Precision Agriculture

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 118–137 | Cite as

Athletes’ perceptions of within-field variability on natural turfgrass sports fields

  • Chase M. StrawEmail author
  • Gerald M. Henry
  • Jerry Shannon
  • Jennifer J. Thompson


Natural turfgrass sports field properties exhibit within-field variations due to foot traffic from play, field construction, management, and weather. Little is known about the influences these variations may have on athletes’ perceptions of field playability and injury risk. Information regarding athletes’ perceptions of within-field variability could be fundamental for identifying key surface properties important to athletes, which may also be useful for the progression and implementation of Precision Turfgrass Management on sports fields. A case study using mixed methods was conducted on a recreational-level turfgrass sports field to better understand athletes’ perceptions of within-field variability. Geo-referenced normalized difference vegetation index, surface hardness, and turfgrass shear strength data were obtained to create hot spot maps for identification of significant within-field variations. Walking interviews were conducted in situ with 25 male and female collegiate Club Sports rugby and ultimate frisbee athletes to develop knowledge about athletes’ perceptions of within-field variability. Field data, hot spot maps, and walking interview responses were triangulated to explore, compare, and validate findings. Athletes’ perceptions of within-field variability generally corresponded with measured surface properties. Athletes perceived within-field variations of turfgrass coverage and surface evenness to be most important. They expressed awareness of potential influences the variations could have, but not all athletes made behavior changes. Those who reported changing did so with regard to athletic maneuvers and/or strategy, primarily for safety or context of play. Spatial maps of surface properties that athletes identified could be used for Precision Turfgrass Management to potentially improve perceptions by mitigating within-field variability.


Athlete perceptions Hot spot analysis Precision turfgrass management Sports fields 



The authors would like to thank Christine Samson, Graduate Student, University of Georgia, Department of Kinesiology, and Dr. Cathleen Brown Crowell, Clinical Associate Professor, Oregon State University, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, for assistance with IRB approval and participant recruiting; Joe Morgan, Sports Turf Manager, University of Georgia Recreational Sports Complex, for field use; Rebecca Grubbs, Graduate Student, University of Georgia, for assistance with qualitative data validation; and all undergraduate students who assisted with collecting field data.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chase M. Straw
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gerald M. Henry
    • 2
  • Jerry Shannon
    • 3
  • Jennifer J. Thompson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Horticultural ScienceUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA
  2. 2.Department of Crop and Soil SciencesUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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