US 3918711 A
A tennis trainer assembly for use indoors or outdoors wherein a user practices tennis shots from a user's mat with feet indicia recommending stances for forehand and backhand shots. The user drives a ball toward a non-rebound target which intercepts the driven ball and drops it into a lower trough member having a ball discharge at a low point. The ball is collected in means to allow the collected balls to be placed in a ball return device intermediate the target and the user's mat, said return device desirably positioned so that returned balls bounce to predetermined height levels so that the user's shot can drive the ball again toward the non-rebound target.
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
1 Nov. 11, 1975 1 TENNIS TRAINING BALL TARGET AND PROJECTOR  Inventor: Thomas J. Zak, 2251 S. 18th Ave.,
Broadview, 111. 60153  Filed: Jan. 14, 1974 21 Appl. No.: 432,948
52 us. 01. 273/29 A; 273/103; 273/181 F; 273/26 A; 273/26 13 511 1111. C1 A63B 61/00  Field of Search 273/26 A, 29 A, 30, 181 R,
Murphy 273/29 A Hendry 273/103 X Primary Examiner-Richard J. Apley Assismm E.\'aminerT. Brown Attorney, Agent, or FirmDominik, Knechtel, Godula & Demeur [5 7] ABSTRACT A tennis trainer assembly for use indoors or outdoors wherein a user practices tennis shots from a users mat with feet indicia recommending stances for forehand and backhand shots. The user drives a ball toward a non-rebound target which intercepts the driven ball and drops it into a lower trough member having a ball discharge at a low point. The ball is collected in means to allow the collected balls to be placed in a ball return device intermediate the target and the users mat. said return device desirably positioned so that returned balls bounce to predetermined height levels so that the users shot can drive the ball again toward the non-rebound target.
1 Claim, 5 Drawing Figures US. Patent Nov. 11,1975 Sheet 1 of2 3,918,711
US. Patent Nov. 11, 1975 Sheet20f2 3,918,711
TENNIS TRAINING BALL TARGET AND PROJECTOR This invention relates to a tennis trainer wherein a non-rebound target intercepts the ball and drops it to means used for returning a ball to the user of the trainer device. The invention particularly relates to a tennis trainer assembly wherein such a non-rebound target is used in combination with collecting means for the tennis ball, tennis ball return devices, and a users mat which positions the user in recommended stances for returning the ball again toward the non-rebound target.
The increasing popularity of tennis has led many practitioners of this game to seek out means for improving their techniques. This has involved the use of various devices wherein players can practice various tennis shots. Such devices are particularly desirable in view of the limited indoor and outdoor court space relative to the number of skilled players. Among the various devices introduced to the art for this purpose are included various target devices which the tennis player can use for directing his volleys. Such target devices generally provide rebound features so that the ball can be returned to the player. Other devices are known for serving these general purposes, namely, devices dis closed in U.S. Pat. No. 2,215,432 and British Pat. No. 384,786.
It is a general object of the present invention to provide a trainer to help the tennis player learn and practice the various strokes of tennis, both forehand and backhand, using proper technique, without the need for an actual tennis court. In particular, this object is concerned with providing a novel assembly wherein a trainer utilizes a target structure which collects driven tennis balls and drops them, without rebound, to a lower trough member that discharges the tennis balls at a low point into collecting means.
Another object is an improved tennis trainer device and assembly to guide the tennis student and practicing player through the basics of tennis strokes, using correct grips, footwork and form. An aspect of this object is to provide a tennis trainer which will allow the practitioner to execute actual tennis shots, by stroking tennis balls which are pitched towards him by an automatic return device controlled by the user.
Yet another object of the present invention is an improved tennis trainer which uses in the assembly a mat for the practitioner which is carefully marked with indicia to indicate recommended feet positions for both forehand and backhand strokes, as well as the ball flight path and the contact point where the 'tennis racket should meet the ball. A feature of this object is the provision of flexibility for use with both righthanded and lefthanded players.
Still yet another object of the present invention is to provide an improved trainer which allows wide flexibility in use to allow practice shots to be returned to the user at predetermined positions to allow execution of a variety of particular shots against the target.
Yet still another object of the present invention is to provide a tennis trainer which is portable and adaptable to a variety of quick installations, outdoor or indoor, with wide choices available to the user for positioning the target and the means for returning the ball relative to the practitioner.
The foregoing objects are attained together with still other objects which will occur to practitioners by the invention of the following disclosure, including drawings wherein:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing the preferred total assembly;
FIG. 2 is a portional perspective view showing alternative means joining collected tennis balls to a return device;
FIG. 3 is a side elevational view of an alternative embodiment of the non-rebound member used in the as- .sembly;
FIG. 4 is a partial front elevational view of the member shown in the view of FIG. 3; and
FIG. 5 is a top plan view illustrating one side of the users mat comprising a part of the preferred tennis trainer assembly.
Looking first at the view of FIG. I, there is seen components of the preferred embodiment including a nonrebound target designated generally as A; a collecting means for tennis balls which hit the target, designated generally as B; a return device for the tennis balls indicated generally as C; and a users mat indicated generally as D. The various components cooperate to attain improved results as a tennis trainer assembly.
Looking at the non-rebound target first, there is seen a frame member shown generally as 10. Such member includes a target support portion having opposite side frame members 12, a top frame member 14, and a bottom frame member 16. The frame members are illustrated as having a tubular construction of different diameters so that some frame members may telescopically engage other frame members. A base portion includes foot frame members 18 of general U-shape. with friction foot pads 20.
The target support frame portion is of general rectangular shape which is defined by side frame members 12, top frame member 14 and bottom frame member 16. This rectangular target support is tilted or skewed in a direction opposite to the direction of a ball driven towards the target. This rectangular frame portion supports a substantially inelastic sheet material shown generally as 22. Said sheet material is suspended within the rectangular member'by substantially inelastic mounting means shown as including a fold 24 encircling the top frame member, and ties such as 26 connecting the sheet material to the side frame member 12. A target designation 28 is illustrated on the face of the sheet material 22 to which the user directs his shots.
A trough member 29 is provided along the bottom portion of the sheet material 22. The illustrated trough member is formed by an upturned fold of the flexible sheet material. The configuration of the trough is facilitated by providing substantially rigid straps 30 and spacing members such as rod 31. The spacing members are fastened to strap 30 at one end and to the sheet material at reinforced portions 32 at the other end. It is required that the trough member be formed with a low point 34 substantially at the central portion of the trough member. The trough extends from the target a minor distance of the height of the target. A ball discharge, shown as an opening 36, is provided at this low point. The low point may be attained by various provisions such as the illustrated means which provide extending opposite sides 38 of the fold to a higher point than portions intermediate such sides.
Positioned below the ball discharge 36 is the collection means which is shown as an open top container 40 in which a plurality of collected tennis balls 42 are shown. Spaced from the collecting means is shown a return device which includes a hopper portion 44 for receiving the plurality of tennis balls 42. Such hopper device feeds balls one at a time to mechanically driven catapult means (not shown) which deliver tennis balls through discharge chute 46, the path of the ball being indicated. The return device is preferrably mobile so that wheels 48 are mounted thereon. In the preferred form, the return device is electrically operated and an electric cord 50 is shown for connection to the usual AC outlet. The operation of the return device may be controlled by switch 52 connected by cord or conductor 54 to the electric motor and actuating means, not shown. The details of the return device are not shown since they, as such, do not comprise an essential part of the present invention. Such return devices are available in the market and practitioners will recognize that conventional means may be provided for feeding the balls to catapult devices which propel the ball towards the user. The return device participates importantly in the present assembly in that the device may be economically provided with a fixed execution stroke of the catapult device. In other words, the ball will always be thrown at a given force, and the bounce of the ball to the user will be determined by the catapulting projectory of the ball. The actual delivery of the ball to the vicinity of the user'can be controlled by repositioning the return device through rolling action, back and forth.
The users mat is an elongated planer structure which is preferably flexible so that it can be packaged and stored. The side 56 of the users mat is shown with feet position indicia 58 to indicate the recommended forehand stroke for a righthanded player; and with feet position indicia 60 to indicate the recommended stance for the backhand position of the user. Such indicia are shown relative to the hand strength of a righthanded player, and the opposite side of the mat may have reverse feet indicia positions for a lefthanded player. The return device may be preset to sequentially. return balls at set time intervals, or the balls may be returned only upon actuation of the switch 52 by the user. ltis seen that the forehand and backhand feet indicia positions are spaced from each other toward the opposite ends of the elongated mat member, and that the ball direction line will be located somewhat centrally between such feet indicia positions.
The alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 2 illustrates a collecting means for the tennis balls having a conveyor channel 62 which delivers tennis balls directly to a return device C to which such channel 62 is joined. The channel device 62 may be connected directly to the return device or may be spaced to an inlet (not shown) which delivers balls into a hopper arrangement (not shown).
Referring now to FIGS. 3 and 4, an alternative embodiment is shown relative to a trough member 64. This trough member may be separately affixed, or be formed as a bottom fold. The frame member includes an upper frame support to suspend substantially inelastic sheet material 66. Such upper frame support has an upper elongated tube part 67 and spaced side frame parts 68, only one of which is shown. An enlarged diameter side tube part 69 is also provided to telescopi cally engage side part 68 for adjusting the height of the upper frame support member. Side frame part 68 is formed as an angle with the short arm being received frame parts by fasteners 76. A lower transverse tubular support 78 extends between the U-shaped leg mem-' bers, and the opposite ends of tubular support 78 telescopically receives lateral pins 79 secured by fastener 80 similar to fastener 71. Side support members 81 extend between side tubular members 69 and angular members 74. The trough member 64 is formed by flexible material 82 which is secured at its opposite sides to side supports 81 at a plurality of spaced support points having fasteners such as 82. The flexible material 83 may be separate from the sheet material 66 or may represent a bottom fold which is extended outwardly and supported between the side supports as shown. In any event, the trough member has a low point 86 located at a substantially central position between the opposite sides, and a ball discharge opening 88 is provided'at such low point to discharge balls into open top collec-,-
tion means, shown as box 90.
The view of FIG. 5 shows the users mat with the forehand feet indicia 92 and the backhand feet indicia 94 for a righthanded player,as before. In addition, such a mat includes a ball path indicia line 96 to guide the user striking the tennis ball. The mat also has a ball contact indicia line 98 which indicates where the user i should strike the ball when it is above line 96. The ball path line 96 is elongated and the long axis is perpendicular to the long axis of the mat; and is further perpendicular to the long axis ofthe ball contact indicia line 98.
In use, the player will hit each ball towards the target to develop accuracy, using proper techniques for forehand and backhand shots. Preferably, the mat is posi-. tioned so that the ball path line is substantially aligned with the flight of the ball returning from the feeder. .The properly positioned player then properly contacts the ball above the ball contact line. The return feeder is' preferably provided with catapulting means which pitches balls towards the player about every three seconds to give him time to study the individual shot, as
well as the results of the shot and adjustment to correct errors in technique. The non-rebound targetdoes not distract the player as would occur if the balls would be bouncing back immediately after each shot. Preferably, the ball catapulted from the return feeder is set to fol low a trajectory where the peak height is about head high. The return feeder is set so that the trajectory of the ball results in a bounce to a peak height of about waist high when it is in a position to be struck by the player. The return feeder catapults or pitches each ball in substantially the sametrajectory so that changes in technique are realized by varying the distance of the feeder relative to the mat.
Selecting the farthest distance of the feeder relative to the mat results in the ball bouncing over the ball contact line at peak bounce height. Positioning the a feeder slightly closer to the mat results in the ball trajectory being on the rise as it bounces over the ball. contact line. Positioning the feeder still closer now. re-
sults in the half-volley bounce because the ball will be bouncing up from the ground as it passes over the ball contact line. Setting the return feeder still closer results in the balls passing over the contact line before bouncing, but at a low trajectory, thus creating the low volley shot. Moving the return feeder still closer to the mat will allow the volley shot to be of medium height; and at the closest position to the mat, the high volley shot can be practiced. The player can stand on the ball path line so that the volley shots will come directly at the player, and these shots can be practiced with the backhand stroke. ln addition, since the balls are being pitched towards the player just as they would on a tennis court and are not attached to strings or any other apparatus, the player can stroke the balls with a flat stroke, chop, or top spin, as he chooses. He must also hit the target, which trains him in racket control and precise aim, which is what is required for good tennis technique.
A serve can also be practiced when the tennis trainer is used outdoors or indoors with high ceilings. The player will stand behind the mat and the foot switch will be placed at such a point also. The back edge of the mat can be used as the base line. The return feeder can also be used as an aid for ball supply for serve practice. The player can operate the foot switch so that two balls can be catapulted to be caught by the player. The return feeder can then be stopped while the player serves the two balls.
It is possible to use a variable control return feeder which could remain stationary with collecting means for direct ball return from the trough. The trajectory of the return ball can then be variously controlled in the usual way.
The tennis trainer assembly which is disclosed is understandably easy to assemble and disassemble, and can be easily transported from location to location. The tennis trainer can be set up in the basement, utility room, garage, backyard, driveway, or the like. It can be used indoors and outdoors, and can be specially set up for commercial establishments.
The claims of the invention are now presented and the terms of such claims may be better understood by reference to the language of the preceding specification and the views of the drawings.
What is claimed is:
l. A non-rebound tennis trainer assembly, including a substantially upright frame member, said frame member having side, top and bottom edges and bottom foot frame members to support said frame member,
a substantially inelastic, flexible sheet material having sides, top and bottom edges,
substantially inelastic means mounting said sheet material to said frame member so that the plane of the sheet material is positioned to intercept a driven tennis ball,
said sheet material and frame member being inclined in a direction opposite to the direction of a driven tennis ball to facilitate said tennis balldropping into an elongated trough member after impact with the sheet material,
said trough member having its length located along the bottom edge of the sheet material and extending to opposite side edges of said sheet material so that a tennis ball drops into the trough member following impact with said sheet material, the width of said trough member being substantially less than the height of said frame member,
a point in said trough member located substantially lower than the ends thereof and at the mid-portion of said trough member,
a ball discharge opening at said point, and
collecting means for tennis balls positioned below said ball discharge opening, a selectively positionable foot mat having fore-hand and back-hand stroke feet placement indicia on one side thereof for a righthand player and forehand and backhand stroke feet placement indicia on its reverse side for a left-hand player, said foot mat being placed a substantial distance from the ball impact side of said sheet material,
a tennis ball projecting device, said ball projecting device being freely movable and selectively positionable at different positions between said sheet material and said foot mat to project balls at a fixed trajectory towards said mat to be hit by a player and to vary the bounce height of the ball as it reaches the foot mat.