2024 SAFE Scholarship Program
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SAFE Scholarship Program Overview

As a student member of SFMA, you enjoy all the benefits of being a professional member. However, you are entitled to one benefit that our other members are not; you are eligible for the SAFE Scholarship Program. SAFE (Foundation for Safer Athletic Fields for Everyone) was established in 2000, and its mission is “To enrich communities through championing safe, sustainable sports and recreation fields for all athletes.”

Scholarships starting at $2,500 may be awarded to students who are outstanding in the sports field management industry. In addition to a financial scholarship, each winner’s conference registration fee is paid for, and each will receive up to three nights lodging, in the student hotel, at the next SFMA Annual Conference.

As part of the program, SAFE awards named scholarships to top students in each category: the Dr. James Watson Graduate Scholarship, the Dr. James Watson Undergraduate Scholarship, the Dr. James Watson Two-year Scholarship, and the Dr. Fred Grau Scholarship. The Watson Scholarships are named in honor of long-time green industry researcher and consultant Dr. James Watson, are funded by the Toro Giving Program, and are presented to the top graduate and undergraduate scholarship recipients. The top recipient from a two-year program receives the Dr. Fred Grau scholarship, which is named in honor of the first turfgrass extension specialist in the United States. There is not a separate application for these named scholarships; they are awarded to the top graduate and undergraduate applicants.

Students who are awarded SAFE scholarships will have shown a dedication to the industry, evidenced through their academic and employment records as well as have displayed an unparalleled work ethic and a desire to further SAFE’s mission. The winning students will be a model in the classroom and the community and will have furthered the sports field management industry through leadership and service.

SAFE realizes that the future leadership of the SFMA, and the industry as whole, lies within the minds and hearts of the current SFMA student members and encourages you to apply for these scholarships. Included in this packet you will find a SAFE Scholarship Application and a Checklist for SAFE Scholarship Application. These are all the materials you need to apply for the SAFE Scholarships.

Remember, these scholarships are reserved for SFMA student members and are granted on a basis of merit, not need. These scholarships can be a launching pad for your career, putting you at the forefront of the industry and introducing you to some of the most influential people in the field.

Each year, the SAFE Scholarship Program is supported through the Toro Giving Program, SAFE Fundraising Events, proceeds from the SAFE Live Auction, and the donations of individuals and corporations.

SAFE Scholarship Checklist and Suggestions


The SAFE Scholarship Program was established to assist those within the industry who are outstanding within the sports field management industry, both in sports field management and research. Therefore, SAFE would like to ensure that each and every scholarship application that is submitted gets adequate consideration and is as informative as possible for the evaluators. The following is a checklist for your scholarship submission, including additional suggestions.

Students who are eligible for the SAFE Scholarships:

 Will be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours in a two-year, four-year, or graduate program in a major/field related to sports field management in the upcoming academic year

  • Applicants must be an SFMA member
  • Applicants must have at least one semester of study left
  • Previous undergraduate recipients (2-year and 4-year categories) are NOT eligible to reapply for SAFE Scholarships while still an undergraduate
  • Graduate recipients may resubmit a unique application each year
  • Applicants must be planning a career in the sports field management industry, either in the field or in research

Criteria for selection:

  • SAFE awards scholarships on the basis of merit, not the basis of need, and does not discriminate based on race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, handicap, or veteran status when awarding scholarships
  • Applicants will be evaluated on academic skill, potential within the industry, employment history, extracurricular activities, and the recommendations of faculty advisors and employers
  • All applications (including Advisor and Employer recommendations) must be received no later than October 15

Included in your application should be:

  • Your completed electronic application
  • A professional resume
  • An essay on your career aspirations, educational goals and influencing factors
  • A completed Employer Reference Form 
  • A completed Faculty Advisor Form 
  • Your transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended (may be unofficial transcripts)

Additional suggestions for improving your application:

  • Be sure to check the spelling in both your application and your essay. Grammar and spelling will be taken into account
  • Have someone proofread your application and essay. A second set of eyes tends to help find grammatical errors and can help you to improve the quality of your application. A faculty advisor or your school’s writing help center can be very helpful.
  • Be sure that the employer(s) and advisor(s) you ask to fill out the Employer Reference Form and Faculty Advisor Form have ample time to answer all of the questions completely and accurately.
  • Be sure to ask your employer(s) and advisor(s) well in advance of the due date, as most will be very busy throughout the school year.
  • Remember good recommendations from employers and advisors can do a lot to make up for deficiencies elsewhere in your application, but cannot support your application alone.
  • In your essay, remember to impart a sense of enthusiasm and describe why your unique talents will allow you to get the most out of the scholarship. Be creative in your style and confident in your abilities.