Exclusive #GroundsWeek interview with Edgbaston's Gary Barwell
During a recent Soil Scout installation at Edgbaston Stadium, ahead of #GroundsWeek we caught up with Head of Sports Turf Gary Barwell for a chat.
Gary, can you tell us what you enjoy about working in the sports turf industry?
I class myself as a very lucky person, I get up every day and I don’t believe I go to work, I think there is a famous ‘Confucius’ quote; ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ Yes, it can be very challenging at times, but ultimately very rewarding I get to work with some of the most high profile sports people in world sport and I am lucky to have been at some of the most amazing stadiums and sporting occasions including World Cup semi-finals and Ashes Test matches. You know when everything is going smoothly it does give you a great sense of achievement.
It’s a very rewarding industry and I think ultimately when you see all of your hard work come together whether that be at the elite level that we are at or down to the grassroots level I think a lot of people take a lot of satisfaction in what they do and great groundsmanship ultimately is that - pride in what you do and the satisfaction you receive watching sports people enjoying playing on the surfaces that you deliver.
I do get a huge amount of satisfaction from what the team do here at Edgbaston, but I’m not going to lie there’s a lot of nerves on the morning of a test match I’m probably hiding under my desk, just hoping that everything goes OK and that’s mainly because you just want people coming into the stadium hoping that what you’ve done on the surface allows the greatest players in the world to play against each other at an equal opportunity.
I’d like to think the people come in here and say, ‘Edgbaston looks amazing,' because ultimately it’s the club that takes the responsibility and it’s an amazing club and venue to work at and I’m sure a lot of groundstaff will say the same about their grounds and pitches.
What advice would you give to youngsters looking to get into the sports turf industry?
It’s a bit of an old clique but it’s very true, never give up on your dreams, work hard, my old boss at Trent Bridge used to say to me, ‘never leave anything out there’ which I think is very important, but ultimately I remember getting my first job at Leicestershire Cricket Club back in the early 90s and if you work hard I do genuinely believe that people will see what you do and the cream rises to the top. Work hard and don’t forget the little details, the lads here will tell you that I am a nightmare, I’m a bit of a stickler for the little details right down to making sure everything on the outfield is clean and tidy.
Work with your team, be a team player. Every groundsman is a part of the team, unfortunately not all clubs see it like that but groundstaff are an important part of the club’s team and it’s important to work closely with captains and coaches. Here at Warwickshire I’ve got a fantastic Director of Cricket Paul Farbrace and a new Head Coach Mark Robinson they have both showed a real positive attitude towards myself and my team and made us feel a part of the club and that gives us that extra bit of encouragement to go that extra mile.
Be open-minded and don’t be afraid to ask questions, we might be working here at the elite level but I will still talk to friends and other groundstaff at any level and sometimes you think, well that’s not a bad idea we’ll try that here, so always ask for advice, you never know what you might learn.
Overall it’s a great industry to be in, I can’t speak highly enough of the opportunities it’s given me to see some of the most amazing cricket in the world, I’ve made some great lifelong friends who are good people.
Finally don’t be afraid to contact people and ask questions, get in touch with Premier League groundstaff, they are all good people and will reply to you, never give up, always work hard and don’t be afraid to ask.
How did you hear about the Soil Scout solution?
It was from having a few conversations with our Rigby Taylor representative Carl Chamberlain, he brought it to my attention and I had also seen a few promotions for the solution on social media and it was something that we thought would be good to have a look at and see if it can bring some benefits to us here at Edgbaston.
What are looking to achieve with the Soil Scout data that you will collect?
With big games and test matches coming up in the summer we obviously put a lot of water on the ground and we want to try and work out the water movement through the profile of the table. We are also bringing a lot of our work on the outfield in-house so we want to look at the right times to do things.
For example we have a vigorous fertiliser programme so the salinity of the soil is quite important to us, so knowing the key times of when to do it will be important. Overall the ability to gain previously unknown information and data will be critical helping us to better prepare for the big games going forward.