To mark Grounds Week 2022, we spoke to Apprentice Groundsperson Pete Dawson about his journey into the industry and his development so far.
Pete works at Ryton on a day-to-day basis with Colin Wilson, Grounds Manager at Ryton, and Groundsperson Matt Skingle. Pete joined the team at the Sky Blues training ground in November 2019, and spent a three month period on placement at the Coventry Building Society Arena as part of City and Wasps working closer together on the pitch.
Pete explained his route into the industry:
“I started off working for my Dad doing landscape gardening. I saw the job advert come up here and wanted to combine my love for Coventry City and sports with my love for gardening and groundsman ship, so this seemed a good idea.
“I joined in November 2019, just before COVID. That affected my College course so that got pushed back a year and I didn’t start that until April 2021, so I’m around halfway now.”
As well as his course, Pete is picking up tips and skills from his colleagues at Ryton, plus at the Arena too where he continues to volunteer on first-team matchdays.
“I’m enjoying so many different experiences and grabbing them with both hands” Pete said.
“I’ve learnt a lot from Colin and Matt who I work with every day, learning the ins and outs. I was lucky enough to get three months experience down at the stadium earlier in the season as part of the Club working with Wasps.
“It was from July and I was there just as the pitch was coming through after the renovations and finished in October. Working with Paul Currier and Connor Brady down there I learnt a lot too, and have been volunteering on matchdays since then as well.
“Paul has been at Peterborough and Watford and Connor was at Birmingham, so I learned a lot from them. It’s a completely different environment, there is a pressure in getting things ready for a matchday.”
A lot of unseen work goes into preparing a pitch to be ready, with most of it unseen by others. Pete spoke about one example earlier this season, when the Sky Blues hosted Peterborough on the Friday night before a Wasps game the next day.
“You also have shifts like earlier in the season when we were in preparing for Peterborough on the Friday morning at 8am, and got to bed at 3am on the Saturday morning, then with a rugby match on the Saturday afternoon as well.
“I’ve enjoyed carrying on volunteering on the matchdays, which gives me additional experience on top of what I am doing with Colin and Matt here at Ryton. I do that for the enjoyment because I love the job and am a big Coventry City fan too.”
Speaking about his qualification, Pete spoke about the work involved and the skills that will be developed too.
“It’s a Sport Turf Level 2 qualification,” said Pete.
“You do 8 units on a variety of different aspects of the job, different turf types and machinery too. Then there are 3 exams and 6 videos where you show your different skills you have learnt.
“This is my career path. I’m learning here everyday at Ryton, which will hopefully take me one day to being groundsperson at a Club.”
Grounds Week is this week, and aims to raise awareness of the hard work of grounds staff up and down the country, as well as highlighting the industry to young people, such as Pete.
It is an industry that provides a lot of support for colleagues, as Pete explained.
“I follow a lot of grounds people on Twitter, speak to different people as well, and you pick up different tips and ideas,” Pete said.
“Colin and Paul both have great experience, and Colin has worked in a variety of different areas, so it’s good to pick his brains and he has introduced me to different people too. Everyone does the job different, there’s no right or wrong way necessarily.
“My advice to young people considering it would be to definitely get the industry - it’s a good career. More young people need to get involved in it. There’s a good camaraderie between people in the industry and lots of different opportunities. We work in the rain and in all weathers – in the Summer though, we’re outside and all the office staff are stuck inside!”
“Grounds Week does highlight and recognise the job and the hard work that we do. We know the ins and outs of a pitch and the resources we have, and create the best playing surface for the staff and the players that we possibly can within that. There’s a lot of hours and hard work that goes into preparing a pitch, but it’s a great industry and job to be in.”