I’m an assistant. I’m proud of it.

That didn’t hurt to admit.

Of all the events this assistant editor has attended since fortuitously arriving at GCI in May 2014, Green Start Academy sparked the most introspection on the flight home. The event sponsored by Bayer and John Deere was held Oct. 7-9 and brought together a few dozen assistant superintendents from across the U.S. and Canada.

I also attended the 2014 Green Start Academy and, admittedly, headed to Raleigh last month expecting to hear much of the same chatter:

  • The five-star jobs are impossible to land.
  • Reliable crew members are impossible to find.
  • The networking opportunities Green Start Academy provides for assistants are impossible to replicate.
  • Achieving a work-life balance while advancing a career and surviving on an assistant’s salary are impossible concepts to comprehend.

Working as an assistant editor for a magazine provides numerous wonderful opportunities, including time to write stories. Writing is our version of mowing: a soothing task that reminds you why you entered the business. The higher you move up the editorial hierarchy, the less you write. Superintendents will tell you a similar thing. The gaudier your title becomes, the less you mow.

Writing a quality story, in most cases, involves interviewing, the process of getting a subject to describe his or her background, work, employer, goals, emotions, worldview, etc. Not all sources handle being interviewed the same. Some shutdown or, even worse, shut you out (either by personal choice or corporate mandate). Others reluctantly agree to the interview and tell you the basics.

Fortunately, a special few make interviewing the most fulfilling part of the writing process. These sources look you in the eye and open up about almost everything. This group understands the loony holding a recorder, notebook and pen can help promote an industry, organization or personal cause.

For this assistant, the best part of Green Start Academy was standing across from other assistants and learning about their lives. Yes, they all want the same jobs, struggle finding employees for the wages their owners/bosses are willing to pay and make personal sacrifices to flourish in their chosen field.

Above all, they are a determined lot, and competent ones ensure a superintendent stays sane while attending board meetings, handling vendors and crafting budgets. A quality assistant raises the boss’s profile. A poor assistant threatens the boss’s prospects of remaining a boss.

Yet, is the golf industry doing enough to keep the best assistant superintendents in the business? Events like Green Start Academy are rare, and how many superintendents are sacrificing their own spot at the national or regional turf show so an assistant can advance his or her career? How many superintendents willingly make passionate, well-researched presentations urging their owners or boards to pay their assistants more?

The Department of Labor, as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white-collar” exemption, has drafted a proposal that would require employers to pay overtime to workers making up to $50,000 annually, including those classified as managers. We all know there are driven assistants who work way more than 40 hours per week and make way less than $50,000 under the premise a short-term sacrifice will yield a long-term payoff. If this proposal is enacted, it might force some facilities to eliminate the assistant superintendent position altogether. And you think a superintendent has it tough now? The last thing this industry – or any other – needs is to lose a generation of talent.

The 10th annual Green Start Academy sponsored by Bayer and John Deere was held Oct. 7-9 in North Carolina. The event brought together 54 assistant superintendents from the United States and Canada.

A good interviewer stares into a source’s eyes when asking questions. The eyes of the Green Start Academy attendees willingly stared back, especially when they learned the loony holding the recorder held a similar title, albeit in a different field.

They didn’t need to say much to get their point across.

They are assistants. They are proud of it.

It doesn’t hurt to show them they are a source of industry pride.