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1. (WO1980000663) DISPOSITIF POUR LA PRATIQUE D"UN JEU DE BALLES
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BALL GAME PRACTICE DEVICE
TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention concerns a device for use in practising ball games.
STATE OF THE ART
Practice nets are used, for example, by golfers who wish to improve their ability to strike and drive a golf ball. Such a net, which has a mesh size smaller than the diameter of a golf ball, is suspended in a vertical plane and serves to stop the balls projected at it by the practising golfer. A conventional golf practice net thus serves, as with practice nets for other ball games, merely to provide an early termination of the ball trajectory so that practice is conveniently confined within a small space.
One disadvantage of such practice nets lies in the fact that the ball after striking the net and delivering up its kinetic energy immediately falls to the ground so that the exact place at which it struck the net is not recorded but must be judged by eye if this information is required. The absence of this information is a drawback so far as the practising player is concerned since he (or she) often wishes to know if the struck ball is consistently being given the required flight.
One aim of the present invention is therefore to provide a practice device which will capture a moving ball and retain it in the region in which the ball struck the device. In consequence of achieving this object a practice device of the present invention is useful in other sports whereby accuracy of projection of the ball is of paramount importance i.e. tennis for practising serves, football for practising shooting and the like. DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION
According to the present invention there is provided a ball game practice device comprising a support
structure having a plurality of apertures therein through which in use a ball may pass, and a ball retaining means at one face of the support structure and secured thereto at a multiplicity of spaced "locations thereon, the said ball retaining means comprising a flexible sheet of which that part corresponding to a particular aperture or plurality of adjacent and related apertures has a dimension measured in a given direction in excess of the corresponding dimensions of the said aperture or apertures in register therewith, whereby a plurality of pockets for receiving a ball passing through a related aperture is formed.
In use the given direction is vertical or substantially vertical.
The support structure is preferably a reticulate structure, the apertures being the interstices thereof and the structure having a predetermined mesh size. The ball retaining means is also preferably a reticulate structure having a mesh size smaller than the predetermined mesh size of the support structure and which in use prevents passage of a ball therethrough. Preferably a single net is attached to the support net so as to form the plurality of ball retaining pockets.
Preferably the ball retaining net is attached to the support net by means of clips.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention will hereinafter be further described by way of example with reference to the
accompanying drawings in which:-Fig. 1 is a front elevation of one embodiment of a
practice device constructed in accordance
with the present invention;
Fig. 2 is a side elevation of the device of Fig. 1;
and
Fig. 3 is a perspective view of a portion of the
practice device of Figs. 1 and 2.
BEST MODE OF CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION
Referring now to the drawings, the practice device assembly designated as a whole by the numeral 10 comprises a front support net 11 of relatively large mesh and a ball retaining rear net 12 of relatively small mesh and of a size considerably smaller than the diameter of a ball appropriate to the sport to be practised.
The rear net 12 is so attached to front net 11 by clips 13 as to form horizontally extending hanging pockets 16, each such pocket corresponding to a horizontal row of adjacent mesh apertures 18 of front net 11. The mesh size of the support net 11 is large enough to allow in use a ball appropriate to the sport being practised to pass through an aperture 18 into the corresponding pocket 16. The nets 11, 12 and the clips 13 may be of any suitable material, and are preferably of nylon.
In use, a ball will be projected towards the net by a practising player. The ball in flight will first pass through one of the apertures 18 of front net 11 and then strike the back wall of the horizontal pocket provided by rear net 12 where it will give up its
kinetic energy and fall into the lower portion or channel 19 of such pocket.

The drooping form of the pockets 16 not only serves to define channels 19 which retain a captured ball, but also facilitates such capture by deforming when struck by the ball to absorb energy and avoid rebound. The support net 11 preferably has strands of thickness substantially greater than that of the strands of the ball retaining net 12.
After projecting one or more balls at the net
assembly 10 the practising player may at his leisure check the height and position at which the balls struck the assembly by locating the positions of those balls in the channels 19 of pockets 16. The practising player thus is provided with an accurate indication of the initial trajectories taken by the balls which he has struck, in particular whether they are leaving the ground, his foot, or racket as the case may be, at the correct elevation and in the correct direction.
Since the balls are retained approximately at the position which they strike the net 12 (or at least just below that position) the player is also able to tell whether or not the balls are departing from the intended direction of flight, i.e. whether or not they are being "sliced". To eliminate any possibility of the balls moving any substantial distance horizontally after
capture by one of the pockets 16, the pockets may be subdivided horizontally at each vertical strand 20 of front net 11 so that there is a one-to-one correspondence between apertures 18 and pockets. This may conveniently be achieved by the attachment of further clips 13, so as to link a strand 15 to itself where it overlaps or to a strand 20.
Of course, the present invention is not limited to the particular form of the devices described hereinabove, and the device may be used in any ball game practice situation to which it is appropriate, by
choosing the mesh sizes appropriate to the size of ball used for the sport being practised. The clips 13, which are shown in Fig. 3 as attaching a vertical strand 20 to a vertical strand 15, may alternatively be
positioned so as to attach a horizontal strand 14 to a horizontal strand 21, or clips in both locations may be provided if desired. A further feature is that the strands 14, 20 of the support net 11 are preferably coloured differently from the strands 15, 21 of the ball retaining net 12 so as to more clearly define the apertures 18 and enable the player to determine more easily the aperture 18 through which the ball has
travelled. The ball retaining means, net 12 in the embodiment herein described, may be flexible sheet
material instead of net. However the use of a net is preferred since it enables a captive ball to be easily seen and hence its position more readily determined than would be the case with sheet material, even if that sheet material were substantially transparent. Means other than clips may be used as the joining means, for example stitching may be used. The support structure may be rigid but the net structure described is preferred since it more readily allows for the device to be stored when not in use by the rolling up or folding thereof.
In another embodiment, not illustrated, the pockets are disposed so as to extend, in use, in the vertical direction, thereby to form tubes extending throughout the height of the device.
The dimension of the net 12 measured in the vertical direction exceeds the corresponding dimension of the apertures 18 by between 50% and 500%, and it has been found particularly advantageous if said excess is
between 250% and 350%.

Claims:
1. A ball game practice device comprising a support structure having a plurality of apertures therein through which in use a ball may pass, and a ball retaining means at one face of the support structure and secured thereto at a multiplicity of spaced locations thereon, the said ball retaining means comprising a flexible sheet of which that part corresponding to a particular aperture or plurality of adjacent and related apertures has a dimension measured in a given direction in excess of the corresponding dimensions of the said aperture or apertures in register therewith, whereby a plurality of pockets for receiving a ball passing through a related aperture is formed.
2. A device according to claim 1, wherein a single flexible sheet is attached to the support structure so as to form said plurality of pockets.
3. A device according to claim 1 or claim 2, wherein said support structure is a reticulate structure and the apertures are the interstices thereof.
4. A device according to claim 3, wherein said ball retaining means is a reticulate structure having a mesh size smaller than that of the support structure.
5. A device according to claim 4, wherein said, ball retaining means is attached to the support net by means of clips.
6. A device according to any preceding claim, wherein the dimension of the flexible sheet measured in the said direction exceeds the corresponding dimension of the aperture or related plurality thereof by between 50% and 500%.
7. A device according to claim 6, wherein the
dimension of the flexible sheet measured in said direction exceeds the corresponding dimension of the aperture or related plurality thereof by between 250% and 350%. 8. A device according to claim 5, wherein said clips attach corresponding strands of said nets which run in said given direction.
9. A device according to claim 4 or 5, wherein the strands of said support net are coloured differently from the strands of said ball retaining net so as to distinguish therebetween.
10. A ball game practice device substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to and as illustrated in Figs. 1 to 3 of the accompanying drawings.