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Fields of ‘excellence’ prove safer for young athletes

News Release Distributed 10/03/12

WINNSBORO, La. – A poorly maintained football field could be as dangerous as a 300-pound defensive tackle. Having healthy turf on a high school field helps the athletes play stronger and safer.

The LSU AgCenter is working with high school coaches through its Field of Excellence program to improve playing surfaces for young athletes.

Most coaches have no training in how to grow athletic turf, and Ron Strahan, LSU AgCenter turfgrass specialist, noticed many fields across the state were in bad shape.

“What you want to end up with is kind of like this field that we have here,” Strahan said, referring to Franklin Parish High School’s football field. “It’s just a soft cushion for a player to fall on. The goal here is to reduce injury and have a beautiful field.”

Weeds or holes in the field can trip players. Compacted ground can lead to injuries. Strahan worked with coaches at Franklin Parish High to get their field in shape, encouraging them to aerify their fields to combat soil compaction.

“There is a link between the hardness of a field and injuries, particularly spinal injuries,” Strahan said.

Right guard Tyree Herron can feel the difference.

“It’s exactly like falling on a carpet,” Herron said.

His coaches started working with Strahan in March 2012 to get their field ready for football season.

Strahan and Franklin Parish Country Agent Carol Pinnell-Alison developed a management program tailored to the field. Pinnell-Alison met regularly with Coach Barry Sebren and Assistance Coach Whitney McCartney.

“Basically, it made it so much easier on us knowing what chemicals to spray, when to spray, when to fertilize it, when to water it – so many things we didn’t know anything about,” McCartney said.

Following the plan helped them cut down on the amount of chemicals used and reduced costs.

“If they manage their turf well, water it, fertilize it, mow it at the right height, they may not have weed problems,” Pinnell-Alison said.

The plan extends to the team’s practice field as well.

“The fans see the main game field, but the players see the practice field every day,” Strahan said. “It’s important to get the practice fields in good condition to keep the players safe.”

Other coaches are taking note of the improvements made in Franklin.

“If we send film to other teams, they notice how great our field looks,” Sebren said.

This year, Franklin Parish High School’s football field was chosen as the field of the year by the Louisiana Turfgrass Association.

“It’s great for our community to know that our field is one of the best in the state,” McCartney said.

Pinnell-Alison will continue to work with the coaching staff to help them maintain their excellent field.

Strahan has six schools enrolled in the program in 2012. They are Madison Parish High, Lake Providence High, Pine Prairie High, Dutchtown High, Leesville and Franklin Parish High.

Strahan worked with five fields in 2011 – Wossman High in Ouachita Parish, Vidalia High, Winnfield High, Franklinton High in Washington Parish, and New Iberia high schools.

In 2010, the schools included New Roads, Ferriday High, Bastrop High, Abbeville High and Vermilion Catholic.

Tobie Blanchard

Read more about the Field of Excellence program: Turfgrass matters in sports

Last Updated: 7/25/2013 11:22:00 AM

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