Apprenticeships where the grass is greener


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Itโ€™s summer and major sporting events are underway. Think UEFA Euro 2021, test match cricket, Wimbledon and the Liverpool International Tennis Tournament. How does a grass court or pitch stand up to players running around in search of sporting glory?

The growth and maintenance of grass sports surfaces is an industry with many apprenticeship opportunities. There are specialists across the Liverpool City Region that understand how to produce great grass sports surfaces. Some have learnt and honed this skill as apprentices.

So what goes into producing great grounds? Letโ€™s take a look at Wimbledon. Their Head of Courts and Horticulture, Neil Stubley, is responsible for keeping 18 championship courts and 20 grass practice courts in world class condition. He manages 15 permanent ground staff and 28 during the championship. The grass courts are in play from May to September, except for Centre Court and other Show Courts which are used only for The Championships. Ground staff sow the courts with perennial ryegrass to improve durability.ย  The Sports Turf Research Institute in Yorkshire has advised that this performs best. The courts are constructed and seeded in April. Grass is grown to 15 mm and cut three times a week to keep it at this height during May. During The Championship the grass is cut daily to 8 mm. How a tennis ball bounces is largely determined by the soil beneath the grass. Even hardness and consistency is needed to minimise damage over 13 days of play. So, the courts are rolled and covered to keep them dry and firm.

You donโ€™t have to work in London to be part of this exciting industry. Internationally recognised venues in the Liverpool City Region include Anfield and Goodison Park. At Anfield an automatic irrigation system allows the pitch to be watered prior to kick-off in under three minutes and speeds up drainage in the wetter months. It has under soil heating. Nineteen miles of pipeline to help the grass grow and prevent the pitch freezing in winter. The grass is 97% organic and 3% artificial. Over 40,000km of artificial grass fibres are stitched into the layers of sand beneath the pitch. More than half a tonne of grass seed produces 250 million Dwarf Perennial Ryegrass plants.

Liverpool based Greener Grounds prepares and maintains sports turf across the UK. Cricket and football pitches, bowling greens and golf courses rely upon them to keep the surface they play on in tip top condition throughout the season. They fertilise the grass, prevent and treat any diseases and repair any damage. They also install drainage systems and aerate the grass to keep it growing strongly and looking green.

Danny Patten is a full time employee of the company after gaining his apprenticeship as a Sports Turf Operator at level 2. He then progressed to a level 3 apprenticeship in sports turf management that included budgeting and planning jobs. Danny became Toro young green keeper of the year in 2018. โ€œI loved my apprenticeships. It gave me a job for life in an industry that Iโ€™m passionate about. Apprenticeships taught me what I needed to know and gave me lots of practical experience, putting it into practice on a daily basis. I enjoy working outdoors and progressing through the industry. Iโ€™m now course manager for Huyton & Prescot Golf Club,โ€ said Danny.

If you are interested in exploring apprenticeships in the sports turf industry contact the Apprenticeship Support by Be More Team They provide impartial information and advice on apprenticeships across the Liverpool City Region.