IOG Young Board Memeber Addresses Barriers: Martin Stephenson has been involved with the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) Young Board of Directors, which is sponsored by Toro and Reesink Turfcare, for four years helping promote an industry he loves and addressing some of the barriers he perceives to a long-term career.
Martin’s CV in groundscare, despite his young years, impresses. Clearly a career in grounds was always on the cards. He went to East Durham College to study work-based horticulture in sports turf, and kickstarted his career as a groundsman at Bentley Cricket Club, before making the move to Ashbrooke Sports Club as assistant grounds manager. And the awards followed him wherever he went – three in total including the coveted IOG Most Promising Sportsturf Student of the Year award in 2013, now sponsored by Toro and Reesink.
Alastair Rowell, national accounts manager for grounds at Reesink, says: “There’s no doubt learning from those with experience is one of the best ways to progress and equally important is listening to the realities of life from those starting out in the profession, both of which are things we can all benefit from to help to push the industry forward. Here we learn what Martin got from his involvement with the Board.”
Martin continues: “I’ve now left my role as a groundsman for a career in sales with Turfcare Specialists Ltd. It’s a move that’s been one of the best decisions of my life but there’s no doubt I miss being groundsman for a sports venue, it’s in your blood for life.
“I’m really proud of my career as a groundsman and especially of my time as an IOG Young Board member. The reason I joined the Board was to raise the profile of the grounds industry for the young generation. Being involved was an absolute honour and brought many opportunities my way. I’ve networked with the greats from the industry and made some lifelong friends in the process.
“Not only that, but I’ve developed skills that will benefit my long-term career. It’s given me a professional and personal confidence and improved my organisation and communication skills. It’s given me the opportunity to travel to France to visit Stade France and Parcs de Princes and the Den Dreef in Belgium, which are memories that will stay with me forever.”
So why the career change? “I felt working in the North-East of England as a groundsman, progression was very difficult, and I would have had to consider moving down south or overseas to further my career. That was my personal reason for changing careers, but I’ve also heard that poor starting salaries and demanding working hours are putting people off joining the industry or are instrumental in a career change.
“That said, I’ve come across people whose passion for the industry is so strong those things haven’t been a deterrent. People who want it badly enough will, like me, find a way to make it work. I’m a firm believer that ‘hard work beats talent’, and any groundsperson working in the industry will see their hard work rewarded.”
So, what can young groundsmen and women do to help their development? “My advice would be to get yourself on as many courses you can with the IOG and local colleges and don’t be afraid to ask fellow peers questions, there’s a great network out there ready to help. Volunteering on match days at your local sports club to gain experience and help yourself understand what is expected at the highest level of the industry will benefit your overall development and mind set going forward.”
Although Martin’s time as a Young Board member has come to an end, he continues with his advisory role with Durham Cricket Board and maintains a great interest in how the role of a groundsman evolves and how the industry moves forward.
Commenting on the IOG Young Board, IOG CEO Geoff Webb says: “The Young IOG Board is a great way for groundsmen and women to get involved and help shape our industry. Membership unlocks doors and potential, putting young people into new situations and stretching them, but at the same time opening up limitless opportunities and experiences. The social media network now stands at over 1,000 members which shows that there is real passion and interest in our profession and we look to harness this with the Young Board programme.”
Alastair welcomed Martin’s involvement with the board and says he is a good example of the opportunities that are possible within the industry for ambitious and determined young people: “We’re hearing there’s a skills shortage in the sector and helping to address some of the barriers that might be affecting this is essential in attracting a new generation to the industry. We hope our role with the IOG developing the skills set and confidence of these young groundspeople and providing them with opportunities and experiences will go some way in addressing the situation.”
For more information, visit: reesinkturfcare.co.uk
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