The Maryland Soccer Foundation is hoping a new sports turf Institute will take root here and grow the next generation of specialists in the area of sports field management, an industry with high-paying jobs and few applicants.
The Maryland SoccerPlex Sports Turf Institute launched this summer, with a 1st of its kind apprenticeship program leading the way. Four apprentices plus four existing staff members enrolled in the unique training program that offers both on-site and classroom education. When finished, the apprentices will leave with a total of 160 hours of instruction over the one-year program and an Apprenticeship Certificate that will be recognized by Major League Soccer teams across the league
“This industry has dozens of high-paying jobs and there are no people to fill them. So, for our own survival, we have taken action to hire and train people to become skilled Sports Turf Professionals. Once they finish the apprenticeship program, they can stay and work with us at SoccerPlex. Or we have the connections to get them jobs in soccer all over the country. It’s a win-win,” said Jerad Minnick, Director of Grounds and Environmental Management for the Maryland SoccerPlex
The Maryland SoccerPlex has 24 fields and is known for its high-quality playing services. Recently the Turf Institute team completed a total renovation of the SoccerPlex’s main stadium field to transition to Bermuda grass from Kentucky Blue grass to improve draining and sustainability and playability. Another major undertaking at the Plex this summer has been the renovation of three fields to install drainage that will limit rain cancellations and improve sustainability.
“Part of our mission of the SoccerPlex is to provide the best fields and playing experience for the youth sports community. This requires the best trained grounds staff, so it only made sense for us to develop our own training and education program in sports turf management,” said Matt Libber, Executive Director of the Maryland SoccerPlex.
“We have the industry’s cutting-edge equipment so our apprentices can learn through doing and we have the land to conduct on-field research in controlled plots. The apprentices get to learn, practice, and do research to prepare them to lead their own Sports Turf Maintenance team and their career in the industry,” Minnick said.
This is not your backyard weekend weed warrior. Minnick, a long-time Sports Field Manager & well-known Sports Turf Advisor, leads the program with guest lectures that include top-level worldwide sports turf managers, college professors and turf industry consultants. Classes include virtual learning as well as a lab component and on-field research at the SoccerPlex. Apprentices will get their hands dirty learning about everything from grass and weed identification to advanced playing surface data collection and analysis.
Minnick said he hopes the Sports Turf Institute spreads with more apprentices joining the field next year.
About the Maryland Soccer Foundation
The Maryland Soccer Foundation (MSF) is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing sports and recreation programs and services; funding the operation of the Maryland SoccerPlex, Adventist HealthCare Fieldhouse, and SAM Soccer; and organizing and hosting events that create economic impact for the community through sports tourism.