Tuesday, December 06, 2005 Monique Curet
Rick Meyer has stood on the sidelines at many soccer games, wishing he could whisper strategy in his daughter's ear.
Then it occurred to him: "Gee, if I want to do that, how badly would coaches want to do that?"
The idea for Meyer's invention was born.
The Lewis Center resident created a device called Telepath, a wireless one-way communication system that allows coaches on the sidelines to talk to players on the field. It's being manufactured by George Tang Industrial Corp., which Meyer found by going to the International Consumer Electronics Show.
Meyer's experience makes the process sound simple — conceptualize, manufacture, sell. But there's more to it than that.
His first step was to contact a company that provides services to inventors, which did a patent search and product-feasibility and market studies.
Meyer then hired a patent lawyer and a design firm. The latter helped Meyer refine his vision of the product.
The current version has 14 channels and a range of about 450 yards. It's designed for use during practices and scrimmages.
Telepath operates using the same technology as cordless telephones, Meyer said. A coach can use the device so players hear everything he says, or he can push a button when he wants to be heard.
Anne Horton, assistant athletic director at Columbus Academy, was one of the coaches who tested the product with her girls' field hockey and lacrosse teams.
Horton said when she was asked to test Telepath, "initially, I was very skeptical" because she thought it would be a nuisance.
"I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to use," Horton said. She liked the fact that the device allowed her to "instruct, compliment . . . all in the same breath."
Horton said Telepath is valuable because it allows the opportunity to coach on a large field "without screaming or hollering." She said players sometimes misinterpret her tone when she's simply trying to project her voice.
The Ohio State University men's lacrosse team and the Westerville North High School girls' soccer team also tested prototypes of the device.
Meyer is heavily invested in Telepath — personally and financially. The father of two gets up before work — he's a district manager for a mortgage company — to tend his business, RPMSports. He's using vacation days next year to travel to sports conventions to promote the device.
The leap from idea to product is a big one. "It's difficult for an individual inventor to go from the stage of creating something to developing it for the marketplace," said Tom Boland, a patent attorney in Washington.
A lot of inventors "have stars in their eyes," Boland said. He said it's uncommon for someone to get to the manufacturing stage with a product.
They are being sold through the company's Web site, telcommand.com and telcommand.net.
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"It has been really great in developing my younger players. I have an assistant coach that will use Telcommand with one or two newer players during practice and scrimmages. The kids love it because they are getting special attention. We love it because we are developing the players faster so that they can make contributions sooner to the team." - Mark Berkowitz, head coach, Weston, CT HS
"Telcommand is an invaluable tool that really works because you can instantly coach up your players before or even while they are screwing up. If a young player keeps going to the wrong spot on the field while defending Telcommand enables the player to remember to close down his defender because he will be in the right spot because of the Telcommand Receiver.
It’s a great way to teach because you do not have to stop practice when just one player screws up…you tell him directly and it also is a great tool to praise them when he or she do something positive." - Tom Skladany, SKLADANY ENTERPRISES, INC. and a Three-Time All American