This article comes from the May edition of Grounds Management, our exclusive members magazine. If you would like to read more articles like this about the turf-care industry whilst receiving many other member-only benefits, such as discounts on training, you can become a member today by following this link.
Wes overcame the dyslexic challenges he faced and now owns a successful business. But pitch improvement, in his volunteer role at Cranfield United FC, has now become his passion and has won him well-deserved awards.
When did you start grounds volunteering?
I fell into grounds management by accident. I wanted to volunteer in sport, because sport helped me in my formative years. I started football coaching in my spare time at the age of 21, gained my FA Level 1 Coaching badge and managed grassroots club Elstow Abbey FC from 2010 to 2015. It was during this time that our volunteer groundsperson was unable to maintain the pitch, due to ill health, and I decided to help out – so I moved from team management into grounds care and my interest spiralled from there. I had a lot to learn regarding pitch care basics, so I joined online forums and learned from many people within the industry. I soon realised that I needed kit and materials to improve the pitch but there was little budget at the club, so I used my construction skills and started to build my own equipment. Using my home-made kit and my new-found knowledge, I was able to improve the pitch standards and I was entered into a County FA Groundsperson of the Year competition, which I won in 2016. I then went on to win the National Groundsperson of the Year (Step 7 and under) in 2018.
What is your grounds care routine at Cranfield United?
I moved to Cranfield United FC to gain more experience. We normally have around 100 games, or 200 hours of football on the pitch each season, including adult and youth cup games and local corporate events, and the income helps towards the maintenance budget. Most Saturday mornings I mark the pitch and brush before a game. Then I’ll go back on a Monday afternoon to divot and do a mid-week cut. I have a seasonal budget of £2,000 and now work with Idverde and AGS who do two annual pitch audits, vertidrains and feeds. I’ve managed to get a couple of cheap bits of machinery, but I still knock up some kit myself. These include: a surface aerator; a drag brush; a hand dew brush; a 4m x 4m seed and soak cage; and a drop seeder.
What challenges did dyslexia present and how have you overcome them?
I struggled with reading at school, but I was good at sport, which got me through my formal educational years. I left school at 16 and started working in the construction industry where I met a carpenter who encouraged me to attend evening classes to help with my reading ability – and that’s when I found out that I was dyslexic. I knew I had to find my own way in life, focus on what I was good at and do the best I could. I’ve always been very good with my hands; from a young age I used to take bikes apart and build makeshift goals for our football kickabouts on the field, so I’m well suited to construction work and I now run a successful home improvement business.
What advice can you give to others who may struggle with challenges caused by dyslexia?
Dyslexia is an ongoing challenge for me, but I’ve realised that you need to play to your strengths in life. There’s a future out there – and dyslexia doesn’t have to hold you back.