The University of Oklahoma is known for having one of the top collegiate athletics programs in the nation. Housing those programs are some of the finest facilities in college sports. Everyone sees the fields when they show up for games or tune in to watch on television, but just how much work goes into getting them game ready?
We spent some time with assistant director of athletic fields Des Stephens to find out what it takes to keep the Sooner complexes at the top.
Stephens says that it takes a minimum of 30-40 hours of maintenance during the off-season to keep the fields in shape, but once the season begins, so does his real work.
“The girls have 20 hours of practice time during a game week” Stephens says. “So basically any minute they’re not our here, you’re out here preparing for the game.”
While most of us are familiar with taking care of our lawns, what Stephens and his coworkers do on a daily basis goes well beyond sitting on a mower all day.
“Today I top-dressed 25 tons of sand.” Stephens said.
He then spent the next 4 hours spreading the sand across the grass to fill in the tiny holes he created two days before when he spent several hours aerating the entire field.
Despite battling long hours, sweltering heat, and the occasional gopher, Stephens says that his is a labor of love.
“You take a lot of pride in your work. Everybody can see it. They look forward to playing on this field. The soccer team looks forward to having home games.” Stephens says. “If they go on the road and the field isn’t as good, the first thing they do is tell me when they come back home.”
Stephens says he takes pride in more than just the aesthetics of the field. The main goal of the grounds crew is to make the surface as safe as possible for the athletes. Keeping a smooth, level, well-groomed surface is paramount when it comes to protecting the athletes, and Stephens takes that part of his job very seriously.
Along with the basic work of keeping the field in good shape, Stephens and crew also use special techniques to create patterns in the grass and paint lines, markers, and logos on the field, giving at even more special feel and presence.
To see Stephens’s handiwork in person, make it a point to attend one of the home soccer games found on the schedule below. You can also follow OU Women’s Soccer on Twitter and Instagram for information and photos.