Communication is key to well-being

That is certainly what Adam Lawrence thinks. We sat down with the Head Groundsman at Altrincham FC to discuss the stress and anxiety that can sit on someone’s shoulders when working in the industry.

Adam also highlights the benefit of talking through these issues and how communication has helped him to overcome the mental strains.

Adam expressed the need for people to start communicating with each other: “I think it’s important to talk and not just bottle it up and try to deal with it yourself. Everyone just needs a little bit of help. A lot of things really do hit hard in this industry… many still think we just cut grass.”

He alludes to the usefulness of feedback: “Sometimes, when you don’t have communication, you can become lost in knowing whether the work is good enough. That’s where my anxiety stems from. However, conversation and communication can help with this. If someone comes to you with what they think is a problem with the pitch and it’s physically impossible for me to change this, I can explain it to them and there is better understanding.”

“Both the staff and players always come to you with their opinion and this communication is helpful because it allows us to know if the pitch is up to standard or if things need improving. Management communicate well; they regularly check if anything needs to be changed with the pitch and if there’s anything they can do to help. They’ve been really welcoming to me and the club has a family feel.”

How are the club supporting you through the stress?

The club are brilliant. I posted a tweet after the Bromley game got cancelled about my mental health taking a battering because I didn’t want the game to be called off. Within about half an hour of that tweet being out, I had several messages of support. When I next went into work, the directors came and spoke to me to make sure I was all right. I can’t talk more highly of the club in terms of communication and support.

Is there any negative communication?

Negative communication normally comes online. On social media you get comments where people think they know better. You try not to read them, but the problem is I can’t help myself because I like to know what people are thinking. He then indicates the need for support when this happens: “I know some groundsmen around the country get those negative comments, but don’t all have the support I do here. Sometimes they just need someone to take the weight off their shoulders.”

What have you learnt throughout your career about the pressures of the job?

When you work under the assistant and head groundsman, you do have that pride in your work but, at the same time, you don’t experience the backlash if something goes wrong. When you become head groundsman, you then start to get the comments and the fallback which is an obvious increase in pressure.

What are the main pressures of the job, and how do you manage these?

Adam alludes to weather and budgets as well as lack of understanding: “Something that I think people need to consider is you cannot control the weather. You can present a pitch which is perfect, then half an hour later after heavy rainfall, it’s unplayable. Sometimes the weather can take away all your hard work in an instant.”

He educates: “Every groundsman does not want a game to be called off. Whether it’s frost covers, rain covers or forking the ground throughout the week, the groundsmen do everything to get the game on. No one sees this from the outside so therefore the assumption is that nothing is being done.”

On money factors, he said: “Budget is also a pressure on many clubs, lots of them don’t have a huge budget to play with. So that makes it even harder. Every club wants an Arsenal or Manchester United standard pitch, but if you compare the budgets, it’s totally different, therefore the expectation can’t be the same. We get up early in the morning, and sometimes were not home until midnight.”

He went on to explain the need to communicate for people inside and outside of the industry to understand the turf management: “What I want people to understand is that sometimes it’s beyond our control. So, don’t feel like you have to say a negative comment as the guarantee is they have probably worked very hard, and the weather has just been too extreme. We need to communicate so that people understand in a space of 6-12 hours, due to weather conditions, the work done throughout the week can be chucked out the window.”


If someone within your team discloses a mental health problem, it’s a good idea to research it, to have a basic understanding of what they might be experiencing.

Remember, it’s not the manager’s role to provide medical advice. Specific conditions are often experienced differently by different people, so try not to make assumptions. Focus on what you as a manager can do to support.

Encourage staff to be open about problems.

Ensure confidentiality and provide an appropriate place for confidential conversations.

Listen, be respectful and don’t assume.

Be positive – focus on what employees can do, rather than what they can’t. Provide training, mentoring or coaching for skills gaps.

Work together to find solutions.

Support staff to develop personal resilience and coping strategies.

Involve staff in dialogue and decision making, remember that people are often the expert when it comes to identifying the support they need and how to manage their triggers for poor mental health.

Recognise and praise good work and commitment, providing regular opportunities to discuss positive achievements.

Encourage staff to seek further advice and support


  • Communicate effectively
  • Listen to others in order to gain knowledge and improve
  • Ask as many questions as possible. Nothing is stupid
  • Have a think before communicating allowing you to fully know what to say
  • Be straightforward and honest in your approach
  • Know the audience and adapt when needed


  • Listen to music
  • Talk it out with a friend
  • Talk yourself through it
  • Eat healthy
  • Laugh it off. Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline

Article by James Kimmings

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