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Saltex Cup winners are a cut above at El Clasico

Thursday 2 Apr 2020

The victorious group of Myerscough College sportsturf apprentices from the annual SALTEX College Cup have enjoyed an unforgettable experience at Spanish footballing giants, Real Madrid.

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The College Cup is a prestigious skills competition held by The Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG), at the annual Saltex turf management exhibition and trade show. Myerscough College entered a team solely consisting of apprentices, comprising Scott Danter (Warwick School), Ashley Hill (Redditch Golf Club), Ryan Harrison and Nick George (both from Leicester City Football Club). They are all currently studying Level 2 or Level 3 sportsturf apprenticeships, under the expert guidance of work-based tutors, Simon Dadge and Adam Shoesmith.

The annual SALTEX College Cup, sponsored by Toro and Reesink Turfcare, is a student-led sports turf challenge – an academic test of turf management knowledge for student competitors who are enrolled at a college on a relevant course of study.

The Myerscough College team saw off competition from four other colleges to win the trophy and a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Real Madrid’s Bernabéu Stadium, learning from the very best in the industry in the form of Myerscough alumni, Paul Burgess, Madrid’s director of grounds and environment.

The group enjoyed an invaluable groundscare work experience placement, in the run up to one of the biggest domestic fixtures in world football, the El Clásico, between Real Madrid and Barcelona. During their weekend visit the group enjoyed a full, behind-the-scenes experience of just what it takes to prepare the playing surface for such a prestigious fixture, and even got the golden opportunity to be part of the team who actually maintain the Bernabéu’s hallowed turf.

Apprentice, Ashley Hill, said: “This was a real honour. Seeing in detail what the grounds team do at the training ground and at the stadium was inspirational. Mowing the pitch at the Bernabéu was the icing on the cake.”

Ryan Harrison said the opportunity to learn from Paul Burgess has helped to improve his skill set and will enhance his prospects in the grounds management industry: “Paul and the team were brilliant with us all and I learnt so much. Helping to prepare the pitch for the El Clasico was a real privilege and I am going home a better groundsperson.”

The Bernabéu tour follows three extraordinary SALTEX College Cup prizes in previous years. In 2017 the winning students were part of the Wembley grounds team at the FA Cup Final and the 2018 winners enjoyed an unforgettable experience of helping with pitch preparations at the 2018 Six Nations Championships at BT Murrayfield Stadium. Last year saw the winning College win a behind the scenes tour at The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), Wimbledon in which the students received an in-depth look at court preparations the week before The Championships took place.

The SALTEX College Cup continues to go from strength to strength and Dan Prest, head of technical and learning at the Institute of Groundsmanship, believes it is a fantastic platform to encourage and inspire the younger generation.

“This competition is all about raising standards in our industry. Young people should see this opportunity as a viable career option and that there is a progressive career path for them to follow.’’

Lee Price, Employer Services Manager at Myerscough College, said: ''It’s amazing to win the IOG Saltex Cup. It gave our learners the chance to pitch their skills against other competitors, and also to network, share experiences and best practice, and also to meet a new group of peers and industry experts.

‘’It’s great to be showcase the talents of our next generation of sportsturf professionals on a world renowned stage, and our apprentices had a great time learning from the very best in the industry in the shape of Myerscough alumni, Paul Burgess.

‘’Opportunities such as this show what fantastic career options are available within the sportsturf industry. Thanks again to the IOG, Paul, and their generous sponsors for the amazing opportunity for our learners.’’

The Saltex College Cup is a student-led sports turf challenge – an academic test of turf management knowledge for student competitors who are enrolled at a college on a relevant course of study. The team competed in multiple choice and short answer questions concerning turf management, plus answer questions based on a case study in the form of a presentation. The competition also included live test samples for the physical identification of threats to turf health.

by Dave Salmon