In an attempt to draw the next generation of specialists to the industry of sports field management, the Maryland Soccer Foundation has established a new Sports Turf Institute. The industry of sports field management has high-paying jobs but only has few applicants.
The Maryland SoccerPlex Sports Turf Institute launched this summer and offers an apprenticeship program. The program has started with four apprentices plus four existing staff members and offers both on-site and classroom education. By the time they are finished, the apprentices will have had a total of 160 hours of instruction over the one-year program. They will be issued with an Apprenticeship Certificate that will be recognized by Major League teams across the league.
The program is lead by Jerad Minnick, a long-time Sports Field Manager & well-known Sports Turf Advisor. He will be supported by guest lectures that include top-level worldwide sports turf managers, college professors, and turf industry consultants. Classes include virtual learning as well as a lab component and on-field research at the SoccerPlex. Apprentices will get their hands dirty learning about everything from grass and weed identification to advanced playing surface data collection and analysis.
“This industry has dozens of high-paying jobs and there are no people to fill them. So, for our own survival, we have taken action to hire and train people to become skilled Sports Turf Professionals. Once they finish the apprenticeship program, they can stay and work with us at SoccerPlex. Or we have the connections to get them jobs in soccer all over the country. It’s a win-win,” said Jerad Minnick, Director of Grounds and Environmental Management for the Maryland SoccerPlex.
Apprentices, as well as other industry professionals can also look here for vacancies in their region.
The Maryland SoccerPlex itself has 24 fields. The SoccerPlex’s main stadium field was recently completely renovated to transition to Bermuda grass from Kentucky Blue grass to improve draining and sustainability and playability. Another major undertaking at the Plex this summer has been the renovation of three fields to install drainage that will limit rain cancellations and improve sustainability.
“Part of our mission of the SoccerPlex is to provide the best fields and playing experience for the youth sports community. This requires the best-trained grounds staff so it only made sense for us to develop our own training and education program in sports turf management,” said Matt Libber, Executive Director of the Maryland SoccerPlex.
“We have the industry’s cutting-edge equipment so our apprentices can learn through doing and we have the land to conduct on-field research in controlled plots. The apprentices get to learn, practice, and do research to prepare them to lead their own Sports Turf Maintenance team and their career in the industry,” Minnick said.
Minnick said he hopes the Sports Turf Institute spreads with more apprentices joining the field next year.