From student with ambition
to Head Groundsman on a mission

Meet Rowin Jansen of FC Groningen: industry’s new rising talent.

FC Groningen Head Groundsman Rowin Jansen op veld met SGL units

We introduce a new rising talent in the sports’ turf maintenance industry: Rowin Jansen, Head Groundsman of Dutch football club FC Groningen. Perhaps an unknown groundsman to many, but definitely someone worth keeping an eye on in the years to come. As we look back with him on the hectic early years of his career, Rowin shares how he fell in love with the job, became the Head Groundsman of FC Groningen at the age of just 23 years old and his long-term ambitions.

Ever since he was a kid, Rowin felt he was destined to work outdoors in greenery. Initially, he was looking to start his own landscaping business, but his ambition took an unexpected turn in 2014: “Me and my fellow students from the Horticulture and Landscaping study went on a field trip to the Euroborg (stadium of FC Groningen). Our task was to repair the pitch after a match. For a trainee gardener, this was something I was not used to. But to be honest, I loved it from the start. I immediately called FC Groningen to ask if I could do an internship a year later, as a member of the ground staff.”

The club agreed to Rowin’s request, who at the time was a season ticket holder at FC Groningen. Halfway through the 2015/16 season, the club brought Rowin from the stands to the pitch. First as a volunteer and later as an intern. “At first, it felt unreal to walk on the pitch at half-time, because normally I used to watch these matches on television and later from the stands. So, to be able to help the team prepare my favourite team’s stage, felt very special.”

Rowin’s doubts about starting his landscaping business started to grow and so did his craving for a permanent position in FC Groningen’s grounds team. Fortunately, a position as Assistant Groundsman became available right after his graduation. “Working as a groundsman almost feels a bit like having your own business, as you get to decide what you do on a daily basis. Everything you do is fine, as long as the pitch looks good on a matchday.” Rowin worked closely with his only colleague and Head Groundsman Jan van de Velden for a few years. Unexpectedly, at the age of 23, circumstances led to Rowin being offered the job of Head Groundsman. In this position, he would be responsible for both the stadium and training grounds. A huge responsibility for Rowin, who was still a “rookie” at the time and had no fulltime colleagues to work alongside with. “When I was suddenly asked to become Head Groundsman, I didn’t have to think twice. It is quite surreal when you think back about how everything came about. The realization has not been there until this day and I don’t know if it ever will. Everything happened really fast and there was no time to look back.”

Another day, another challenge

It’s a decision he has not regretted and he enjoys his work all the more. “At the beginning of my career, I was afraid that the work would get boring over time, as you are focussing on grass only. But it soon became clear to me that each day brings different challenges.” The biggest of them: enough warmth and light to allow the shaded grass areas to recover and grow, especially during the winter months. “That’s why we invested in HPS grow lighting technology at the beginning of the season; to provide the grass with enough light and heat to recover and grow. The treated areas have seen a great deal of recovery ever since we use the grow lights, which is important, as we want to have a consistently good playing surface throughout the season. Our players need to have the confidence that they can do whatever they want, without fear of slipping or injuring themselves. We have received many compliments on the pitch quality since we use the grow lights, also from the opposing teams. Surely that is a nice thing to hear.”

At the age of 25, Rowin is one of the youngest Head Groundsman in the Dutch Eredivisie. But how does he feel about this and what kind of long-term goals does he set for himself? “I certainly consider myself young, when I compare myself to the other Head Groundsmen in the Eredivisie. In a way, this gives me an extra boost and makes me feel proud. I feel the urge to show everyone in the Eredivisie what I can do at my age. I don’t know if it’s realistic, but I would love to, one day, break Erwin Beltman’s 7-in-a-row streak at Feyenoord with the best Eredivisie pitch of the season. That would be my dream.”