Title:
Sports target and training aid
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A portable target and backstop apparatus for sports activities incorporating a combination of features for assisting players or athletes in developing desired skills and to increase their proficiency and for assisting coaches or teachers in observing, evaluating and critiquing the player's speed, body mechanics and technique for instructional and corrective purposes is disclosed. The device has a wheeled target panel having a target area and includes a video recording device and a speed detection device. A netted backstop provides protection from, and a collection for, errant balls or pucks advanced toward the device.



Inventors:
Alford, James H. (Birmingham, AL, US)
Application Number:
10/177267
Publication Date:
12/25/2003
Filing Date:
06/24/2002
Assignee:
ALFORD JAMES H.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B63/00; A63B69/00; A63B69/34; A63B69/36; A63B69/38; A63B71/02; A63B71/06; (IPC1-7): A63B69/00
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Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Wm. Randall May (Birmingham, AL, US)
Claims:

The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property right or privilege is claimed are defined as follows:



1. A sports target and training aid apparatus comprising: a target panel having two or more apertures; a frame means for vertical and structural support of said target panel; a video recording means attached to said frame and positioned thereon to be in direct alignment with one of said apertures of said target panel; a speed detection means attached to said frame and positioned thereon to be direct alignment with another of said apertures of said target panel; and, a backstop means spaceably positioned behind said target panel for stopping, deflecting and capturing moving objects being advanced in the direction of said target panel wherein said moving objects either pass through an aperture of said target panel, are deflected away from said target panel or are caused to completely miss said target panel.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said target panel comprises a face panel and a rigid support panel.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein said face panel is removably attached to said rigid support panel.

4. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein said face panel includes the image of a sports figure thereon.

5. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein said face panel is comprised of a sheet of impact resistant material.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said frame means comprises a frame, a pair of wheels operably attached at one end of said frame, a handle, a load bearing support tongue and a lock means for preventing movement of the frame relative to its wheels.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said video recording means comprises a video camera wherein the field of view of said camera is caused to be directed through one of said apertures of said target panel.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said speed detection means comprises a speed detection device utilizing reflected wave technology in order to determine the speed of objects being advanced toward said device and includes an instantaneous readout of the speed of said objects.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein one of said apertures of said target panel is circular and is of sufficient diameter as to allow an accurately directed object, such as a sports ball or hockey puck, to easily pass through said aperture.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said backstop means comprises a vertical hoop member, a base member for supporting said vertical hoop member and netting material with said netting material being attached to, and loosely covering, the opening of said vertical hoop member and being attached to one end of said base member.

Description:

BACKGROUND

[0001] This invention relates generally to practice aids for sports activities and more particularly to a portable target device having a combination of features which will assist an instructor, such as a coach or parent, in evaluating, reviewing and critiquing the skills and techniques of a child, athlete or potential athlete and which will allow the child, athlete or potential athlete to more effectively practice, develop and improve certain desirable skills relative to his or her chosen sport.

[0002] In sports activities involving the use of a ball, puck or other moving object, and particularly in the sports of baseball and softball, the skill and proficiency of the player controlling the speed, movement and direction of the ball or other object is of paramount importance. In order to develop the skills, techniques and body mechanics necessary to be successful in these competitive sports, player evaluation and player practice are essential. Moreover, observation and accurate evaluation of a player's abilities, skill level and body mechanics is crucial for coaches involved in the selection of personnel necessary to form a team.

[0003] Many training aids or practice devices have been developed to assist coaches, parents and players in developing or increasing the athletic skills of players involved in sport activities. Existing practice devices, such as those disclosed in applicant's information disclosure statement submitted herewith, include a shock-resistant mirror suspended from a frame which permits the player to view his or her body movements while projecting a ball toward the mirror; a pyramid-shaped target box having a ball retention area and one or more flaps for receiving and deflecting thrown balls; a suspendable backstop having an aperture and a removable pouch for capturing thrown balls; and a foldable, fabric covered frame having slots or holes therein and/or baskets attached thereto for receiving thrown balls. While these devices would appear to be useful to players as practice aids for increasing proficiency in a chosen sport, their use is limited with regard to feedback, evaluation, instruction and critique of the player's arm or leg speed, body mechanics, skills and techniques.

[0004] The design and construction of the present invention presents a complete training apparatus which incorporates a combination of features that not only allow a player to practice and develop desired skills and to increase proficiency, but also allows coaches, parents, teachers or peers to observe, record, evaluate and critique the player's arm or leg speed, body mechanics and overall technique for instructional and corrective purposes.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] In view of the foregoing, it is a primary object of this invention to provide a portable target and backstop apparatus for sports activities, said apparatus having a combination of features to aid the player/athlete in developing or improving desirable skills and to assist coaches or instructors in evaluating, reviewing and critiquing the abilities, strengths, techniques and/or body mechanics of the player/athlete or the potential player/athlete.

[0006] According to an embodiment of the invention, a portable sports target and training aid apparatus comprises a wheeled target panel and a backstop means; said target panel comprises a target area and includes a video recording means and a speed detection means mounted to said target panel.

[0007] An advantage of the present invention is the provision of a sports target and training aid apparatus which combines the use of a speed detection device and a video recording device to aid in evaluating the skills, techniques and body mechanics of a player/athlete or potential player/athlete.

[0008] Another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a sports target and training aid apparatus whose combined features present a complete training tool for instructional and practice purposes.

[0009] Another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a sports target and training aid apparatus which allows a player/athlete or coach to observe and document the speed, accuracy, body mechanics and technique of the player/athlete.

[0010] Another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a sports target and training aid apparatus which can be used for a variety of sports activities.

[0011] Another advantage of the present invention resides in the ability of the apparatus to detect the speed and accuracy of balls or other moving objects caused to be advanced in the direction of the apparatus and to record the movement of such objects.

[0012] A further advantage of the present invention is the provision of a sports target and training aid apparatus which provides a means to record and review the body mechanics and techniques of a player/athlete for critique and instruction in order to assist the player/athlete in developing or improving desired skills.

[0013] A further advantage of the present invention resides in the portability and versatility of the apparatus.

[0014] A further advantage of the present invention is the provision of a sports target and training aid apparatus which provides instantaneous display of the speed of objects being hurled, kicked or otherwise advanced in the direction of the apparatus.

[0015] A final advantage of the present invention resides in the ability of the apparatus to be used just for fun or as a serious training and evaluation tool.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] The foregoing and other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following more particular description of preferred embodiments as illustrated in the accompanying drawings in which reference characters refer to the same parts throughout the various views. The drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon illustrating the principles of the invention.

[0017] FIG. 1 is a frontal perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the invention shown set up for the sport of baseball or softball.

[0018] FIG. 2 is a side view of the embodiment of FIG. 1.

[0019] FIG. 3 is an enlarged frontal view of the target panel member of the embodiment of FIG. 1.

[0020] FIG. 4 is an enlarged side view of the target panel member of the embodiment of FIG. 1.

[0021] FIG. 5 is a frontal perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 shown set up for the sport of hockey.

[0022] FIG. 6 is a frontal perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 shown set up for target practice.

[0023] FIG. 7 is a frontal perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 shown set up for the sport of tennis.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0024] In accordance with an embodiment of the invention, FIG. 1 shows a sports target and training aid apparatus 10 comprising a target means 100 and a backstop means 200. As best seen in FIGS. 3 and 4, the target means 100 comprises a panel means 110, a transport means 120, a video recording means 130 and a speed detection means 140. The panel means 110 in this embodiment comprises a rigid panel member 111 and a face panel 112 removeably attached to said panel member 111. Said panel means 110 also includes a set of spaced apertures 113, 114 &115 of varying dimensions. The face panel 112 in this embodiment is constructed of a sheet of high impact plastic material such as Lexan®. The panel means 110 also features the image of a sports figure 116, such as a baseball or softball catcher, on the front of said face panel 112. The panel member 111 in this embodiment is constructed of rigid plywood, however, any other rigid and durable material such as metal or plastic would be acceptable. While the face panel 112 in the preferred embodiment disclosed herewith is constructed of Lexan® material, it will be understood that any lightweight material having high impact strength and good weatherability properties may be used with equal success. In an alternate embodiment (not shown) said panel means 110 may be constructed of a shock absorbing material such as foam rubber or urethane foam. Being that the panel means 110 of the embodiment of FIGS. 1 & 3 is directed to the sport of baseball or softball, an area representing a typical strike zone is also shown on the face panel 112 of said panel means 110 as a square box 117 appropriately superimposed on the image of the sports figure 116 where a strike zone would be in an actual game setting. The first aperture 113 of said panel means 110 is a small circular hole situated in the center of the head of the image of said sports figure 116 and provides an opening through which said video recording means 130 may operate. The positioning of the first aperture 113 on said panel means 110 is not critical to the operation and function of the panel means 110 and said first aperture 113 may, therefore, be placed virtually anywhere on said panel means 110 with equal success. The second aperture 114 of said panel means 110 is a rectangular shaped hole situated near the bottom of said panel means 110 and provides an opening through which said speed detection means 140 may operate. As with the first aperature 113, the positioning of the second aperature 114 on said panel means 110 is not critical to the operation and function of the panel means 110 and said second aperature 114 may, therefore, be placed virtually anywhere on said panel means 110 with equal success. However, due to the relative size of the second aperature 114, it would be advantageous to place the second aperature 114 in an out-of-the-way place, such as near the perimeter of said panel means 110, in order to prevent distraction during use. The third aperture 115 is a large circular hole situated in the center of the image of said sports figure 116 and within the square box 117 representing a typical strike zone. In the present embodiment, the third aperture 115 is the target through which a player/athlete would attempt to throw the baseball or softball during training or practice exercises.

[0025] Referring now to FIG. 4, the transport means 120 provides structural support for, and portability of, the of target means 100. Said transport means 120 of the present embodiment is a modified “hand truck” comprising a frame 121, a pair of wheels 122 situated near the bottom, and to either side, of said frame 121, a support or load tongue 123 extending laterally from the bottom of said frame 121, a handle portion 124 situated at the top of said frame 121 and a lock mechanism 125 to prevent movement of the frame 121 relative to its wheels 122. Said lock mechanism 125 prevents or retards movement of the frame 121 during practice or training sessions wherein balls or other objects may be striking the panel means 110 at varying (and hopefully high) speeds. Additional support in the form of legs or braces (not shown) may be attached to said transport means 120 as necessary for added stability during use. The backside of said panel means 110 of said target means 100 is securely attached to the frame 121 of said transport means 120 and rests against said frame 121 with the bottom edge of said panel means 110 being supported by said support tongue 123.

[0026] As best seen in FIGS. 2 and 4, the video recording means 130 of said target means 100 is attached to the frame 121 of said transport means 120 via a mounting platform 131 and is positioned on said frame 121 so that the lens of said video recording means 130 is in direct alignment with the first aperture 113 of said panel means 110. Said video recording means 130 may comprise any state of the art video camera but a lightweight model is preferable for obvious reasons. The speed detection means 140 of said target means 100 is also attached to the frame 121 of said transport means 120 via a mounting platform 141. Said speed detection means 140 may comprise any state of the art speed detection device, such as a “radio detecting and ranging” (radar) gun, having an instantaneous speed display panel 142. The speed detection means 140 is positioned on said frame 121 so that the speed indication display panel 142 of said speed detection means 140 is in direct alignment with the second aperture 114 of said panel means 110.

[0027] As best seen in FIGS. 1 & 2, the backstop means 200 comprises a vertical hoop member 201, netting material 203, and an ovoid-shaped base member 202 having a front portion 202A and a rear portion 202B. Referring now to FIG. 2, said vertical hoop member 201 is attached to said ovoid-shaped base member 202 near the rear portion 202B of said base member 202 in a manner that allows said base member 202 to form a base or ground support for said vertical hoop member 201. Said netting material 203 is attached at one end to the outer edge of said hoop member 201 thereby draping and loosely covering one side of the hoop member 201 as shown. The other end, or bottom, of said netting material 203 is attached along the sides of the ovoid-shaped base member 202 from a point forward of said vertical hoop member 201 to the rear portion 202B of said base member 202. The attachment of said netting material 203 to said hoop member 201 and said base member 202 in this manner allows errant balls striking the netting 203 to be directed downward, stopped and captured.

[0028] During use of the present embodiment, the player/athlete would attempt to throw one or more baseballs or softballs through the third aperture 115 of the target means 100. The speed of the ball would be shown instantaneously on the speed display panel 142 of the speed detection means 140 and the body mechanics of the player/athlete, as well as the ball movement, would be recorded by the video recording means 130 for further review and study by the player/athlete and/or his or her coach.

[0029] As shown in FIGS. 5, 6 &7, alternate embodiments of the panel means 110 of said target means 100 may be used to practice a variety of sports or athletic activities. In FIG. 5, panel member 310 is shown set up for the sport of hockey. In FIG. 6, panel member 410 is shown set up for target practice. And, in FIG. 7, panel member 510 is shown set up for the sport of tennis. In these alternate embodiments, the third aperture 115 of the panel means 110 of the original embodiment 10 of the invention may or may not be used to allow the ball or puck to pass through the respective target panels 310, 410 &510. All other aspects of the invention remain the same with regard to the alternate embodiments.

[0030] While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to the preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various alterations in form, detail and construction may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.





 
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