Given the dynamic nature of today’s assistant superintendent position, I have come to realize, under the guidance of some very successful and knowledgeable individuals, that those of us who currently find ourselves in this role should be mindful and fully embrace our entire journey to the top in this industry. Some of the most amazing lessons learned, relationships built and potential realized lie within that journey. We represent a highly motivated, up-and-coming group of turf professionals who will be tasked with carrying our profession into the future and ensuring its success moving forward. We are excited about this responsibility, therefore it’s no wonder we wish to climb the ranks and have the greatest impact as quickly as possible. Our business cards don’t need to say superintendent or director of agronomy for us to begin making significant contributions that help our industry as well as our own careers.

Many of us thrive on achieving big goals and we work very hard at doing so, often with heads down at full speed. But it’s important to remember to slow down, reflect upon what we are learning and how we are applying those lessons, and steadily absorb as much as possible.

“We’re a group that’s all the readier for the big stage when we do get that chance.”

We are part of a generation of assistants who are spending more time in our current roles than many of our predecessors. Instead of viewing this as a negative or a deterrent to continuing in this business, I think we should view this as an opportunity – an opportunity to become known as a class of assistants who are extremely educated, trained, polished and capable of taking our profession to new heights. We’re a group that’s all the readier for the big stage when we do get that chance. Think of the process as a marathon rather than a sprint and don’t forget that building positive and meaningful relationships, along with creating a strong personal presence amongst our colleagues is imperative in developing the finer professional skills that will give us the superintendent mindset even before we have the official title.

A very effective way to sharpen those skills is to get more involved, as an assistant, in the variety of important areas within our field that stretch beyond the daily happenings on our golf courses. From government affairs and community outreach, to education and committee volunteering, there are endless avenues we can take to grow, contribute and give back. Engagement is a path to some of our biggest opportunities and resources as assistant superintendents. It allows us to connect with other industry professionals and learn how to become people of influence and inspiration, the building blocks of truly great leadership. Step up and try things that are outside your normal comfort zone because you just might find a new sense of purpose or passion (I certainly have). If we do so while always striving to add value to those around us, rather than placing our own future success as the top priority, amazing things often come to fruition.

While connecting with and learning from successful members within our industry, we should always remember to flip the script and pay it forward by offering guidance to those who might benefit from our insight such as those who are brand new to the industry, interns, recent graduates and younger assistants. The greatest leaders aren’t the ones who always win the race – or in this case, make the jump from assistant to superintendent the fastest. The greatest leaders are the ones who take pride in encouraging others to learn, improve and ultimately cross the finish line with them. We should aim to make things better for those who will serve in similar capacities after us. The more we can adopt a mindset that focuses on supporting the industry and our peers, greater things will happen for everybody.

I have discovered that incorporating these philosophies, while getting more involved, can increase personal and career satisfaction immensely. Never stop pushing forward for bigger and better things, but always keep in mind that sometimes we need to slow down to accomplish and learn more, and quite often, we need to help others first to achieve our own goals. If we do that now, some day we will reflect upon the routes we took to become superintendents and think back to how our persistence and professional development efforts earlier in our careers had such a positive impact on everyone around us. Be mindful of the journey. Even though it is good to have an end goal, in the end, it is the journey that really matters.

Mitch Savage is the assistant superintendent at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in Denver, Colo.