Will Graves (YBD chair)
Questions and Answers
I have always loved my sport and therefore going to football, rugby or cricket matches when I was younger was common. It was at these games that my interest for the profession grew. Seeing top class surfaces and realising from an early age what a skill it must be to produce these, meant there was only one way I wanted my career to go.
Shortly after I left school I applied for a college course which was an NVQ Level 2 in sports turf. Unfortunately due to a lack of numbers this course was cancelled a week before it was due to start. Nevertheless, I was not going to give up there. It was at this point that an apprenticeship was the way forward for me. I wrote a cover letter attached to my CV and sent it out to 15 different employers. Fortunately, Merchant Taylors' School in Northwood were looking for an apprentice groundsman at the time.
I completed my NVQ Level 2 and NVQ Level 3 during my 2 year apprenticeship. In that time I also attended, and continue to attend, many IOG short courses from winter pitches to cricket courses. These have really helped me expand my knowledge further. I have also completed first aid training, manual handling training, ladder safety training, PA1, PA6 and PA2 spraying certificates.
A foundation degree or higher, would appeal to me. I hear very good feedback from people who have completed their degree, on how useful and beneficial it is to have this qualification. This is something I am sure I will be looking into as I gain further experience as a groundsman.
Working at Merchant Taylors’ School involves a wide range of day to day jobs. The school has various sporting facilities including, five football pitches, 11 rugby pitches, 11 cricket squares, a golf practice area, two artificial surfaces, croquet lawns and five training grids. These must all be kept in first class condition. In order to do this, I work among a team of eight highly skilled and qualified groundsman and three highly skilled and qualified gardeners. The team has been highly successful recently as the school have hosted Middlesex v Hampshire in a T20 match and Middlesex v Sussex in a four day county championship match. England Hockey occasionally train on one of the schools water based artificial hockey pitches. I am involved in working with the rest of the team maintaining these facilities to the highest standard. In the summer months I am responsible for the maintenance of two cricket squares consisting of 17 wickets between the two squares. I am also responsible for the maintenance of 12 grass cricket practice nets, assisting with the two first team cricket squares and outfields, the golf practice area and any other day to day jobs on site that need carrying out. My winter responsibilities include assisting with the maintenance of all 11 rugby pitches, five football pitches, five training grids and the two artificial surfaces.
The most challenging part of my role is during the cricket season. Looking after 2 of my own cricket squares, 12 grass practice nets, a golf practice area, assisting with maintenance of the two first team cricket squares and outfields and any other day to day jobs that need to be carried out on site requires careful planning and timekeeping. My two squares require constant attention as they have matches, net practice and training sessions on them on a day to day basis, from a junior level, up to first class level. Producing the ideal wicket for the respective teams requirements, is probably the most challenging part of my job.
Positive feedback from players, officials and spectators is one of the most rewarding parts of the job for me. It is this feedback that gives me more motivation on a day-to-day basis. I also find putting a couple of minutes aside to look back at what you have done every day is often rewarding in its own right.
Both completing my NVQ Level 3 and getting involved in the IOG Young Board of Directors come joint first. When I first started my job at Merchant Taylors’ School I did not see myself having a Level 3 completed with-in two years and being involved in such an inspiring group as the Young Directors.
A lot can happen in five years, especially in groundsmanship, as it is an ever changing and evolving job. I would like to push my career forwards as much as I can in the next five years, achieving a deputy head groundsman position or higher at a football, rugby or cricket venue.
There are many people I admire in the industry. The most inspirational person for me would have to be Paul Burgess. Paul joined Arsenal FC in 1996 as an 18 year-old, and took over as Highbury Head Groundsman four years later. He has been nominated as Premier League Groundsman of the Year in each of his seasons at the club, winning the top award three times. He has also won a prestigious Institute of Groundsmanship Award. This is something to be admired by everyone inside and outside of the industry. It is inspiring to see an 18 year old enter the industry and progress with such success throughout his career.
It is without a doubt, trying to inspire others into groundsmanship. I find encouraging others into groundsmanship is by far my most enjoyable part of being part of the Young IOG Directors and seeing young people then entering the industry is highly rewarding in its own right. I have had some amazing experiences during my time as a groundsman, and feel it is highly satisfying opening up similar opportunities for youngsters.
Sport is a huge passion of mine whether playing or watching. I play cricket for a local club and I am a member at a local golf club. I also watch rugby, football and cricket on a regular basis. It is due to these interests that my passion for groundsmanship grew throughout my teenage years and now into my 20’s.