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The driving force behind modern reconditioning.

At one time, sporting goods reconditioners had to fend off the perception that they were in the business of cleaning jock straps and fulfilling low-end services for high school and college programs that the equipment manufacturers had little time for.

How times have changed.

In this first of a three-part series, Coach and Athletic Director will check out an industry that has redefined itself through innovative services, an attention to detail, and a prescient perception of athletic-department needs.

If it's location, location, location that determines a real estate sale, it's service, service, service that is the driving force behind the reconditioning industry: The reconditioner's success lies in its ability to handle a project of any size, provide expert advice on refurbishing or purchasing new equipment, and assist the athletic director with his budgetary concerns.

"This industry seldom caught the eye of the budget makers," says Don Gleisner, president of All-American, the reconditioning subsidiary of Riddell. "Whatever money was left over in a program's budget, would go to a reconditioner.

"That is no longer true, of course. Reconditioning is now a vital part of the athletic program - a first, rather than an after thought."

Over 30 reconditioning companies are currently members of the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioner's Association, the industry's governing body. NAERA's ability to focus on the health and safety issues of the student-athlete caught the attention of athletic programs nationwide.

"The development of NAERA and its professional approach has a lot to do with how our industry is now perceived," Don Gleisner says. "Our genuine concern with the safety of the athletes made our coaches and athletic directors take notice."

While the reconditioners have toiled for decades, their services have never been as varied and sophisticated as they are today. Twenty-four hour on-call service, on-site equipment inspection, and rigorous safety tests are only a few of the many services coaches and athletic directors can expect from the top-flight reconditioners.

To ensure a successful working relationship, the athletic director/coach would do well to look for a reconditioner that best fits his program's needs. Price, reliability, and reputation are important factors to consider, but the soundest investment will be in a salesperson you can trust.

"It is essential for us to educate the user," declares David Drill, president of Circle Systems. "We invest a lot of time on keeping the coach and A.D. well-informed. We know that this business is all about relationships, face-to-face time. The acquisition of new business is done primarily through building trust and developing a relationship with the coach and A.D.

"We support our sales force every way we can. We provide them with a cell phone and credit cards, and make sure that they provide their accounts with their home phone numbers to ensure 24-hour-a-day accountability."

Tony Trinchere, a sales rep for Circle Systems, is a 12-year veteran of the reconditioning wars. His blueprint for success is simple: Do whatever it takes to make the customer happy. And Trinchere's day is never complete until his final customer is satisfied at day's end.

"Establishing a relationship with the coach and athletic director is probably the single most important thing I do," explains Trinchere. "I've gotten to the point where many of my accounts look upon me as their equipment manager. They seek me out for advice."

Trinchere also implores coaches and athletic directors to ask a few important questions before sending a bag of equipment to a reconditioner.

The kind of questions the athletic director/coach should ask of the reconditioners:

* Do they use original replacement parts rather than generic parts - a meaningful point in ensuring the safety of the equipment. A coach can easily identify these parts by the manufacturer's label. If the name is missing, chances are the part is generic.

* Insist on a delivery date and make the reconditioner commit to it. Ask for a timeline of services, building in a few days for good measure.

* Ask for references. Though this is a reasonable request, few athletic programs ask for it. A few phone calls can eliminate potential headaches down the road.

* Inquiring into a reconditioner's liability coverage may be an awkward way of starting a business relationship, but it does provide a level of comfort. The school has to be assured that if an athlete is seriously injured while wearing a piece of reconditioned equipment, the reconditioner is properly covered. (Part Two will cover the safety issue in greater detail.)

What can a coach and A.D. expect from the reconditioner after agreeing to have his equipment cleaned and reconditioned? The typical process, as explained by Circle Systems:

1. A pick-up date that is convenient for the coach and his staff.

2. A contract that meets everyone's needs.

3. Bring the equipment to facility.

4. Verification that all equipment is accounted for.

5. Test all equipment to NOCSAE (National Operating Committee for Standards in Athletic Equipment) standards.

6. A follow-up letter to see if account's needs have changed.

7. Delivery of the equipment.

Many variables will determine the final cost and delivery date - such as volume and condition of the equipment - but you have every right to expect optimum service from the reconditioner.

As coaches and A.D.'s have become more demanding, reconditioners have responded with more sophisticated services.

Stadium Systems of Canaan, CT, a family-run reconditioner for the past 50 years, has 38 full-time employees working in an expansive 40,000-square foot facility.

Vice President Mike Schopp explains the changing landscape of his business:

"We use the Walmart philosophy of trying to provide our customers with as many products and services as possible. Ten years ago we sold very little new equipment. Today, 25% of our business is selling new equipment. We specialize in football reconditioning - as do most reconditioners - but we will recondition everything from lacrosse gloves to hockey helmets."

Stadium Systems is particularly proud of its equipment tracking system. Its "Traksheet" records the helmet type, its parts, the manufacturing date of the part and the last date the equipment piece was checked. Coaches and equipment managers can utilize the tracking system to manage their program's long-term helmet budget and inventory.

For ages, athletic directors have drawn the ire of reconditioners for bidding out their orders. Reconditioners contend that in an industry predicated on safety, the bottom-line factor should be eliminated from the purchasing equation. A.D.s retort is that fiscal responsibility is a basic function of their job.

"The biggest problem in our business is the bidding process," says Don Gleisner of All-American. "We should never put a dollar value on any business or process that deals with the athlete's safety and well-being."
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:At Your Service, part 1
Author:Mazzola, Gregg
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Sep 1, 1998
Previous Article:Utah's biggest tourist attraction.
Next Article:Coaches' corner.

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