US 20030211906 A1
An athletic training device increases the effective height of a defensive player by the use of a blocking device that includes a blocking surface attached to a vertical support which is carried by the defensive player. The vertical support holds the blocking surface elevated above the head of the defensive player. The blocking surface is provided by a substantially planar sheet shaped and/or decorated to be the simulated upper portion of a defensive player with arms extended. The vertical support is held upright by a torso encircling harness carried by the defensive player. The vertical support includes two telescopically coupled tubes having a locking nut for fixing the degree of telescopic engagement of the two tubes to adjust the height of the blocking surface with respect to the defensive player.
1. An athletic training device, comprising:
a harness carried on the torso of a player; and
a blocking device supported by said harness and extending vertically above the player's head.
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10. A method of training a ball player comprising the steps of:
providing a defensive ball player with a blocking device which extends above the defensive player's head and which is carried by the defensive player;
arranging for the defensive player to defense an offensive ball player wherein the offensive ball player must project a ball above the defensive player, the defensive player adjusting horizontal position to stop the offensive player from successfully projecting the ball.
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14. A basketball training device, for use on a basketball court wherein at least one offensive player attempts to shoot a basketball into a basketball goal while being defended by a defensive player, comprising:
a harness carried on the torso of the defensive player; and
a blocking device supported by said harness and extending vertically above the players head, said blocking device shaped and adapted to inhibit the offensive player's view of the basketball goal when positioned in front of the offensive player by the defensive player.
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 The invention relates to training devices for athletic competition where an obstacle is provided simulating a defensive player that inhibits throwing or shooting of a ball. Particularly the invention relates to a simulated defensive player whose presence inhibits shooting of a basketball toward a basketball goal.
 There is a need in the training of basketball players to provide a system wherein a basketball player can practice shooting and passing while being defended by a player of substantially equal or taller stature. Typically the center position or post position on a competitive basketball team at or above the junior high school level is filled by a relatively tall player. As players get older and taller, there is less chance that the tallest player on a team has the opportunity to be matched with an equally tall player or coach to effectively practice under simulated game conditions. The tall player therefore cannot effectively practice offensive maneuvers against a tall defensive player. This can be a particular problem in the high school through professional levels wherein the post position player can be 6 foot 8 inches or taller and can have a reach considerably greater than the next tallest player or coach.
 Basketball training devices are known which provide a simulated defensive player. U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,675,921; 3,552,749 and 5,527,185 disclose simulated defensive basketball player obstacles which can be set up at a stationary position on the basketball court. U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,485,993 and 5,890,985 also describe stationary defensive player simulators which provide a visual and structural interference with shooting by an offensive player. U.S. Pat. No. 5,160,138 describes a defensive player simulation training device mounted on a carriage which can follow the lateral movements of the player and can effectively block the player's attempts to shoot or pass the basketball.
 The present inventors have recognized the need to provide a defensive player simulation device which can be extended to an elevation sufficient to simulate a tall defensive player, and which can be mobile to closely follow the offense player, and which is unobstructive to the free movement of other players on the basketball court. The present inventors have recognized the need to provide such a device which allows the offense player to be closely guarded while at the same time providing an elevated shot blocking and/or vision obstacle. The present inventors have recognized the need to provide a defensive player simulation device which can provide an obstacle to shooting or passing a basketball by a tall offensive player while simultaneously being guarded by a shorter defensive player. The present inventors have recognized the need to provide an apparatus whereby a short coach can effectively demonstrate offensive and defensive techniques to tall players.
 The invention provides an athletic training device wherein the height of a defensive player can be effectively increased by the use of a blocking device that includes a blocking surface attached to a vertical support which is carried on the torso of a defensive player. The blocking surface is held elevated above the head of the defensive player by the support.
 Advantageously, the blocking surface is provided by a substantially planar sheet shaped and/or decorated to be the simulated upper portion of a defensive player with arms extended. The vertical support is held upright by a torso-encircling harness carried on the defensive player. The harnesses can be in the form of a vest having torso-cinching belts which are adjustably attached to each other by means of VELCRO material or the like. The vest also includes a sheath on a back panel thereof which closely conforms to a bottom portion of the vertical support. The vertical support can be inserted into the sheath and held upright by the vest tightly conforming to the defensive player's torso. The vertical support includes two telescopically coupled tubes having a locking nut for fixing the degree of telescopic engagement of the two tubes to adjust the height of the blocking surface with respect to the defensive player.
 The invention provides a relatively lightweight device for carrying on a defensive player during practices and scrimmages to simulate a taller defensive player for the purpose of training offensive players. The blocking device permits a short player or a short coach to effectively guard or defense a taller offensive player. Unlike the prior known stationary simulated defensive player devices or devices which are moved by movement of the offensive player, the invention allows an active defensive player to assume the role of a taller defensive player during practices and scrimmages. The blocking device of the invention occupies only the personal space of a single player and does not create tripping or collision hazards with other players. More than one player can be outfitted with a blocking device of the invention so that two or more tall defensive players can be simulated during practice.
 The height of the blocking surface can be adjusted to accurately simulate the exact height of a particular defensive player. Alternately, the height can be adjusted to be taller than typical defensive players in order to teach an offensive player to shoot a basketball with more arc, or to simulate a defensive player with great vertical jumping ability.
 Although the device of the invention as described is applied to the sport of basketball, a similar device could also be used in other sports, where a simulated tall defensive player is needed during practice. Thus, such a device could be used in the sport of American football, fitted to pass rushers who must inhibit the quarterback from throwing the football downfield.
 Numerous other advantages and features of the present invention will become readily apparent from the following detailed description of the invention and the embodiments thereof, from the claims and from the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a defensive player outfitted with a blocking assembly according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 is an enlarged, fragmentary elevational view of a basketball player outfitted with the blocking assembly of the present invention;
FIG. 3 is a fragmentary elevational view of the blocking assembly of the present invention;
FIG. 4 is a fragmentary rear view of the blocking assembly of the present invention;
FIG. 5 is a fragmentary elevational view of an inside of the back panel of a vest of the blocking assembly of the present invention;
FIG. 6 is a fragmentary rear view of the blocking assembly of the present invention; and
FIG. 7 is a side view of the blocking assembly with the vest of the blocking assembly removed for clarity of description.
 While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there are shown in the drawings, and will be described herein in detail, specific embodiments thereof with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the invention to the specific embodiments illustrated.
FIG. 1 illustrates a basketball defensive player outfitted with a blocking assembly 12 of the present invention. The blocking assembly 12 includes a blocking surface 14 fixed to a vertical support 16 which is carried by a harness in the form of a vest 18. According to the preferred embodiment, the blocking surface 14 is formed on a planar plastic sheet 20 cut in the shape of a player's upper torso 21, extending arms 22, 24 and head 26. The sheet 20 is attached to the support 16.
FIG. 1 shows an offensive player 30 shooting a basketball 32 toward a basketball goal 34 wherein the ball 32 must be projected or lofted over the blocking surface 14. The surface 14 provides both a physical obstacle to shooting the basketball and a visual impediment to the shooter, i.e., simulating a defensive player's hand in the shooters face. As can be observed in FIG. 1, the defensive player can maintain the free use of his arms 40,42 to guard or defense the offensive player 30. The defensive player carrying the blocking assembly 12 can simulate the height of a taller player.
FIG. 2 illustrates the blocking assembly 12. The blocking surface 14 can advantageously be decorated to resemble a human basketball player for further realism to simulate game conditions. The planar plastic sheet 20 can have ribs 20 a, 20 b, preferably on a back side thereof, to reinforce the sheet to prevent breakage from impact by the ball or other players. The support 16 extends substantially along the head portion 26, behind the head portion, and is attached to the sheet 20 by two screws 20 c, 20 d or by other means. The support 16 can optionally have an interruption along its length that is bridged by a coil spring 21. When the blocking assembly 12 is struck by a ball or another player, the coil spring 21 flexes to reduce impact load.
FIG. 3 illustrates the vest 18 which advantageously comprises a padded front panel 44 and a padded back panel 46 (more clearly shown in FIG. 4). Extending from opposite lateral edges 48, 50 of the back panel 46 are a pair of belts, an upper belt 54 and a lower belt 56. Each of belts includes left and right belt portions 54 a, 54 b; 56 a, 56 b having free ends. The belt portion pairs can be adjustably connected together using VELCRO material, or the like, or other known fastening devices such as buckles or snaps. The front panel 44 is connected to the back panel 46 at mutual tops thereof via a shoulder panel 60. Shoulder panel 60 includes a neck opening 64.
 The vertical support 16 includes a first tube 65, a second tube 66 telescopically inserted into the first tube 65, and a clamp nut 67. The clamp nut can be loosened to move the second tube 66 in and out of the first tube 65, wherein when the clamp nut 67 is re-tightened; the relative positions of the tubes 65, 66 are fixed. A clamp nut interacting with telescopic tubes for length adjustment is known in other arts such as in the adjustment of camera tripod legs or for the adjustment of a paint roller handle for painting ceilings. Thus the blocking surface 14 can be adjusted in elevation with respect to the vest 18.
 The height of the blocking surface 14 can be adjusted to accurately simulate the exact height of a particular defensive player. Alternately, the height can be adjusted to be taller than typical defensive players in order to teach an offensive player to shoot a basketball with more arc, or to simulate a defensive player with great vertical jumping ability.
FIG. 4 illustrates the back panel 46 includes a sheath 68 which supports and horizontally restrains a lower portion of the vertical support 16. A plurality of reinforcements 72 are attached to the back panel 46 along the sheath 68. An auxiliary strap 74 is provided to encircle the wearer's waist. The strap 74 is explained in more detail below with regard to FIG. 7.
FIG. 5 illustrates an inside surface of the back panel 46 a fabric covered foam pad 76 is attached to the back panel 46 over the sheath 68. The pad 76 helps to support the vertical support 16 and provides comfort to the wearer.
FIG. 6 illustrates an outer surface of the vest 18, the vest opened flat. The shoulder panel 60 is shown connected to the front panel 44 and the rear panel 46. The support 16 is illustrated partially.
FIG. 7 illustrates the vertical support 16 separated from the vest 18. The vertical support shown includes the coil spring 21. The coil spring 21 is considered an enhancement to the support 16, not a requirement. At a bottom of the first tube 65 is a short third tube 80. The short third tube 80 can be about three inches long. The auxiliary strap 74 is threaded through the tube 80. The auxiliary strap 74 includes adjustable fastener elements 82, 84 on free ends thereof. The elements 82, 84 can be engageable VELCRO fastener surfaces, snaps, buckles, or the like. The auxiliary strap 74 is configured to draw a bottom of the vertical support 16 tightly against the back of the wearer to inhabit tipping or swinging of the support 16. The tube 80 is attached to the first tube 65, such as by a screw and nut assembly 82. The tube 80 and portions of the strap 74 can be confined within the fabric of the vest 18.
 From the foregoing, it will be observed that numerous variations and modifications may be effected without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is to be understood that no limitation with respect to the specific apparatus illustrated herein is intended or should be inferred. It is, of course, intended to cover by the appended claims all such modifications as fall within the scope of the claims.