NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In many ways, the sport of bowling is all about problem solving. What to do with a troublesome split? How to pick up that spare? What it the opponent doing that one can be exploited?
So Vanderbilt senior Lauren Potechin was more than equipped to tackle all that was thrown her way this summer while interning with Tractor Supply Company.
“Last year I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after school – and I’m still not quite sure what I want to do after I graduate,” Potechin said. “But when I went into this internship wanting it to be a learning experience to see is this the kind of thing I want to do when I graduate? I actually really enjoyed the product development process. My favorite thing about it is you get to see these ideas that someone comes up with or you come up with and you get to bring it to the shelf. I did really enjoy that.
“But also it opened me up to the sustainability work that I did. I really, really enjoyed it. So something like a sustainability engineer or some kind of position like that I’m now quite interested in.”
Like a 10-frame bowling game, Potechin was handed all sorts of tough assignments this summer with TSC. She researched flashlights and pulled data from sales to determine which products were doing well and which weren’t – and why. Those findings were combined with customer reviews to add insight into possible solutions for a better future product.
Potechin was next tasked with a similar project, only this time focusing on automotive lights. Because Potechin is a Mechanical Engineering and Math major, she was next asked to study utility terrain vehicle tool boxes to help create a universal fit across multiple brands.
Then she got to do something that really peaked her interest.
“What that became for me was a 20-brand case study on what actions these companies are taking in terms of the environment,” Potechin explained. “So I pulled several companies, most of which have similar products to TSC, and I looked into workwear apparel and I looked into motor hardware and seasonal and agriculture. Then I looked on the retail side, on what you could do there, but also on the manufacturing side and what they could look for in a vendor to help reduce their environmental impact.
“I like that simple things can do good things for the planet and it doesn’t take much to create an impact. This is becoming a super-pressing issue so someone has to drive that kind of change.”
Potechin, from New Jersey, arrived back in Nashville earlier this month and said she was actually the first member of the Vandy bowling team back on campus. She hasn’t seen the majority of her teammates since the spring semester when competition was canceled due to the global pandemic of COVID-19.
The Commodores had just finished third at the Music City Classic in March giving them five top-three finishes in six tournaments in 2020. The next stop was the Southland Bowling League Tournament – but Vandy never got a chance to step onto the lanes.
“It was really tough,” Potechin said. “We have such a long season. You go through it and you grind for months and months and then the only thing that gets canceled is the postseason? So that was particularly crushing.
“And bowling was one of the harder sports to do in quarantine because the bowling alleys are closed. You can go do drills in your basement, but I live in New Jersey and we didn’t have bowling alleys open all summer. So I really haven’t gotten to do any real bowling all summer.”
Potechin will be one of two seniors looking to lead Vandy through the 2020-21 season, but she also knows the possibility of that season being shortened – or canceled altogether – is out there.
And if there’s one thing Potechin has learned it’s how to handle anything that comes her way.
“Once the bowling alleys are opening, we should be one of the easier sports to maintain the guidelines, so hoping for at least some salvage of the season for my senior year,” she said. “But also really making the best of it because when the sport goes away and it’s such a big part of your life you got to find other ways to make your life happy.”
Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.