Now some of the keener listeners might have noticed that this episode isn’t following the usual end of month release. This is because we’ve introduced mini episodes to our usual formatting (and the blog post you are reading) I’ve done this because while I was listening back over the past episodes of the podcasts, I realised I haven’t really introduced myself properly.
As many of you already know, my name is Bradley Tennant. I grew up in a small village in the City of Newcastle-under-Lyme, located in the west Midlands of England. I left school in 2012 just turning 16 without a single idea of what I wanted to do.
I turned to a local training provider called Project Management Training, P.M training for short. They offered a wide variety of taster courses starting with the basic level 1 assessments. I, of course, decided to take part in every one of their courses at the time, which were gardening, decorating, painting, bricklaying and joinery.
I had just finished my assessments when two opportunities came up for apprenticeships with local gardening companies. I decided to apply for them both. I received an interview for both companies, but they both chose different applicants. A little disappointed, I continued to search. But then, the second company, Nature’s Way, got back in touch with me around a week later. The successful applicant had decided the job wasn’t for them and that I had a job offer if I wanted it. I was doubtful, but decided to take the opportunity with both hands and I ended up spending three years there, looking after commercial and private properties, amenity lawns and garden areas. I got involved in many different projects, like turfing, landscaping, and even gritting during the winter months. My time with Nature’s Way is definitely something I look back on fondly, and I’d never change where I’ve come from – it’s got me to where I am today! My old boss Dan and I still keep in contact to this date and meet up regularly when I’m in town.
It was while studying my Level 3 in Amenity Horticulture at Rodbaston College (or South Staffs College for those who know it as that) that I was asked if I’d like to work at the Belfry as a greenkeeper. I expressed to my tutor at the time that I’d like to learn more about sports turf, so when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t really say no. To work at the Belfry Golf Resort as an assistant greenkeeper in my eyes was a dream, even while golf was a sport I’d never even considered before. I’ve always been a football, or for those upside down or across the water, a soccer man. Grew up with it, watched it, played it – basically every day of the week during school and college. Still, I knew this was an incredible opportunity to take. I certainly learned a lot about sports turf while I was there, particularly the growing of bent from poa greens. At the time, this was completely foreign to me, but now, looking back on it, it was an invaluable experience. It’s often very overlooked how nice it is to use new machinery too, and the Belfry had the luxury of the budget. This means we had the chance to use state of the art machinery, tools and management methods. This was also my first chance to work within a big team. For me, at the time, I felt I needed this to learn from others. One moment that I’ll never forget is being sat across from Pep Guardiola after the 2016 Icons of Football Golf Tournament at the Belfry. Better yet, sitting in a marquee overlooking the 18th green on the Brabazon course.
Due to personal reasons, I left Birmingham and moved to Nottingham, I continued to work at the Belfry traveling down, but about 2 to 3 weeks into doing this, an opportunity presented itself to work at the University of Nottingham looking after the sports fields. I ended up not staying at the university for long, and I’ll explain why this was later. For the seven months I was there, I greatly enjoyed my time at the uni. Greg Smith and Pete Bullimore looked after me at the time, and together, we managed two sites. One of these was huge. If I remember correctly, I think we had the space for 30 football fields. We had around 40 ha of land there, so you can imagine that with a team of six for both sites, plus an artificial and a bowling green, we had our hands full. Sometimes, we were only able to mow and mark. Busy times, but I loved it; overtime was flowing and the job was enjoyable. I worked with a lovely group of lads. I have now worked at two universities, and definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to work in multi-sports.
During my brief stint at the university, I was put in contact with the head groundsman at Nottingham Forest F.C, Ewan Hunter. One of the guys I worked with used to work at Forest and recommended me to go. Of course, this being my beloved football, I couldn’t really say no. Football has a bubble, and working at a football club, you become part of that bubble. It’s weird the way that your whole life revolves around it, home and work. Of course, for me, one major benefit regardless of the team was that nearly every weekend I got paid to watch the football! Though this came at a price – after the game we would stay to repair and brush the debris from the field 2 to 4 hours after the final whistle….even on the weekday games! Yes, we worked 13 to 16 hours on match days. Perhaps it isn’t the best for social life, but what the heck. I could live the football life. In England, not many clubs use ride-on machinery to maintain stadium pitches and training grounds. It’s unrealistic to look after those by hand. Every day hand mowing, any procoring or maintenance short of korrowing was all pedestrian powered. I loved this, mainly because of the exercise I had, but to use the Dennis mowers was a treat in itself. I’m kind of missing the point here too – I worked at Nottingham Forest F.C, two times European champions. I’ve stood on the same field with the likes of Peter Crouch (Stoke City). Unbelievable.
While I was at Forest, I was in contact with my close friend Daryl Davidson from Sydney University in Australia. Daryl asked while working on the International Greenkeepers For Hire Project if I’d like to come over to work with him at the university. Of course, I accepted; who wouldn’t turn down the prospect of switching from working in the cold rain to work in 30-40 degree sun less than 2 miles from the beach. And let me tell you what a lifestyle these guys live down under; I loved every second of my journey here in Australia. Daryl has taken me to meet some fantastic people, and taught me the art of preparing and maintaining cricket wickets. This has been the best working experience of my life and I really recommend it to anyone who can make it out here to work. I promise you, you’ll never look back!
So, that was just a quick insight to my career. This is where I’m at currently, and I’ll continue to update you all on my and the team’s adventures on future episodes. And hey, if you’d like to know more about my experiences, feel free to reach out to me. You know where to find us, social media and our website.
On a side note, I can’t emphasise more the importance to keep learning, especially if you’re aiming to become the best you can be. I’m now in my 7th year of study since leaving school and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Heck, even if you have to sacrifice 100 pounds or dollars a month to pay for it, it’ll be more than worth it in the long run! Trust me.
This will be an episode of the podcast so if you’d prefer to listen than read check out episode #6 of the Interntaional Greenkeepers For Hire Podcast.
This post was written in 2019, since then Bradley has taken on IGFH full time, while also working at Wembley Stadium, Reading FC and even teaching sports turf at Wiltshire College!