A day in the life of a volunteer groundsmen
Posted: Thu, 04 Jun 2020 23:23 by Adam Warden
Bernie, a player, coach and committee member at Kings Heath Cricket Club for over 10 years, has recently taken on another voluntary role at the club as groundsman during the Covid-19 pandemic. He shares is experiences over the past 10 weeks and the motivations that have led him to being so heavily involved at the club.
How did you get started volunteering and what motivated you to first get involved?
I first got involved at the club as a helper, my daughter had shown an interest in cricket and when she joined the club I found myself getting involved and supporting the sessions. As a teacher by trade it came very natural to me engaging with the children and as I was bringing my daughter to the sessions it made sense to offer my time to help out as well.
The skills I had gained from my work life were completely transferable to coaching, so when I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a coach I jumped at the chance to get qualified. I was already taking responsibility for some of the non-cricket aspects of the session, so the qualification gave me the confidence to really get stuck in and support the development of girl's cricket at the club.
Of course it helped that my daughter was involved but I've always been passionate about supporting young people and coaching gave me another opportunity to do this.
So how did the groundsmen role come about and how does it differ from your other voluntary roles?
I've now retired from teaching and although could have continued, I feared burn out and wanted to do something different for the next 10-15 years that would enable me to have a more relaxed quality of life. My passion for cricket got me thinking about what could I do next and I started exploring how to become a groundsman over the winter. I had anticipated assisting other groundsmen to learn more about the trade but when Covid-19 struck an opportunity arose to step into a role that would otherwise be unfulfilled.
Many clubs like ours have been affected financially by the pandemic and it left us unable to pay contractors across the organisation. Being involved on the committee already I was well aware of the challenges we faced and also the investment that had gone into the facilities in the off-season. I was determined that this investment was safeguarded and more importantly I wanted to ensure the facilities would be ready for our members to use when we got the green light to restart (we are still waiting!).
The role is completely different to anything I've done before. I have complete ownership of what I do, how many hours I put in and ultimately the end product. I will eventually be accountable to the club to ensure we have pitches to play on but at the moment I am my own boss. Learning along the way, developing my skills and understanding the science behind growing grass (yes there's more to it than just cutting it).
What impact has volunteering as a groundsmen had on you?
Firstly, volunteering has stopped me going crazy during the Covid-19 lockdown. I think I would have really struggled being stuck at home and probably started some sort of unnecessary projects in my own garden. I thought that I would enjoy the role but 10 weeks in and I am genuinely buzzing when I turn up to the ground.
There is something I find so rewarding about completing each task and seeing the progress that is being made on a weekly basis. I quite like being on my own in the fresh air and feel it has really benefitted my mental health having something to focus on away from everyday life. I go into my own bubble when I'm working on the ground and although there have been challenges with the work it really cheers me up seeing what I have achieved.
Getting a taste for the role now has confirmed to me it's a job I'd like in the near future – developing my skills and gaining practical experience will be essential to achieving that goal and the opportunity to volunteer at my own Cricket Club is one that I will always value.
Finally, can you tell us what volunteering at your Cricket Club means to you?
Being a part of Kings Heath Cricket Club, like many sports clubs, is all about community – yes, it is great to get praise and appreciation for the effort that I am putting into the ground but in reality I wouldn't put the time in if I didn't feel a part of this club.
There is a real sense of community from the juniors to adults, parents, coaches and everyone who gives up their time to run cricket (and other sports) at the club. It is fantastic to see people starting to use the facilities again and the pleasure they get from playing sport.
I feel very lucky to be a part of that and if the voluntary time I put in whether as a coach or groundsmen contributes to putting a smile on their face, then that is a great reward in itself.
If you are interested in becoming a groundsmen or general volunteering at a cricket club near you check out the following websites:
- Warwickshire Cricket Board - https://warwickshirecricketboard.co.uk/officials-coaches-volunteers/
- Grounds Management Association - https://thegma.org.uk/