How a preventative maintenance plan can help extend the life of your facilities.
Whether you own and operate your sports facilities or have a user group agreement, we all have the responsibility to ensure those facilities are safe and last the test of time. Maintaining these facilities properly is the key to make sure this happens. Unfortunately, a lot of the time user groups or organizations do not have adequate budgets to provide sufficient ongoing maintenance to meet and exceed the life span of the facility, causing things to become unsightly and run down quicker than expected.
Regardless of your budget, there are things you can do to help with the longevity of your facilities, including a preventative maintenance plan.
Have a plan. A preventative maintenance plan is essential to keeping up with your facility use. The plan should include all your preventative maintenance duties and tasks, how much time each task takes, who is responsible for the task and the frequency of each task. If know these things about the maintenance of your facility, it makes it much easier to maintain.
Prioritize Tasks: Maintenance is time consuming and can be expensive. To prioritize maintenance tasks, use the following guideline on which ones to accomplish first:
Liabilities and Hazards: Anytime a liability or hazard is identified within your facility it should be addressed immediately. If you cannot accomplish the task in a timely manner, close off the area so no one can get near it.
Mandates: If it is a mandate from the city, county or higher up in your organization, you need to attend to those items next to ensure you are in compliance.
Preventative Maintenance: When you have rectified your liabilities and mandates, it is time to go back to your preventative maintenance plan and upkeep your facility on a regular basis.
Seek Additional Training: Most of us who use these facilities on the recreation side are not field turf and facility experts. That does not mean we should be clueless on how these facilities should be kept. Look for training opportunities online or in your area to gain basic knowledge of how to properly maintain your facility.
Train User Groups and Volunteers: If you are the owner/operator of the facility, take it upon yourself to train your user groups on basic field maintenance. Attend their board meetings or coaches meetings and put material together they can reference when they are out using your fields. If you are the user group, make sure this information gets to your coaches and team managers. Make it a point to address this before every season because if your user groups are not trained in keeping up with your facility, they can do more harm than good.
Provide the Necessary Tools: If you are asking your volunteers or front line staff members to assist with maintaining your facility, give them the tools they needs to succeed. Make sure your coaches, managers and other volunteers have access to things like rakes, shovels, brooms, drag mats for clay, hand pumps for puddles, drying agent, fill sand, buckets, etc. They don’t need access to any large equipment or machinery, but the basics will go a long way.
Here are some basic maintenance tips to pass on to your user groups and volunteers that can go a long way in keeping your fields in playable shape.
Stay away from areas of wear during practice. A lot of times you will notice the same exact spot wear each season. This is usually due to the flow of the games and coaches wanting to practice exactly where they play. Encourage coaches to rotate their drills during practice to avoid these areas. If you have the ability to rotate fields during the season, consider a rotation schedule to spread out the wear.
Have strict guidelines for playing on wet surfaces or during inclement weather. This is the number one thing that will tear up your fields. Generally if more than five percent of the field has standing water it is too wet to play. A good way to test this is if you are walking and can see your footprint sink in the turf or clay, do not play. Prevent teams from practicing or playing on surfaces that are too saturated or before you know it, you will be playing in mud.
Have guidelines on maintaining clay infields. For baseball or softball fields, have materials for your coaches on proper procedures for the clay infield, especially when it’s wet. Things like pumping out the standing water, properly using a drying agent, not raking clay into the grass, how to drag a field, and maintaining the integrity of the pitcher’s mound will go a long way.
Use fill sand to fill any pot-holes that may arise. Your risk management procedures should call for field and equipment inspections before every game day. If you or your user groups come across pot-holes, make sure there is a way to fill them. You can even use field paint to mark them. Inform all teams playing on that field of those areas. If holes get too large or too deep you should not be playing until they are properly filled.
Clean up after game days and practices. Removing trash, putting away equipment, covering the mounds/home plate, etc. are all things that should be done after every game day or practice. With so many people coming in and out of your facility, if the fields are not closed down properly after every game and practice, it can build up quick.
For more resources on youth sports, visit the League Source website.
Jason Schaitz is a parks and recreation director with 15 years of experience managing youth sports, camps and recreation programs. He also created and manages League Source and The Summer Camp Source with the goal of providing free, high-quality resources for any type of youth sports or camp program. Take your leagues and camps to the next level by visiting our websites for free resources and education!