Title:
System and apparatus for swing instruction
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Described is a system and apparatus for swing instruction in any sport in which players use a swinging apparatus including T-ball, baseball, softball, tennis, racquetball, golf and hockey. The apparatus comprises a body comprising a substantially planar upper surface and positionable on a support surface, a home plate marking on said body, at least one step target marking adjacent to said home plate marking and at least one foot placement marking adjacent to said step target marking.



Inventors:
Brazzano, Christopher (Blairstown, NJ, US)
Application Number:
11/633153
Publication Date:
06/05/2008
Filing Date:
12/04/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/417, 473/459
International Classes:
A63B69/00; A63B69/38
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Meister Seelig & Fein LLP (125 Park Avenue 7th Floor, NEW YORK, NY, 10017, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. An apparatus for use in baseball, softball or t-ball for training how to step and swing a bat, the apparatus comprising: a body comprising a substantially planar upper surface and positionable on a support surface; a home plate marking on said body; at least one step target marking adjacent to said home plate marking; and at least one foot placement marking adjacent to said step target marking.

2. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the at least one foot placement marking includes at least one line parallel to a side edge of the home plate marking.

3. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the at least one foot placement marking includes a first set of lines parallel to a first side edge of the home plate marking.

4. The apparatus according to claim 3, wherein the at least one foot placement marking includes a second set of lines parallel to a second side edge of the home plate marking, the second side edge being opposite the first side edge.

5. The apparatus according to claim 4, wherein each of the lines in the first and second sets is separated by a predetermined distance.

6. The apparatus according to claim 5, wherein the predetermined distance is approximately one inch.

7. The apparatus according to claim 5, wherein each of the lines in the first and second sets is associated with at least one of a height identifier and a bat size identifier.

8. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the at least one step target marking is disposed adjacent a leading side of the at least one foot placement marking.

9. The apparatus according to claim 4, wherein the at least one step target marking includes a first step target marking adjacent a first leading side of the first set of lines and a second step target marking adjacent a second leading side of the second set of lines.

10. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the at least one step target marking has a width substantially equal to a width of the at least one foot placement marking.

11. A device, comprising: a planar substrate; a first reference marking formed on the substrate; a second reference marking formed on the substrate, the second reference marking indicative of a standing position relative to the first reference marking; and a third reference marking formed on the substrate the third reference marking indicative of a lead foot position relative to the second reference marking.

12. The device according to claim 11, wherein the first reference marking is one of a home plate marking, a home plate cut-out and an axis of the second reference marking.

13. The device according to claim 11, wherein the second reference marking includes a plurality of parallel lines separated from each other by a predetermined distance.

14. The device according to claim 13, wherein each of the parallel lines is associated with at least one of a height identifier, a bat size identifier and a racquet length identifier.

15. The device according to claim 11, wherein the substrate includes at least one anchor arrangement preventing movement of the substrate relative to a surface the substrate is disposed upon.

16. The device according to claim 11, further including: a textured material covering at least a portion of at least one of the second and third reference markings.

17. The device according to claim 16, wherein the textured material has a higher coefficient of friction than the substrate.

18. The device according to claim 11, wherein the third reference marking is formed on a leading side of the second reference marking and along a substantially transverse axis of the first reference marking.

19. A system, comprising: an swing instruction apparatus including a body having a substantially planar upper surface and positionable on a support surface, the body including a home plate marking, at least one step target marking adjacent to the home plate marking and at least one foot placement marking adjacent to the step target marking; and a ball stand positioned over the home plate marking, the ball standing holding a ball a predetermined height above the body.

20. The system according to claim 19, wherein the ball stand is a T-ball stand.

21. An apparatus for use in tennis for training how to step and swing a racquet, the apparatus comprising: a body comprising a substantially planar upper surface and positionable on a support surface; a stance marking on said body; at least one baseline marking adjacent to the stance marking; and at least one step target marking adjacent to the at least one baseline marking.

Description:

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent files or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention disclosed herein relates generally to instructing players on proper performance techniques in various sports. More specifically, the present invention relates to instructing a player about a proper technique for swinging a sporting apparatus.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many techniques have been developed over the years to provide team and individual instruction and enhance player performance in various sports. The techniques typically relate to development (e.g., instruction, exercises) and/or conditioning (e.g., strength, speed, endurance). The development techniques are a primary focus for players at a beginner level. For example, when a child is learning to play baseball, he generally starts with T-ball, which attempts to develop the child's swing by using a statically positioned ball. In T-ball, the child repeatedly swings a bat until contact is made with the ball. By practicing making contact with the ball, the child develops hand-eye coordination necessary for effectively swinging the bat.

A conventional T-ball device includes a base and a stand which holds a ball at a predefined height above the base. While the conventional device aids in developing the hand-eye coordination of the child, there is no instruction provided regarding a proper stance and/or swing mechanics. That is, while the child may succeed in making contact with the ball, there is a lack of stance and swing instruction which inhibits development of a proper swing.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a system and apparatus for swing instruction. Those of skill in the art will understand that the present invention may be utilized for swing instruction in any sports including a swinging apparatus, such as T-ball, baseball, softball, tennis, racquetball, golf, hockey, etc. While the system and apparatus may be used for instructional/training purposes, those of skill in the art will understand that the apparatus may also be used as a toy for recreational purposes.

The apparatus for use in baseball, softball or t-ball for training how to step and swing a bat, comprises a body comprising a substantially planar upper surface and positionable on a support surface, a home plate marking on said body, at least one step target marking adjacent to said home plate marking and at least one foot placement marking adjacent to said step target marking. The at least one foot placement marking includes at least one line parallel to a side edge of the home plate marking. The at least one foot placement marking includes a first set of lines parallel to a first side edge of the home plate marking. The at least one foot placement marking includes a second set of lines parallel to a second side edge of the home plate marking, and the second side edge is opposite the first side edge. Each of the lines in the first and second sets is separated by a predetermined distance. The predetermined distance is approximately one inch. Each of the lines in the first and second sets is associated with at least one of a height identifier and a bat size identifier. The at least one step target marking is disposed adjacent a leading side of the at least one foot placement marking. The at least one step target marking includes a first step target marking adjacent a first leading side of the first set of lines and a second step target marking adjacent a second leading side of the second set of lines. The at least one step target marking has a width substantially equal to a width of the at least one foot placement marking.

In another exemplary embodiment, the present invention relates to a device comprising a planar substrate, a first reference marking formed on the substrate, a second reference marking formed on the substrate, the second reference marking indicative of a standing position relative to the first reference marking, and a third reference marking formed on the substrate the third reference marking indicative of a lead foot position relative to the second reference marking. The first reference marking is one of a home plate marking, a home plate cut-out and an axis of the second reference marking. The second reference marking includes a plurality of parallel lines separated from each other by a predetermined distance. Each of the parallel lines is associated with at least one of a height identifier, a bat size identifier and a racquet length identifier. The substrate includes at least one anchor arrangement preventing movement of the substrate relative to a surface the substrate is disposed upon. The device may further include a textured material covering at least a portion of at least one of the second and third reference markings. The textured material has a higher coefficient of friction than the substrate. The third reference marking is formed on a leading side of the second reference marking and along a substantially transverse axis of the first reference marking.

In a further exemplary embodiment, the present invention relates to a system comprising an swing instruction apparatus including a body having a substantially planar upper surface and positionable on a support surface, the body including a home plate marking, at least one step target marking adjacent to the home plate marking and at least one foot placement marking adjacent to the step target marking, and a ball stand positioned over the home plate marking, the ball standing holding a ball a predetermined height above the body. The ball stand is a T-ball stand.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention is illustrated in the figures of the accompanying drawings which are meant to be exemplary and not limiting, in which like references are intended to refer to like or corresponding parts, and in which:

FIG. 1 shows an apparatus for swing instruction according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2a is a schematic illustration of a step in a manufacturing process of an apparatus for swing instruction according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2b is a schematic illustration of a step in a manufacturing process of an apparatus for swing instruction according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2c is a schematic illustration of a step in a manufacturing process of an apparatus for swing instruction according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 shows a system for swing instruction according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 shows an apparatus for swing instruction according to a further exemplary embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 5 shows an apparatus for swing instruction according to another exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

In the following description of the preferred embodiment, reference is made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration a specific embodiment in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

FIG. 1 shows an exemplary embodiment of an apparatus 100 for swing instruction according to the present invention. While the exemplary embodiment will be described with reference to swing instruction for T-ball, those of skill in the art will understand that the present invention may be utilized for swing instruction in other sports including, but not limited to, baseball, softball, tennis, racquetball, golf, hockey, etc. That is, the apparatus 100 may be utilized for swing instruction regardless of a sporting apparatus (e.g., bat, racquet, club, stick, etc.) utilized by a player. While the apparatus 100 may be used for instructional/training purposes, those of skill in the art will understand that the apparatus 100 may be used as a toy for recreational purposes.

In the exemplary embodiment, the apparatus 100 may include a body 102 or a substrate formed as a sheet, mat, etc. having any shape and/or size. Preferably, the body 102 is formed from a material which is substantially wear-resistant (e.g., rubber, foam, etc.). That is, a user (wearing cleats or sneakers) may attempt repeated swings while standing on the body 102, and thus, it is preferable that the material comprising the body 102 be wear-resistant. The body 102 may include a substantially planar upper surface allowing the user to maintain balance while standing thereon. A bottom surface of the body 102 may be substantially planar or have any other topography which allows the upper surface of the body 102 to be substantially parallel to a ground surface on which the apparatus 100 is placed. That is, while the apparatus 100 may be manufactured from solid materials, e.g., rubber, wood, plastic, metal, etc., the body 102 preferably conforms to the ground surface. In other exemplary embodiments, the upper surface of the body 102 may be formed from a solid material, while the bottom surface is formed from a flexible material. In this embodiment, the bottom surface may conform to the ground surface, while the upper surface remains substantially flat (and parallel to the ground surface). In some embodiments, the bottom surface includes grooves, cleats, hard rubber nubs/pleats or other protrusions to facilitate the securing of the apparatus in one position during use. The upper surface may be formed from, or covered with, an Astroturf® matting. As understood by those of skill in the art, the apparatus 100 may be used indoors and/or outdoors, e.g., in a batting cage, at a park, etc.

Formed on the upper surface of the body 102 may be a first reference marking. Those of skill in the art will understand that the first reference marking may be selected based on a sport in which the user is being instructed. In the exemplary embodiment, the first reference marking may be a home plate marking 104 disposed in a substantially central position relative to the body 102 of the apparatus. For example, if the body 102 is 48″ wide, the home plate marking 104 may be disposed on a middle 17″ of the body 102. The home plate marking 104 may be formed on the body 102 by, for example, painting, silk screening, tape, etc., and may be similarly sized and shaped as a conventional home plate used in baseball. In another exemplary embodiment, the home plate marking 104 may be a cut-out sized and shaped like the conventional home plate. In this embodiment, the body 102 may be overlaid over the conventional home plate, allowing the apparatus 100 to be used during games, practices, etc. at parks and fields.

The body 102 of the apparatus may further include a second reference marking indicative of where the user should stand relative to the first reference marking. In the exemplary embodiment, the second reference marking includes a foot placement marking 106 comprising at least one line 108 drawn substantially parallel to a side edge 110 of the home plate marking 104. While the exemplary embodiment depicted in FIG. 1 shows the foot placement marking 106 as including three lines 108, those of skill in the art will understand that any number of lines (or other shapes) of any shape and/or size may be marked on the body 102 to indicate where the user should stand relative to the home plate marking 104. In the exemplary embodiment, each of the lines 108 is approximately 15″ long and 2″ wide and separated from the other lines 108 by approximately 1″. Additionally, the lines 108 may be staggered, as shown in FIG. 1, or aligned. Those of skill in the art will understand that the lines 108 may be formed on the body 102 in a manner similar to the home plate marking 104.

In a further exemplary embodiment, each of the lines 108 may be associated with a height and/or bat length identifier(s) (not shown). The user may select which of the lines 108 to stand on based on the height and/or bat length identifiers, as described below. That is, if the user is right-handed and between 4′6″ and 5′0″, the line 108 closest to the home plate marking 104 may be selected. Those of skill in the art will understand that the line may be selected based on handedness, height and/or reach of the user, and/or bat length. For example, the user may stand on each line and extend the bat to ensure that the bat covers fully the home plate marking 104. When one of the lines 108 has been selected, the user may assume a proper swing stance.

The proper swing stance may require the user to place a lagging foot (e.g., a right foot for right-handed users) on a rear/lagging portion of a selected line 108 and a leading foot (e.g., a left foot for right-handed users) on a front/leading portion of the selected line 108. That is, in some uses, the leading foot is positioned toward a direction in which the ball will be hit. In one exemplary embodiment, the user may place the lagging foot on a rear edge of the line 108 and the leading foot on the front edge of the line 108. This may ensure that a width between the user's feet is in keeping with the proper swing stance.

FIG. 1 shows that the body 102 may include a further foot placement marking 112 comprising at least one further line 114 drawn substantially parallel to a side edge 116 of the home plate marking 104. The further foot placement marking 112 may comprise three of the further lines 114 which are arranged in a fashion substantially similar to the lines 108. By utilizing the foot placement markings 106 and 112 on opposite sides of the home plate marking 104, the apparatus 102 may be utilized by right-handed and left-handed users.

A proper swing typically involves stepping with the leading foot toward the direction in which the ball intends to be hit, while pivoting the lagging foot as the arms come across the user's body, making contact with the ball and completing a follow through. Thus, the body 102 may further include a third reference marking indicative of where the user should step with the leading foot during the swing. In the exemplary embodiment, the third reference marking includes a step target marking 118 comprising a target 120 aligned with the foot placement marking 106 and the home plate marking 104. For example, the target 120 may be disposed at an intersection of a longitudinal axis LA of the foot placement marking 106 and a transverse axis TA of the home plate marking 104. The target 120 may be approximately as wide as the foot placement marking 106, enabling a user standing on any of the lines 108 to step onto the target 120 during the swing. That is, stepping with the leading foot onto the target 120 ensures proper swing mechanics (e.g., power transfer) during the swing. Those of skill in the art will understand that the target 120 may be any shape (e.g., oval, footprint, etc.) and/or size. Additionally, the target 120 may be a different color (e.g., brighter) than the body 102 to alert the user's attention to the target 120. A further step target marking 122 may be drawn on an opposite side of the home plate marking 104 and aligned with the further foot placement marking 112.

As shown in FIG. 1, the body 102 of the apparatus may further include one or more anchoring arrangements 124 for preventing movement of the body 102 relative to the ground surface. That is, when the user swings, the stepping and pivoting may pull the body 102 away from the ground surface. The anchoring arrangements 124 stabilize the body 102 allowing the user to take multiple swings. In one exemplary embodiment, the anchoring arrangements 124 may include weights coupled to in the body 102. In another exemplary embodiment, the anchoring arrangements 124 may include holes into which stakes are driven, pinning the body 102 between the stakes and the ground surface. Preferably, the anchoring arrangements 124 are disposed around a periphery of the body 102 preventing interference with use of the apparatus 100.

In a further exemplary embodiment, a textured covering (not shown) may be disposed on the foot placement markings 106, 112 and/or the step target markings 118, 122. The textured covering may be, for example, a sandpaper-like material which prevents the user's feet from slipping. That is, the textured covering may have a higher coefficient of friction than the material which forms the body 102.

FIGS. 2a-c show steps in an exemplary process for manufacturing the apparatus 100 according to the present invention. As shown in FIG. 2a, an initial body 200 is fabricated as described above, e.g., from a wear-resistant material, different materials for upper and lower surfaces, etc. The home plate marking 104 is formed on the body 102 either by marking/painting or by cutting out a portion of the body 102 shaped like the conventional home plate.

In FIGS. 2b-c, the foot placement markings 106, 112 and the step target markings 118, 122 are formed on the initial body 200. As described above, the foot placement markings 106, 112 and/or the step target markings 118, 122 may be painted, silk-screened, burned, etched, overlaid (e.g., tape), or otherwise formed on the body 102. In another exemplary embodiment, the foot placement markings 106, 112 and/or the step target markings 118, 122 may be cut-outs.

FIG. 3 shows an exemplary embodiment of a system 300 for swing instruction according to the present invention. The system 300 includes a T-ball device 302 used in conjunction with the apparatus 100. The T-ball device 302 includes a base 304 which may be shaped like a conventional home plate and a stand 306 extending to a predetermined height above the base 304. A ball 308 may be placed atop the stand 306 when the user is attempting a swing. The height of the stand 306 may be adjusted based on a position of the user with regard to the foot placement marking 112. For example, as the user stands further away from the home plate marking 104, the height may be increased (e.g., to compensate for taller users). In a further exemplary embodiment, the stand 302 may be hingedly attached to the base 304, allowing the stand 302 to be folded over onto the body 102. This embodiment may be beneficial for easily storing and/or transporting the system 300.

FIG. 4 shows a further exemplary embodiment of an apparatus 400 according to the present invention. In this embodiment, a body 402 includes a pair of opposed home plate markings 404, 406 facing in opposite directions. A single foot placement marking 408 is positioned adjacent the home plate markings 404, and step target markings 410, 412 are positioned adjacent respective ends of the foot placement marking 406. In this embodiment, the body 402 may further include right- and left-handed identifiers 414, 416. Thus, in use, the user may view the identifiers 414, 416 and position the apparatus 400 by aligning the home plate marking 404 over a home plate in the ground surface. At this point, the user may assume a swing stance on the foot placement marking 406 and attempt a swing by stepping with the leading foot onto an appropriate one of the step target markings 410, 412, i.e., a right-handed user steps onto the step target marking 410.

FIG. 5 shows an exemplary embodiment of an apparatus 500 for swing instruction according to the present invention. In this embodiment, the apparatus 500 teaches an individual proper swing stance and mechanics for swinging a tennis racquet. Thus, those of skill in the art will understand that the exemplary embodiments of the present invention may be adapted for various sports/activities.

When playing tennis, a player typically stands on a center portion of a court facing a net. That is, the player's feet are pointed toward the net and approximately shoulder width apart, allowing the player to move laterally and cover the entire court. To this end, foot placement markings 502 (e.g., a baseline marking) are formed on the apparatus 500 indicating where the player should stand. A central axis 503 (e.g., stance marking) may be formed at a midpoint of the foot placement markings 502 indicating where the player should stand on the foot placement markings 502. The foot placement markings 502 may include one or more lines drawn generally perpendicular to a direction in which the player intends to hit a ball. As described with reference to the other exemplary embodiments of the present invention, the foot placement markings 502 provide an indication as to a proper stance for preparing to strike the ball.

In another exemplary embodiment, the foot placement markings 502 may further include hash marks 504 indicating where the player should place each foot. By standing over the axis 503 and placing each foot on one of the hash marks 504, the apparatus 500 may teach the player the proper swing stance. In other exemplary embodiments, the hash marks 504 and/or the lines forming the foot placement markings 502 may further include height and/or racquet length identifiers indicating which line/hash mark the player should stand on based on the player's height and/or racquet length. Those of skill in the art will understand that the foot placement markings 502 may be of any shape and size and may include any number of lines and/or hash marks.

The apparatus 500 further includes step target markings 506, 508 formed thereon indicating where the player should step when striking the ball. As described above, the step target markings 506, 508 provide instruction regarding proper swing mechanics. The step target markings 506, 508 may be formed in front of (i.e., a direction the ball will be hit) of the foot placement markings 502 and a predetermined lateral distance from the axis 503. In this manner, the step target markings 506, 508 may aid the player is stepping toward the ball during the swing. When the player is right-handed, the step target marking 506 indicates where the player should step with the right foot when hitting a backhand shot, and the step target marking 508 indicates where the player should step with the left foot when hitting a forehand shot. This is reversed for a left-handed player. While the step target markings 506, 508 shown in FIG. 5 are oval-shaped, those of skill in the art will understand that the step target markings 506, 508 may be any shape and/or size. Additionally, there may be any number of step target markings.

Notably, the figures and examples above are not meant to limit the scope of the present invention to a single embodiment, as other embodiments are possible by way of interchange of some or all of the described or illustrated elements. Moreover, where certain elements of the present invention can be partially or fully implemented using known components, only those portions of such known components that are necessary for an understanding of the present invention are described, and detailed descriptions of other portions of such known components are omitted so as not to obscure the invention. In the present specification, an embodiment showing a singular component should not necessarily be limited to other embodiments including a plurality of the same component, and vice-versa, unless explicitly stated otherwise herein. Moreover, applicants do not intend for any term in the specification or claims to be ascribed an uncommon or special meaning unless explicitly set forth as such. Further, the present invention encompasses present and future known equivalents to the known components referred to herein by way of illustration.

The foregoing description of the specific embodiments will so fully reveal the general nature of the invention that others can, by applying knowledge within the skill of the relevant art(s) (including the contents of the documents cited and incorporated by reference herein), readily modify and/or adapt for various applications such specific embodiments, without undue experimentation, without departing from the general concept of the present invention. Such adaptations and modifications are therefore intended to be within the meaning and range of equivalents of the disclosed embodiments, based on the teaching and guidance presented herein. It is to be understood that the phraseology or terminology herein is for the purpose of description and not of limitation, such that the terminology or phraseology of the present specification is to be interpreted by the skilled artisan in light of the teachings and guidance presented herein, in combination with the knowledge of one skilled in the relevant art(s).

While various embodiments of the present invention have been described above, it should be understood that they have been presented by way of example, and not limitation. It would be apparent to one skilled in the relevant art(s) that various changes in form and detail could be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Thus, the present invention should not be limited by any of the above-described exemplary embodiments, but should be defined only in accordance with the following claims and their equivalents.