Title:
TENNIS BALL BELT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus is described having a wide piece of stretchy fabric or other material worn around a person's waist, hips, arm, or thigh, that is adapted to hold balls snuggly against the person while performing an activity, such as playing tennis. Balls may be placed in the front, side or back of the person. Tension from the belt's elasticity, and friction from the fabric contacting the surface of the ball, for example the nap of the tennis ball, prevents the ball from slipping or rolling down the body. Balls may be accessed easily by reaching under the band of fabric from either the top or bottom of the band and pulling the ball out, or applying pressure to the top of the ball through the band and pushing the ball out. The device may be worn independently or may be integrated as an outer layer to a garment. The number of balls the person may carry is determined by the size person, width and circumference of the band, and comfort during activity.



Inventors:
Rothschild, Kerry A. (Monte Sereno, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/050761
Publication Date:
09/25/2008
Filing Date:
03/18/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
224/251, 206/315.9
International Classes:
A63B47/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LARSON, JUSTIN MATTHEW
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kerry A. Rothschild (15835 Poppy Lane, Monte Sereno, CA, 95030, US)
Claims:
1. A belt for restraining one or more articles against a wearer's body, said belt comprising: an expandable portion, where, when said belt is worn by the wearer, said expandable portion expands to accept one or more articles between the wearer's body and the belt, and where said belt restrains the motion of accepted articles.

2. The belt of claim 1, where the articles are balls.

3. The belt of claim 2, where the balls have an diameter of from approximately 2.5 inches to approximately 3.0 inches.

4. The belt of claim 1, where said belt is sized to restrain from between 1 ball and 6 balls.

5. The belt of claim 1, where the belt has a width of at least 4 inches.

6. The belt of claim 1, where said belt further includes: an interior surface; and an exterior surface, where said interior surface is a different material than said exterior surface.

7. The belt of claim 6, where said interior surface provides enhanced gripping force for gripping the article than does said exterior surface.

8. The belt of claim 6, where the material of said exterior surface is more expandable than the material of said interior surface.

9. The belt of claim 6, where the material of said interior surface includes a first continuous fabric, where the material of said exterior surface includes a second continuous fabric, and where said first continuous fabric and said second continuous fabric have different weaves.

10. The belt of claim 6, where the material of said interior surface includes a fabric having non-fabric features applied thereto.

11. The belt of claim 1, where said belt is attached to another article of clothing.

12. The belt of claim 1, where said belt is sized for wearing about a waist.

13. The belt of claim 1, where said belt is sized for wearing about the hips.

14. The belt of claim 1, where said belt is sized for wearing about an arm.

15. The belt of claim 1, where said belt is sized for wearing about a thigh.

16. The belt of claim 1, where said belt further includes fastening means for securing said belt about a wearer's body.

17. The belt of claim 16, where said fastening means includes a fastener.

18. The belt of claim 16, where said belt includes two ends, and where said fastening means includes sufficient belt length for tying said two ends together.

19. A belt for restraining one or more articles against a wearer's body, where said belt when worn by the wearer, conforms from a first configuration against the wearer's body to a second configuration to restrain one or more balls placed between the wearer's body and the belt.

20. The belt of claim 19, where the balls have an diameter of from approximately 2.5 inches to approximately 3.0 inches.

21. The belt of claim 19, where said belt is sized to restrain from between 1 ball and 6 balls.

22. The belt of claim 19, where the belt has a width of at least 4 inches.

23. The belt of claim 19, where said belt further includes: an interior surface; and an exterior surface, where said interior surface is a different material than said exterior surface.

24. The belt of claim 23, where said interior surface provides enhanced gripping force for gripping the article than does said exterior surface.

25. The belt of claim 23, where the material of said exterior surface is more expandable than the material of said interior surface.

26. The belt of claim 23, where the material of said interior surface includes a first continuous fabric, where the material of said exterior surface includes a second continuous fabric, and where said first continuous fabric and said second continuous fabric have different weaves.

27. The belt of claim 23, where the material of said interior surface includes a fabric having non-fabric features applied thereto.

28. The belt of claim 19, where said belt is attached to another article of clothing.

29. The belt of claim 19, where said belt is sized for wearing about a waist.

30. The belt of claim 19, where said belt is sized for wearing about the hips.

31. The belt of claim 19, where said belt is sized for wearing about an arm.

32. The belt of claim 19, where said belt is sized for wearing about a thigh.

33. The belt of claim 19, where said belt further includes fastening means for securing said belt about a wearer's body.

34. The belt of claim 33, where said fastening means includes a fastener.

35. The belt of claim 33, where said belt includes two ends, and where said fastening means includes sufficient belt length for tying said two ends together.

36. A method for holding balls in a belt worn by a wearer, where said belt includes an expandable portion, said method comprising: placing the belt about the wearer's body; placing a ball between the belt and the wearer's body.

37. The method of claim 36, where further comprising: placing two or more balls between the belt and the wearer's body.

38. The method of claim 37, where further comprising: placing from between two and six balls between the belt and the wearer's body.

39. The method of claim 36, where said ball is a tennis ball.

40. The method of claim 36, further comprising removing the ball from between the belt and the wearer's body.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/896,470, filed Mar. 22, 2007. The entire contents of the above-listed provisional application is hereby incorporated by reference herein and made part of this specification.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to a device and method for assisting players of ball games, and more particularly to a device and method for holding one or more balls.

BACKGROUND

Holding an adequate supply of tennis balls during play or practice is an unaddressed problem in tennis. In match play, a player requires two balls, holding another ball in reserve during service, in case of a service fault. In practice, drills or casual play, a player, especially a new player, benefits from holding up to six or ten balls on their person, rather than picking balls out of a basket, or retrieving them from the tennis court.

Several types of tennis ball holders are known in the art. A first type is the cage-type ball holder. These provide a cage, or pocket, that usually attaches to, or is incorporated into, a belt, and which holds each tennis ball individually. A second type of ball holders is pouch-type. These ball holders are worn around the waist or over the shoulder and provide a pouch that holds a number of balls. A third type, underwear for women's tennis skirts, allows one to put the ball in the lower edge of the panty. Each of these devices is cumbersome to use, is limited in the number of balls that can be held, or fails to hold balls during play.

Thus there is a need in the art for an apparatus that permits a player to have easy access to one or more tennis balls. Such an apparatus should be easy to use and be robust enough to restrain the tennis balls as the player moves about the court.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Certain embodiments include an apparatus for holding tennis balls that overcomes the disadvantages of the prior art by providing a belt that can be worn, for example, and without limitation, about the torso, arm, or leg, and which restrains one or more balls between the belt and the wearer's body. The term “ball holder” is used herein, and without limitation, to describe an apparatus that permits a user to store balls, including but not limited to tennis balls. The ball holder is a belt that may be a continuous band or which may be a material with ends that can be secured to from a belt. In one embodiment, a ball holder includes a belt that includes a flexible, expandable fabric. In another embodiment, the belt is a continuous band. In yet another embodiment, the belt includes a fastener and a band to permit the attachment and removal of the ball holder. In yet another embodiment, the belt is a material having two ends that can be tied about the wearer.

Other certain embodiments provide a ball holder that is easy to wear, can accept several tennis balls at a time that are easily reached and removable by the wearer, and restrain the tennis balls within the apparatus while the wearer moves about the court. In one embodiment, the ball holder is primarily a ball storage device, allowing one-handed access to the ball. In another embodiment, the ball holder is worn as an article of clothing, and includes a dri-fit fabric with moisture wicking capabilities.

Yet other certain embodiments restrain balls using tension and friction from a belt to hold the balls between the wearer's body and a flexible, expandable band made of fabric.

Certain embodiments provide a belt for holding tennis balls formed from a 5.5 inch wide circular band. In one embodiment the band is a stretch fabric that may include one or more of a nylon, a LYCRA®, a spandex, or a polyester material. The fabric is ergonomically designed to fit snuggly about the player, without binding or twisting, and offering easy access to and retrieval of tennis balls. When the ball holder is worn around the lower waist or hips, it provides a flat profile when empty, until balls are inserted, after which the band bulges about the inserted tennis balls. Balls so held not slip down or pop out of the top or bottom of the band due to the weave of the of the fabric, the fabric content, and snugness of the fit. The width of the band holds the balls firmly against the body without flopping or producing distracting momentum.

Certain embodiments of inventive ball holders have one or more of the following advantages over the prior art, including:

Comfort: Cage-type holders are usually made from stiff, hard materials and the balls pop in and out of the cages. The cages poke and scratch during activity. In addition, because the balls are held out from the body they bounce, and may pull on the garment if clipped to a waistband. Pouch-type holders also have bouncing issues, and when not full, the balls may move around during activity. This causes the belt to slide to one side, requiring adjustment. Some also require zippers to open and close the pouch. These can scratch during frequent ball access as well as be stiff and uncomfortable. Certain embodiments described herein reduce or eliminate bouncing, and have primarily fabric contacting the wearer to reduce or eliminate scratching or poking the wearer.

Modularity: All of the belt-type designs, cage, pouch, or the one proposed herein, offer a modular solution that affords the wearer freedom of choice in their tennis attire without regard for tennis ball storage. For women it eliminates the need to purchase tennis panties and skirts, which many women do not like to wear.

Access: Accessing the balls quickly with one hand is critical during play. While the cage-type holders offer this, putting the balls in the cage is not always as easy. Accessing the balls in a pouch type holder may require unzipping or unsnapping a closure (two hands), or fishing around for the ball. Certain embodiments described herein offer quick, one-handed access to any of the balls being held, as well as quick storage.

Storage: The most successful cage-type design stores only one or two balls. The panty type also store at most two balls per leg. Certain embodiments described herein can hold up to 6 balls, and is particularly useful when practicing drills, serves, and rallying in non-match situations.

Durability: The plastic cages are rigid, and frequently break. Certain embodiments described herein include a high performance textile that will last several years, and has no breakable parts.

Attractiveness: Certain embodiments described herein can become part of a tennis, or other sporting, outfit when balls are not being stored. Other certain embodiments described herein would, when not holding balls, appear as a wide waistband that lays flat about the wearer. Yet other certain embodiments include a variety of colors and designs to compliment the wearer's outfits.

These features together with the various ancillary provisions and features which will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description, are attained by certain embodiments of a ball holder, preferred embodiments thereof being shown with reference to the accompanying drawings, by way of example only, wherein:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a ball holder worn around the upper hips;

FIG. 1a is a cross section of FIG. 1 showing one ball between the body of the wearer and the ball holder;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view, having a cut-out, of one embodiment of a belt with a two layer construction, where the top and bottom have been seamed or bonded to keep the layers together;

FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view of the two layer construction of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of an embodiment of a ball holder having one layer construction;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an alternate two layer construction using two different weaves of textile in one circular knit band, before it is folded on top of itself to create the two layers;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the band of FIG. 5 folded create a two layers with one seam;

FIG. 7 shows the cross section of the belt of FIG. 5 and FIG. 6; and

FIGS. 8 and 9 are perspective views of an embodiment of a belt formed from a material having a hook and loop fastener to secure the belt.

Reference symbols are used in the Figures to indicate certain components, aspects or features shown therein, with reference symbols common to more than one Figure indicating like components, aspects or features shown therein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The inventive ball holder is described herein with reference to the following embodiments. Those skilled in the art will recognize that other and further modifications may be made thereto without departing from the spirit of the invention, and it is intended to claim all such changes and modifications as fall within the scope of the invention. For example, different materials or dimensions, types of items held, uses of the apparatus, and appendages against to which the apparatus may hold a ball are merely representative and are not meant to limit the scope of the present invention.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a ball holder worn around the upper hips, as a belt 2 on a wearer 1. It is preferred that belt 2 is sized to be worn about the wearer, and that it can expand to accommodate one or more items. Belt 2 is illustratively shown in FIG. 1 as restraining a plurality of tennis balls 3. In one embodiment, belt 2 can stretch to accommodate more than one ball, such as up to six tennis balls. The balls may have, for example and without limiation, a diameter of from approximately 2.5 inches to approximately 3.0 inches

Belt 2 includes at least some expandable material. In one embodiment, belt 2 is formed from materials commonly found in active-wear garments. In another embodiment, the material includes an “expandable” knit, which includes but is not limited to, a ribbed knit, a mesh knit, or a waffle knit. In one embodiment, the expandable knit is formed of yarns which include, but are not limited to, one or more of a LYCRA®, nylon, spandex, and/or a polyester material.

FIG. 1a is a cross section of the ball holder of FIG. 1, showing one tennis ball 3 between the body of the wearer 1 and belt 2. Belt 2 has an interior surface 2a, an exterior surface 2b, a top edge 2c, and a bottom edge 2d. Tennis ball 3 is held between interior surface 2a and the wearer. The surfaces 2a and 2b may be part of material of belt 2, or alternatively be a surface finish, coating, laminate or some other material or treatment of the belt. In one embodiment, interior surface 2a is woven in a diamond, mesh or basket-type design. When a tennis ball, for example, is accepted within belt 2, interior surface 2a presents a surface that increases the friction on the nap of the tennis ball. Thus, for example, belt 2 expands and forces the nap of an accepted tennis ball into the small pockets created in the weave of interior surface 2a, making it difficult for the accepted ball to roll or slide.

In one embodiment, belt 2 is worn around the upper hips of a person, which may be a man, woman, or child. In one embodiment, top edge 2c and bottom edge 2d contact the wearer, as shown in FIG. 1a. In one embodiment, exterior surface 2b has a weave that will lay flat, discourage pulls in the yarn, and provides additional tension to keep the balls snug to the body. In one embodiment, exterior surface 2b is ribbed or is flat knit.

Belt 2 may be constructed on a circular knitting machine, creating a band with no vertical seams. Seams or other bonding may be used at one or both of top edge 2c or bottom edge 2d, resulting in a two layered band (belt).

FIG. 2 is a perspective view with a cut-out, and FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view, respectively, of one embodiment of a belt 20, which may be generally similar to belt 2, except as further detailed below. Where possible, similar elements are identified with identical reference numerals in the depiction of the embodiments of FIGS. 1, 1a, 2 and 3.

Belt 20 has a first material 9, forming interior surface 2a, and a second material 10, forming an exterior surface 2b, that are joined at a seam 9a along top edge 2c and at a seam 9b along bottom edge 2d. The seams 9a and 9b may be a sewn, bonded or other type of connection of materials 9 and 10. The materials of interior surface 2a and exterior surface 2b, and thus first material 9 and second material 10, respectively, are described above. Thus, for example, in one embodiment, material 9 is woven in a diamond, mesh or basket-type design. In another embodiment, material 10 is ribbed or is flat knit.

FIG. 2 shows dimensions of belt 20, which may also apply to various other embodiments of belt 2. The circumference C of belt 20, has a length of top edge 2c or bottom edge 2d that ranges from approximately 26 inches to approximately 46 inches. The width W of belt 2 (that is, the distance between top edge 2c and bottom edge 2d) is no less than about 3 inches, and is, for example, between approximately 4 inches and approximately 6 inches. In one embodiment, W is approximately 5.5 inches. In another embodiment, the width W is in proportion to the circumference C to create a more flattering visual design.

FIG. 4 is a cross section view of an embodiment of belt 40, may be generally similar to belt 2 or 20, except as further detailed below. Where possible, similar elements are identified with identical reference numerals in the depiction of the embodiments of FIGS. 1, 1a. 2, 3, and 4.

In one embodiment, belt 40 is a one layer construction, where the material is as described with reference to belt 2. In another embodiment, an inside layer 11 and/or an outside layer 12 of belt 40 has the same or different materials applied thereto to change the properties or appearance of the belt. Thus, for example, in one embodiment the material of belt 40 is woven in a diamond, mesh or basket-type design and layer 11 includes a flocking or gummy strips, or dots, to increase the friction of a ball placed between belt 40 and wearer 1.

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view and FIGS. 5 and 6 are perspective views showing the construction of an alternative embodiment of a two layer belt 70. Belt 70 may be generally similar to belt 2, 20, or 40, except as further detailed below. Where possible, similar elements are identified with identical reference numerals in the depiction of the embodiments of FIGS. 1, 1a, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

FIG. 5 illustrates a first step in forming a belt 70 using two different weaves without a seam. This can be accomplished, for example, using a circular knitting machine to knit a band 50. Band 50 has having an upper section 15 with an upper edge 13, and a lower section 16 having a lower edge 14. Upper section 15 is generally similar to material 10, and lower section 16 is generally similar to material 9.

FIG. 6 shows the band 50 of FIG. 5 being folded over, with upper edge 13 folded to meet lower edge 14. As shown in FIG. 7, edges 13 and 14 are joined at seam 19, which can be a sewn, bonded or knit seam, to create two layers, using only one horizontal seam.

In an alternative embodiment, belt 2 includes a closure mechanism or can be tied. Thus, for example, belt 2 is not a loop, but has two ends that can be knotted together. As another example, which is not meant to limit the scope of the present invention, FIGS. 8 and 9 are perspective views of an embodiment of a belt 80 having two ends, each with matching parts of a hook and loop type fastener, such as a VELCRO® fastener, which may be used to secure the belt. Belt 80 may be generally similar to belts 2, 20, 40, or 70, except as further detailed below. Where possible, similar elements are identified with identical reference numerals in the depiction of the embodiments of FIGS. 1, 1a, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Belt 80 includes has an end 84, matching VELCRO® parts, such as hooks 81 and loops 82 near end 84, and a loop 83 to thread and fold VELCRO® loops 82 over loop 83 and onto VELCRO® hooks 81 to fasten the belt for an adjustable fit. While belts 20, 40, and 70 are bands that must be stepped into or slid over the body to be worn, belt 80 is more easily removable and is adjustable.

Reference throughout this specification to “one embodiment” or “an embodiment” means that a particular feature, structure or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, appearances of the phrases “in one embodiment” or “in an embodiment” in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment. Furthermore, the particular features, structures or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner, as would be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art from this disclosure, in one or more embodiments.

Similarly, it should be appreciated that in the above description of exemplary embodiments of the invention, various features of the invention are sometimes grouped together in a single embodiment, figure, or description thereof for the purpose of streamlining the disclosure and aiding in the understanding of one or more of the various inventive aspects. This method of disclosure, however, is not to be interpreted as reflecting an intention that the claimed invention requires more features than are expressly recited in each claim. Rather, as the following claims reflect, inventive aspects lie in less than all features of a single foregoing disclosed embodiment. Thus, the claims following the Detailed Description are hereby expressly incorporated into this Detailed Description, with each claim standing on its own as a separate embodiment of this invention.