The whole world seemed to be thinking soccer this summer as teams from all over the globe competed for the World Cup. While America’s team fell short this year, there are about 17 million American kids playing the game, many with hopes of someday competing for that coveted trophy.
Ben Mazloompour, of Edmond, has been a player and coach, and now he’s invented a device he believes will help many young players improve their game.
Mazloompour was an avid soccer player for about 40 years before a back injury put him out of the game and, worse, made him unable to help his teenage son practice. An engineer by trade, Mazloompour turned his attention to creating something to help his son continue to improve his game.
“When God closes one door, He opens others,” Mazloompour said.
Mazloompour invented SoccerWave, an individual practice tool designed to teach ball control while improving skill and technique. The plastic, wave-shaped device is about three feet tall and four feet wide, with a graduated varying curvature from one end to the other.
“Unlike a standard soccer goal, the ball will rebound off the Soccer Wave so the shot goes back to the player,” Mazloompour said. “The shape of the wave, with the graduated varying curve, keeps the ball in action and forces the player to react to a variety of returns.”
The wave design puts the returning ball on an unpredictable path, making it much more effective than simply kicking the ball against a wall. “When you kick a ball against a wall or another flat surface, however you kick it is how it’s going to come back,” Mazloompour explained.
Mazloompour said his SoccerWave can help players of any age and skill level improve ball control, ground ball, target, and volley shots without the help of another person.
“Since I was no longer able to get real physical, I wanted to find a piece of equipment I could set up at home for my son to practice trapping and controlling the ball like he would in a real game situation,” Mazloompour said. “There was nothing out there that met all those needs, so I invented it.”
That was a long process with many potential pitfalls. Mazloompour drew the first designs for the SoccerWave in early 2004. His company filed for a patent in September of that year. “Paperwork is a vital part of the invention process,” he said.
“I can’t emphasize enough to anyone thinking about inventing something that they do not disclose their idea to anyone without having that person sign a non-disclosure agreement first,” Mazloompour said. “Even if it’s the patent lawyer. It isn’t a matter of trust. You simply don’t know them.”
With a prototype complete, Mazloompour then had to find investors and a manufacturer. With the international popularity of soccer, he had little problem finding investors who were very excited about the product. Most of them are people he has worked with at some point in his career.
A Michigan-based manufacturer was enlisted and production began, bringing up a new set of experiences.
“A design for function is different than a design for manufacturing,” Mazloompour said. “I didn’t realize that.”
Various types of manufacturing techniques and materials were considered before a manufactured prototype was offered for inspection. Mazloompour and a partner signed off on the prototype, but when the first device was created there was a flaw present that hadn’t been there in the prototype. Mazloompour ended up making several trips to Michigan before perfect SoccerWaves began rolling off the production line.
Soon, SoccerWaves were shipping all over the country and Mazloompour began attending conventions to demonstrate the potential of the device.
“At first we just had a DVD, but even then people were stopping to look. Then we came back with a DVD and the prototype and people were very interested,” Mazloompour said.
SoccerWave is beginning to turn up in some retail stores, but most of the sales still happen through the company Web site or at soccer conventions, where the company has been selling every device they have on hand. Mazloompour, who works for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said he isn’t looking to become an overnight millionaire off his product.
“I’m still working my full-time job,” he said.
He wants to see SoccerWave LLC grow at a slow, steady pace. “Eventually, I’d like to see a SoccerWave in almost every household, like the basketball goals you see in driveways,” he said.
Currently, a SoccerWave is set up for display in front of the Footlocker store in Oklahoma City’s Quail Springs Mall until August 15. The company’s promotional DVD plays at the display site to show how the device can help young soccer players.
“People often have to see it to fully understand what it does, but once they do, they’re amazed,” Mazloompour said. “I took it to one team’s soccer practice and the kids wouldn’t leave it alone. The coach ended up buying one. I can honestly say that about 10,000 people have seen the product and there has not been one negative comment.”
For more information, visit the company Web site, www.soccerwave.com, or call 359-8812.