Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Science of Turf

by Nancy Turnage, VRPS Central Office

Athletic Fields maintenance is obviously a large component of recreation and parks.  Virginia Recreation and Park Society is proud to partner with Toro and Virginia Cooperative Extension to host its Athletic Fields annual workshop ~ 4 locations in 4 days ~ to spread the 411 on turf throughout the Commonwealth to the folks who will be implementing and maintaining it for the benefit of Virginians.

VRPS is, as always, grateful to our "Turf Rockstars" Dale Getz and Mike Goatley.  Every year they add value and take a new approach to what's latest and greatest.

Who knew there was so much to it?  If you are a turf rookie like me, rhizomes and Bermuda grass sound like components of a tropical vacation.  For those attending the Henrico course - see you tomorrow.  I plan on getting autographs....

Dale Getz, CSFM (Certified Sports Field Manager) is the Sports Turf Sales Manager - US for the Toro Company.  Previously he was the Athletic Facilities Manager and Superintendent of Golf at the University of Notre Dame where he worked for 17 years.  Dale has taught turf management at Andrews University as an adjunct faculty mem-ber and has published numerous articles on sports turf management.  He holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Michigan State University in Forestry and a Masters Degree in Administration from the University of Notre Dame.
Dale Getz

"Maintaining athletic fields is not as much about mowing, aerating and fertilizing as it is about making memories for athletes of all ages." 

"Everything you do on an athletic field should be aimed at one goal - safety."

 - Dale Getz, Certified Sports Field Manager and Sports Turf Sales Manager - US for the Toro Company

Michael Goatley, Jr. is Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences of Virginia Tech.  Goatley has B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Kentucky and the PhD from Virginia Tech.  Following 15 years on the faculty of Mississippi State University, Goatley returned to Blacksburg where his primary responsibilities are statewide development and implementation of educational outreach programs for all areas of turfgrass management.  Mike has co-authored four books on sports turf management, was elected to the STMA Board of Directors in 2008, and is serving as STMA President in 2012-2013.

Mike Goatley

"Bobby Campbell, CSFM and former sports field supervisor at University of Tennessee, always told the crowds he spoke to that sports field managers are in the business of creating memories....  I had never thought of that before, but he was absolutely right in that some of my earliest memories are of my first chances to play on a 'real' sports field and to visit a sports venue."

- Mike Goatley, Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist,Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences of Virginia Tech


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Hero in Our Midst

by Nancy Turnage, VRPS Central Office

Dr. Morton is a mainstay for the Virginia Senior Games.  We at the Central Office expect to hear from him after the beginning of each year, as he adds valuable input in regards to the Games and in particular in regards to meeting the needs of athletes like himself, who overcome physical challenges to add some mighty worthy competition.

Dr. Morton is the National Senior Games March "HUMANA Heroes:  Athlete of the Month".  And boy is he.  Thanks Dr. Morton - we love hearing from you and being a stop along the road in your amazing journey.

Author's note:  the excerpt below was taken from "The Long Run", the National Senior Games Association Official e-Newsletter, 2014 March Edition.  Please enjoy the full edition HERE.

HUMANA Heroes: Athlete 

of the Month

Balls and Strikes
Bowlers at the National Senior Games in Cleveland last year may have admired one athlete with a different approach. Samuel "Doc" Morton, 76, of Newport News, Virginia, took on all comers from a wheelchair. However, none would have guessed what a gifted athlete and true hero was in their midst.

Sam always excelled at every sport.  He played "Bowling for Dollars" in Madison Square Garden at age 17. He was a high school All American football tight end, but his real love was baseball. ''The Dodgers tried to sign me but I wanted them to pay for my college. They said no deal so I took a football scholarship to Syracuse University," he recalls. The next year the New York (now San Francisco) Giants met his terms and Sam played third base in the summers, getting called up to the major league three times. "But I got hurt sliding into second base and tried to come back too soon.  That finished me out."

His draft notice came in 1960. "I had documentation to get out of it but decided to do what I had to do for my country." Two tours of duty in Vietnam followed, and one fateful "Black Ops" mission changed his life. "The helicopter pilot missed the drop zone by 20 miles. Five troopers got injured that shouldn't have, and I took the brunt of it." The injuries made a wheelchair his lifetime companion.

Unbeaten, he completed a PhD in Special Education with an emphasis on autism.  "Doc" Morton continued with sports, picking up numerous medals in bowling, horseshoes, shuffleboard, basketball, golf, wheelchair racing and field events. He was proud to throw javelin, discus and shot put for Team USA in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta.  

Sam has been a regular in American Wheelchair Bowling Association events and has bowled against able bodied competitors in five National Senior Games.  He and his wife Kathy will be at the Virginia Senior Games in May to qualify for the 2015 National Senior Games Presented by Humana. When told that The Games will be adding non-ambulatory bowling next year, the response was predictable, "Hey, I don't care who's out there. I'll take 'em all on."

While Sam has triumphed in a wheelchair, it has not been his toughest challenge. Exposure to Agent Orange has dealt him strikes with diabetes, hypertension and fluctuating eyesight.  A recent renal failure placed him on dialysis three times a week.  However, Sam Morton has never given up and never will.

"You walk upright with God, and He will take you through everything you have to go through. But you have to believe in Him and believe in yourself as well as the people who support you. You have to live each day to its fullest because you never know when He will call you home."

We're always looking for great athlete stories.  Submit yours and read more athlete stories on our Athlete of the Month page at NSGA.com!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

2014 VRPS Members in the Community: Julie Saum

by Julie Saum, CTRS, Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitative Center and Nancy Turnage, VRPS Central Office


Julie Saum, CTRS, is a Recreation Therapist for Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center and is currently working towards re-inventing the VRPS Therapeutic Recreation Resource Group.

Can you provide some background regarding the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center – what you do there, what’s new for the facility, special projects.

WWRC is a comprehensive vocational rehabilitation center for the state of Virginia which houses a Life Skills program and multiple training areas for persons with various disabilities to support and assist them in finding gainful employment in their home communities.  WWRC serves clients who are in high school through the PERT (Post-Secondary Education Rehabilitation Transition) Program, but the majority of clients are post-high school (typically 19-23 years old, but they serve several clients who are 50+) – some have completed high school with a general diploma, some with a modified diploma, and others with no diploma.  WWRC offers a GED program for those who did not graduate from high school, along with the vocational training a student would receive while at the center.  Training areas offered include:  Auto Mechanics, Health Occupations (CNA, personal care attendant), Business Information Technology, Materials Handling, Food Service, Building Trades, as well as an external training option (if WWRC does not offer it in-house, WWRC will setup training for that job in the community).

WWRC also boasts wonderful Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy programs that provide all the typical PT and OT services, as well as specialized wheelchair fitting, adapting driving equipment, and driving instructors for both driving with and without adaptive driving equipment.  Many students who come to the center are able to get their Learner’s Permit and/or Driver’s License.  When the students are not in class, they may stay at their dorms, participating in activities there – lounging in the common areas, playing video games, sitting around a bonfire, playing volleyball, or they may go to the Recreation Hall.

The "Rec. Hall" is one of the most common areas for students and is open everyday, full of multiple choices of activities and supports for the students in the evening environment.  It's is setup much like a community recreation center – pool, gymnasium, bowling alley, art room, fitness center, auditorium (for movies, talent shows, special events, graduations, etc.), video game area (equipped with PS3, XBOX360, Wii and multiple TVs), lounge area with big screen TV, pool tables, Foosball, air hockey, ping pong, and a library/computer lab.  The recreation services staff leads activities to get the students involved, socializing with peers and staff, and appropriately navigating the social/evening environment.  Along with the other Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists, I provide individual and group leisure education and leisure planning/counseling, anger management, Socialization through Recreation, Yoga and Relaxation, self-esteem programs, journaling, and other recreation therapy programs.

The Recreational Services department is proud to be involved in the community – participating in the holiday parade, hosting events for both the community and our students, volunteering, participating in the governor’s inaugural parade, etc.  We also field basketball, softball, volleyball, and touch-football teams that compete in the local parks and rec leagues and against other facilities in our area.  We have cheerleaders for the basketball and football teams and are hosting a cheerleading camp in March for any person with disabilities ("CheerAbility").  We take fishing, camping, and shopping trips; attend fairs and college sporting events – the possibilities really are endless with what we can do!

How/when did you become involved?  (What was your journey – I understand you came from Virginia Beach?)

started my “therapeutic journey” when I was about seven years old, when my brother was diagnosed with Hypomelanosis of Ito.  Immediately I jumped into the role of the loving, caring, and protective big sister, always wanting to be with my brother, helping him through whatever was going on, and being his biggest fan.  I started actually working in TR at age 11 as a volunteer with Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation, Therapeutic Recreation Programs, because my brother went to their summer camp, (being a very protective big sister I couldn't let him go by himself!).  I continued on with them part-time from that point all through high school and during college at Old Dominion University.

I always loved working with people with disabilities, emotional issues, or experiencing lonliness, etc.  In elementary school, I was a social butterfly, always wanting to talk with and help people, but working with TR programs completely solidified my decision to make it my career.  I loved the TR courses I took in college and joined a sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, whose mission was, at the time, to work with the “Choose Children” philanthropy.  In my sophomore year, our philanthropy changed to "Autism Speaks", and I couldn't have been happier.  I took any leadership position I could that would enable me to work more closely with Autism Speaks and children with Autism or similar disabilities, like my brother’s.

To complete my college career and become a CTRS, I had to find and complete an internship.  Through the help of my supervisor and mentor, Kathy Williams (CTRS, Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation), I found WWRC; it seemed that a wonderful opportunity just fell into my lap – but it meant moving 3.5 hours away to a very small town (especially compared to Virginia Beach) where I did not know anyone, but I took the leap of faith.

As I was completing my internship at WWRC, a full-time position opened at the center, so I had to make a life-changing choicef:  apply for this job and potentially stay at WWRC - 3.5 hours away from my family and friends (most importantly, my brother) - or return to Virginia Beach and jobhunt.  I loved working with Virginia Beach TR programs, but I also enjoyed working with the WWRC population and had visions of building upon their existing programs and implementing new ones. Again, I took a leap of faith, and applied … and got the job.

What was your greatest concern or doubt, and how did it turn out?  What steps have you taken as a result?

I was away from my family and friends … but then I found a best friend at work who later became my husband, so I’d say that worked out pretty well!  I also was concerned about being a new, young professional at a state facility and how I could implement change in an organization of over 300 staff and over 300 students – which takes time and effort.  This has been a continual process as I work to educate myself, other staff, and students on the value of different programs.  I have been successful with quite a few and seen valuable changes, while others have been slower to grow, but as I said, it is a continual process.

How do you feel your efforts with this initiative has strengthened you as an individual, a professional, and a VRPS member?

Because of this continual process of continuing to educate myself, other staff, and clients, I have been able to experience a great deal and earn some additional certifications.  I have learned not only about the different services/programs I want to offer, but also about how I can instill change as a young professional.  I have grown as a person and as a professional due to these challenges and have challenged myself further:
  • I led a presentation at the VRPS 2013 Annual Conference and am submitting a proposal to present again in December at the 2014 conference.
  • I have gathered a group of TR professionals to revive the VRPS Therapeutic Recreation Resource Group.
  • I am currently working on a state-wide resource day for families of individuals with disabilities to cover all ages and stages of life for those with disabilities.
  • I have always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my mentor, Kathy Williams, and her mentor, Beth Wood-Whitley, and be on the VRPS Board….hey, maybe one day I’ll run for VRPS President.
If you could choose one thing to happen for the VRPS Therapeutic Recreation Group in the future, what would it be?

I would like for VRPS to have a firm TR program in place that offers programs and a support infrastructure that is consistently utilized by students and staff with proven beneficial outcomes that can be shared and modeled throughout the state of Virginia and across the US … any volunteers who want to publicize us and our programs?!?!

What was your funniest moment or experience?

It’s hard to think of any one funny moment or experience – I spend much of my time laughing… that’s the benefit to working in this field!

Anything else you want to express or open for discussion?

I would just like to share how beneficial a mentor, or multiple mentors, can be.  When I started volunteering at age 11, the staff I worked with could have discounted me as just another body, just another source of free work, just another anything… but they didn’t.  They, specifically Kathy Williams, Jessica Rhea, Carolyn (Stark) Cox, and Bill Parker, are the reason I am who I am today.  Not only did they help me develop my professional style and learn by becoming constantly more invested in our participants, but they have also ALWAYS been a source of support for me.  My mentors are like another family to me – they have been my supervisors, a sounding board for my ideas, and friends - they have helped me through sticky situations (professionally and personally).  The experience they have shared with me has been invaluable, and there is no way I can ever thank them enough.  I think I can safely say no one ever has it ALL together, but when we partner with someone (or multiple people), together we can have it all.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Should you QR?

by Nancy Turnage, VRPS Central Office

A QR code (Quick Response code) is a type of 2-dimensional bar code that is used to provide easy access to information through a smartphone.  The technology was originally developed by Densa-Wave, a Toyota subsidiary, for tracking inventory.

Phones equipped with a barcode reader (it takes literally one minute for someone with an iPhone or Android to find and install a reader) interpret the encoded URL, which directs the browser to the relevant information on a website.  Known as mobile tagging, the smartphone’s owner points the phone at a QR code and opens a barcode reader app which works in conjunction with the phone’s camera.  The reader interprets the code, which typically contains a call to action such as an invitation to download a mobile application, a link to view a video, or a message invitation.  The user can choose to act or ignore the invitation.  QR codes can store up to 7,089 characters.

QR Codes can be used for:
  1. Mobile Marketing:  put them out there, where the smartphones go, and promote yourself.
  2. Search Engine Optimization:   one of the keys to great SEO is making sure you keep your website updated and fresh.  If a QR code is added to your website, search engines will see that your pages have changed, see a new image, and index it accordingly.

Do they work?

As of May, 2013, half of the US population owned a smartphone.  However, only 19 percent of US smartphone users had scanned a QR code in some form.

Are users truly experiencing value through QR utilization?
  1. QR codes don’t leave much room for a short attention span. The entire process is lengthy: an individual has to locate the QR code, take out their phone, make sure their app is up-to-date, scan the code, and wait for the page to load. At this point, their mind has already moved on - that quickly.
  2. Smartphone users fail to recognize the value of QR codes.  While it may seem like a simple concept, users simply don’t know how to use QR codes.  Poorly placed QR codes are a big issue, but even when they’re placed appropriately, users are rarely prepared to scan the code when they see it.
If you choose to use QR codes, consider these guidelines:

Don’t link to a desktop site:  QR codes are an innately mobile experience, so the content you want consumers to view must be mobile-optimized.  If you actually manage to get consumers to scan your code and then present them with a desktop site, they won’t stick around to read your content.

Make sure it serves a purpose and is placed well:  ridiculous uses of QR codes is definitely worth taking a look at for a laugh.

Size matters:  the absolute minimum size a QR code should be is one inch square.  Anything smaller is not only difficult to scan, but also people simply won’t notice it. QRstuff.com says that the relationship between scan distance and minimum QR code size is roughly 10:1.

Tell users what they stand to benefit:  scanning a QR code is a bit of a chore, so a consumer is highly unlikely to pull out their phone unless they know they’re going to get something in return. Therefore it’s important that you give some information on to what the QR code links, and, depending on who you’re targeting, possibly instructions on how to download a QR code reader.

Instructions for scanning the code can be a simple: “Scan to get 2-for-1,” or “Scan to read product reviews.”  You need to entice the user, so make sure the content you are offering to them is worth the effort.

Test it:  once you’ve got your final product, make sure you test the QR code using different reader apps and smartphones from a range of angles and distances.  If you can’t get it to work in perfect conditions, then users will be ultimately annoyed if their efforts to scan a QR code come to naught.