Title:
RACQUET SPORT APPARATUS & METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Apparatus for playing a game includes a racquet having a handle and an elongated foam member defining a hoop shape and having two ends, each end of the hoop shape terminating in the handle.



Inventors:
Genereux, Dana A. (Rapid City, SD, US)
Dargatz, Michael A. (Keystone, SD, US)
Application Number:
11/674112
Publication Date:
08/16/2007
Filing Date:
02/12/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B49/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
NICONOVICH, ALEXANDER R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LANDO & ANASTASI, LLP (BOSTON, MA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. Apparatus for playing a game, comprising: a handle; an elongated foam member defining a hoop shape and having two ends, each end of the hoop shape terminating in the handle.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, the handle further comprising: a feature for performing a function other than providing a hand grip.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the feature is: a hollow for storing an object within the handle.

4. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the feature is: a ball launcher.

5. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the feature is: a bubble maker.

6. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the feature is: a sound generator.

7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the sound generator includes an impact sensor sensitive to an impact produced by a ball striking the hitting surface.

8. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the feature is a counter.

9. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein the counter includes an impact sensor sensitive to an impact produced by a ball striking the hitting surface.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: a support passing through an elongated longitudinal passage within the elongated foam member.

11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the elongated foam member is buoyant.

12. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: a cover spanning a region enclosed by the elongated foam member.

13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the cover defines a hitting surface.

14. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the cover defines a catching pocket.

15. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the covering is substantially closed.

16. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the covering is an open mesh.

17. The apparatus of claim 12, further comprising a compartment defined in the handle, in which the cover can be stored.

18. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least part of the apparatus changes color on exposure to liquid water.

19. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least part of the apparatus changes color upon a change in temperature.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/772,070, entitled “BALL GAME AND APPARATUS USED THEREIN,” filed on Feb. 10, 2006, which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

1. Field of Invention

The present invention relates to games played with racquets and balls, and to the equipment with which such games are played. The invention more particularly relates to the racquets with which such games are played.

2. Discussion of Related Art

Racquet sports are quite ancient, and numerous racquets of various constructions are known. Some of the better-known examples are now noted.

Well-known games such as tennis, racquetball, squash, badminton, lacrosse and jai-alai are all played with various types of racquets, and indeed with various objects to be hit. Usually, the object to be hit using the racquet is a ball of one sort or another, although badminton is an example of a sport in which the target is not conventionally a ball, but rather is a birdie having a cork or hard rubber body and a cone of feathers projecting to one side. Usually, the racquet includes the basic features of a handle and a head, the handle having a grip and the head having a hitting surface, although lacrosse and jai-alai are sports where the racquet, known in lacrosse as a stick and in jai-alai as a cesta, the head has a basket-shape for catching and throwing the ball.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

Aspects of embodiments of the invention herein are ball games played with various types of racquets.

Other aspects of embodiments of the invention herein are the apparatus (equipment) used in playing the various games.

According to aspects of embodiments of the invention, the apparatus for playing a game may include: a handle; and an elongated foam member defining a hoop shape and having two ends, each end of the hoop shape terminating in the handle. The handle of the apparatus may include a feature for performing a function other than providing a hand grip. For example, the handle may have a hollow for storing an object within the handle. Alternatively, the handle may include a ball launcher, a bubble maker, a sound generator or a counter. In the case of a sound generator, there may be an impact sensor sensitive to an impact produced by a ball striking the hitting surface. In the case of a counter, there may be an impact sensor sensitive to an impact produced by a ball striking the hitting surface.

The apparatus may further include a support passing through an elongated longitudinal passage within the elongated foam member. The elongated foam member may be buoyant. The head of the apparatus defined by the hoop shape may include a cover spanning a region enclosed by the elongated foam member so as to define a hitting surface. The covering may be substantially closed, or may be an open mesh. The hoop shape may alternatively be larger than the ball and a covering defining a catching pocket can be provided.

The apparatus may be constructed of specialized materials. For example, at least part of the apparatus may change color on exposure to liquid water or on exposure to a change in temperature.

The apparatus may include a compartment defined in the handle, in which the cover can be stored, or in which a ball with which the game is played can be stored.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings are not intended to be drawn to scale. In the drawings, each identical or nearly identical component that is illustrated in various figures is represented by a like numeral. For purposes of clarity, not every component may be labeled in every drawing. The variations and options shown in the drawings can be mixed and matched to produce any desired configuration. In the drawings:

FIG. 1 shows a game employing racquets according to an embodiment of the present invention in progress, illustrating both the game and the related equipment;

FIG. 2 shows an alternate view of the game of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 shows another alternate view of the game of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 shows yet another alternate view of the game of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the hand racquet equipment used in the game, illustrating both its structure and its assembly;

FIG. 6 is another view of the racquet of FIG. 5, with the internal support structure superimposed thereon;

FIG. 7 is a detail view showing the assembly of the support structure;

FIG. 8 is an overview of the support structure;

FIG. 9 is a detail view showing the relationship between the support structure and the head;

FIG. 10 is a detail view showing the handle and support structure assembly;

FIG. 11 is another detail view showing the handle and support structure assembly;

FIG. 12 is yet another detail view showing the handle and support structure assembly;

FIG. 13 is yet another detail view showing the handle and support structure assembly;

FIG. 14 is a detail view showing the assembled handle before covering;

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of two racquets with upper handles tape wrapped;

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of two racquets with upper and lower handles tape wrapped;

FIG. 17 is a detail view showing another embodiment of the handle and support structure assembly prior to assembly;

FIG. 18 is a detail view of a racquet handle after fully applying tape wrap;

FIG. 19 shows a variation of the hand racquet equipment used in alternate embodiments of the game including a ball launcher in the handle and a head cover;

FIG. 20 shows a variation of the hand racquet equipment used in alternate embodiments of the game including a storage compartment in the handle and a head cover;

FIG. 21 shows a variation of the hand racquet equipment used in alternate embodiments of the game including glow-in-the-dark components;

FIG. 22 shows a variation of the hand racquet equipment used in alternate embodiments of the game including a head cover with a tethered ball; and

FIG. 23 shows a variation of the hand racquet equipment used in alternate embodiments of the game including a sound generator, optionally including sound recording and reproducing apparatus, or a sensor and alternative materials.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

This invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangement of components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or of being carried out in various ways. Also, the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. The use of “including,” “comprising,” or “having,” “containing”, “involving”, and variations thereof herein, is meant to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalents thereof as well as additional items.

Considering first FIGS. 1-4, it will be seen that the game is one in which two opponents (either two teams or two individuals) hit a lightweight ball back and forth between them and over a net. Points are scored by a team/player when the opponent fails to return the ball over the net after the ball has been hit to the opponent by the scoring team. The teams need not be evenly divided, and any reasonable number of players can participate.

Numerous variations on game play are contemplated. The exemplary matches are being played in a swimming pool, and the game and equipment were first developed by the inventors in a swimming pool environment. However, it is contemplated that the game can be played other than in the water, such as on a playground, in a yard, on grass, on artificial turf, on sand, on a beach, on blacktop or on any other convenient, reasonably level site where a net can be set up or the site can be divided visibly into two or more part-courts defended by two or more teams, and the players have adequate room to maneuver. The playing surface can be hard or soft. Similarly, it can also be played indoors in any room large enough to allow for flight of the ball and movement of the players, such as in a gymnasium. It can also be played in water environments other than in a swimming pool, such as in shallow water at the edge of a beach or lake shore. Although a net is shown in connection with the exemplary embodiment, other embodiments can be played without use of a net. Indeed, other obstacles, such as walls, shrubbery, painted lines, etc. can serve to divide part-courts. Moreover, games can be defined that include such objects as targets, and games can be defined that use no targets or dividers whatsoever. Games can be played on a single half-court, bounded by at least one wall against which shots are directed. Teams can be any convenient size, including one or more players. Games can be defined and played by individuals alone, as a sort of solitaire.

A template, printed on any convenient medium, such as paper or paperboard, or stored as software on a computer-readable medium, can set forth choices of alternative rules, such as court type, ball type, playing surface, part-court dividers or targets, etc. by which one or more players can agree to define their own game. Rules other than the given choices can also be selected, as may be desired by the players.

The equipment as used is seen in FIGS. 1-4. Each player has a racquet 2 whose details will be described below, which he/she uses to strike a lightweight ball 4. In the water version illustrated, the inventors have used a beach ball, but other lightweight balls may be used. The ball for this version of the game should be large enough in diameter such that it cannot pass through the central opening in the racquet 2. In versions of the game in which the hitting surface is more closed, for example covered by netting, strings or a planar panel of any suitable sort, the diameter of the ball may be selected so as to vary the difficulty and speed of play of the game. Other games may be devised employing a ball 4 that can pass through the central opening in the racquet 2, and where that may be desirable on the part of the serving player or the receiving player, as the game may be designed.

The typical flight path of the ball 4 can be observed from FIGS. 1-4. In FIG. 1 a player on the foreground team is in the act of using a racquet 2 to strike the ball 4 to propel it over the net 6 dividing the two teams. In FIGS. 2 and 4 a player on the opposing team is preparing to receive the ball and propel it back over the net. The typical extent in height and length of the ball's path is seen in FIGS. 2 and 3 for height over the net and FIG. 4 for length of travel after passing over the net 6.

The racquet (or paddle, or, when playing the game in water, a “waddle”) is illustrated in a number of aspects in FIGS. 5-18. FIGS. 5, 6 and 16 show complete racquets 2, which are formed of a hitting portion 8 and a handle 14. The handle is substantially rigid. The hitting portion has less rigidity than the handle, but is still stiff enough to be able to hit the ball 4 firmly.

The hitting portion 8 is formed of an elongated plastic foam tube which has an axial central opening 28 running through it. Any suitable foam material may be used. The exemplary material is water-tolerant foam used for such swimming pool products as the popular “noodle” or “water worm” floating pool toys. The foam tube has an elongated configuration similar to such toys. The foam should be sufficiently stiff to resist crushing when striking the ball 4, but still be soft enough so that if one player accidentally hits another player with a racquet when swinging at the ball, the latter player will not be injured.

Inside the axial central opening 28 of the hitting portion 8 is positioned a piece of stiff tubing 10, for example polyethylene tubing, as seen in FIG. 10. The tubing 10 should have a length essentially equal to the length of the hitting portion, i.e., the length of the foam tube less the ends 24 of the tube that are used to form the handle 14 of the racquet. The tubing 10 provides the necessary stiffness to the hitting portion 8 of the exemplary embodiment of the racquet. The tubing 10 is attached to a tubular handle core 12 as seen particularly in FIGS. 7, 11 and 17. The core 12 may be a solid rod or a stiff tube. A hole 20 can be drilled through the core 12 near one end and the tubing 10 is passed through the hole. In the exemplary embodiment, approximately equal lengths of tube 10 extend on each side of hole 20, as seen in FIGS. 6, 8 and 9. The tubing 10 is then secured to core 12 as by tying with thin tubing 18. Other means of securing the tubing 10 to core 12 may also be used, including but not limited to suitable adhesives or tying with other media such as monofilament fishing line. Any other suitable reinforcing and stiffening system can be used instead of the one herein described.

In the exemplary embodiment, the end portions 24 of the tubing 10 have one side cut away along the central opening 28 so that the remaining portion of the central opening appears as a groove 26 on the inside of each end portion 24, as seen in FIG. 10. This will accommodate the handle core 12 when the handle 14 of the racquet is formed. Once the tubing 10 is positioned within the foam material of the hitting portion 8 as seen in FIGS. 10, 11 and 12, cord 30 is used to pull the two end portions 24 together with the handle core 12 between them, as seen in FIGS. 13 and 17. The cord 30 is tied off at one end at 32 as an anchor. Holes 34 are drilled in the handle core 12 and the cord 30 is threaded though those holes 34 and through holes in the foam material of the ends 24. Since the cord material is moderately stiff, no holes need to be cut in the foam; rather the free end of the cord 30 can simple be pushed through the foam and it will create its own hole for passage. In the exemplary embodiment, cord 30 is a single long cord which ends up being wrapped spirally around the handle cord 12 and foam ends 24 to pull them together and form the handle, as seen in FIGS. 14 and 17, but alternatively several individual cords as indicated at 30, 30′ and 30″ in FIGS. 13 and 14 may be used and the handle wrapped circumferentially rather than spirally. Other suitable handle constructions can be used, as well, some of which are described further below.

According to the exemplary embodiment, a leash or lanyard 16 will be attached to the handle core 12, as by passing the leash cord through a hole 22 drilled into the outer end of the handle core 12, as seen in FIGS. 6 and 14, and then joining the two free ends of the leash cord. The leash loops over a player's wrist during a game and prevents the player from dropping the racquet, or accidentally flinging the racquet across the court at the opposing team, if it should slip out of his/her hand during play.

Once the interior of the handle 14 according to the exemplary embodiment is pulled together and tied off, as shown in FIG. 14, it is wrapped with an appropriate tape 36, which is can be a rubber or other elastic adhesive tape, as shown in FIG. 15. The tape 36 also can extend past the ends 24 of the foam and cover the handle core 12 all the way to its outer end, leaving only a small opening for the leash 16 to extend outwardly; all as shown in FIG. 18. Alternatively a second tape 36′ may be used to cover the outward extension of the handle core 12, as shown in FIG. 16.

The visible portions of the racquet 2—i.e., the hitting portion 8 and the tape covering 36/36′ of the handle—can be brightly colored, as indicated in 1-6, 15-16 and 18, both for an attractive appearance and also to make them readily visible during play so that players will be alerted to stay clear of a player who is using his/her racquet to serve or hit a ball. It is contemplated that sets of racquets will be commonly comprised of two different color schemes, so that each of two opposing teams will have a uniform color set for its players which contrasts in color with the racquets of the opposing team.

The overall size of the racquets is readily apparent by comparison of the racquet sizes to the players in the matches illustrated in FIGS. 1-4 and similarly by comparison with the size of the balls in those Figs. Typically the racquets will be about 12-24 inches (30-60 cm) across, although as evident in the Figs., the racquets are more tear-drop shaped than circular, and the hitting portion 8 foam materials will be about 3-6 in (7.5-15 cm) wide. The handles 14 will be long and wide enough to be easily gripped by players, usually about 6-9 in (15-22.5 cm) long by about 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide. Smaller racquets with shorter handles may also be constructed for use by children playing the game.

Several variations are now described, the features of which are interchangeable under suitable circumstances to an extent that will be understood by the reader.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 19, the handles 1901 of the paddles 1900 house spring-actuated ball launchers 1902 that may be used to serve a ball 1903, or at another time that may be desired during a game. This embodiment includes an elastic covering 1904 of any suitable mesh, woven or other material over the head of the racquet, providing a suitable hitting surface for smaller balls 1903 and greater return force.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 20, the handles 2001 of the paddles 2000 also serve as small storage containers 2002, having screw-off or snap-off lids 2003. Lid 2003 can alternatively attach with a bayonet closure. Lid 2003 can also include a lock feature, such as any suitable or known key lock or combination lock, so as to secure valuables stored therein. Such storage containers 2002 can hold small objects such as the player's cabana key, change, or even a deflated ball 2004 with which the game may be played. This embodiment includes a mesh covering 2005 over the head of the racquet, although other coverings including woven or other suitable materials could be used.

Embodiments of the invention as shown in FIGS. 21, 22 and 23 can be made using materials that glow in the dark, change color with exposure to temperature changes, heat or cold, or moisture, or are printed with entertaining or attractive patterns, colors or other features. Of course these features can be combined or interchanged.

As shown in FIG. 22, when a suitable cover 2201 is provided for the racquet head, it can be equipped with a tethered ball 2202, so single player games can also, optionally, be played.

As shown in FIG. 23, the handle 2301 or hitting portion 2302 of the paddle 2300 can incorporate any suitable sound generating devices or sensors (concealed in the handle or hitting portion), which may be mechanical or electrical in nature. A sound generator in the handle might make a playful sound, such as “boing,” each time the ball 2303 is struck with the paddle. The sound generator can be a simple tubular bell, or can be any suitable electronic sound recording and reproducing device, e.g. a known solid state recording and reproducing device in which one or more sound clips are stored and played back on impact. In embodiments with such a solid state recorder, the player can record one or more short phrases, one or more to be played back on each impact, for example at random. An impact sensitive mechanical or electrical sensor in the handle or hitting portion 2302 might count the number of times the ball 2303 is struck between resets. Such a counter might be useful, for example, in connection with single player games incorporating the cover and tethered ball shown in FIG. 22. Alternatively, the sensor could use a light beam or other suitable means to detect the passage of a small ball through the opening in the racquet and count such passages or make a suitable noise.

It has been described previously, herein, how the materials, characteristics thereof and shapes of the racquet and its parts, and the ball, may be varied to achieve different use and playing characteristics. Additionally, the materials, characteristics thereof and shapes of the racquet, and the ball, may be varied to vary the speed and difficulty of games played therewith. For example, to create faster game play, a smaller, harder ball can be used with racquets having stiffer, more solid head coverings, while slower game play can be achieved using a large, light ball such as a beach ball, together with an uncovered or mesh-covered racquet.

The shape of the racquet can be varied to achieve other goals or effects. Varied shapes are achieved by varying the shape of the semi-rigid or rigid support to which the “noodle” material or the like will conform, or by employing multiple elements of supported or unsupported “noodle” material, which in combination form the desired shape. Examples of such shapes include a hand or hand-like shape, or a heart shape. Combinations of shapes with other game elements described above will now also be apparent to the reader. For example, a hand-shaped racquet might be combined with a sound generator that produces a funny “boink” or slapping sound upon each impact. As in the case of other examples given above, the size and shape of any opening formed by the racquet shape selected can be varied to vary the difficulty and speed of game play, or even to vary whether the game is based on hitting a ball or on passing the ball through such an opening in the racquet to score.

The term “ball” is used here in a very broad sense. Although the exemplary embodiments described so far use conventional balls of generally spherical shapes, other target objects can serve as the “ball.” For example, a badminton birdie, as mentioned in the background, or other suitable birdie-like object can be used wherever a “ball” is mentioned. Objects of other, arbitrary shapes can also be used. For example, a “ball” shaped like a rocket ship or airplane can be used, or even a “ball” shaped like a conventional football or other conventional ball of unusual shape.

Having thus described several aspects of at least one embodiment of this invention, it is to be appreciated various alterations, modifications, and improvements will readily occur to those skilled in the art. Such alterations, modifications, and improvements are intended to be part of this disclosure, and are intended to be within the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, the foregoing description and drawings are by way of example only.