For an athlete to consistently play a winning game, they need the right tools. The demands they place on their body requires having the coaching staff, nutritionists, and equipment. An integral piece of their equipment is the surface on which they play. An inconsistent, damaged and worn surface can not only affect their game, but also result in serious injury.
Managing a playing surface is no different to managing the sports person. A thorough surface management strategy is needed to maintain the playability of the surface and here, we review one of the most integral parts of this strategy-Surface Usage Management.
Understanding your turf’s capacity
In understanding your sports turf capacity, you can identify what the maximum usage/traffic level is that the surface can withstand, and the trigger points that could lead to the point where the surface is termed unfit for use. The evaluation and creation of the usage report should consider asset management and player safety must be taken into consideration. All the sports surfaces must always maintain a fit for use standard to reduce the risk to the players.
The match days and training sessions the surface receives, the areas where degradation is most common and most frequent, the resources available to maintain the surface and the length of time the surface has to recover in between usage must all be considered. It goes without saying that usage above and beyond the parameters set out in the capacity report will result in significant deterioration of the playing surface.
Mitigating damage with a robust usage management strategy
The main objective is to create a strategy that manages the amount of use that the playing surface can sustain before it deteriorates to a point where short-term recovery is not achievable. Having identified the principal trigger and pressure points you will have a clear measure of how the usage will impact your turf’s overall quality and endurance.
Simple strategies can be brought in to effectively manage your surface, including:
- Setting some usage limits to avoid overuse.
- Establishing restrictions on training in high wear zones.
- Exercising ground closures/relocation if the turf continues to deteriorate.
- Providing alternative facilities during the days when the fields are most susceptible to damage e.g., Wet weather, saturated soil conditions etc.
- Keeping appropriate gaps between the sporting seasons to conduct any renovation work.
Gaining 3rd party specialist support can also be seen as a longer-term financial saving, as their services will identify risks and put programs in place to mitigate and alleviate the issues, which to rectify, could need a significant financial investment
STRIs usage model, for example, estimates a sports field’s potential usage capacity (matches, training and casual use), and considers factors including surface condition, turf type, soil type, drainage effectiveness, maintenance level, sport played and standard of competition.
A mixed sward or an oversown warm-season turf will tolerate greater use than a mono-stand of warm-season (couch or kikuyu) or cool-season grasses (ryegrass). The Sand profiles and sandy soils with effective drainage will tolerate greater use than heavy soils or sports fields with poor drainage capacity. Also, higher maintenance levels (e.g., fertilizer, aeration, topdressing etc.) will allow greater usage.
Maintaining optimum playable surfaces
Once the usage strategy is in place, regular surface audits should become a routine event. The assessment of the turf, analysis and comparisons between the actual usage and potential usage, and a review of the usage management strategy to ensure it remains up to date and in keeping with the strategy of the club.
Regular and ongoing management is a long-term financial saving. Once damage has occurred these areas are more fragile, and more easily damaged to beyond repair. Severe damage in one part of the ground can make the whole ground unsuitable for use.
If you need any further information on usage management strategy, do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our experts.