Turf fields pose challenges for athletes

Kara McIntyre

Joel Onyia, offensive line, watches as Darian Childers-Brown, defensive tackle, falls to the ground. Photo by Dewey Cooper.
Joel Onyia, offensive line, watches as Darian Childers-Brown, defensive tackle, falls to the ground. Photo by Dewey Cooper.

The summers in Wichita Falls are not exactly known to be moderate with an average high of 97.8˚F and record high of 117˚F.

But with the conversion of all practice fields from grass to turf, athletes are learning to endure even higher temperatures and learning to pour water in their shoes to keep their feet cool.

“I wasn’t too happy [to hear about it] honestly,” Noah Fazekas, mass communication senior and soccer goalkeeper, said. “As a player I’ve always preferred grass, because it’s more natural for soccer, and I have had major injuries happen on turf.”

Athletic training freshman and soccer goalkeeper Raegan Ledbetter agreed, saying that the $3.8 million conversion to turf might be a deterrent to some players.

“When I heard the fields were being replaced, I was kind of upset because one of the reasons I came to MSU was because it had such a nice grass field and it was one of the best a Division Two program has,” Ledbetter said.

Damian Clarke, head coach of women’s soccer, said the athletics department is still thankful for the field improvements.

“Anytime athletics is included in a project that will improve facilities, we are, and have to be grateful,” Clarke said. “All players, regardless of sport have and will always prefer natural grass, but that’s not always the most practical surface. It makes sense when droughts are part of our reality.”

Rich Renner, football defensive coordinator, said that both the coaches and the players are adapting well to the turf despite the potential for more heat-related injuries including dehydration.

“I’ve only been on this turf for a week and I’ve already had two blisters and a blood blister because of how hot it is,” Ledbetter said.

Robert Sayler, business freshmen, watches for an opportunity to get the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Robert Sayler, business freshmen, watches for an opportunity to get the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Bradley Wilson.

Indeed, coaches recorded temperatures of between 140˚F and 150˚F during the hottest days last week when the recorded temperature hit 105˚F.

According to Sara Smith, athletic training sophomore, the temperature difference on a grass and turf field were recorded. The grass was 93˚F and the turf was 130 ˚F.

“No doubt that turf is hot, and we all just have to learn how to negotiate that issue,” Clarke said. “Hydration and practice lengths are part of every coaches management strategy.”

In addition to problems with the increased heat on a turf field, players have had a adapt to a different responsiveness of the field itself.

“The ball will bounce a lot more on turf than grass because it is a less forgiving surface than grass so it is something that you need to take into account when playing,” Ledbetter said. “Playing on turf is also a lot faster than grass. Turf is a smoother surface so a ball will always move faster on a smoother surface than a bumpy surface like grass, because it doesn’t grow perfectly and sometimes it’s not the same length across the entire pitch.”

Still, players said it is important to be able to adapt to changing circumstances during a season.

“Conditions change from field to field when we are on road games so we adapt,” Fazekas said. “Good players adapt to scenarios and that’s exactly what we will do.” 

 At its December, 2015 meeting, Board of Regents members approved the recommendation of administrators to install artificial turf on one full-length football field, a 90-yard field and 79,000 square feet of free-play space near D.L. Ligon Coliseum in addition to the conversion of the soccer field near the Redwine Student Wellness Center.

Since one of the football fields is 90 yards long instead of the regulation size 100 yards, intramural games — particularly flag football — may have to evolve.

“We will just have to modify the fields slightly,” Joey Greenwood, director of recreational sports and wellness center, said. “It’s only smaller than regulation fields by 10 yards, so we can take five yards off of each end for games specifically.”

While there were some complaints about the turf, players also cited some advantages.

“We won’t have to miss a training session because of too much mud or puddles,” Fazekas said. “That is huge.”

Grant Norris, marketing junior and defender, agreed with Fazekas. 

“I like grass more, but with the grass dying and making the field dry and hard, I didn’t have much of a problem with the turf,” Norris said.

Even coaches can attest to the advantages of turf versus grass.

“Being on turf has its pros and cons,” Clarke said. “It’s a flat very true surface, so it’s nice to pass the ball on, and it plays very fast obviously. These things suit the way our soccer programs prefer to play.” 

New turf soccer field from MWSU Campus Watch on Vimeo.

 

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Jeffrey Palomarez, sophomore, and Kristian Martinez, computer science sophomore, fight for the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Dylan Pembroke.
Jeffrey Palomarez, sophomore, and Kristian Martinez, computer science sophomore, fight for the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Dylan Pembroke.
Joel Onyia, offensive line, watches as Darian Childers-Brown, devensive tackle, falls to the ground. Photo by Dewey Cooper.
Joel Onyia, offensive line, watches as Darian Childers-Brown, devensive tackle, falls to the ground. Photo by Dewey Cooper.
Grant Norris, marketing freshman, and Aleksa Blagojevic, business junior, when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Grant Norris, marketing freshman, and Aleksa Blagojevic, business junior, when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Adam Hill, linebacker, runs during football two-a-days on Aug. 16. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Adam Hill, linebacker, runs during football two-a-days on Aug. 16. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Jeffrey Palomarez, sophomore, fights for the ball from Antonio Hernandez, education senior, when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Dylan Pembroke.
Jeffrey Palomarez, sophomore, fights for the ball from Antonio Hernandez, education senior, when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Dylan Pembroke.
Blaine Albrecht, tight end, drinks water in between drills during two-a-day practice on Aug. 16. Albrecht said, "The turf is definitely hotter, but it has a more game like feel." Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Blaine Albrecht, tight end, drinks water in between drills during two-a-day practice on Aug. 16. Albrecht said, "The turf is definitely hotter, but it has a more game like feel." Photo by Bradley Wilson.
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DCIM100MEDIADJI_0005.JPG
Quade Coward, quarterback, prepares to catch the ball during two-a-day practice Aug. 16. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Quade Coward, quarterback, prepares to catch the ball during two-a-day practice Aug. 16. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Leon Taylor, business senior, fights for the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Dylan Pembroke.
Leon Taylor, business senior, fights for the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Dylan Pembroke.
Adam Hill, linebacker, runs during football two-a-days on Aug. 16. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Adam Hill, linebacker, runs during football two-a-days on Aug. 16. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Robert Sayler, business freshmen, watches for an opportunity to get the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Robert Sayler, business freshmen, watches for an opportunity to get the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Quade Coward, quarterback, runs with the the ball during practice Aug. 16. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Quade Coward, quarterback, runs with the the ball during practice Aug. 16. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Aleksa Blagojevic, a junior in business, kicks the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Aleksa Blagojevic, a junior in business, kicks the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Quade Coward, quarterback, prepares to throw the ball during practice Aug. 16. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Quade Coward, quarterback, prepares to throw the ball during practice Aug. 16. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Jacob Hernandez, accounting sophomore, and Robert Sayler, business freshman, fight for the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Bradley Wilson.
Jacob Hernandez, accounting sophomore, and Robert Sayler, business freshman, fight for the ball when the soccer players gathered the week before official practice began to run plays on the new turf field. Earlier in the week, coaches had recorded temperatures approaching 150˚F on the turf field. Photo by Bradley Wilson.