Customer Spotlight: Megan VanArsdale and Boyle County Schools
After ending a 15-year career as a golf course superintendent and assistant and thinking her aerifying days were over, Megan VanArsdale accepted a newly created position as the grounds director for Boyle County Schools and was pulled right back in.
Having always been interested in sports, the grounds director position for the school was an excellent fit for VanArsdale. But, what really pulled her into the job was the children. Seeing how proud the kids were to be playing on the field, and how proud they were of their school when hosting tournaments was an honor for her.
Getting those fields kid-proud ready has been no small task. Since the grounds director position was brand new, it needed to be built from the ground up, starting with a foundation of education for everyone.
“I wanted all the people involved with the decisions to understand what goes into having a nice field,” VanArsdale explained. “For instance, I wanted them to know why we can’t play after two inches of rain or why we can’t play on Bermuda when it’s 30 degrees outside. Everyone was willing to listen, and it has been beneficial for the fields and grounds.”
Besides education, building the grounds director position from the bottom up also included the vital skill of adaptation.
“You’re always modifying your schedule to fit around games and practices,” VanArsdale said. “We have 3rd and 4th, 5th and 6th, middle school, freshman, junior varsity, and varsity football programs as well as high school boys and girls soccer teams all needing a field for play and practice. We try to make everyone as happy as can be, but sometimes you can plan and have everything organized and then it falls to pieces. You need to be good at problem-solving and saying, ‘well this plan blew up, now what are we going to do?’”
To say she is adaptable would be an understatement. The school did not have a schedule for grounds maintenance, so VanArsdale started with the basics—aerification, seeding, spraying weeds, getting on a regular mowing routine, and maintenance practices—and each year building on what she accomplished the year prior. She began with the basics on her sports fields, then, over the next two years, added the more extensive school campus areas and smaller campus lawns to her focus.
VanArsdale has also adapted by expanding her knowledge to care for baseball and softball fields. “Because of my experience as a superintendent, I could take care of grass 100 percent,” VanArsdale said. “However, the skinned aspect of baseball and softball fields was something I had to seek out help with.”
Since establishing her new position, VanArsdale has learned some lessons along the way. The first lesson she has learned: resources may be limited, but you can make a difference. With a tighter budget than she was used to as a superintendent, VanArsdale closely watched her resources, and slowly but surely, began building up her equipment, until one purchase changed the game for her fields—a seeder. The athletic fields had never really been seeded on a consistent basis. Using the seeder to continuously add seeds to the seed bank has created a thick and plush stand of turf.
The seeder has especially helped the practice football field. Although the field is overused, she now has the equipment to repair it whenever it is needed. Now the field does not get beat up as much, which makes it last longer for all the different fall teams that need to use it.
The second lesson she has learned: people in the sports turf industry are supportive. When VanArsdale was searching for information on how to take care of the skinned part of baseball and softball fields, sports turf colleagues in her area stepped up and helped her with what she did not know. The sports turf community on Twitter has also been a valuable resource.
“I love what I do,” VanArsdale said. “My first boss told me, ‘You’re an artist, and you’re painting a picture every day.’ It’s nice to see the effects of spending days or even weeks working on a project. You can say that baseball field looks that way to some extent because of me. The artistry and the details involved, that’s what is rewarding and what I love about it.”
To learn more about Megan VanArsdale and her continuing great work at Boyle County Schools, follow her on Twitter.