The Australian Sports Turf Managers Association has created a segment to help the turf industry stay connected. With many events postponed due to current challenges, the opportunity to meet new and catch up with familiar friends and peers across the turf industry is limited, so we’re keeping connected and to ensure that turf managers can get to know members from other areas of the industry, other States and other countries, to help promote the professionals and the hard work put into the industry.
Today we spend 5 minutes with... Paul Chalmers, Ground Manager at St Aloysius’ College in Sydney, as well as part time lecturer of Turf Management and Horticulture at Ryde College.
Provide a quick overview of your facility (staff, turf varieties managed, current role and length of time at your club/facility.
I completed my trade certificate at Charlestown (Hunter Institute) then completed level IV and Diploma at Ryde College (Northern Sydney Institute). Frank Dempsey was the head teacher at Ryde and was a real industry leader in education. He took a real interest in his students and their workplace and I sense he was like a proud father seeing his students becoming Superintendents at group 1 courses and stadiums.
I’m the Ground Manager at St Aloysius’ College Sydney a Jesuit school for boys day students only. Other Jesuit schools people may be more familiar with are Xavier College, Kew and Riverview College Lane Cove. The College’s main campus is in Milsons Point which has an amazing view of the harbour and arguably the best vantage point for New Year’s Eve. The sportsfield is off site at North Willoughby near Chatswood.
I am also a part time lecturer at Ryde College in Turf Management and Horticulture.
I’ve been here just over 14 years now having previous stints at Manly Oval and Waitara Oval in Sydney.
The Oval is the college’s only sporting property, other grounds are leased through neighbouring councils. (North Sydney Willoughby and Lane Cove)
We are in the Combined Associated Schools group with other schools including Knox, Barker, Cranbrook, Trinity and Waverley, which we compete against in all sports. Sports hosted on the oval are cricket, rugby union, football, AFL and athletics. The outfield, Gary Beehag tells me, is Sportsway couch, a very old style fine leaf and stolon turf. I’d like to replace it one day with a more vigorous couch. I have a 4 centre wicket block and a 8 wicket practice block with Legend couch, no doubt in my mind the most suited couch for wickets.
2020 has been one out of the box especially in light of the global pandemic – how have your operations had to change and adapt from past years and what has been the most challenging aspect for your as a superintendent/sports turf manager?
When COVID hit and schools shut down and went online, the college immediately let go of all of its casual staff which affected my facility.
As there was no sport and no training going ahead I recommended to the Principal we didn’t oversow for the winter. When shown there was a substantial saving to the college the Principal agreed not to go ahead.
Agronomically there was relief for the Sportsway couch having no competition in the winter allowing it to build up its rhizomes for this summer ahead.
Best piece of advice you have received about the turf management profession and who gave it to you?
You don’t stop learning when you leave school - An old High school teacher.
Question everything, say why? – Dr Jim Hull Ryde College level IV and Diploma
Don’t be a dickhead - Les Burdett Brisbane conference 2019
There’s no glamour in greenkeeping it’s hard work - My own advice to anyone who wants to listen.
Talk about a recent or current project you have undertaken at your facility and what it means for the club.
The college is keen to install lights and host Friday night football matches. Getting a DA approved will prove tricky but it will happen. The councils would prefer the college to use more of our facility than theirs.
Tell us one thing about yourself that your fellow turf practitioners might now know about you (eg: hobbies/achievements in sport etc).
I played cricket for The Entrance Cricket Club on the Central Coast way back and I am a life member which I am very proud of.
I also like to keep my eye out for a horse to have a couple of dollars on.
What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
If you are starting an apprenticeship have 4 eyes, 4 ears and no mouth, follow out instructions. Your work will get noticed even if you don’t think so.
Complete your studies, don’t let yourself slip, keep disciplined, education is only a very small part of your working life.
Network with other turfies, some of my best friends I have met through the trade.
Thanks for taking 5 minutes with us Paul!