Title:
Sports practice net for arresting flying projectile objects
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A sports target for practicing baseball throwing, hockey shots or the like comprises a hoop; a net loosely suspended from the hoop and spanning its interior, and a pair of elastic straps for suspending the hoop from a crossbar or the like. The straps splay outwardly to provide an anti-rotation bias to the structure. An inner hoop and net may be suspended within an outer hoop and net for more advanced target practice.



Inventors:
Macnichol, Kevin (Annapolis Co., CA)
Application Number:
10/075511
Publication Date:
08/15/2002
Filing Date:
02/14/2002
Assignee:
MACNICHOL KEVIN
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
273/407, 273/408, 473/197, 473/462, 473/476
International Classes:
A63B63/00; A63B71/02; (IPC1-7): A63B69/00; A63B63/00; A63B69/36; F41J1/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Spencer Fane LLP (Kansas City, MO, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A sports target, comprising: a hoop; a net-like web loosely suspended from said hoop and spanning the interior thereof; at least two spaced apart elastic suspension means for suspending said hoop from a crossbar or the like; said hoop being characterized by an elongate generally circular hoop member, the respective ends of which overlap to form a region of overlap within which said hoop member crosses against itself at least twice to form an interlocking hoop structure.

2. A target device as defined in claim 1, wherein said hoop is formed from wood.

3. A target device as defined in claim 1, wherein said hoop member crosses itself at least three times within said region of overlap.

4. A target device as defined in claim 1, wherein said net is sufficiently loosely suspended from said hoop to form a pouch-like portion of said web which dangles below said hoop when said hoop is suspended vertically.

5. A sports target, comprising a frame formed from a pair of spaced apart vertical members, spanned by a generally horizontal crossbar; a hoop suspended from said crossbar by means of a pair of elastic suspension members; a net-like web fastened to said hoop and spanning the interior thereof, said web being of a suitable size to form a basket-like interior region for retaining therein a projectile thrown against said target; said hoop being characterized by an elongate hoop member curved into a generally circular configuration, the respective ends of said hoop member overlapping to form a region of overlap, within which region said hoop member crosses itself at least two times, to form an interlocking structure.

6. A target device as defined in claim 5, wherein said hoop is formed from wood.

7. A target device as defined in claim 5, wherein said hoop member crosses itself at least three times within said region of overlap.

8. A target device as defined in claim 5, wherein said net is sufficiently loosely suspended from said hoop to form a pouch-like portion of said web which dangles below said hoop when said hoop is suspended vertically.

9. A sports target, comprising a hoop; a net-like web loosely suspended from said hoop and spanning the interior thereof for catching and stopping a projectile; at least two spaced apart elastic members joined to said hoop for suspending said hoop from spaced apart supporting members, said suspension means being radially displaced from each other by an angle of greater than 90 degrees and less than 180 degrees from each other.

10. A sports target as defined in claim 9, wherein said radial displacement is between 90 degrees and 180 degrees.

11. A sports target as defined in claim 10 wherein said radial displacement is between 120 degrees and 180 degrees.

12. A sports target as defined in claim 9, further comprising an instruction set for directing a user to anchor said target to a pair of spaced apart supporting members, by fastening each of said elastic straps to a corresponding supporting member such that said elastic straps are under tension, and splay outwardly by an angle between 120 degrees and 180 degrees.

13. A sports target as defined in claim 12, further including instructions for anchoring said elastic straps to supporting members selected from a hockey goal, spaced apart trees, spaced apart upstanding poles, or an anchor fastened to a house or other permanent structure or a combination of any of said supporting members.

14. A sports target as defined in claim 9, wherein said hoop comprises a flexible tubular member, the free ends of which are fitted together in a tube-in-tube arrangement for sliding together for reducing the diameter of said hoop.

15. A method for providing a sports target, comprising: providing a hoop having a net-like web loosely suspended therefrom, spanning the interior of said hoop for stopping a projectile, and at least two spaced apart elastic members joined to said hoop and radially displaced from each other by an angle of greater than 30 degrees and less than 180 degrees; attaching said at least two suspension means to a structure comprising spaced apart upstanding members such that said elastic members are under lateral tension and said target is elevated above ground level, and said elastic members splay outwardly by between 120 degrees and 180 degrees.

16. A method as defined in claim 15, wherein said elastic members are placed under sufficient tension to maintain a radial displacement thereof of between 160 and 180 degrees.

17. A sports target, comprising: an outer hoop; a net-like web loosely suspended from said hoop and spanning the interior thereof for stopping a projectile; at least two spaced apart elastic members joined to said hoop for suspending said hoop from a pair of spaced apart upstanding supports; an inner hoop having a smaller diameter than said first hoop, joined to said first hoop in a substantially co-axial position, said second hoop having a net-like web loosely suspended therefrom and spanning its interior for stopping a projectile.

18. A sports target as defined in claim 17, wherein said inner hoop has a diameter which is between ¾ and ½ of the diameter of the first hoop.

19. A sports target as defined in claim 17, wherein said inner hoop has a diameter of between ⅜ and ½ of the diameter of the first hoop.

20. A sports target as defined in claim 17 wherein said inner hoop is approximately ⅓ the diameter of said first hoop.

21. A sports target as defined in claim 17, wherein said at least two elastic members are displaced from each other by an angular displacement of between 30 degrees and less than 180 degrees.

22. A sports target as defined in claim 17, wherein said inner hoop is suspended from said outer hoop by at least 2 cord members, and said inner hoop is in a substantially co-cleaner relationship with outer hoop.

23. A sports target as defined in claim 17, wherein said inner hoop is joined to said outer hoop by at least one rigid member.

24. A sports target as defined in claim 23, wherein said inner hoop is displaced outwardly from said outer hoop.

25. A sports target as defined in claim 23, wherein said inner hoop is displaced inwardly from said outer hoop.

26. A sports target as defined in claim 17 wherein said outer hoop comprises a flexible hollow tubular member the free ends of which are fitted together in a tube-in-tube arrangement for sliding together to reduce the diameter of said outer hoop.

Description:

RELATED U.S. APPLICATION DATA

[0001] This is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 09/609,894 filed on Jul. 3, 2000.

FIELD OF INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to sports and athletics of the type involving a projectile object such as a hurled baseball, hockey puck, soccer ball, golf ball, football or the like. In particular, the invention relates to an apparatus for practising of such sporting activities, wherein it is desirable to provide a basket or net which catches a projectile to facilitate retrieval by the user. In particular, the preferred field of the invention is for practice in throwing baseballs, softballs and projecting hockey pucks.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Participants in sporting activities such as baseball, hockey, golf, tennis and other like sports which involves a skilled aim of a projectile such as a baseball, hockey puck, tennis ball, etc., typically devote considerable time to practice of their sport. Since the precision aiming of the projectile is a desired goal of practice, participants devote time to striking or hurling a projectile against a net, backstop or the like. For example, baseball enthusiasts may throw a ball against a suspended netting arrangement which serves as a backstop to retain the thrown ball. Similar arrangements are known for use with soccer balls, hockey pucks, golf balls, and others. By way of example, the following United States patents relate to various netting or basket like arrangements which serve this function, and which are suspended or supported by various means:

[0004] For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,803,841 to Daskoski relates to a square frame, which may be suspended from a crossbar, with a mesh liner. The article is used for receiving baseballs, for pitching practice.

[0005] U.S. Pat. No. 5,484,144 to St. Onge discloses a circular hoop and mesh liner, for forming a transportable basketball net.

[0006] U.S. Pat. No. 5,395,122 to Kraemer relates to a game target, which includes a hoop with a net interior. The hoop is supported by a spike, which may be driven into the ground. The article is intended to receive a golf ball driven by a player.

[0007] Preferably, several functional requirements are met by a sporting backstop of this general type. First, an appropriate size must be selected. A net which is overly large will not require sufficient skill and accuracy on the part of the user to place the projectile within the net, and will not thus serve the practice function required of the arrangement. However, despite its size, the net must be capable of being firmly and fixedly mounted and supported. This is particularly important for use in sports such as hockey and baseball, in which a ball or puck may travel at a considerable velocity and can strike the backstop with relatively great force. The backstop must be capable of absorbing the impact without tipping over or requiring adjustment by the user. A further preferred characteristic is that such backstops be capable of double sided operation. That is, a ball or puck may be projected at the device from either side, and the device will work equally well from either side. The apparatus must be particularly strong and durable, both in light of the impacts experienced by the device when serving as a backstop for hockey or baseball and as well by virtue of the general abuse often suffered by sporting equipment. As well, the backstop must be capable of rapidly returning to its starting position after receiving a projectile, to receive subsequent projectiles. Finally, it is desirable to provide a backstop which presents a relatively small target for advanced practice, but which will still trap objects which miss the small target.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] In light of the above objectives, it is desirable to provide a sporting backstop that may be fabricated relatively simply and inexpensively, and presents a target in the order of at least 4 inches and more preferably 12 inches to 36 inches in diameter. In order for the target to be suitably supported, it is preferably suspended from a pair of upstanding spaced apart members such as trees, poles or a fixed or temporary structure, or suspended from a crossbar, clothes line, tree limb or the like support, which in turn is suitably supported for the intended activity.

[0009] In accordance with the objects recited above, the invention comprises in one aspect a sports target for practising baseball, hockey, golf, football and other sport activities which require throwing or otherwise propelling a projectile. In one aspect, the target comprises:

[0010] a hoop having a netting web loosely slung across the hoop opening;

[0011] a pair of elastic webs, cords or straps (herein referred to generally as “straps”) fastened to the hoop, for suspending the hoop from a fixed structure; the elastic straps being radially displaced from each other on the hoop by between 30 degrees and 180 degrees, and preferably within the range of 90 degrees and 180 degrees for fastening under tension to a pair of spaced apart upstanding members. Still more preferably, the straps are displaced by between 120 degrees and 180 degrees from each other.

[0012] In another aspect, the invention comprises a combination of a hoop and elastic straps as described above, with a rigid framework including two spaced apart upright members, with the straps being anchored under tension to the upright members such that the hoop is centered between members and the straps are laterally tensioned relative to each other to splay outwardly from each other by between 120 degrees and 180 degrees. A more preferred displacement is between 160 and 180 degrees. This arrangement permits rapid recovery of the hoop to its starting position after it is struck by a projectile at an off-center position. The elastic webbing absorbs the impact of the blow, while the laterally-opposed tensioning of the straps rapidly returns the hoop to its starting position. The term “laterally tensioned” means that the elastic straps are under a greater amount of tension than is applied solely by the force of gravity acting on the hoop and straps.

[0013] In another aspect, the invention comprises a hoop and elastic straps as described above, along with a kit of instructions for instructing the user to fasten the elastic straps to a fixed structure including two spaced apart upright members such as (by way of non-limiting examples) a metal framework, poles, a house or other such structure and/or one or more trees, and fastening said straps thereto such that the two straps splay outwardly from each other by upwardly-opening angle of between 120 degrees and 180 degrees, and preferably between about 160 degrees and 180 degrees. The instructions further are for indicating to the user that the straps are to be fastened such that they are under laterally-opposed tension.

[0014] It will be understood that the amount of outward splaying of the straps when the hoop is fastened to the upright members, will depend on the amount of tension placed on the straps. At a high amount of tension, the displacement will approach 180 degrees. It will be further understood that the displacement cannot reach exactly 180 degrees due to gravity drawing the hoop down.

[0015] In a further aspect, the invention comprises a method for practising baseball, hockey, golf, football or other sport activity which requires throwing or otherwise propelling a projectile. The method comprises the steps of:

[0016] providing a hoop with a loose netting and elastic straps as defined above;

[0017] anchoring the straps under tension such that they splay outwardly from each other by between 120 degrees and 180 degrees, and preferably between about 160 degrees and 180 degrees, opening upwardly, with the hoop in a generally vertical orientation, with the elastic straps being anchored to a fixed structure having a pair of spaced apart upstanding members, such as a framework, trees, poles, etc. such that the straps are under laterally opposed tension with respect to each other and the hoop is suspended between the upstanding members; and

[0018] propelling a projectile against the target.

[0019] In a still further aspect, the invention comprises a hoop and net, with elastic straps fastened thereto as described above; and a second hoop having a smaller diameter than the first hoop, mounted to the first hoop such that the second hoop is generally co-axial with the first hoop. The second hoop has a second net-like web loosely suspended therefrom and spanning its interior for stopping a projectile. Preferably, the second hoop is suspended from the outer hoop by one or more straps or cords joining the second, inner hoop with the first, outer hoop.

[0020] Preferably, the inner hoop has a diameter which is between ¾ and ¼ of the diameter of the first hoop and still more preferably the inner hoop has a diameter of between ⅜ and ½ of the diameter of the first hoop, with a preferred ratio wherein the inner hoop is about ⅓ the diameter of the first hoop. With this arrangement, the inner hoop provides a relatively small target for more advanced target practice, while the outer hoop and associated net catches projectiles which miss the inner hoop. By way of a non-limiting example, the inner hoop may have a diameter of 8 inches, while the outer hoop may have a diameter of 24 inches.

[0021] An alternative arrangement for suspending the inner hoop within the outer hoop is by means of one or more rigid members such spokes or wires, which can be shaped such that the inner hoop protrudes away from the plane of the outer hoop, either projecting forwardly or rearwardly of the plane of the outer hoop, or alternatively with the inner and outer hoop being essentially coplanar.

[0022] In other aspects, the invention describes a combination of a sports target comprising inner and outer hoops, as described above, together with a framework comprising two spaced apart upright members for suspending the target. The invention also comprises the combination dual hoop sports target as described above, in combination with instructions for fastening the target via the elastic straps to a framework or upstanding members, as described above in connection with the single hoop target; and a method for practising sports using the dual hoop target, as described above in connection with a single hoop target.

[0023] Having thus generally characterized the invention, the invention will now be described by way of a detailed description of the preferred embodiments, by reference to the accompanying drawings.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

[0024] FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of a first embodiment of the apparatus, including the target, suspension members and frame;

[0025] FIG. 2 is a side elevational view of the target portion of the apparatus, showing the frame and netting portions;

[0026] FIG. 3 is a front elevational view of a portion of the hoop, showing the region of overlap between the ends of the hoop member;

[0027] FIG. 4 is a front elevational view of a second embodiment of the invention, having a flexible circular hoop formed from a tubular material;

[0028] FIG. 5 is a front end elevational view of a third embodiment of the invention; and

[0029] FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of the third embodiment.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0030] Referring to FIGS. 1-3, a first embodiment of the invention comprises in general terms a sports target 10, suspended from a frame 12. The target 10 is formed from a wooden hoop 14, which supports a loose netting 16, which spans the interior of the hoop. The netting 16 has sufficient slack to form a basket-like structure with the hoop 14, which when the hoop is suspended in the vertical orientation shown in the figures, permits a portion of the netting to dangle slightly below the hoop to form a pouch-like region. As will be seen, the netting has sufficient slack to retain within the dangling pouch region a baseball, hockey puck or the like which is propelled at the target.

[0031] The target 10 is suspended from the frame 12, by means of a pair of spaced apart, elastic suspension means 20, which preferably are formed from two lengths of elastic webbing or straps which are each tied at their upper ends to the frame 12, and at their lower ends to the hoop 14. The suspension means incorporate sufficient elasticity to permit the target to absorb a portion of the impact from a projectile, thereby preventing damage to the target.

[0032] Conveniently, the netting may be formed by any suitable netting such as nylon, twine, string or the like, having a modulus of about ½ inch, which is suitable for trapping most flying sports projectiles.

[0033] Turning to the frame 12, this is conveniently formed from a pair of spaced apart vertical supports 24, spanned by a crossbar 26, from which is suspended the suspension means 20. The supports are in turn supported on the ground by weighted feet 28. Alternatively, the feet 28 may be formed from an elongate horizontal member which rests on the ground and supports the frame in a generally vertical position. The frame is sufficiently open to permit a ball or other projectile to be thrown at the target from either side of the target with equal convenience, although in the figures shown herein, the target is shown only from a first side, it will be understood that the arrangement is essentially identical when seen from the opposing side.

[0034] It will be seen that the target according to the present invention may also be fastened essentially to any pair of spaced apart convenient upstanding members, for example, a pair of trees spaced apart, for example 3 to 8 feet. One of the straps may be fastened to an anchor mounted to a house or other fixed structure. Alternatively, the straps may be tied or otherwise fastened to a conventional portable hockey net.

[0035] Turning specifically to the hoop portion of the target, this is preferably formed from a hard wood such as ash, oak or the like. The hoop may be formed from an elongate member, which is bent by conventional means into a hoop form. The respective ends 30 of the wooden member overlap each other to form a region of overlap 32. Within this region, the ends of the wooden member cross at least twice, to form an interlocking arrangement which is particularly strong and rigid. A cord or the like may fasten the respective ends 30, against the hoop to prevent unravelling of the interlocking arrangement. Suitable hard wood is selected and the resulting hoop is particularly strong and rigid, and will suffer considerable use and abuse.

[0036] Preferably, the hoop has a diameter between 4 and 40 inches, and most preferably between 12 inches and 36 inches, which is particularly suitable for a number of sporting activities such as hockey and baseball.

[0037] Turning to FIG. 4, a further embodiment is illustrated wherein the hoop 50 comprises a length of plastic pipe, curved to form a circular hoop. The free ends of the pipe may be joined together by means of a fitting 52, or any other convenient means including gluing or heat-welding the ends together. Alternatively, the ends of the tube may fit together in a tube-in-tube telescoping arrangement that slides together for more compact packaging or storage, and releases to spring into a full-sized hoop. The tubular material is selected to provide a degree of resiliency such that when the net is struck by a fast moving projectile such as a baseball or hockey puck, the hoop provides a degree of “give” and is not shattered or damaged by direct or indirect contact with the projectile. The hoop is covered by a fabric sleeve 54, to which is attached a loose netting or mesh 16. The attachment webs or straps 20 are composed of an elastomeric material which is preferably attached directly to the hoop and extends through openings within the sleeve 54. Alternatively, the straps 20 may be fastened to the sleeve 54. Thus, when the net is suspended from a support, such as a pair of tree trunks or a dedicated frame-like structure, the net is able to move about and spin upon impact with a fast moving projectile, but will return to its original position very shortly after the impact. The resiliency of the straps, as well as that of the netting, permits the net to securely catch a projectile without rebounding it.

[0038] A further embodiment 60 is illustrated at FIGS. 5 and 6. This version comprises an outer net 62 having generally the same construction as the second embodiment of FIG. 4. Suspended within the outer net is an inner net 64. The inner net 64 is supported by a circular hoop 66 which preferably comprises a curved plastic pipe as described above. The inner hoop 66 is suspended by at least two spaced apart straps 68 from an outer hoop 70, such that the inner and outer hoops are generally coplanar and concentric. The outer hoop also includes a loose mesh or netting 72 for receiving and blocking a projectile such as a baseball, hockey puck, etc. which misses the inner net 64. Preferably the straps 68 are elastic and are under tension. However, this is not required and the straps may be non-elastic.

[0039] Preferably, the inner hoop 66 is substantially smaller in diameter than the outer hoop. For example, the inner hoop may have a diameter of between ¾ and ¼ the diameter of the outer hoop 70, and preferably between ⅜ and ½ the diameter of the outer hoop. In the most preferred example, the inner hoop is approximately ⅓ the diameter of the outer hoop.

[0040] In the embodiments described above, the mesh net 16, 64 or 72 or the above versions may have any mesh size which is suitable for the desired use. Thus, if it is intended that the target before a smaller projectile such as a golf ball, a finer mesh of about ½ inch to ¼ inch would be suitable. If the intended target is larger such as a baseball, a coarser mesh may be utilized, the advantage of a coarser mesh being primarily cost reduction. In general, for use with a number of sports, it is desirable to provide a relatively fine mesh in the order of ¼ inch spacing, as this is suitable for most conceivable sports uses of the device.

[0041] A further aspect of the invention concerns the mounting position of the elastic cords or webs on the main hoop structure. In order to provide a rapid return in the event the target is twisted after receiving a projectile, two factors are desirable for anchoring of the straps to the upstanding members. First, the fastening straps when anchored, should splay outwardly from each other by an angle greater than 90 degrees, and preferably between 120 degrees and an angle approaching 180 degrees. It will be seen that the greater the tension of the straps, the more they will splay outwardly. In order to provide sufficient anti-rotation bias to the hoop, the straps should be mounted to the hoop such that they are radially displaced by between 30 degrees and 180 degrees, with a preferred range between 90 degrees and 180 degrees and a still more preferred range being 120 degrees to 170 degrees. Second, when the target is suspended from a cross bar or the like, it should be fastened such that the cords are under reasonable tension. It will be seen if the cords anchored such that they splay outwardly at an angle of greater than 90 degrees from each other and preferably approaching 180 degrees; it is possible to apply a significant opposing tension to the respective cords, thereby providing anti-rotation means to the suspended target.

[0042] A second aspect concerning the attachment straps relates to the position at which they are mounted to the hoop. It will be seen that the further apart they are mounted to the hoop, the greater the anti-rotation bias they may apply to the structure. Thus, it is desirable that the straps be attached such that generally oppose each other, i.e., they are displaced radially on the hoop by an amount approaching 180 degrees. However, it is suitable that they are mounted to the hoop such that they are displaced radially by between 30 degrees and 180 degrees, although preferred amounts are between 90 degrees and 180 degrees, and between 120 degrees and 180 degrees.

[0043] Most preferably, the radial displacement of the cords or straps on the hoop is about 160 degrees. In all cases, it will be seen that the straps angle upwardly when anchored, i.e. they are arranged in an upwardly-opening “V”. The laterally opposed tension acting on the straps means that the straps are under a greater amount of tension than is applied solely by gravity acting on the hoop structure and straps. The amount of tension that is desirably applied to the straps depends in part on the intended use of the target, i.e. the expected force to be applied by the projectile (this force being a combination of the weight and expected speed of the projectile), and the size and weight of the hoop structure and associated mesh. Typically, for use as a hockey target, the straps would comprise 1 inch wide elastic straps, with the laterally opposed tension being in the order of 5 to 15 pounds.

[0044] In order to mount the hoop structure in a suitable manner, the hoop structure, with the associated mesh, is provided to a user, with the elastic straps being pre-attached to the hoops such that they are radially displaced from each other on the hoop by an angle selected from the ranges described above. The free ends of the elastic straps may be provided with hooks for anchoring to e.g. a hockey goal, or alternatively the ends are simply free for tying with a knot. The two free ends of the respective straps are then tied or otherwise fastened to opposed upstanding, spaced apart supports, such that the straps are under tension as described above. The user then may use the target for target practice.

[0045] In a further aspect, an instruction guide is provided, together with the hoop structure and elastic straps are described above. The instructions guide provides instructions to the user to carry out the method described above.

[0046] It will be seen that although this invention is described in its preferred embodiment with two elastic straps, additional elastic straps may be provided to further secure the hoop structure. It has been found that two elastic straps provides sufficient support, although depending the use it may be desirable to provide additional elastic straps. However, it will be noted that at least two straps are required to provide an anti-rotation bias to the sports target.

[0047] The inner hoop 66, of the third embodiment of FIGS. 5 and 6, is less susceptible to twisting forces when it is struck by a target, as this hoop is substantially smaller. Thus, it is not as important to provide a similar arrangement of suspension webs or cords joining the inner hoop to the outer hoop.

[0048] The inner hoop is preferably provided with anti-rotation means to prevent twisting within the outer target. This may be provided by including at least two straps or cords joining the inner target to the outer target. Alternatively, the inner target may be connected by a single rigid member such as a rod to the outer target, although this is a less preferred solution. The inner hoop may alternatively be joined to the outer hoop by two or more rigid members such as wires or rods to substantially prevent rotational movement of the inner hoop within the outer hoop. Use of rigid connectors also permits the inner hoop to project forwardly or rearwardly from the plane of the outer hoop, which may provide advantages for particular uses.

[0049] It will be seen that the present invention has been described by way of several preferred examples. However, it will apparent to one skilled in the art that the full scope of the invention may depart from the specific examples described above, and is to be more fully described in the complete patent specification set forth herein including the claims.