Constructing something valuable

Features - Turfheads Take Over

Yes, there’s a committee your association might not have that can benefit the entire organization. Richard Brown reveals a way to boost assistant superintendent engagement.

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December 10, 2021

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Preface: When I joined the Carolinas GCSA assistants committee, it was already in place. We had our annual meeting and golf championship, the @Carolinas_ASST Twitter account was operational, and there were other little things being done throughout the year for assistants. I was fortunate enough to follow behind a lot of good leaders who had already done a good bit of the work. However, I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons throughout my time on the committee that I’d like to share that I believe can help other associations with their own committee.

OK, I get it. Every association has enough committees. But do you have a committee that serves, highlights and promotes the assistant superintendents within your association? The good news about starting an assistants committee is that it becomes your assistants’ committee. It’s the only committee created for assistants by assistants.

Here’s some advice on how you can start your own

1. Speak to the higher-ups

Whether it’s an executive director, board of directors, or both, go to them first. Tell them your plan, your vision, and what you want this committee to be and what purpose it can serve. Everything that happens within the committee should run through the higher-ups. Eventually, you’ll gain their trust and backing, and you’ll have a little more freedom. Until then, be sure to get the OK from the top.

2. Build your team

Find your group of assistants to form the committee. This is pretty simple and shouldn’t be too difficult. But there are a few things to consider when doing this. First, find assistants who really want to be involved and who want to serve the committee, the organization and the assistants within it. Depending on the size of the association, you can have nominations or elections, or have the higher-ups appoint assistants fit to serve. It’s important to have a variety of individuals from different types and levels of golf courses. But you should also keep in mind what serving may entail. There’s a good chance at some point the committee might be asked to travel for meetings, industry education and other events, so make sure chosen assistants work a club that will allow a little time off when needed.

3. Meet with your team

This will prove to be one of the tougher tasks you’ll run into. Finding the time to put your work, home and other responsibilities aside is hard enough for one person, let alone for multiple individuals. As difficult as it may be to plan these meetings, they are essential to not only starting your committee but also keeping it running. In-person meetings are best, but they will also have the greatest chance of missing members. Zoom calls, over-the-phone conference calls, email threads and group chats will also play a big role in communication within the committee.

4. Determine goals

What purpose do you want the committee to serve? What goals do you have? A couple things to aim for that have proven beneficial for us:

Annual assistants meeting and golf championship. Everyone loves a good round of golf. This is a great opportunity to get the assistants throughout the association together for fellowship and a little friendly competition. Included in that competition is a little incentive. The winning assistant earns a spot on that year’s Virlina Cup team, an annual competition involving the Carolinas GCSA and Virginia GCSA. We also have education and food at these meetings, so everyone leaves with something good.

Annual assistants social event at our conference and show. Our newest event added to the schedule is a social at our annual conference and show. We wanted to have an event for assistants attending the conference and show that they could call their own. It’s a good way to start the conference and show with a bang. We secured a sponsor and attendees can focus on networking and having a good time. We invite our board of directors, Twitter superstars and as many vendors as we can. Having the ability for assistants to meet these people has proved to be mutually beneficial for both parties. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy some food and beverages while talking turf?

Assistant-specific education throughout the year. Whether it’s at your local show, meeting or any other gathering with education, it’s important to include at least one or two assistant-specific classes. Everyone knows continuing education is good for your career, but when you target it specifically for assistants it makes them feel included and really catered to. When we plan education, we almost always focus on it being career-based. There’s plenty of turf-related education where you can brush up on fungicides, fertilizers, mowing heights, diseases, weed control and other technical topics. But assistants always seem to want to learn additional ways to boost their respective careers and get to the next level. This includes résumé and interview tips, communication and management advice, and even roundtable discussions with superintendents offering thoughts on how to advance in the industry.

5. Social media

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and even TikTok play big roles in promoting the committee. Most industry professionals have one of these platforms, if not all of them, on their phones and other devices. And the platforms are being checked almost daily. They can serve many purposes for your committee. For starters, they can be used to communicate what’s going on within the committee, including upcoming education and meetings, future plans, and decisions being made. Secondly, you can use social media to highlight and profile assistants throughout the association. Finally, use social media to boost the profile of assistants within your chapter via likes, retweets, shares and stories. They’re all great ways to promote assistants.

6. Keep pushing

There will come a time when things might be in a lull and it feels like there isn’t anything happening or nothing new is coming down the pipeline. Keep the faith and continue to push toward the goal. When this happens, reach out to the committee. Ask for new ideas. If anyone has fresh ideas or new concepts to implement, act on them. This will help revitalize the spirits of the committee and keep the momentum of the committee going.

Starting or even revamping your assistants committee may seem like a daunting task. But with the proper support, a good group of assistants and a little work, you’ll be on your way to having a great committee that can serve everybody in your association in the present and the future.

Richard Brown is the senior assistant superintendent at Orangeburg Country Club in Orangeburg, South Carolina. This is his fourth Golf Course Industry contribution.