‘I’m much more worried about you’

‘I’m much more worried about you’: Jim Dawson speaks candidly about how stress got too much – and how support was quickly forthcoming.

Jim Dawson has been a Liverpool supporter since he was a boy growing up on the Isle of Bute. He’d taken his dad’s advice not to align himself to either of the Old Firm, and with Kenny Dalglish having recently moved to Liverpool it was the Reds who became his team from then on.

2’I’m much more worried about you’

So there was huge excitement when his beloved team, recently crowned European and World Champions, were scheduled to play a friendly match against Napoli at BT Murrayfield in July 2019.

BT Murrayfield got the call as a result of the pitch at Anfield being renovated, and delays to the completion of the second option, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“I was one of the most excited people at BT Murrayfield when it was announced,” recalls Jim, the IOG Groundsman of the Year in 2015

There was just one issue. A Spice Girls concert was due to be held at the Stadium, and then the pitch was going to be renovated by Premier Pitches, with the big match five and a half weeks later.

So, while The Spice Girls were doing their stuff on the stage what Jim wanted, what he really, really wanted, was a bit more time to ensure that the pitch was in perfect shape for his heroes.

“Premier Pitches did a first class job, but I was so keen that the pitch be perfect that I was checking the pitch every day and, to me, the seed wasn’t coming through fast enough.

“We had a couple of weeks when it was dark and overcast with hardly any sunshine and it wasn’t coming on strong enough. Well, to me it wasn’t coming on strongly enough… because I was looking at it every day.”

Even the reassuring words of his Deputy, Alex Latto, weren’t helping, and Jim was just getting himself more and more worked up.

“It all came to a head. I think it was week three. To me, it wasn’t coming through and thickening up and we were having the Champions of Europe – World Champions – my team, coming to play on my pitch. People like Virgil Van Dijk and Andy Robertson.

“So many thoughts were going through my head. It was just building and building. Normally, I’d go in and make myself and Kenny Scott, the Facilities Manager, a coffee and we’d go through to the bothy,” recalled Jim.

“On this day, I just went through to my office and shut the door. Kenny asked if I was ok and I said that, no I was struggling. So, we had a chat and then a walk over the pitch.”

Kenny reassured him that his pitch was fantastic, while, at the same time, Jim was explaining where he could see all the faults.

“We then sat in the stand and I talked through everything with him. I was in tears,” Kenny, an ex-Army man, explained to Jim that it was as though he was on a march, carrying a rucksack, and picking up everyone else’s troubles.

“He said that I just wasn’t flinging them back off again. It was a good thought.” What happened next is a gold-plated example of best practice for any mental health sufferer and any organisation with an employee who comes to them with a mental health issue.

Jim decided to speak with the HR (Human Resources) Department, where, again, he broke down in tears. He was taken into the Board room where he explained everything and how it was affecting him.

He then asked if he could speak with Dominic McKay, Scottish Rugby’s Chief Operating Officer.

“Within five minutes Dom was with me, and I told him all my worries about the pitch and my concerns about whether it was going to be ready.

“The one thing that really changed my thinking was what Dom said to me.

“He said that they could play on sand for all he cared and that he was much more worried about me and your mental health. He then asked what he could do to help,” revealed Jim.

“That one sentence took the rucksack off my back and I was able to calm myself down. Dom has a great manner, and an ability to make you believe that your problem is his problem. He has a way of talking to you which makes you feel good.”

After talking to Dom, Jim returned to HR where he was asked if he felt that he needed to see a specialist.

“I said that I thought that I still needed some help so within an hour I was sitting in a consultation with a psychiatrist. That’s how fast it was from me breaking the news to them and me seeing someone. That was the level of support that I had,” said Jim, who had his only other episode in 2014, equally well dealt with by Scottish Rugby, when the catalyst was the nematode infestation on the BT Murrayfield pitch.

Once he’d had his talk with HR and Dom, Jim then went to his own team and explained everything and what was going to be happening.

“They were right behind me. The whole team here at BT Murrayfield have each other’s backs which is a big thing. We are always there for each other. Even young Callum, who has come through our ranks wonderfully, often asks if I’m alright and if there is anything he can do for me.”

Scottish Rugby booked Jim a series of consultations, where he was able to talk through how he could better manage his feelings.

“Some people need to take medication for mental health, but I was one of those who didn’t. Talking to people helps me get through my mental health issues,” explained Jim.

To assist with the process, he went to Turkey on holiday for two weeks, leaving Alex to tend the pitch towards its inevitable high standard in time for the match.

“I didn’t take my phone and didn’t have any contact with work while I was away. I flew back into Scotland on the Wednesday before the Saturday match and Alex had done a fantastic job while I was away. The pitch had come together at the last minute.”

The day of the match is something that Jim will remember for the rest of his career.

“It was an absolute pleasure to go out and cut that pitch for those guys, knowing the quality of player who was going to be playing on it.”

The cherry on top came after the game while Jim and the team were doing their divoting.

“I was radioed and asked to go to the tunnel. When I arrived there was Dom, along with one of the Liverpool executives, and I was presented with a football, signed by Jurgen Klopp, to thank me for my efforts.”

Jim continued his consultations after the game, but the specialist said that they could see a change in him.

“They saw a happier human being. But I already knew that I was feeling a whole lot better with the pressure of the match over.”

For a man who is used to his pitch being played on by rugby superstars and seen by 67,000 supporters and millions on television it does seem strange that the change in ball shape resulted in such stress.

“Doing international rugby matches is just second nature to me and those people who come and lend a hand on match day are just blown away by the experience but having my own football team – Champions of Europe and Champions of the World – come to BT Murrayfield, meant everything came together and I just couldn’t handle.”

So, having been through the experience and come through the other side what advice does Jim have for other groundsmen or greenkeepers who might be struggling to cope?

“The hardest thing is to acknowledge that you have an issue, because you can think that you are admitting defeat. Sometimes you just have to say to yourself that you need help.

“People deal with things differently and some are able to manage their own aspirations, but I think it is always good to talk to somebody. It might be that you are the one helping them the next time,” explained Jim.

Eighteen months on Jim is feeling back to his best and getting ready for another Guinness 6 Nations where he will be preparing the BT Murrayfield pitch for the visit of Wales, Ireland and Italy.

And that Jurgen Klopp signed football? Well, that has pride of place in the Dawson home – sitting proudly above the fish tank.

It’s all about Grass Seed

It’s all about Grass Seed: Stronger germination and faster establishment are key.

DLF Seed’s ProNitro Coating Technology has been helping greenkeepers and groundsmen achieve stronger germination, faster establishment and lower input costs.

It’s all about Grass Seed

It’s all about Grass Seed

Four years on from its launch, the next generation of ProNitro is now available, featuring DLF’s new Hydroactive Water Management Technology. ProNitro’s targeted combination of controlled release nitrogen and sustainable water distribution optimises the delivery of essential nutrients and moisture to the developing seedling.

With sustainability an everincreasing priority for turf managers around the world, the ProNitro coating ensures available water is used more efficiently.

“The new ProNitro formulation has been conceived and developed as a direct action for input optimization on grasses, improving water distribution in the field. Making the best of every drop of water gives both the grass seed and the fertiliser the optimum conditions for establishment, strong root development and healthy, vigorous
growth,” explained Giovanny Lopez, Lead Seed Coat Technologist for DLF.

In trials, the coated seed contributed to a 34% increase in establishing plants and a 30% improvement in root growth. In addition, the targeted nitrogen application system reduces the leaching of unutilised fertiliser into the environment by more than 50% when compared to traditional chemical applications.

ProNitro combines sources of both fast-acting and slow release nitrogen with water management technology, encapsulated in a smooth outer coating for improved seed flow and accurate delivery. This ensures the new seed receives the full benefit of the available water and nutrition, encouraging the roots and shoots to grow rapidly – particularly important when overseeding into a competitive sward.

It is suitable for use on all types of playing surfaces and is available on a selection of popular mixtures from across the Johnsons Sports Seed range. On golf greens and football pitches, even those with low-fertility, sandy soils, ProNitro provides faster establishment, bringing surfaces back into play quicker. The improved uniformity and sward density also make it ideal for turf producers by reducing the invasion of Poa annua and broad-leaved weeds. Replacing the need for seedbed fertiliser, ProNitro saves both time and money.

School groundsman talks about role

School groundsman talks about role: Lewis Pattinson, the head groundsman at Bradford Grammar School, has spoken of his pride at looking after the grounds at the school.

He said: “It’s not just a job, it’s a way of life.”

School groundsman talks about role

He tell us what his job is like and how he loves being a groundsman:

“I’ve worked here for five months and I manage the daily work activities of the Estates Department to ensure that the grounds, pitches and gardens are maintained and kept in good condition. I’m an award-winning Groundsman having won the Institute of Groundsmanship Young Groundsman of the Year in 2016. Before joining BGS, I worked as Deputy Head Groundsman at London Stadium for two years which is home to West Ham United Football Club.

“When I first saw the school grounds, I thought ‘what a fantastic challenge!’ They were good, but I wanted the standard to be excellent – just like the ethos of BGS. This value was instilled in me from a young age when I set up my own gardening company at 14 years old. I only got paid £5 a week pocket money, so I wanted to feel more independent.

“I cut everyone’s garden on the street and my next-door neighbour asked if I’d like to go and work for him as an apprentice Greenkeeper on his private golf course. He could see how passionate and interested I was. I suppose I already embodied BGS’s ‘Hoc Age – Get on and do it’ attitude from an early age, an attitude I see reflected everyday in our pupils and staff across 28 beautiful acres.

“One of my biggest achievements so far has been to put in place a new fertiliser programme using feedback from an Agronomist, who’s knowledgeable in turf grasses and their management. They provided useful practical advice as well as an overall assessment of the condition of the current BGS sport grounds. Going back to basics in this way allows us to track, maintain and achieve better results for our outstanding new £4m sport facilities that includes new cricket lanes, netball and tennis courts and astro-turfed hockey pitches as well as our all-weather sports barn.

“The sports barn and hockey pitches are world class, so I’ve invested in new machinery to maintain these and all the new pitches, inside and out. It’s all about continuous, top-level maintenance and care, to provide the best experience for pupils, staff and the wider community. Small details also have a big impact. For example, I’ve changed all the rugby posts. These used to be pulled out of the ground using a lorry, which over time can cause wear and tear on the turf. These have been replaced with new aluminium hinged rugby posts which are much better for long term use and the wider environment.

“I’ve worked professionally on many sports, ranging from Rugby League, Rugby Union, Football, Athletics and Major League Baseball. It’s not just a job, it’s a way of life. Nobody really goes to school and says: ‘I want to be a Groundsman’. People tend to naturally fall into it through other passions, myself included. I’ve spoken to many top Groundsmen who were professional footballers coming through the ranks. When they didn’t get taken on, they realised they still wanted to be involved in the sporting environment and ended up working in stadiums.

“I absolutely love working in a school after a large stadium. The environment is warm, intimate and I feel extremely valued and looked after here. From 14 years of age I knew this was my calling and now I can concentrate all my efforts on this fabulous school.”

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