With schools often challenged to cater for a range of sports in a limited amount of space, it can be difficult to implement and manage multiple areas. Robbie Craven is head of research and development at TigerTurf UK, a FIFA-licensed supplier of artificial grass, and he explains some of the steps that can be taken to limit the pressures faced by the education sector, as schools take a step towards the creation of multi-use games areas (MUGAs).
“Sport is a fundamental part of the school environment and quality facilities can give a school the edge when it comes to attracting students and offering a desirable environment,” says Craven. “With schools under pressure to encourage children to be active and healthy, investment in sports facilities that can cater for a variety of hobbies is essential. It’s also important for young children to be able to experiment with different sports from an early age to enable them to work out where their talents lie. As a result, schools often need to think creatively to make the most out of what can be a limited allocated space for sport.”
One approach which can certainly help to solve some of the challenges that schools face is the creation of a multi-use game areas. “There are generally three distinct synthetic grass options for schools that can be used either alongside each other, or independently, depending on circumstance,” Craven continues. “Firstly, versatile multi-sport surfaces enable schools to incorporate several activities – tennis, netball, hockey, football, cricket and basketball – into one space. These surfaces are durable and are free draining, making them playable in all weathers, which is ideal in the UK, where the British weather has a tendency to restrict outdoor play time for schools.
“Secondly, synthetic sports fields often consist of a longer pile height to replicate the playing performance and feel of natural turf fields. This type of area is generally suitable for sports such as football, rugby, AFL, American football and lacrosse, among other field sports. In many cases there is also the option to add a running track along the outside of the field to encourage maximum participation on fields that will never need to be closed. Sports teachers and coaches can have confidence in planning and scheduling games and training as the field will be able to perform in a vast range of weather conditions that natural turf would not be able to.
“Thirdly, recreational spaces that require minimal maintenance can also be created for students to relax on. This means that students always have space where they can meet, eat and study. Investing in a multi-use games area enables schools to offer a variety of play surfaces, even incorporating traditional activities such as hopscotch.
“Financially, any environment that can host multiple sports and activities will represent a good return on investment, as a vast number of sports are accommodated in a single area and less land is required to make this a reality. Playing hours can also be extended, particularly if floodlights are installed, which can result in greater participation, healthier students and enhanced skill development.
“At TigerTurf we have invested years into research and design so that our surfaces are specifically engineered to meet the exact performance criteria and standards of each particular sport’s regulatory body. Through this, we create high-quality surfaces that transform school grounds into aesthetically attractive, safe and practical play areas. We would recommend that any schools wishing to maximise outdoor space speaks to individual artificial turf manufacturers, as a bespoke solution – customised to their individual needs – can be created.”