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The Wide World of Employee Sports

BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- Competitors from across the nation gathered in New Orleans on Feb. 8 and squared off in a battleground. The shared goal: to represent the U.S. for international bragging rights.

The competition that day had nothing to do with tryouts for the upcoming London Olympics. Those in combat were not athletes. There were no ESPN reporters on the sidelines.

Auto glass techs are just one group of professionals making sport of their trade.

The common denominator was glass.

In 2007, Safelite, the nation's largest vehicle glass repair and replacement company, was acquired by Belron, a leader in that field in 32 countries. The merger created a unique opportunity for the employees of the Columbus, Ohio-based company -- the chance to compete for what is best described as the world championship of glass repair, The Best of Belron.

"Safelite began a national competition for its technicians to identify our best performer to represent us in our parent company's international competition," company spokeswoman Melina Metzger says.

Much like professional sports, finding that ideal competitor involves the equivalent of a regular season, playoffs and even a wild card.

"We start at the market level," Metzger says. The best technicians from roughly 87 markets throughout the country (of Safelite's 10,000 employees, about 4,000 are glass technicians) are whittled to 11 division winners and a wild card (the highest-scoring runner-up among the divisions). The dozen competitors then head onward to the national level.

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