School children get a lesson in world-class pitches at Leicester’s King Power Stadium

School children get a lesson in world-class pitches at Leicester’s King Power Stadium

Leicester City FC’s head groundsman, John Ledwidge, recently facilitated an GMA Young Board of Directors’ ‘Schools into Stadia’ educational day at the club’s King Power Stadium, where he helped the GMA team to engage with a group of 15-year-old students to help them better understand what’s involved in his day-to-day grounds management role.

The 35 pupils from Leicester’s Fullhurst Community College and The Lancaster School had a ‘behind-the-scenes’ snapshot of what it takes to produce a world-class sports surface, with practical insights into mowing, fertilising, pitch testing and stadium lighting. Leicester City’s grounds team are current holders of the GMA Professional Football Grounds Team of the Year Award.

Linking grounds management skills and procedures to school curricular subjects - such as maths, biology, science and technology - the children also completed a comprehensive questionnaire on what they had learnt from the day, and were given a tour of the pitch and stadium.

Organised and hosted by members of the Grounds Management Association’s (GMA) Young Board of Directors – whose remit is to promote groundsmanship as a career choice to young people – and supported by the Board’s sponsor Toro,  John was joined by members of the Young Board, who are also full-time groundsmen at sports facilities, plus GMA regional pitch advisors.

Commenting on the event Reuben Walker, PE technician at The Lancaster School, said: “The day represented good use of educational time and offered a great opportunity for the children to find out about pitch preparation.” Would-be groundsman Joe Watkins, a student at the school, said he loved the day. “It was good to understand what groundsmen do. I particularly like working with machinery and would love to be a volunteer groundsman at the King Power Stadium.”

John Ledwidge took time out of his busy schedule to host the day and give the children some heart-felt advice: “I feel privileged to play my part at a successful sporting venue,” he said. “I’ve worked very hard to get where I am today and would encourage all students to find something you love to do and work hard to achieve your goals.”

Will Graves, chair of the Young Board and groundsman at Watford FC, added: “The event was a great success and one to build on as we move the Schools into Stadia concept forwards across the country. It’s been great to see the kids and teachers so engaged and we’ve received some excellent feedback.”

Toro marketing manager, Holly Jones, said: “To see the Young Board of Directors pull together such a fantastic learning experience to demonstrate what an interesting and rewarding career in groundsmanship can offer made us proud to be involved as sponsors. The event provided a genuinely rewarding experience for those who attended, opening eyes and doors to what’s possible within the industry with a bit of hard work and dedication.”

The event was the second in the series – the first was held at Arsenal FC’s Emirates Stadium - and plans are afoot to host the next in the series at Everton FC’s Goodison Park later this year.