Students from Plumpton College recently attended an informative event hosted by Devonshire Park head groundsman, Danny Negus.
The successful day began with introductions from Danny who explained that attending the 2018 Turf Business Summit in Madrid had encouraged him to plan the event.
Danny’s opening speech led into an interesting presentation on technological advances from Campey Turfcare’s Ben Taylor. This was followed by Consolidate Turf’s Matt Le Brun’s in-depth talk on rethinking nutrition and optimising plant growth. Matt advised students coming into groundscare to: “document what you’re doing, take photos and record everything.”
Devonshire Park’s Danny and Andy Bacon then led a full tour of the attractive site, stepping out on to centre court to begin with. Students had a fantastic opportunity to learn more about grass-court preparation and the venue’s state-of-the-art irrigation, trenches and pop-ups, as Danny said: “we are the only top-tier tennis venue to have such irrigation in place.”
As well as seeing Campey’s Air2G2 up close and Martin Lishman’s Micro-Spray, attendees enjoyed hearing about preparations for the tennis fixture in June, as Danny explained during his tour: “Standing on our centre court, only seven weeks before the Championships start, I’m pleased with the way the courts look. We will welcome the world’s greatest tennis players here and we’re very lucky and privileged to have such a great field of play.”
Danny also described some of the challenges and successes around their infant courts, the court extensions to accommodate a larger stadium capacity and how well his grounds team have dealt with the rapid developments the venue has undergone in recent years, as he continued: “Devonshire Park is the first venue to have been asked by the LTA to standardise three of its courts at the same time to meet championship specifications. Using clay as a base is harder and it comes down to micro-management of every area. This is where you need your team and should not be afraid to ask for help. This is one the things I love about the industry – that everyone helps each other.”
Decisive presentation for future managers
The afternoon took a change of direction with a senior police crime officer delivering an engaging presentation on ‘decision-making’. The insightful talk covered: strategies, practical options, long-term goals and recognising biases when it comes to decision-making. The senior officer made valid points from a policing background that were relatable to groundscare, such as: “If you are preparing for a tennis tournament, this is immovable, so you have to plan ahead. It’s not the plan that counts… it’s the planning.”
Speaking from his perspective and such a dramatically different profession to groundscare, meant his examples and advice were helpful for students aiming for managerial levels in their future turfcare careers. The presentation included audience participation models and the chief police officer told students: “Coppers are really good decision-makers – we have to be. Take the runaway train model and apply this to your industry.”
Choosing a speaker from outside the turfcare environment was a great decision by Danny, as he added: “I wanted to ask someone from outside our industry to talk to the students. He grabbed the attention of the students with his stories, ideas and tools. Whatever career you are in, sensible and effective decision-making are transferable skills that people in management need.”
The constructive day wrapped up with an interesting Q&A session between Arsenal FC’s head groundsman, Paul Ashcroft and Turf Business Publisher, Martin Smart. Jason Holmes, a Horticulture Level II student, who worked in a fruit & veg shop for 20 years before starting his course at Plumpton College summed up the day: “I think it’s been really good and interesting to hear the talks and learn so much about turf.” Apprentice students and Sports Turf Level II students from the College also enjoyed the event.
Devonshire Park’s annual Nature Valley International runs from 21-29 June with a fantastic line-up of world-class tennis players expected.