"Is Your Center Fundamentally Sound" The View from a Coach

As a coach that travels the country for a better part of the year, and walks into unfamiliar bowling centers on a weekly basis, I hope to shed some light on what a coach really sees in your center, and what you can do as a mechanic to help bring tournaments back to your center year after year. Sitting in a hotel room now writing this, many thoughts run through my mind about what the start of a tournament tomorrow will bring.

Walking though the doors tomorrow I will immediately walk over to our starting lanes. A quick glance of the lanes themselves will give me an idea of how the mechanic prides himself on his daily duties. The first things I will look at are the gutters (not because we will be in them all day), then approaches, and finally the first foot of the lane surface. You may be shaking your head by now, but take a second to think about something… Freshly dusted gutters tell me someone cares about their job and how their center looks to newly invited guests, as do approaches that are spotless, and the fact that someone took the time to clean the first foot of the lane that the machine can not clean.

As the pinsetters fire up for open practice, every lane my players bowl on, they check the foul lights. A foul can be the difference between winning a match or losing by a stick. Did the mechanic take the time to check and inspect every unit before competition started? Since our practice is 20 minutes across the house and followed by ten minutes on our starting pair, I take the first half of the open practice to write in my notebook taking notes on lanes that set pins off spot on full racks, pins that wobble on a 2nd ball cycle, other players that are having sliding issues and how this can affect my team during a tight match where a key spare needs to be made. Your goal as a mechanic is to never give me the right to use my pen.

My ears are trained as a mechanic myself, I don't want to hear multiple calls to the back, nor do I want multiple malfunctions to hinder our fast paced style of play. Bowling for 6 hours and being on our feet all day is long enough without the hassles of waiting for multiple stops on multiple lanes. Believe me when I say at the end of the day I hear all of the good and bad from a variety of coaches on how a center runs. Most coaches are bowlers, and bowlers don't understand the mechanical side of a pinsetter. They expect it to go up and down, return their ball, and work perfect every time they throw a ball. As a mechanic you should provide that experience to the people that are helping to pay your wages.

Take the time in the weeks prior to your event and check your pin spots. Go through a morning routine and reset all of your lanes using the reset button to make sure it works, and watch your racks to make sure all pins are set on spot on a first and second ball cycle. Turn the foul lights on and check them your self and correct any problems you may find. Check all of your hand dryers to make sure they work properly. This will cover most of the front-end things that we see as coaches and competitors, but take it a step further. Inspect your kickbacks for screw heads that may cause ball damage as well as your ball tracks and any transitions (nothing is worse than scoring well and having a screw head take out part of your thumb hole which takes that ball out of your line-up, been there and have the t-shirt). Make sure your parts inventory is stocked so one small part doesn't make a lane go black for the weekend. Go over your stop sheets and make hot lists to fix any minimal problems such as nagging 180 stops, ball returns, or dreaded blackouts. On the day of competition get to the center in time to clean your gutters, clean your approaches, and take pride in doing your lanes and cleaning that first foot that your reliable lane machine can't get to.

In a coaches eye, I don't want to use my notebook to document off spot pins or approach issues, I want to use it to record my moves and ball changes to better me through out my competition weekend. I want to spend my time focusing on my players and their games, not what I would have done as a mechanic to make things better. If I can spend my entire day focusing on how to make my players win, then your bowling center is fundamentally sound and you have the coach's approval.