Title:
Football sled
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved football sled for training football players has a frame with one or more upwardly extending blocking units attached thereto, an action signal device for signaling to the player to strike the blocking unit and a control unit for operatively controlling the action signal device. Each of the blocking units has a force measurement device disposed at the striking area thereof that is operatively connected to the control unit. The control unit is configured to measure, display and analyze the player's reaction time in response to the signal from the action signal device and the amount of force the player is able to impact against the blocking unit. The action signal device can be a visual or an audible signal. In the preferred embodiment, the action signal device comprises a mechanism for slideably moving a football so as to best simulate the hiking conditions experienced during a football game.



Inventors:
Borunda, William C. (Clovis, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/189159
Publication Date:
02/16/2006
Filing Date:
07/25/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/441
International Classes:
A63B69/34
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RICHARD A. RYAN (ATTORNEY AT LAW 401 W. FALLBROOK AVENUE SUITE 101, FRESNO, CA, 93711, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A football sled for use in training a football player, said football sled comprising: a frame; a generally upwardly extending blocking unit attached to said frame, said blocking unit having a striking area adapted for impact by said football player; a force measurement device at said striking area, said force measurement device adapted to measure an impact force imparted against said striking area by said football player; an action signal device configured to generate a signal to said football player; and a control unit operatively connected to said force measurement device to display and/or analyze said impact force and operatively connected to said action signal device and said force measurement device so as to measure, display and/or analyze a reaction time.

2. The football sled according to claim 1, wherein said frame comprises a base and one or more outwardly extending sled-like runners, said football sled configured to slide over a supporting surface.

3. The football sled according to claim 2, wherein said blocking unit is attached to said base of said frame.

4. The football sled according to claim 1, wherein said force measurement device is disposed inside said blocking unit at said striking area.

5. The football sled according to claim 1, wherein said blocking unit comprises a covering pad, said force measurement device behind said covering pad.

6. The football sled according to claim 1, wherein said signal is a light.

7. The football sled according to claim 1, wherein said signal is the movement of said action signal device.

8. The football sled according to claim 7, wherein said action signal device comprises a slidable mounting mechanism configured to slidably move said action signal device.

9. The football sled according to claim 1, wherein said signal is an audible signal.

10. The football sled according to claim 1, wherein said control unit is configured to remotely transmit said impact force and said reaction time.

11. The football sled according to claim 10, wherein said control unit is adapted to wirelessly transmit said impact force and said reaction time.

12. The football sled according to claim 1, wherein said control unit comprises a visual display for displaying said impact force and said reaction time.

13. The football sled according to claim 12 further comprising a platform for review of said visual display of said control unit.

14. A football sled for use in training a plurality of football players, said football sled comprising: a frame having a base and one or more outwardly extending sled-like runners, said football sled configured to slide over a supporting surface; a plurality of generally upwardly extending blocking units attached to said base of said frame, each of said blocking units having a striking area adapted for impact by one of said plurality of football players; a force measurement device at each of said striking areas, said force measurement device adapted to measure an impact force imparted against said striking area; an action signal device configured to generate a signal to said plurality of football players; and a control unit operatively connected to each of said force measurement devices to display and/or analyze said impact force and operatively connected to said action signal device and said force measurement device so as to measure, display and/or analyze a reaction time.

15. The football sled according to claim 14, wherein said force measurement device is disposed inside said blocking unit at said striking area.

16. The football sled according to claim 14, wherein said signal is a light.

17. The football sled according to claim 14, wherein said signal is the movement of said action signal device.

18. The football sled according to claim 14, wherein said control unit is configured to remotely transmit said impact force and said reaction time for each of said plurality of football players.

19. The football sled according to claim 14, wherein said control unit comprises a visual display for displaying said impact force and said reaction time for each of said plurality of football players.

20. A football sled for use in training a plurality of football players, said football sled comprising: a frame having a base and one or more outwardly extending sled-like runners, said football sled configured to slide over a supporting surface; a plurality of generally upwardly extending blocking units attached to said base of said frame, each of said blocking units having a striking area adapted for impact by one of said plurality of football players; a force measurement device disposed inside said blocking unit at each of said striking areas, said force measurement device adapted to measure an impact force imparted against said striking area; an action signal device configured to generate a signal to said plurality of football players; and a control unit operatively connected to each of said force measurement devices to display and/or analyze said impact force and operatively connected to said action signal device and said force measurement device so as to measure, display and/or analyze a reaction time, said control unit having a visual display for displaying said impact force and said reaction time for each of said plurality of football players, said control unit configured to remotely transmit said impact force and said reaction time for each of said plurality of football players.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/602,093 filed Aug. 16, 2004.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A. Field of the Invention

The field of the present invention relates generally to football sleds utilized to train football players to improve their hitting and response skills. More specifically, this invention relates to such football sleds that include an analytical device for measuring the response and blocking/hitting skills of one or more players utilizing the improved football sled. Even more specifically, this invention relates to such football sleds that measure the player's response time and the force at which the player hits the padded portion of the sled and then provides that information to the coach, player and/or other interested persons.

B. Background

As is well known by many players, coaches and spectators, football is a game that requires physical strength, stamina and various mental skills, including reaction time. Although most of the time and effort during football training or practice may be spent on improving the football player's physical strength and stamina, much time is also devoted to improving the player's mental game abilities. One aspect of accomplishing these objectives is to create training and practice sessions that mimic as closely as possible actual field and game playing conditions. Although it is generally relatively easy for a coach or other interested person to assess how fast an individual player can run, how much weight he can lift and other standard information, it is usually very difficult to determine how well the player reacts in actual game conditions and to improve any weaknesses the player may have in that regard. As a result, the desire to create game-like conditions that provide players the ability to practice and improve their game skills and coaches the ability to accurately assess how individual players may react in a game is well known. Unfortunately, there are not many apparatuses or devices that accurately mimic game conditions and which easily allow a coach or other interested person, such as the team's owner or a media representative, the ability to assess the player's game abilities. This is particularly true when reviewing the skills of potential new players.

In one very important part of the game of football, offensive and defensive players line up across from each other waiting for the snap of the ball from the center to the quarterback. When the ball is snapped, the defensive players, particularly the defensive lineman, attempt to charge across the line of blocking offensive players, primarily made up of the offensive lineman, to tackle the offensive player with the football (i.e., the quarterback, running back or any other player with the ball) or to break-up a pass to an offensive pass receiver. One difficulty for the defensive player is that he is not allowed to cross the imaginary line defined by the position of the football on the field until the ball is moved by the center. If the defensive player jumps across this line prematurely, the defensive team is penalized, which generally results in a position or opportunity enhancement (i.e., additional play) for the offensive team. In this same aspect of the game, the offensive lineman must line up and respond to the movement of the defensive players across the line. The offensive line has an additional burden in that they are not allowed to move until the ball is snapped. Once the ball is snapped, they must react quickly to block the charging defensive players to prevent them from getting to the quarterback or other ball handling player. Failure to do so results in negative position change (i.e., lost yardage) or the potential for a fumble, which can result in the other team acquiring the football and/or points for the other team.

In light of the importance of the football player's reaction skills, including response to the moving football and his ability to effectively block or hit an opposing player, a significant amount of the lineman's practice or training time is spent on improving these skills. As is well known, many football coaches and trainers utilize football sleds to help train players so as to improve the player's response and hitting skills. The typical football sled, commonly utilized by those in the football industry, includes a frame that supports one or more blocking units in a generally upwardly angle and a sled unit that is configured to slide or roll over the ground, which is typically grass or artificial turf. Although a variety of materials can be utilized for the sled frame, the typical football sled frame is made out of a coated steel tubing or other metal materials. The blocking unit generally comprises a high strength plate, typically made out of steel and commonly referred to as a “pig,” that attaches to the frame and provides a structural support for a covering pad. A leaf or other spring component is integral with the pig so as to provide flexible, but desirably life-like, resistance for the blocking unit. Many pig portions are configured to be adjustable in the height and angle to better simulate the field position of an opposing player. The outer portion of the blocking unit is padded and is typically made out of a heavy duty vinyl that covers a steel core that interacts with the pig to attach the pad thereto. A high density impact resistant foam surrounds the steel core and is covered by the vinyl outer portion of the pad. The typical sled frame has one or more sled-like runners that extend outwardly from the back of the frame to allow the sled to slide across the ground when impacted by the player during practice. Other sled units have a plurality of wheel members that allow the unit to roll over the ground. Yet other sled units are configured to be fixedly attached to the ground, floor or other training surface. For purposes of this disclosure, the term football sled is intended to refer to any type of configuration of football sled frame that is now in use and which may be utilized in the future for the purpose of training football players as described herein.

Sled units utilized in football practice and training are configured with one or more blocking units. Some of the larger sled units have five, six or more blocking units. Many sled units have the frame configured with a platform portion for the coach or trainer to stand on when directing the practice or training session, usually while transmitting instructions to the players and evaluating their response skills. In general, the players using the football sled position themselves in front of the blocking unit in the typical crouching configuration used at the scrimmage line during an actual game. When the coach or trainer signals, typically with a voice, whistle, horn or other audible signal, the linemen drive forward into the blocking unit to hit the outer pad with as much force as they can to simulate hitting another player during a game. The signal from the coach or trainer is intended to represent the movement of the football by the center that starts the play. Ideally, the players do not move until the signal is given and move very quickly, based on individual reaction times, after the signal to hit the blocking unit with as much force as they are capable of producing.

Early football sleds only included the basic frame and the generally upwardly extending blocking units. Over the years this basic football sled has been improved to better train the player. One such improvement is set forth in U.S. Pat. No. 2,521,649 to Paupa, U.S. Pat. No. 2,940,757 to Brift and U.S. Pat. No. 3,044,776 to Weidmaier. These patents describe a football sled having a football holding apparatus that extends outward and/or forward from the sled and is adapted to move in response to action by the coach or trainer so as to train the players to move against the blocking unit only when the football moves. To some extent, the moving football apparatus attempts to simulate the movement of the football during actual playing conditions. U.S. Pat. No. 3,062,547 to Kopp describes a football training sled that includes one or more pivotally mounted helmets that are configured to simulate the movement of an offensive lineman. U.S. Pat. No. 3,674,265 to Sheets, et al., U.S. Pat. No. 4,477,076 to Monaco and U.S. Pat. No. 5,462,272 to Staten describe football sleds having a telescopingly attached blocking unit mounted on a sled-type base or other platform. The patent to Sheets utilizes both a moveable football and a moveable helmet. U.S. Pat. No. 4,534,557 to Bigelow, et al. describes a training system that is utilized to measure and provide feedback with regard to a player's reaction time and applied force by utilizing a pressure transducer in the padded striking area of a conventional blocking pad. U.S. Pat. No. 6,045,464 to Crist, Jr. describes a football snap simulator, which can be mounted to a football sled, that is configured to simulate the snapping of a football. U.S. Pat. No. 6,093,119 to Tipton discloses a football training and evaluating apparatus that has a frame mounted measuring-signaling element which is configured to measure the force imparted to a contacting element and the time between a signal generated by a visual signaling apparatus and the contact against the contacting element.

Unfortunately, while the conventional football sled units generally do a good job at simulating the hitting effect of linemen in a football game, they do not mimic well the need to respond quickly to the movement of the football by the center and do not provide a mechanism that is easy for the coach or trainer to utilize to evaluate the player's blocking or hitting skills and compare those to the skills of other players. Various improved football sleds which attempt to measure the impact force and/or reaction time of the player are generally excessively complicated and do not appear to be generally well accepted by those in the football training industry. What is needed is an improved football sled that better mimics the movement of the football snap by the center and which provides an improved ability to analyze a player's reaction time and the amount of force which he generates when he hits the sled's blocking unit. The preferred football sled will have the same basic components as presently available football sleds with the addition of football snap simulator mechanism to simulate the snap action of football during game play, a timing mechanism to measure the amount of time between the snap and the player's impact against the blocking unit, a force measurement mechanism to measure the force impacted by the player against the blocking unit and a computer control module to cooperatively operate the snap simulator mechanism and the timing and force measurement mechanisms. It is also preferred that the improved football sled of the present invention include a graphical user interface to allow the coach or trainer to view and manipulate the data so as to review and compare the skill and performance measurements of one or more players. It is also preferred that the improved football sled include a data transfer mechanism to transfer data between the football sled and a computer, laptop computer, personal data assistant (“PDA”) or other device for remote viewing and/or operation of the computer control module. It is also preferred that the improved football sled be adaptable for receiving and displaying or transmitting information about the football player's physiology, including heart rate, body temperature, breathing rate and other such physical data.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The improved football sled of the present invention provides the benefits and solves the problems identified above. That is to say, the present invention discloses an improved football sled that substantially improves the simulation of a football snap or hike by the center and measures the amount of time it takes a player to respond to that snap/hike action by hitting the blocking unit and the amount of force impacted by the football player against the blocking unit. The preferred embodiment of the improved football sled of the present invention both measures the amount of time for the player to respond to the snap/hike of the football and the amount of force he impacts against the blocking unit, and then transmits that data to a computer module that is configured with a graphical user interface and/or to a device configured to transmit control information or data between the football sled and a computer, laptop computer, PDA or other computer device for remote viewing and/or operation of the computer control module. As such, the improved football sled of the present invention better mimics the game playing situations faced by players on the field and provides instant feedback to the coach or trainer with regard to the skills and abilities of the players. The improved football sled of the present invention can also include a player monitoring system configured to monitor various physiological characteristics of the player.

In one general aspect of the present invention, the football sled for use in training a football player has a frame with a generally upwardly extending blocking unit attached thereto. In the preferred embodiment, the frame has a base portion, with the blocking unit attached thereto, and one or more outwardly extending sled-like members that are configured to allow the football sled to slide across the ground or other practice surface. The blocking unit has a striking area that is adapted for impact by the football player with a force measurement device located in the blocking unit at the striking area. The force measurement device is configured and adapted to measure the impact force imparted against the striking area by the football player as he moves to simulate a blocking or pushing action. The football sled has an action signal device that is configured to generate a signal to the football player when he is supposed to push forward and impact the blocking unit. A control unit, which is preferably mounted on the frame and comprises a visual display and human interface, is operatively connected to the force measurement device to display and/or analyze the impact force. The control unit is also operatively connected to the action signal device so as to measure, display and/or analyze the player's reaction time (i.e., how fast he responds to the signal from the action signal device). In the preferred embodiment, the action signal device comprises a football or football-like unit that either lights up or moves for the signal. In the preferred embodiment, the action signal devices is attached to a signal mounting apparatus that slidably moves the action signal device (i.e., the football) so as to best simulate the hiking action of an actual football game. Also in the preferred embodiment, the control unit is configured to display the impact force and reaction time data to a coach or trainer standing on the football sled and to remotely transmit, such as by wireless transmission, the measured impact force and reaction time to a computer, laptop, PDA or other device. In an alternative embodiment, the control unit is operatively connected to one or more monitoring devices attached to the football player so the coach or trainer can monitor various physiological characteristics of the player.

In another general aspect of the present invention, the football sled is used for training a group of football players, having a frame with a base and one or more outwardly extending sled-like runners so that it can slide over a supporting surface and a plurality of generally upwardly extending blocking units attached to the base of the frame. Each of the blocking units is configured with a striking area that is adapted for impact by one of the football players. Preferably, a force measurement device is disposed inside each of the blocking units at the striking area thereof and is adapted to measure the impact force imparted against the striking area by one of the players. The football sled also has an action signal device which is configured to generate a signal to all of the football players to initiate their process of impacting the blocking unit. A control unit, preferably mounted on the base portion of the frame, is operatively connected to each of the force measurement devices to display and/or analyze the impact force generated by each player and operatively connected to the action signal device and the force measurement device so as to measure, display and/or analyze each player's reaction time. In the preferred embodiment, the control unit has a visual display for displaying the impact force and the reaction time for each football player to a coach or trainer standing on a platform mounted on the frame of the football sled. Preferably, the control unit is also configured to remotely transmit the impact force and the reaction time for each of football player to a laptop computer, PDA or other device.

Accordingly, the primary objective of the present invention is to provide an improved football sled for training and evaluating football players that provides the advantages discussed above and overcomes the disadvantages and limitations which are associated with presently available football sleds.

An important objective of the present invention is to provide an improved football sled that is configured for use in training football players that better simulates actual game play when hiking the football and which allows the coach or trainer to better evaluate various football player skills, including reaction time and ability to generate an impact force.

It is also an important objective of the present invention to provide an improved football sled that is adaptable to a variety of different football sled configurations.

It is also an important objective of the present invention to provide an improved football sled that measures the player's response time from when the football is snapped to when he hits the blocking unit so the coach or trainer can evaluate the player's reaction time and assist with improving such reaction time.

It is also an important objective of the present invention to provide an improved football sled that measures the amount of force by which the player is able to hit the blocking unit after movement of the football during a simulated snap by the center so the player's coach or trainer can evaluate the amount of that force and assist the player with improving his ability to generate the impact force.

It is also an important objective of the present invention to provide an improved football sled that provides the coach, trainer or other interested person with nearly instantaneous feedback with regard to a football player's reaction time and the impact force the player generates against the blocking unit component of the football sled in response to a simulated snap or hiking of a football.

It is also an important objective of the present invention to provide an improved football sled that provides the coach, trainer or other interested person with nearly instantaneous feedback with regard to a football player's physiological conditions, such as heart rate, breathing rates and body temperature.

The above and other objectives of the present invention will be explained in greater detail by reference to the attached figures and the description of the preferred embodiment which follows. As set forth herein, the present invention resides in the novel features of form, construction, mode of operation and combination of processes presently described and understood by the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings which illustrate the preferred embodiments and the best modes presently contemplated for carrying out the present invention:

FIG. 1 is a side view of a football player against the blocking unit of a football sled configured according to the attributes of a preferred embodiment of the present invention having a single blocking unit and a lighted football to simulate the snap of the football;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an improved football sled configured with the attributes of the present invention utilizing two blocking units and a lighted football as to signal the football snap action;

FIG. 3 is a top view of the improved football sled shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an improved football sled of the present invention utilizing four blocking units and a sliding football to signal the football snap action; and

FIG. 5 is a top view of the improved football sled shown in FIG. 4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

With reference to the figures where like elements have been given like numerical designations to facilitate the reader's understanding of the improved football sled of the present invention, the preferred embodiments of the present invention are set forth below. As will be recognized by those skilled in the art, the enclosed figures and drawings are merely illustrative of the preferred embodiments and represent several different ways of configuring the present invention. Although specific components, materials, configurations and uses are illustrated, it should be understood that a number of variations to the components and to the configuration of those components described herein and in the accompanying figures can be made without changing the scope and function of the invention set forth herein.

An improved football sled that is manufactured out of the materials and configured pursuant to the principles of the present invention is shown generally as 10 in the figures. As shown in a football sled 10 has a frame 12 that supports one or more blocking units 14 in a generally upwardly disposed angle and a sled unit 16 that is configured to slide over the ground 17. Although a variety of materials can be utilized for sled frame 12, the typical sled frame 12 is made out of a coated steel tubing frame members to form base 18. Blocking unit 14 generally includes a high strength plate 19, typically made out of steel and commonly referred to as a “pig,” that attaches to frame 12 and provides a structural support for a covering pad 20. A leaf or other spring component (not shown) is integral with the pig 19 so as to provide flexible, but desirably life-like, resistance for blocking unit 14 when hit by football player 21, as shown in FIG. 1. As known in the art, blocking unit 14 is generally configured to be adjustable in height and angle so as to provide as realistic as possible training for player 21. Covering pad 20 is typically a heavy duty vinyl that covers a steel core (not shown) that interacts with the pig 19 to securely attach blocking unit 14 to pig 19. A high density impact resistant foam (also not shown) surrounds the steel core and is covered by the vinyl outer portion of covering pad 20. The typical sled unit 10 has one or more outwardly extending, sled-like runners 22 configured to allow sled unit 10 to slide over the ground when blocking unit 14 is impacted by player 21 during practice. Although not shown, sled unit 10 may have a plurality of wheel members that allow sled unit 10 to roll over the ground, as opposed to the sliding when using runners 22. As set forth above, for purposes of this disclosure the term football sled is intended to refer to any type of configuration of football sleds that are now in use and which may be utilized in the future for the purpose of training one or more football players 21. Sled unit 10 can be configured with one or more blocking units 14, such as the one blocking unit 14 in FIG. 1, the two blocking units 14 in FIGS. 2 and 3 or the four blocking units in FIGS. 4 and 5. Some of the larger sled units 10 have five or seven blocking units 14. As shown in FIG. 1, many sled units 10 have a platform 23 for the coach or trainer to stand on and a generally upright support frame 25 for the coach or trainer to hold onto when directing the practice or training session.

The improved football sled 10 of the present invention includes an action signal device 24 that is preferably mounted to one or more of frame members 18 of sled frame 12 in a manner that allows all the players 21 utilizing football sled 10 to see. The purpose of action signal device 24 is to provide a signal to player 21 so that he pushes forward, preferably rapidly, to contact blocking unit 14 with sufficient force that if blocking unit 14 was an opposing player he would either block the rushing defensive player or push back the blocking offensive player. In the preferred embodiment shown in the figures, action signal device 24 is a football or football-shaped component mounted on signal mount apparatus 26. To facilitate game-like use of football sled 10 of the present invention, action signal device 24 is configured to somewhat simulate a snap or hike action by the center. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 through 3, action signal device 24 is configured with one or more light bulbs or other light sources such that it lights up to simulate the hike/snap and cause the player 21 to move into blocking unit 14. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, signal mount 26 is configured to slidably move action signal device 24 either forward or backward, depending on whether the offensive line or the defensive line is utilizing football sled 10. For the configuration in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, signal mount 26 is configured with a slidable connection that securely and operatively attaches to action signal device 24 to rapidly (i.e., as with a football center) move action signal device 24 from the stationary set position to the snap/hike position. In an alternative embodiment, action signal device can generate an audio signal, such as a whistle or alarm, or be a taped voice signal that generates an audible snap count for the player to respond to and impact blocking unit 14. The operation of action signal device 24 is controlled by a coach, trainer or other interested person who may be standing on platform 23 or located remotely from football sled 10.

To facilitate measurement and evaluation of the player's skills with regard to moving off the scrimmage line and hitting an opposing player, football sled 10 of the present invention has a control unit, shown as 28 in the figures, that is operatively connected to a force measurement mechanism 30 located at the striking area 32 of blocking unit 14. The striking area 32 is that portion of blocking unit 14 that the coach or trainer desires player 21 to hit with sufficient speed and force so as to simulate contact with an opposing player. Control unit 28 has a computer module that is configured to cooperatively operate with the action signal device 24 (i.e., the lighted football of FIGS. 1 through 3 or the moving football of FIGS. 4 and 5) so as to measure the player's response time and force generation skills. Control unit 28 includes a timing mechanism that measures the amount of time between when the snap/hike simulation of action signal device 24 occurs, such as represented by the light or movement of the football, and the time when player 21 contacts blocking unit 14. To accomplish this objective, blocking unit 14 includes a force measurement mechanism 30, such as a contact pad or the like having one or more pressure transducers, that is configured to receive a force and send a signal to the timing mechanism that it has received that force. An example of a pressure transducer system generally applicable to football sled 10 of the present invention is set forth n U.S. Pat. No. 4,534,557 to Bigelow, et al. (the disclosure of which is incorporated herein). In this manner, player 21 will respond as quickly as he can to action signal device 24, such as the lighted football (FIGS. 1 through 3) or the moving football (FIGS. 4 and 5), and hit blocking unit 14 to register how long it took for him to make that contact and the force imparted by the player 21 on blocking unit 14. The player's response time and force information is transmitted, either over wires or wirelessly, to the computer module in control unit 28. Preferably, control unit 28 includes a graphical user interface, which can comprise a multi-key keypad that includes the standard twelve keys and other function keys, on/off switches and a display panel (typically a LCD panel) for displaying the response time and amount of force generated by player 21. This information allows the coach or trainer to quickly and easily view and utilize the data (i.e., charts or graphs) so as to review and compare the response time, force generated and/or various other performance measurements of the one or more players 21 utilizing football sled 10. Because the coach or trainer can virtually instantaneously determine which player or players are not contributing the amount they should or can, he or she can suggest adjustments to the stance or movement of player 21 that will allow the player 21 to better achieve his full potential. If desired, control unit 28 can be programmed to include the ability to set minimum performance standards and with an “alarm” type of system if player 21 fails to achieve the desired goals (such as a particular response time or impact force level).

In the preferred embodiment, force measurement mechanism 30 at the striking area 32 of blocking unit 14 is also configured to measure the amount of force impacted by player 21 against blocking unit 14. As known to those familiar with football and football training, the ability to hit the opposing player with sufficient force to either push through the offensive line or stop the defensive players from breaking through the line is dependent on a combination of speed, strength and effective hitting techniques. Although size of a player is important, it is not uncommon to find a “smaller” player who can hit more effectively than a “bigger” player due to the player's techniques. The contact pad or pressure transducers in force measurement mechanism 30 is adapted to receive an impact force so as to both stop the timing mechanism to register response time and measure the strength of that force to register the player's effective hitting ability. The impact force information is also transmitted, either over wires or wirelessly, to the computer module in control center 28 for real time review and analysis by the coach/trainer. In the preferred embodiment, force measurement mechanism 30 is positioned inside blocking unit 14 immediately behind the covering pad 20 at striking area 32 of blocking unit 14. Although force measurement mechanism 30 can be located on the outside of covering pad 20, placement inside blocking unit 14 behind covering pad 20 is preferred so as to reduce the likelihood of damage and/or corrosion problems with regard to force measurement mechanism 30. As those skilled in the art will readily recognize, placement of force measurement mechanism 30 should be chosen so that it is capable of effectively recognizing that contact has been made and registering the amount of impact force generated by player 21.

Although the preferred embodiment includes both the timing and force measuring components described above, football sled 10 could be made with either of these components alone (i.e., with just timing or just force measuring capability). Various mechanisms for measuring response time and the force impacted by the player are known and generally commercially available. These components can be incorporated into football sled 10 to accomplish the objectives of the present invention. Although the various figures included herewith show a control unit 28 identified with each blocking unit 14, those skilled in the art will recognize that football sled 10 can be provided with a single control unit 28 that is operatively connected to action signal device 24 (i.e., the football) and each of the blocking units 14 on football sled 10. In fact, due to the cost of components, ease of manufacture and ability of the coach/trainer to review the display screen thereof, it may be beneficial to utilize a single control unit 28 instead of multiple control units 28. Whether one or multiple control units 28 are utilized, control unit 28 can include a data transfer mechanism to transfer data between football sled 10 and a computer, laptop computer, PDA or other device for remote viewing and/or operation of the computer module in control unit 28. The data transfer mechanism could include a USB, serial, parallel or other type of port suitably configured to receive a physical connector that connects to the remote device. Alternatively, or in conjunction therewith, control unit 28 can include a short range radio frequency (RF) device to allow like-configured devices to wirelessly communicate with each other. Until relatively recently, the most common configuration for short range RF systems has been the IEEE 802.11 (or Wi-Fi) based radio frequency standard (i.e., 802.11b or 802.11g standards). More recently, the communications industry has developed Bluetooth, a trademark owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc., as a new wireless technology standard that utilizes the unlicensed 2.4 Ghz radio spectrum (i.e., not licensed by the United States' applicable governmental regulating authority, the Federal Communications Commission or FCC). In general, the Bluetooth network technology is an open, worldwide specification for wireless communication of data and voice that is based on a low-cost, short-range radio link that allows wireless communication over a typical range of up to 100 feet. As well known to those skilled in the art, Bluetooth has been incorporated into a variety of devices for various uses, including the interface between mobile telephones and wireless headsets. With the RF capability incorporated into football sled 10, an interested person, such as a coach, trainer or owner, could remotely view the results of the timing and force measurements and/or control the operation of action signal device 24 (light or movement of football), thereby eliminating the need to be on football sled 10 or, if desired, even on the field nearby.

In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, control unit 28 is configured to wirelessly communicate with one or more physiology measurement devices positioned on player 21 so as to allow monitoring of the player's heart rate, breathing rate, body temperature or various other physiological information. As known to those skilled in the art, the body of player 21 is under a significant amount of physical stress during a typical practice session. In fact, more than one player 21 has suffered injury, including severe injuries and even death, during football practice. Many of these injuries or deaths could have been prevented if the player 21 had one or more physiological monitoring devices on his body such that a coach, trainer, medical specialist or other person could have seen that his heart was having problems, his breathing rate was insufficient or too rapid, his body temperature had risen dangerously and/or other warning signs of a heart attack, stroke or other injury was indicated. The monitoring devices on player 21 can include the ability to measure the amount of fluid loss by the player and/or the body's level of dehydration so that the player can be warned to stop and drink fluids. The technology for the ability to monitor a the physiological characteristics of player 21 is generally readily available, having been used in the space program and various competitive sports (i.e., the Tour de France bicycle race). With regard to the present invention, the one or more monitoring devices on player 21 can be configured to communicate wirelessly to control unit 28, such as by RF or Bluetooth, so that the coach can review these statistics along with the reaction time and impact force performance statistics discussed above. As with the performance statistics, the coach or trainer can set minimum or maximum warning levels for each player that automatically sets an alarm if any of the player's physiological characteristics goes into the danger zone.

In use, player 21 using football sled 10 position himself in front of a blocking unit 14 in the typical crouching configuration used at the line during an actual game. When the action signal device 24 (i.e., the football) simulates a snap or hike, either by lighting up as shown in FIGS. 1 through 3 or by moving as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, the lineman or linemen drive forward into blocking unit 14 to hit covering pad 20 with as much force as they can to simulate hitting the opposing player during a game. The computer module component in control unit 28 measures the player's response time from when the snap/hike signal is given until when player 21 hits force measurement mechanism 30 at striking area 32. Concurrently therewith, force measurement mechanism 30 measures the amount of impact force that player 21 applies to blocking unit 14. This information is displayed by control center 28 and/or transmitted to one or more remote computers or computer controlled devices (i.e., PDAs). The coach, trainer or other interested person (including the player 21) can, virtually instantly, see the performance of player 21 and suggest adjustments to player 21 so he can improve his response time and/or the amount of force that he is able to generate against blocking unit 14. With wireless capability, this performance data can be transmitted to a coach/trainer or other interested person who is located away from the use of football sled 10. With one or more monitoring devices on player 21 in communication with control unit 28, the coach, trainer or a medical person can monitor the player's physiological characteristics to ensure that player 21 is not risking injury or death by overdoing the exercise or failing to obtain enough fluids to replace those lost due to perspiration. The power for operation of action signal device 24, control unit 28, force measurement mechanism 30 and any other monitoring or transmitting devices can be provided by a battery (not shown) on sled unit 10 or by attaching sled unit 10 to a source of electrical power, such as an A/C outlet.

While there are shown and described herein certain specific alternative forms of the invention, it will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art that the invention is not so limited, but is susceptible to various modifications and rearrangements in design and materials without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. In particular, it should be noted that the present invention is subject to modification with regard to the dimensional relationships set forth herein and modifications in assembly, materials, size, shape, and use. For instance, there are components described herein that can be replaced with equivalent functioning components to accomplish the objectives of the present invention. One such modification is the use of different materials than those set forth herein.