Soccer Field Maintenance and Management
By Jim Puhalla, President, Sportscape International, Inc.
Soccer coaches don't need to be told that their game demands better turf quality than just about any other outdoor team sport. On a smooth, dry, well-maintained pitch, soccer has a graceful quality - even in the middle of a hard-fought game. But whenthe field goes bad, the whole game goes bad. Bad ball response disrupts players' efforts to execute passes, the game slows to a crawl as mis-kicked balls constantly fly over the touch lines, and the score may depend on who can stay upright most successfully.
Good turf doesn't just happen. It takes careful planning and hard work. Here are some ideas for making soccer field maintenance andmanagement easier.
First of all, it's important to remember that a really effective field management program takes careful, regular inspection of the fields. You have to know what's going on with the turfgrass before you can make knowledgeable decisions about how to take care of it. A good place to start is with a soil test. That will help you understand the "nutrient values" of the soil, so you'llknow how much fertilizer - and what kind - your field needs. (If you don't know how to do a soil test, call your county extension agent. He or she will walk you through the procedure, and help you find a lab to do the test. It only costs a few dollars, and it can save you much more in terms of wasted fertilizer, etc.)
If you really want to keep your fields in top condition, give each one at leasta quick inspection every other week all year round (even during the off season). It doesn't have to take more than five minutes, and that five minutes can save you a lot of time, work and headaches once the season starts. Once play begins, you should do a field inspection once or twice a week
What to Look For
When your turfgrass is actively growing, keep an eye out for mowing problems. Ifthere's a thick layer of clippings on the turf after it's been mowed, the field is being allowed to get too high between cuttings, and then is being cut too short. That's bad; a thick layer of clippings on the turf can literally kill the grass. What's more, cutting off more than one third of the plant can weaken the grass and make it less resistant to all kinds of stresses - like drought, insects,disease, and even weeds.
While you're at it, tear off a couple of blades of grass and look closely at the cut ends to see if they're been sheared off cleanly, or if they have ragged edges, which is a sign of dull mower blades that tear the grass blades and can make the turf vulnerable to disease. Just looking over the field from the edge, if it has a whitish cast after it's been mowed, that's asign of mower blades that need to be sharpened. Most people let their blades get much too dull before they sharpen them. (Of course, always make sure to follow the mower manufacturer's directions for safely sharpening the blades.)
Of course, one of the most critical things to look for is moisture - and that underscores the importance of off-season inspections. If it's too wet or too dry, it's bestto solve those problems during the off-season, when you don't have to worry about getting it ready for a game. Don't forget to walk around the field sometimes during or just after a hard rain, so you can see (and feel) for yourself how the turf is draining.
Another quick way to check soil moisture is to push a screwdriver into the turf until you encounter some resistance. It should easilypenetrate 4" to 6" into the soil. If it doesn't, the field probably needs watered. (There's also a tool, called a "soil probe" or "soil profiler," that can help you check soil compaction, thatch accumulation and root structure as well as moisture. Ask about these tools wherever you buy fertilizer and other maintenance supplies)
You need to check for weeds in the parts of the field that get the most...