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Interview 1a - The KGI

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The following are excerpts taken from questions asked of Richard Avis, The Keeper Glove Insider, by readers of, The Glove Bag, Nov., 2011. www.theglovebag.com

 

How did you first come up with the concept of FingerSave™?

I built and developed it but FingerSave was invented by Endrik Fleischmann (Int. Patent WO/01 64295 A2). Fleischman first presented the concept to Reusch and Uhlsport but they passed. I had just been hired as head of adidas soccer equipment (1992) and Fleischmann came to see me. I think having been an athletic trainer in pro soccer, a soccer retailer, and goalkeeper provided a different perspective. I saw the big picture and made sure it became a reality in the market.

 

How many models and trials did it take to bring this idea to fruition?

Keeping the secret would have been impossible working with high profile clubs, so we went to a Regionalliga Süd club, TSV Vestenbergsgreuth; a low profile, 1st class operation with great facilities and great people. I do not recall the number of specific iterations. It helped that Hochmuth GmbH (the adidas glove manufacturer) was not far away. Nothing would have been possible without the team of legendary Peter Hochmuth (one of the biggest figures ever in the glove industry) and Günther Reichold, the #1 Torwart; he was superb to work with. Günther is now the GK trainer at the club. For the trivia buffs out there – In August of ’94, Reichold pulled-off one of the greatest feats ever in soccer history. And I do mean, ever. Anybody know what it was?

 

Was it difficult to get Adidas to buy-in to this idea?

Oh, man... keep in mind, in 1992 adi’s market share in gloves was virtually nil. Internal regard for their glove product was low... How low was it? It was so low, that action photos in adidas apparel and footwear catalogs featured models wearing Uhl and Reusch. Yikes! The prevailing attitude was Reusch and Uhlsport had command of the market, so why bother? I remember standing in the executive board room presenting my plan. I stated adidas had the potential to be the #1 in gloves. There was laughter; as in tears running down cheeks, guys doubled-over howling, kind of laughter. There I was in the inner sanctum of adidas... the new guy... an American... telling them their business. They thought I was delirious. Well, adidas did become #1 in gloves and FingerSave is the most successful gk platform in history. FingerSave side note... I’ve never considered it ‘protective’ per se. My rationale was that FingerSave enhances hold; shot stopping. Also, speaking as a keeper who’s had multiple finger fractures, and as a physio, I like FingerSave as a post-injury support modality. That said, I do agree it was genius to market it as, ‘protection’ (although we now have a generation of ‘keepers with Lazy Hands©, but that is another discussion).

 

You implemented Nike Air into the backhand of an older model. (I believe it was called the Nike Air Contact).

Yes, the Air Contact. An interesting project in that it was the 1st time Nike Air™ was featured outside of a shoe. It was also the 1st time two types of Nike Air technology had been combined in one airbag for any product.

 

Why was this idea only used in one iteration of the glove? Why does Nike no longer utilize this concept? Was it a pricing issue?

At $110.00, it didn’t provide value. It had a good, ‘wow-factor’, but was a pain to manufacture, expensive and physical limitations of the Air bag made it too stiff for my liking. It was a valuable experience though. We took away gobs of insight, and it’s cool to have been part of Nike history, however obscure it may be.

 

I know that other companies have experimented with gel, d3o and shockshield, was the Nike Air concept similar in this regard?

The Air Contact was about backhand protection & punching. Regarding the other concepts you ask about, my experience has been that when it comes to foamed technology in sporting goods, Nike’s got it goin’ on. There are basically two types of foam scientists in the sporting goods industry. Those who work for Nike or adidas... and those who wish they worked for, or with Nike or adidas. I spent 3+ years in the trenches of non-Newtonian physics, sheer thickening technology and rheopectic polymers at Nike; researching, experimenting and prototyping foam, gloves and patterns around what I term, Kinetic Dissipation©. I met with d3o scientists’ in England, Japanese scientists in damping foams for the auto industry, Biomed companies, as well as 3M, DuPont, Dow, GE, and the company that invented slow-recovery foam, E-A-R Composites. E-A-R does some wild stuff with the Dept. of Defense, such as the material lining the hulls of nuclear subs to help them ‘run silent’. While my parameters for glove performance weren’t met at the time, the knowledge gained was immense.

 

For Umbro, I believe that you had a hand in creating the Umbro Webb Pro (with the flared fingers). How did you come up with this idea?

I designed and developed the Umbro Webb gloves. I’m a fan of the original Uhlsport ‘Froggy’ cut and liken the Webb to a Froggy on steroids. Support-wise, it integrates the fingers as a structural unit, putting more behind the ball. The Webb is stupendous for flagging driven balls at arm’s reach. Balls you might parry if wearing a traditional glove are easily swatted down and recovered with the Webb. Scooping balls off the deck is a dream; almost too easy. The same holds for snagging flighted balls. Another cool thing – it is tweakable; easy to modify to suit, by simply taking an X-acto™ and cutting the seams between fingers. Kasey Keller’s model throughout his career was based upon the original Webb ‘Flare’ we did together. Additionally, while at Umbro we introduced these industry first’s - full length 360° tunnel wrist, sewn anatomical seams, Wrap Thumb, Metacarpal Offset, and bonafide heat & moisture management.

 

Why is this glove cut not readily available from other glove manufacturers?

Your guess is as good as mine; it’s in the public domain. It’s a flippin’ magic platform.

 

The rifleman cut (rolled index finger, rest flat palm) is an interesting cut that I don't believe is manufactured very much. I think that the first Nike glove with this cut was the Nike International release back in the mid-90's. Did Nike ever patent this cut? How did you come up with this idea?

I invented the ‘Rifleman’ cut at Nike; should have patented it but didn’t. The inspiration was hybridizing the surface area of a traditional cut with enhanced feel of a roll cut. As devotees of the roll finger are aware, there is an aggravating tendency for seam defects of the middle fingers. The Rifle cut has one less seam, so the defect rate is less.

 

Can you elaborate on how Nike created the Grip³ technology currently used on the Vapor Grip³.

I invented Vapor Grip³ and patented it globally (US pat. 6,654,964 B1). G³ is an evolution of the Roll Finger / Rifleman cut. It hybridized the traditional cut surface area with roll cut on the critical three fingers while eliminating the pesky seaming of the middle two fingers.

 

What are your feelings on this technology?

If Reusch or Uhl had intro’d G³, I think it would be more prevalent. It is genuine innovation, but has been under-appreciated at Nike. The design accounts for the three vital interface points between glove and ball; the #1, #2 and #5 fingers (thumb, index and pinky). Roll finger gloves are superior to traditional and negative stitch when it comes to unfettered interface, but G³ eliminates the seam issues with the middle fingers. It’s an elegant example of applied performance engineering and it facilitates getting really close to the ball.

 

Can you please provide some details on how the Nike Tactility project came to light? This is the technology which was used on the Nike Tiempo Premier SGT.

It’s patented (US Patent # 5,983,395), it’s bonafide innovation and it’s woefully under-communicated or wrongly communicated. The concept is built around ‘proprioceptive recruitment’. To learn more, Google, ‘neuroscience + two-point discrimination’, or follow this link, http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/twopt.html

It isn’t about shot holding or grip. It’s about the autonomic feedback-loop between the ball, the fingertips and the cerebral cortex; creating a ‘subconscious image’ of the ball’s location in relation to your hands as related to space and time. The project was two years in development and involved 40+ prototypes. Even the patterns between left and right hands are different; to account for relevant biomechanical demands. We studied the phases of handling, such as intercepting a high ball, recovering, setting the body, and throwing (long distribution). Much more goes on there than we were aware of.

 

Also, can you explain what the purpose of the sipes in the latex are?

It’s another poorly communicated, but bonafide innovation. I had hypothesized that principles of automobile tire siping would translate to gloves and was correct. The palms are siped by a military grade laser. It’s a cool process. Actually, I should say it’s ‘hot’. During each six second cycle, the palm erupts with smoke, flame and sparks. Learn more at www.keepergloveinsiders.com ; click on the Glossary page and go to ‘siping’.

 

Finally, where do you think that the future of gloves is headed? Do you think that you could give us an insider's view of what we can expect in the future? (maybe gloves with exchangeable backhands, new materials used for palms, etc.).

I am intrigued by what I see. Goalkeeper gloves are a small market overall, yet we’ve had this explosion of brands. It’s impossible to keep up and, to me, is evidence of how easy it has become. Anyone with internet, cash, and a logo can be a brand. That’s not entirely a knock; incredible things could emerge from these startups. I’m inclined to think there is higher likelihood of innovation from a minnow, although the likelihood of failure is greater without the brand recognition of a shark. We may see something big in foam, but we may not. There are reasons we haven’t had that breakthrough MOAF© (Mother of all Foams). Isn’t it fascinating that the foam in those first Reusch models worn by Sepp Maier in the 70’s, hasn’t evolved much? It’s simple foam rubber; how difficult can it be, right? Well, actually, it’s very difficult and highly complex. If glove latex was easy, we would have more innovation. Motivation is not the issue. The brand that develops the MOAF will essentially have a license to print money! Gloves are simple products, for those brands doing product at the 97th percentile and below, but it’s the world beyond that I’m interested in. The 97th is where the ‘difficulty curve’ goes from near horizontal (easy), to near vertical (bonafide discovery). I think we’ll continue to see progress with secondary foaming/molding approaches related to non-palm components and interchangeable components are always a possibility, though yet to be done well. We had the German KKS glove in the 80’s (replaceable Velcro™ palms) and a recent attempt by adi. It’s definitely doable. I like how all these new guys are cobbling away. I know of two other guys who started out as minnows; small cobblers in their own rite. One was Adolf Dassler (you know him as, ‘Adi’), and the other was Bill Bowerman (co-founder of Nike). Seems they did okay.

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