Scoring Goals With the Sports Field Management Association

After the association's recent rebrand from Sports Turf Managers Association to Sports Field Management Association, we asked newly elected president of the board, James Bergdoll, CSFM, CPRP, director of park maintenance for the City of Chattanooga, Tenn., some questions about the rebranding, as well as other ongoing initiatives.

What was the thinking behind the rebrand and new name for the association?

"The rebrand was a culmination of things that have happened over the last few years. The industry has expanded and evolved, and there was a desire to stay relevant," Bergdoll said. "Several years ago there was a sense that the word 'turf' in the eyes of the public was associated specifically with artificial or synthetic turf surfaces. While natural grass, or turfgrass, is the preferred surface type by members, we also recognize our members are responsible for maintaining safe and playable fields of all surface types. Therefore, removing the word 'Turf' and using 'Fields' captures all surfaces."

In addition, Bergdoll said, the name better aligns with the association's certification, Certified Sports Field Manager. The association's purchase of the rights to Sportsfields Management Magazine a few years ago further strengthens the branding.

Inclusiveness was another reason for the change. "There was strong feedback from members that the word 'manager' was restrictive to those working at a higher level, while the term 'management' encompasses everyone and the work being done at all levels. With this rebrand, we look to become a stronger and more inclusive community that represents and is an advocate for all of those who make up SFMA. Having gone through a 10-year strategic planning in 2021, with a focus on growth, the board felt the time was right to rebrand the association."

That 10-year plan has three big focuses: marketing, growth and diversity. Goals and objectives in the first year include:

  • A full-scale marketing effort directed to employers and partners to position sports field managers as the go-to experts in field safety.
  • Helping members gain a "seat at the table." "While some members have achieved this, we want our entire membership to have this credibility," Bergdoll said. "We recognize that we must provide the tools to help members get there. Thus, we are launching a professional development initiative that will meet individual needs based on where members are within their career, with an emphasis on leadership and communication skills."
  • Leveraging technology to bridge the gap between current sports field managers and upcoming generations. "The excitement of using high-tech equipment also factors into our growth strategy," he added. "Growing interest in our industry is key to not only its credibility, but also its longevity."
  • "Our final and perhaps most important focus is to begin the road to making our profession more diverse and inclusive," Bergdoll said, adding that the association will seek guidance from a consultant who specializes in issues related to diversity, inclusion and equity. "We need to create a comfortable environment for discussions about diversity and inclusion. This is the first step."

Who Should Consider Joining the SFMA?

"Anyone who plays a part in providing safe and playable sports fields and facilities at all levels," Bergdoll said. That includes parks and recreation/municipal agencies, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, professional sports, suppliers and more.

"This includes coaches, volunteers, board members, athletic directors, entry-level laborers, students, engineers, architects, supplier representatives, mid-level managers, executive-level managers, parents, community leaders," Bergdoll said. "In a lot of cases, it takes many people at many levels and skills to provide these safe surfaces. The more people that are involved and have access to the education and information we offer, the better off all sports fields will be."

Bergdoll had plenty to add about the association's education initiatives.