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How to ensure your soccer field is always in the best condition

Jeffrey T. Fowler District Director, PSU Cooperative Extension Sports Turf Managers Association, Academic Rep
How to ensure your soccer field is always in the best condition

In June and July, millions of people are tune into the FIFA World Cup. Every four years, this month-long event brings out the passion and excitement of fans around the world, but also increases interest in the game.

The United States hosted its first and only FIFA World Cup in 1994. Since then, the sport has grown tremendously with millions of youth players participating each year. With that, safe and playable fields are needed for them to enjoy the game. Below are some recommendations on how to manage a soccer field.


Do

Do rotate or shift your fields if possible

This will allow your wear areas to heal and keep your high traffic areas under control. Moving an entire field 10 feet in any direction can greatly influence wear. Moving the field can allow high wear areas to recover and give players a safer and more playable surface.

Do have a set area for your goalies to warm up

If you have an extra set of goals, set them to the side of your match goals so that the keepers can train outside of the box. Practices, drills, and pre-game warm-ups can often be moved throughout the entire field to spread the wear and preserve sensitive area for actual game play.

Do over-seed high traffic areas often

Even if these areas are doing fine, seed when heavy use is expected. Areas of high wear such as goal mouths and referee runways are in a constant state of recovery. Adding seed for players to “cleat” in allows these areas to continually re-grow and recover. Grass plants lost to heavy traffic are soon replaced with new plants. Everyone focuses on keeping a nice goal mouth, but the referee runs on the sideline can wear just as fast and make your field look unattractive and unsafe.

Do repair divots on the field as often as possible

How the ball reacts to the surface is a very important element in the game of soccer. Repairing divot damage can help ensure the ball contact remains true and consistent. Divot repair will also contribute to a safer playing surface by reducing depressions that players can injure ankles and knees.

Do make sure all markings and paint lines are highly visible

Certain markings are essential to the game of soccer and how officials and players judge the game. Use eco-friendly paint and string to mark the boundaries for straight and visible marks. You may think you can paint straight without a string, but you are only fooling yourself if you don’t use one.


Don't

Do not over manage your field

If you can let your field rest, let it rest. Mow only as often as needed remembering to never remove more than a 1/3 of the green growing in a single mowing. Limiting your traffic is just as important as limiting play on your field. You could be your own enemy.

Do not forget to aerify the field

Sometimes you have a busy schedule, but it is very important to aerify the fields as often as use will allow. Removing cores is needed during the course of a year, but there are many other tools that will assist you in reaching your aerification goals during the playing season without disrupting play.

Do not sacrifice safety and playability for appearance

Every field should look nice, but the safety and playability should always be of greater importance. Extra mowing, grooming or painting may make a field look better, but don’t go through the extra measures if it affects safety or playability.

Do not wait weeks or days to inspect the field

Every square inch of the field should be briefly inspected routinely. Fields hazards such as holes, puddles, or debris can often be avoided and corrected with proper field monitoring.

Do not forget to communicate

Communicate often with the coaches and staff. Let them know your expectations and conditions of the field. Be honest with them regarding its condition. Effective relationships with coaches begin with you saying yes to the things that your field can handle. Save saying “no” for when you truly need it.


Summary
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For participation and the level of competition to increase here in the U.S., sports turf managers need to provide a safe and playable soccer surface. Follow the advice above for help ensuring your soccer field is always in the best condition.


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Jeffrey T. FowlerDistrict Director, PSU Cooperative Extension

Jeffrey Fowler is the District Director for Venango, Clarion, Warren and Forest Counties in Northwest Pennsylvania. Since 1988, he has been working for Penn State University in Cooperative Extension. In addition to being District Director, Fowle...

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