University of Kent Groundsmen Lee Ballard and Derek Hockett have worked tirelessly recently to provide new grass tennis courts at the Pavilion. Kent Sport tennis coordinator Matthew Brears interviews them about their work.
What do you and your team do throughout the year?
Our main tasks are to maintain the sports facilities to the highest standard possible. This includes mowing the pitches, marking out the pitches and brushing the three artificial pitches we have on campus, to name the main tasks.
Myself and Derek really take pride in what we do and always want the people taking part in sports such as American football and now tennis to have the best experience.
How did you create these grass courts and what challenges did you face?
The biggest challenge was the time and the weather; we lost two days of work due to rain and we had a bank holiday so another work day was lost. Luckily we were really excited about the challenge of trying to set out grass court tennis, so after we were asked about the possibility, we set to it straight away.
We mowed the area with our old cricket pitch mower that was nearly sold this summer and hadn’t been used for three years due to the loss of cricket on campus. Our first few cuts were at 15mm as we didn’t want to go too short too soon. Next we measured for three courts and over marked them. The next big job was to roll the court. This was a slow job that took four days but after we had finished, we were happy with the end results. We have now lowered the height of cut to 10mm and I think that’s how we will leave it.
How are you going to maintain the good quality playing surface throughout the summer?
The biggest maintenance will be the mowing as I think we will have to do this every other day to keep the grass to a playable height. I’m sure as we get into the summer (hopefully a hot one!), we will have to water the courts.
Is there anything you would like to do differently in the coming years to improve on what you have achieved this year?
Hopefully this really takes off and we can have a few extra courts next year!
The only job we couldn’t do this year was scarify the courts. Next year, if we do this, it will take out the weeds and thatch that is in the ground. Removing this should help with the bounce of the ball and make the court quality better.
“The work the groundsmen have done in such a short space of time has been exemplary and I am thankful for their efforts over the past three weeks, and of course the work they will put in over the summer. They have shown a glimpse of what we can achieve here at the University and I am looking forward to working with them to provide a great grass court tennis offering for years to come!”
Matthew Brears (Tennis Coordinator and Head coach)
“The new grass courts installed by Lee and Del will be a significant part to summer term tennis and is a huge step forward for UKC Tennis this year, and has great potential for years to come. I have nothing but thanks for both Del and Lee, the courts are incredibly flat and have a bounce that nobody expected. Given the time frame that they have been completed in, I want to thank them on behalf of UKC Tennis Society for their hard work and patience.”
Sean Edwards (UKC Tennis Society President)
The grass tennis courts can be booked by Kent Sport members at the Pavilion reception. For information about tennis and other Kent Sport activities visit www.kent.ac.uk/sports and follow UniKentSports on social media.