance.
  • Useful methods and tools for precision maintenance to reduce cost and improve field playability.
What Do We Know About Humic Acid Fertilizers?

Adam Thoms, Ph.D. and AJ Lindsey, Ph.D. – Iowa State University

Humic acid products have been growing in popularity amongst the turfgrass industry, however, little is known on how effective they are. This presentation will review what a humic acid product is, how it is made, and discuss some of the products on the market.  Several research trials have been conducted with various humic containing fertilizers and these results will be shared including some work on improving soil health. We have found that you can lower the rate of nitrogen while still maintaining the same turfgrass quality, with turfgrass clippings also being reduced at the lower nitrogen rates.  We have also noticed some improvements in soil health with the addition of humic fertilizers, especially in sand-based systems, as well as recovery from athletic traffic in certain environmental conditions. This presentation will provide some turfgrass research to the humic acid industry claims.

9:30-10:45 am

Restoring Performance: Getting at the ROOT of the Problem

Gerald Henry, Ph.D. – University of Georgia

The application of biological substances, microorganisms, and plant growth enhancers has increased throughout the turfgrass industry over the past decade. Many of these products are applied to increase nutrient absorption, boost tolerance to environmental stress, and improve overall growth and aesthetic appearance. However, not all of these products are created equal and manufacturer claims often go unverified. This presentation will examine the impact of these products alone and in combination with cultural practices for the increase of turfgrass rooting and field performance.

Attendees will learn:

  • The differences between the terms biostimulant, biological, biofertilizer, etc.
  • The current use and expectations of these products with specific focus placed on their strengths and weaknesses.
  • The synergism and antagonism of these products with more traditional cultural and chemical turfgrass management practices.
Breeding Zoysiagrass for Sports Fields

Chrissie Segars, Ph.D. – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Ambika Chandra, Ph.D. – Texas A&M AgriLife Research

Zoysiagrass, a warm season turfgrass, is adapted to the tropical regions as well as the transition zone of the US. The interest in the use of zoysiagrass on sports fields is increasing. With proper selection of varieties and proper management practices, zoysiagrass will produce high quality playing surfaces with fewer inputs. This seminar will review the history, genetics, development, performance, and use of zoysiagrass on sports fields.  Participants should learn a brief history of zoysigrass, the current available cultivars, plus their strengths and weaknesses as well as the latest agronomic and pest management strategies to provide peak performance.

Attendees should come away with a bigger understanding of how breeding programs are developed and how cultivars are chosen to move forward. Discussions will be focused on breeding zoysiagrass for sports fields and current research that Texas A&M is undergoing to assess traffic tolerance and recovery of commercial and experimental zoysiagrass.

Save the Date! Month-by-Month Management Plans for Parks and Rec

Gregg Munshaw, Ph.D. – Pratum Seed Co. and Brian Winka, CSFM – Advanced Turf Solutions

Many sports field managers at the park & rec, high school, small college, etc. level can get bogged down in the weeds when it comes to scheduling and being prepared for agronomic tasks on sports fields. Further, as more and more facilities deal with budget cuts and reduced staff, it becomes increasingly important to have a plan in place to maximize your budget and your labor. Not only do sports field managers need to schedule specific agronomic practices throughout the year, they often times must be prepared for these practices months in advance by ordering the necessary products and equipment. This presentation will be a monthly breakdown of specific tasks that should be considered. We will include the challenges of managing both grassed and skinned areas of fields. The recommendations in this presentation will be based on a significant number of years of hands on experience managing parks and rec fields as well as many years of offering advice through consulting and extension activities.

Hiring… Assistants…and Interns…and Seasonal Crew. Oh my!

Keith Winter – Fort Wayne TinCaps

One of the biggest concerns facing our industry today is hiring and retaining assistants, interns, and seasonal workers. The pandemic only further diminished the available and interested work force, as sports turfgrass managers are struggling to find qualified (and in some cases, non-qualified) applicants. This presentation will examine the realities of the current industry workforce challenges, and look to come up with solutions or alternatives for filling available positions.

Attendees will learn about:

  • Current conditions of the workforce in the sports turfgrass industry.
  • Alternative hiring practices that might work for you.
  • Challenges and solutions that lie ahead.
Challenges and Opportunities of Sports Field Programs in Secondary Schools

Andrew Miller – Brentsville Turfgrass Management Program, Russ Bayer – South Forsyth High School Turf Management Program, Mike Goatley, Jr., Ph.D. – Virginia Tech

In this presentation you will learn about the different strategies that are used in different high school turfgrass management programs across the country. We will discuss some of the success stories of students and the benefits that these programs have had on the outlook of our industry. We will also discuss ways industry professionals can get involved to promote the sports field management industry to help grow this incredible profession.

Attendees will learn about:

  • High school turfgrass management programs across the country that provide skilled labor of young teenagers that will have an impact on your field the first day that they step on the jobsite.
  • How you can have a lasting impact on a child’s life by getting involved with these programs and providing the opportunity for these kids to be successful in this industry.
  • How Secondary School programs will have a positive impact on the future of the sports field management industry and grow the profession that we are all passionate about.

11 am-12 pm

Keynote – Inspired Leadership in Challenging Times

Craig Whelden – Major General, U.S. Army (retired)

Whelden’s leadership journey began as an Eagle Scout at age 14. Thirty years later, he was the youngest General in the United States Army. Combined with another 9 years as a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES) with the U.S. Marine Corps, he has led thousands of soldiers, sailors, Marines, and civilians. In 2011, he was inducted into the Purdue University Tri-Service ROTC Hall of Fame. In March 2019, he published Leadership: The Art of Inspiring People to Be Their Best, winning four national book awards and attaining #1 international bestseller status on Amazon. Whelden is now a Global Fortune 500 Speaker and lives in Bluffton, South Carolina.

Whelden passes on decades of leadership and life lessons – both good and bad – told in a compelling and sometimes very personal way. A “master story-teller,” thousands around the world have heard his inspirational message.

The presentation will focus on:

  • Why communication skills are so critical.
  • Outlining organizational vision, operating style, and personal quirks – early on.
  • Why delegation and accountability are so important.
  • The value (and risks) of goal setting and leaving a legacy.
  • The importance of trust and balance in your life.

8-10 am

Coast to Coast Integrated Weed Management for Cool Season Turfgrass

Alec Kowalewski, Ph.D. – Oregon State University, Matthew Elmore, Ph.D. – Rutgers University, Emily Braithwaite – Oregon State University, Brandon McNally – Rutgers University

During this collaborative presentation Dr. Alec Kowalewski will be focusing his discussion and presentation on cultural practices (irrigation and fertilization) for control of annual bluegrass, and low-impact herbicides. More specifically, recent research at OSU has identified the optimum irrigation rates, nitrogen rates and phosphorus for annual bluegrass mitigation in perennial ryegrass and tall fescue stands. Regarding low-impact herbicides, Oregon public schools are required to use low impact herbicides. Therefore, OSU extension developed a list of low impact products, which process a caution action work and a relatively low cancer risk.  This presentation will talk about how this list was developed and how to successfully use the products on this list.

Dr. Matt Elmore will be focusing his discussion and presentation on cultural practices (irrigation and fertilization) for control of annual bluegrass, and low-impact herbicides programs for annual bluegrass mitigation in perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and tall fescue stands.

Emily Braithwaite will focus her discussion and presentation on how primary cultural management practices affect weed populations (mowing, fertilization, irrigation). OSU has been managing a series of turfgrass plots since 2017, examining different cultural practices, with no herbicide inputs, and weed populations over time. Emily will also discuss mulching materials for patch and repair of damaged areas, and optimal seeding dates for the west coast.

Brandon McNally will be focusing his discussion and presentation on cultural practices (irrigation and fertilization) for control of annual bluegrass in cool-season turfgrasses such as perennial ryegrass and creeping bentgrass.

Designing/Building a Sports Field with Grounds Managers in Mind

Fred Stringfellow, CAE – American Sports Builders Association, Kirk Grego, CFB – Mid-America Golf & Landscape, Allen Verdin, CFB – The Motz Group, Craig Honkomp, PE, PS, LEED AP – Sportworks Design

As designers and builders, we often hear from facility owners and grounds managers after a facility has been in operation for a period of time about “things they wish had been done differently.” Wouldn’t it be nice if you considered those things BEFORE a new facility was designed and built?

Attendees will:

  • Learn about facility design that impacts Grounds Managers, and how those could be implemented at an existing facility.
  • Participate in an interactive discussion about what would make life as a Grounds Manager easier, while at the same time improving the facility.
  • Learn how to give ideas voice when planning a new facility and show your value to the process.
Let’s Clear Up the Confusion on Wetting Agents and Sports Turfgrass

Michael Fidanza, Ph.D. and Stan Kostka, Ph.D. – Penn State University

Soil surfactants (also referred to as wetting agents) are staples of turfgrass maintenance programs to treat localized dry spots, mitigate soil water repellency, and to improve rootzone water delivery, water use efficiency, nutrient access, and enhance overall plant health. The goal of this seminar is to provide sports field managers with an introduction into the basic concepts of soil water, the development of water repellency in soils, and basic principles on soil surfactant mode of action and their impacts to enhance water management and improve turfgrass performance, and how to make sense of all the soil surfactant products in the marketplace.

Attendees will gain:

  • An understanding into the concepts of soil water dynamics with the turfgrass rootzone.
  • Further insight into how the soil surfactants in today’s marketplace are classified and categorized.

1:30-3 pm: Repeated Education Sessions

Mowing: Getting Beyond the 1/3 Rule

Matt Anderson, CSFM, CSE and Boyd Montgomery, CSFM, CSE – The Toro Company

This presentation will provide a more in depth look at mowing and how it impacts a sports field management operation. We will discuss current trends in sports field mowing heights, proper cutting unit setup and how those factors can impact after-cut appearance.

Sports Field Design, Construction, Renovation: What Works, What Doesn’t

James Puhalla – Retired

Knowing “what doesn’t work” is as valuable as knowing “what does;” that’s the way to avoid mistakes. This is called “learning by past mistakes.” Learn techniques that can be used by designers and contractors in the development of new fields as well as sports field managers in renovating existing fields.

Attendees will learn:

  • How the Principles of Sports Field Design helps in decision making for construction or renovation projects.
  • To analyze plans and specifications for building new fields and to find solutions for existing problem fields.
  • To calculate percent of slope by using a laser level and direct elevation rod; tools for every sports field manager.
Baseball Field Expectations/Maintenance on a Tight Budget

Andy Ommen – McLean County PONY Baseball/Professional Outdoor Solutions

This presentation will discuss Andy Ommen’s time volunteering for a 501c3 organization and managing a turfgrass program which has produced a successful product. He will explore his priorities and successes in building a grounds crew program and the daily work to successfully host 1200+ games on 6 fields of various levels of play. Topics addressed will include safety concerns at a youth/school level, best practices to keep fields as playable as possible, as well as motivating athletes to take care of their positions.

Week 1 – Tuesday, January 25

Pursuing Infill Depth Perfection in Synthetic Turf Systems

Thomas Shay, PE – Woodard & Curran

This session will identify shortcomings of synthetic turf infill installation results and how that translates to challenges in future operations and maintenance, impacting overall field performance and longevity.  We will review field installation case studies where geolocated infill depth measurements and heat mapping indicate there is a need for improvement.

Attendees will understand limitations of current infill depth measurement practices and visually demonstrate (via heat mapping) how infill depths vary on existing and newly installed synthetic turf athletic fields.

Attendees will be able to identify lessons learned and areas for improvement in infill installations for oversight and implementation by the sports field manager that will lead to longer lasting and higher performing fields.

The session will provoke thoughts and discussion on how the industry can be better served by improving means, methods, equipment, and collaboration throughout the design and installation process.

The content covered in this session can be immediately implemented by the sports turf management staff and lead to higher quality and longevity in synthetic turf systems.

Pesticide and Topdressing Calculations – It’s Only Cell Phone Math

Samuel Doak – Retired

This session will show several methods to solve a variety of active ingredient calculations with a range of formulations. Step by step methods will be used to solve the problems.

Attendees will learn how to:

  • Calculate the amount of active ingredient to be applied in a variety of formulations using several methods.
  • Calculate the amount of topdressing needed on any size area and any thickness used – from 1/8 inch to 3 inches mulch.

Attendees will have enough in session practice to be confident in calculations and to be able to teach someone else these skills.


Week 2 – Tuesday, February 1

Maps Guide the Way: Mapping Pests for Targeted Applications

David McCall, Ph.D. – Virginia Tech

Natural playing surfaces are not uniform but are typically managed as if they are. Most pests are distributed in clusters within localized areas, yet entire surfaces are treated equally with pesticides. However, there are simple and complex strategies that allow turfgrass professionals to target applications. This presentation will provide tools available to apply the right product to the right place, at the right time.

Attendees will learn:

  • Both simple and complex ways in which they can take control of mapping pest outbreaks across their facilities.
  • How to use pest-incidence maps for precision turfgrass management, reducing both environmental and economic inputs.
  • How to use aerial imagery to state their case to upper administration for necessary management inputs and resources.
Expert Expectation Management for Sports Field Experts

Ryan DeMay – City of Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks

As Sports Field Managers we are always at the hub of the wheel that drives people, sports, and turfgrass. When all of those things come together just right, it’s not luck. It takes fantastic people skills, consistent communication, and above all, managing expectations of all those around you. From basic cultural practices to annual maintenance programs to renovations and construction, managing expectations as the expert on staff is a skill that separates good from great.

In this seminar, we will take a deep dive into the most effective strategies and tactics for managing the expectations of our staff, administrators, front office staff, athletic directors, programmers, coaches, athletes, parents, contractors, vendors, and other stakeholders. Some of the strategies we will cover:

  • Defining Success – With so many voices at the table, how do we clearly define and agree on what success looks like for fields and facilities? Hear all perspectives, identify common “wins”, and agree on achievable priorities, outcomes, and measurements for success.
  • Cultural Practices and Capital Improvements – With success defined, how do we lay out the path to success for our fields to stakeholders? Frame the issues, present the benefits, sell the outcome.
  • Delivering the Goods – Now with a solid plan is in place, how do we work through the challenges that come our way seemingly every day? Staying on track, over-communicating, and building trust.
  • Reflecting and Forecasting – The season is over, the project is complete, but how do we know if we succeeded? Review our success measurements, get feedback from all stakeholders, prepare to do this ALL over again to make the fields and your staff even better!

By employing these strategies of properly managing expectations, Sports Field Managers can better position themselves as the trusted experts within our organizations who get the job done right, on time, and with integrity.

Regardless of the size of your organization, these strategies have been proven to reduce the anxiety and worry of the unknowns in our industry while increasing the trust and belief in our abilities as Sports Field Managers.

Attendees will:

  • Understand the influence they have as Sports Field Managers to properly set and manage expectations within their organizations.
  • Learn how to employ a “customer-first” attitude when managing expectations with staff, administrators, coaches, and other stakeholders.
  • Leave feeling confident about their role as Sports Field Managers to guide their organization’s process for consistently producing safe, high-quality, playable sports fields.


Week 3 – Tuesday, February 8

Opening Minds to Technology

Mike Hales, CSFM – Brigham Young University

This presentation aims to open people’s minds to how the use of technology can help to make their jobs easier.  It targets those who say that they “don’t do technology” and shows them that they can learn new things that will help them to do their job.

This presentation will:

  • Open attendee’s minds to how technology can help them do their job better.
  • Give attendees specific suggestions of new technologies that can improve their facility.
  • Encourage attendees to think of new better ways of doing things.
Water Management: Cutting-Edge Tools You May Be Missing

Colin Campbell, Ph.D. – METER Group, Inc., Bryan Hopkins, Ph.D. – Brigham Young University, Neil Hansen, Ph.D. – Brigham Young University

In this presentation, we will discuss uniting direct measurements of soil water potential and local weather conditions with remote sensing and machine learning to provide better advice to managers on when and how much to water. We will back these concepts with real world examples from sports fields on the BYU campus.

Attendees will:

  • Understand how multiple tools can be combined to provide confidence in irrigation decisions.
  • Learn how advanced technology can be used to evaluate existing irrigation schemes and drive adjustment to produce better performing turfgrass.
  • Benefit from a case study showing how technology was deployed and leveraged to support the success of sport field managers.


Week 4 – Tuesday, February 15

Developing Weed Control Strategies for Your Facility

Jim Brosnan, Ph.D. – University of Tennessee, Gerald Henry, Ph.D. – University of Georgia

Developing an effective weed control program is a skill that is becoming increasingly important for sports field managers. Similar to what is implemented with disease management, an effective weed control program allows turfgrass managers to maintain weed-free turfgrass (or as closely as possible) of optimal quality from January – December. Effective programs not only make use of different herbicide technologies varying in mode of action, but also implement effective cultural management practices such as fertilization, aerification, irrigation, and mowing. This session will teach attendees how to build effective weed control programs for the southern United States.

Attendees will:

  • Learn how to build a weed control program for their facility that integrates timely herbicide applications with appropriate cultural practices to minimize weed infestation.
  • Understand the benefits (and capability) of rotating herbicide modes of action over time to prevent resistance.
  • Learn the strengths and weaknesses of the newest herbicides entering the turfgrass marketplace and how they fit into weed control programs.
Revitalizing Your School District Sports Fields

Paul Cushing – Paul Cushing Sports Turf Agronomic Consulting Services

This presentation is designed to help Sports Field Managers at the School District level in assisting them to rejuvenate their sports fields. This presentation touches upon weed control, animal abatement, soil testing, soil fertility programs, renovation programs (aerification and verticutting), proper height of cut (HOC), topdressing and seasonal scheduling for school district employees. This session will also include many case studies with school district sports fields over the past year with before, during and after pictures to illustrate points and give Sports Field Managers practical knowledge to empower change to their own school district fields.

Attendees will take home: Strong understanding of diagnosing broadleaf & grassy weeds and the control methods needed to create a monostand of turfgrass. Animal control and strategies for minimizing their affect. The importance of taking soil samples and the interpretation of important aspects of the results which include: water movement, sodium management and availability of nutrients in the soil.