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Sports turf management focus of new K-State option

Kansas State University students aiming for a career in managing football, soccer and other such fields where turf is a key part of the operation, now have a new educational choice.

The Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources at Kansas State University has added a new option in the Horticulture major--Sports Turf Operations Management. Steve Keeley and Jack Fry, professors specializing in Turfgrass Science, consulted with the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) Board of Directors and Dale Getz, the National Sports Turf Sales Manager for Toro, to build the curriculum for the program.

"The growing field, increasing professionalism in the sports turf industry and the number of opportunities made us feel like it was an area where students needed to be prepared," Keeley said.

Although the program is based off of the existing Golf Course Management option, the Sports Turf Operations Management curriculum is more diverse. Among the 130 required credits are 15 credits of business, 48 credits of horticulture and turf management, and four credits of food and beverage management. Students are also required to participate in two internships to strengthen their management experience prior to graduation.

Besides gathering professional input from STMA members for course selection, chief executive officer Kim Heck said the STMA further benefits students enrolled in the program by, "acting as a clearinghouse to place students in internships and offering other student programs such as scholarships and the STMA Student Challenge."

The STMA Student Challenge event is a team event held every year at the STMA national meeting. The top three teams are recognized and the two first place teams take home approximately $4,000 in prizes for the respective laboratories and universities. Students participate in a written test, sample evaluation, equipment identification, and a case study situation.

Dale Getz, currently the National Sports Turf sales manager for TORO, previously served as the Turf Manager for the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. His experience at both occupations led him to hold an adjunct faculty position at K-State, where he teaches in the Turf Management classes each semester for one week.

"The TORO Foundation is very educational based--it gives scholarships and equipment to K-State because they are focused on providing the best undergraduate student for the marketplace," Getz said. K-State is one of six universities in the nation supported by The TORO Foundation.

The common goal of all parties involved in the development of K-State's Sports Turf Operations Management option was to prepare students for careers with professional sports complexes, municipalities, or management of kindergarten through 12th grade schools or university facilities.

"Sports turf is where golf course management was over a decade ago, a growing industry that is also increasing in professionalism," said K-State's Fry. "As it grows, it deserves increasing attention from us to better prepare students for this career path."

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