Off-season plans from your peers

We note the irony in our having published an article recently in SportsTurf about how there is no off-season any more, yet here we are sharing what some SFMA members are doing this winter.

Tom Nielsen

Louisville Bats

Once the field is put the bed for the winter, I catch up on all the things that have neglected at home. For instance house repairs and yard work. But most importantly, I spend more time with my wife, especially now the kids are grown up and out of the house. We have been doing a lot more things to reconnect for instance going to movies, sitting down and eating dinner together, going for walks, and just really enjoying our time together.

My wife has always has said being the wife of a groundskeeper is like being a single parent for 6 months. We both go into a little depression when the baseball season starts so once the season is over like to take advantage of our time together. I have gotten better at spending more time during the summer with family also but it’s taken a long time to learn that.

Field-related things that I do during the offseason include working on my yearly calendar. It is very important to be prepared for the next season so every event and everything I do on the field is put on my yearly calendar so I don’t forget anything. I also work on my equipment, order all my supplies, which includes fertilizers, fungicides, clay and conditioners, and anything else I need to be prepared for the next season. My motto is always be prepared for the worst and hope for the best so I work all winter long on being prepared for the next season.

Last but not least I tried to go to the national SFMA Conference. I find it the best way to keep up with continuing education, networking and finding my next employees. Going to the Conference is the best way for me to rejuvenate my enthusiasm; each year I see other facilities and enjoy talking with new, young turf managers. It helps my motivation to become mentally ready for the next season.

Ryan Newman

University of Colorado

Here are some of our work responsibilities in the “off season”:

  • Snow removal at athletic department parking lots and buildings (entries, sidewalks, and docks)
  • Snow removal on synthetic fields for WLAX and CU Rec Center
  • Vehicle/equipment preventative maintenance
  • Indoor track meet set up and strike (we currently host two meets)
  • Clean paint stencils/sleds
  • Manage tree lines adjacent to facilities
  • Various winter projects on fields/at facilities that will either improve the facility or improve our efficiency

During this off-season, I also will spend time with my family and tackle various projects around the house.

Jeremy Driscoll

St. Marks HS, Wilmington, DE

My off season/winter month activities list is endless. However, here is a short list:

  • Snow removal
  • Cleaning and repair of miscellaneous equipment and tools
  • Build and repair stencils, strings
  • Inside work like painting, filter changing, gum removal, setting up and tearing down for various events
  • Inventory everything: hardware, tools, supplies, etc.
  • Strategize about ways to improve next year
  • Go to educational events

Ben Polimer

Town of Weston, MA

Wintertime has come early here in the Northeast (late November). Our first snowfall was in mid-November, and has been unseasonably cold. Leaf work has extended into December and the wet fall has eliminated our deep tine aeration on our high use athletic turf.

Winter for me can be fairly quiet. I do report in for snowstorms but unless it’s a blizzard, rarely plow with the crew. More just help with cleanup. Coordinating my guys for removal, after storm cleanups and moving snow around the campuses takes a good amount of time depending on how bad the winter is. I spend most of my time preparing for spring, e.g., putting my bids together for fertilizer and spraying applications, lawn care applications bid, and core aeration. Another bid going out this winter is resurfacing the high school tennis courts.

Other work this winter is working with a designer on a new irrigation system for our JV football field, and lawns surrounding my stadium. Preparing my FY20 budget, which for us starts on July 1 that includes operating budget and capital budget. We are starting a new master plan for our indoor and outdoor athletic facilities. We will be working with a landscape architect and engineers on this.

I will attend SFMA Annual Conference in Phoenix this year; I will be speaking on smart irrigation systems. I will also attend the New England Regional Turfgrass Conference in March. NESFMA has their annual meeting during the conference and is rich with 2 days of sports turf education and the largest turf trade show in the Northeast. As NESFMA President, I will be working hard with our Board of Directors in developing our education programs over the winter for 2019.

On a personal note, I have a great vacation with my wife planned in mid-December, fun in the sun. My 4-year-old son will have swim lessons and gymnastics over the winter, and maybe a few day trips on the weekends. Hoping to watch the Patriots into February this winter!

Marcus Dean, CSFM

Advanced Turf Solutions

In college athletics I don’t think there is ever an off-season. When I was at Kentucky we would spend our time putting our fields to bed (snow mold application, irrigation winterized, mounds rebuilt and compacted, infields rolled and rerolled, a light topdressing, some fresh seed, and growth covers) and ready for spring, beginning in mid November and completing them after bowl practice in late December. At the same time we were trying to get all the annual maintenance done to our equipment as well. When we came back from Christmas break there were softball and baseball players on campus ready to workout and get ready for the season.

Away from work I just try to spend as much time as I can with my family and friends. I honestly have no hobbies.

On the sales side of the world, I am going to make it around and see all of my customers, check in to ensure they have everything they need and set up for a successful 2019.

Joshua Bertrand, PWE

City of Glendale, CO

My winter months are typically spent managing and preventing seasonal affective disorder (SAD). With the cold days and long nights, it’s a challenging transition from the warm and lively summer months. Fortunately, rugby is a bit different as there is an extremely short off-season. The rugby season is over at the beginning of November; however players report for team training during the first week of December, to prepare for the regular season games starting in mid-January. We perform the majority of our safety training courses, educational training and equipment preventative maintenance during the winter months.

Away from work, I wish I were able to say that I have some cool hobby or project which I devote my time to during the off season. However, with such a short off-season and having a family, it’s not realistic to try and start something new. I am blessed with a family, so it is great time to use earned vacation leave to reconnect with the wife and kids.

Tim Van Loo, CSFM

Iowa State

  • Get home to Michigan for Christmas
  • Go to the bowl game
  • Turf conferences, national and local
  • Go through all equipment (oil changes, sharpen blades, power wash/detail)
  • Snow removal
  • Trim trees
  • Take time away when possible and prepare for the next growing season!

Chris McGinty

City of Framingham, MA


We downsize staff from 24 to 14 with the seasonal work force being suspended at the end of December until March. Since football ends at Thanksgiving for us here in the Northeast we concentrate on fall clean ups at all of our properties. Leaf pick up will continue till the first snow. Hardscape products like picnic tables, park benches and steel trash receptacles, tennis standards are removed, repaired and stored until early spring. All our turf and grounds equipment is inspected and necessary repairs are scheduled and worked on in the winter season. Limited snow removal is handled with remaining staff members. Tree and brushwork will be undertaken as the weather allows during the winter season.

I will be heading to SFMA in Phoenix in January and the New England Turf Show in Providence in March.

Looking forward to the Christmas season and some vacation time with my wife who is a schoolteacher and has time off. We’re heading to the Ansel Adams exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that vacation week and the Boston Pops Christmas Show.