If you help manage the fields for a small or low-budget soccer program, this blog post is for you. Where the budget may be lacking, you can make up for expensive maintenance with these best management practices. From traffic to bare patches to emergency repairs, this post will discuss the basics to help you provide safe, playable fields for your program.

Traffic Management

Heavy traffic is the norm during the season, and it has a significant impact on field conditions. While you probably can’t reduce the overall foot traffic at your facility, you can relocate it. Doing so helps spread traffic stress across the turf stand rather than concentrating it in one area. Ideally, rotate the fields 90 degrees to help relieve the traffic and stress patterns. If nothing else, try moving the goal mouths up, back, or off-center for the same reason. Even moving just a couple of yards will give the other areas a chance to recover.

Bare Patches

Moving the goals and rotating the field will also help prevent bare patches, which often form as a result of heavy traffic and cleat wear. Moving or rotating the field is not feasible at every facility. But overseeding often helps fill bare patches, even during the season. Broadcasting seed onto heavily trafficked areas can simulate the effect of slit seeding because the players’ cleats will push the seed into the soil and give it a better environment to germinate. Coated seed is also helpful for in-season overseeding. ATS carries a variety of seed coated with Foliar-Pak XCD to improve germination and establishment.

Emergency Repairs

When it comes to in-season repairs, goal mouths are typically the issue because they receive the heaviest traffic. The quickest fix to a destroyed, muddy goal mouth is resodding with large-roll sod. The weight of large-roll sod will keep it in place better than pieces of sod, allowing for safer play. 

Cultural Practices

Aeration, topdressing, overseeding, fertilization, mowing, and proper water management are keys for any safe and playable grass surface. 

  • Aeration relieves compaction from heavy traffic. During the season, you can use solid tines to avoid the inconvenience of aeration plugs littering the field on game day. 
  • Overseeding is a good way to fill bare spots, as discussed above. Try to be proactive with overseeding so as to build up a supply of seed in the soil prior to noticeable damage.
  • Topdressing improves seed-to-soil contact as you overseed throughout the season. It also helps keep the surface of the field smooth and safe for athletes.
  • Fertilization helps the grass grow through summer stress and outcompete weeds that may try to take over. Controlled-release fertilizers are a good way to ensure consistent long-term growth without high mowing needs.
  • Mowing regularly is also key to a safe, playable field. Remember the one-third rule when determining how short to cut the field, not removing more than one-third of the grass blade in one mow.
  • Irrigation is another key to field maintenance. To mitigate traffic stress, it’s a good idea to irrigate lightly after each use of the field.

With the cultural practices above and proper traffic management, you can significantly improve the quality and safety of your fields. To elevate them even further, consider a product like Foliar-Pak Grow-In to support seed establishment and turfgrass recovery through the season. Contact your local ATS rep for consultation on your program’s specific needs this season.