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Get on the ball and register for the STMA Conference

November 23, 2009  - By

By: Ron Hall

“In managing turfgrass, your only goal is perfection. The closer you get to perfection, the more obvious your imperfections and the more difficult and more expensive they are to correct. If you keep that in perspective, you will keep your sanity.” — James Beard, Ph.D., president and chief researcher for the International Sports Turf Institute

The approaching Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) conference (Jan. 12-16) at Disney World’s Coronado Springs Resort and Convention Center is billed as the 21st Annual Conference. That depends on how you count the conferences.

I attended my first STMA “national” conference in 1985. I think there might have been several similar conferences prior to that. My first conference took place in a hotel near the former Stapleton Airport near downtown Denver. It wasn’t a pleasant venue. Freeways completely surrounded the hotel, and you needed a taxi to get anywhere. The turnout wasn’t large, maybe 80 to 100 people, and there wasn’t a trade show, although there might have been tabletop exhibits.

What I do remember (and fondly) was the incredible spirit of sharing that characterized the two or three days of the conference. The educational sessions attracted the best minds in the industry, and everybody was eager to learn all that they could. The handful of professional sports grounds pros and academics presenting at the conference held nothing back in terms of their knowledge and their hard-earned experiences.

Incredibly these many years later, that same generous spirit survives within the STMA. It hasn’t diminished a whit. Regardless of a member’s position in the pecking order of sports field management — from Major Leaguers and NFL head pros to a parks manager in the smallest community — the STMA Conference remains a celebration of sharing and learning among equals. There are no big shots or stuffed shirts in the sports field management world. Everybody works too hard and has too much to learn to put on airs.

In my mind, that’s what sets the STMA apart from other industry conferences I regularly attend. It’s not that the leaders of other industries aren’t sharing; they are. I suppose it’s more a matter of degree. Or perhaps my perception is skewed because of my respect for what sports fields managers do, often for so little reward other than the satisfaction of doing what they enjoy doing and doing it as well as they can. I admire them for what they are — skilled trades people, professionals who are constantly seeking to take their craft to higher levels.

Another reason why I so anticipate the STMA Conference is the youth and enthusiasm of so many of its participants. The young people learn what they can from the veterans during their few days together, then they return to their day-to-day duties and start innovating. It’s the young people that are moving the sports field management profession to the next level.

And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the several “Seminar on Wheels” opportunities that get attendees out with their peers to visit sports fields during the course of the conference, and learn from other professionals at their facilities near the conference site. This year, of course, stops will include Disney’s remarkable Wide World of Sports facilities and several others in and around the Orlando area.

Now that you’ve read my pitch for the STMA’s 21st Annual Conference and Exposition, I urge you to go online at STMA’s Web site and check out the schedule.   You will also find some excellent tips for reducing the cost, which could be very handy in getting approval from your boss so that you can attend.

It’s not too late to register if you get on the ball. Click here for conference details.


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