Organised by the IOG Young Board of Directors, with invaluable assistance from Saints FC’s Andy Gray, John Wright and staff, more than 50 students attended the day-long introduction to groundsmanship.
The event included knowledge-sharing stations and practical demonstrations both indoors and pitch side, which covered mower maintenance, grass seed varieties, the effects of fertilising, line marking and how stadium lighting rigs encourage grass growth.
The organisers engaged with Saints Foundation community champions who work with the local community, and on this occasion invited students from Cantell School, Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill, Oasis Academy Mayfield, Redbridge Community School, St George’s Catholic School and Woodlands Community College.
According to community champion co-ordinator Ben Keen, the event was extremely well received by students and the accompanying champions – most of whom didn’t have any prior knowledge of the skillsets required within sports turf management.
“Student feedback was really positive,” said Ben. “They were impressed with the interactive approach, which included hands-on practical opportunities, the references between grounds skills and the school curriculum, and the grounds team members’ relaxed engagement with pupils on each station.
“Pupils also had the chance to paint the pitch lines and they loved the experience, particularly as they were given responsibility to do this at the stadium before a Premier League fixture. A couple of students are already asking about volunteering opportunities.
“We’d love to do this again, maybe with Year 11 pupils next time, as they will be looking at career opportunities after formal education,” he added.
IOG Young Board chair Anthony Facey said board members really enjoyed helping Southampton FC pull off a very successful event and wanted to thank Andy Gray for the opportunity. “There are plans afoot to host more of these educational opportunities and we’d love to hear from sporting venues out there that would like to get involved,” he said.