Introducing Your 2019 Sports Turf Manager of the Year - Dave Boehmer, City of Guelph

By Anne Baliva, Sports Turf Canada

Sitting down and chatting with Dave at Hastings Stadium in Guelph was very encouraging for our industry.

He is a motivated, enthusiastic and confident sports turf professional who has a passion for development within the industry and the sports turf profession. His submission for Sports Turf Manager of the Year award included the following statements about Dave.

• A champion for the industry
• Holds high professional standards
• Very dedicated to his team and motivational
• Is enthusiastic with high energy
• Proficient in handling both the hands on role as well as the administrative aspects
• Highly regarded by his team and others in the industry
• Drives innovation in all aspects of his role and responsibilities
• Exceptional at applying health and safety importance
• Excellent at building relationships
• A vital member of our team 

Dave was humbled when I shared the boastful words of his management team and colleagues. I then took the opportunity to ask him a few questions:

Tell us a little about yourself
Dave says he got a late start in the sports turf industry, working with Craig McCutcheon (currently of Target Specialty Products) in the golf industry initially. He was searching for a role as superintendent at a golf course when he came across a position for sports field management and he’s loved his job ever since. Dave says the difference between the golf industry and the sports turf industry is golf is more labour oriented where sports turf is more equipment oriented. With golf you’re more in control of your property, whereas with sports fields are accessible to the public at all times.

Tell us about your team
Dave has a diverse team (including 6 full time positions; 3 Sportsfield Operators, 3 Equipment Operators,) several contract workers and summer students. His focus is always on positive encouragement for his team and making safety a priority. This year their team added a full-time IPM position (and an Intern from the U of G DMT program) which has helped. How Dave manages the day to day aspects of the role is to “go with the flow”. He says you can never know what all is going to happen and it’s exciting to be a part of something that challenges you and your team.

Your Award Submission says you are great at both the hands-on applications of your role but also the administrative side. Does this come naturally?
Dave tells us that he sees the administrative side not as a strength but understands the importance of record keeping, being organized and planning. That’s half the battle. The best way to approach all aspects of the role is to be ready for anything.

What are your biggest challenges?
• Similar to other teams, this year the weather has been the biggest challenge. It created quite the problem solving practice in scheduling resources for the fields as well as managing the condition of the fields themselves.
• The other challenge is getting enough communication with the user groups. He feels this is one of their team’s weaknesses but it’s challenging with the large number of user groups that book their fields.
• Another challenge is the high demand on their fields and trying to keep fields in ideal shape when they are used so often.

What’s unique about your fields?
All non-fenced and non-booked fields are available as off-leash dog parks from dawn to dusk. This can cause significant challenges with preparing fields for safe play. Also, many of their fields are built on old landfill sites and that alone causes challenges with filling of fields and ensuring they are flat for play.

What do you like best about your job?
Dave really enjoys watching how a sports field transforms from pre-game condition to the perfect playing surface, as produced by his team. He also enjoys the innovative opportunities that different challenges provide. It allows the creative, problem solving juices to flow. 

What does your average day include?
My day always begins by checking emails and communications then reviewing the bookings for the day, planning for the day ahead (setting priorities, scheduling staff and resources, making adjustments where necessary), then he does site visits to check on the variety of field maintenance that is happening and providing guidance, encouragement and a helping hand to his team.

How can we recruit younger generations to the sports turf industry?
Dave shares what to look for:
• It’s important to have grass growing knowledge, to understand how shaping the soil affects the growth of the grass and its capabilities. 
• It’s also good to understand how the construction of things happens so you can assess what is good, what isn’t and if it’s doing what it’s supposed to do, after it’s constructed.
• It’s important to have sports experience so you understand the impact of the athlete’s actions on a sports field 
• Most importantly is to have good communication skills, being able to speak effectively with others. He suggests volunteering and taking leadership opportunities when possible.

Dave lives by the goal: With everything, set yourself up for success.