Evolution of a Kneepad (The V2 Saga)
Since the debut of the V1s in April of 2018, I began to focus on player's knees more than I ever thought possible. In fact, if you catch me staring at your knees at some point, please don't be creeped out. If I found a player wearing V1s, I would often check for scratches, marks, misfits, and just generally observing them in action, hoping that they are protecting the wearer's knees, just as well as my V1s have been doing since October of 2017. And yes, I am still rocking them to this day.
When the V1s were rolled out, Joe and I knew that in time, we would receive enough feedback on how to develop the V2s and what they would look like as our kneepads, like the sport of Dodgeball would be ever-evolving. They worked for our respective play styles, and while we knew that the V1s would serve a majority of Dodgeball players out there, they would not serve all. The V1s were well suited for the occasional controlled drop on one knee or both and with conservative sliding and are a great general, baseline pair.
At the very least, one thing we did know, is that we wanted a kneepad with a tougher fabric than the V1s as we started noticing slight tears and burns. This would later become labeled as "friction burn" as the result of a player sliding so fast, with so much pressure, and so frequently, that the fabric would literally melt and rip:
This guy playing on asphalt?
We also wanted tougher fabric in general, to account for the many courts in which Dodgeball is played, ranging from concrete to hardwood, even to astroturf and everything in-between as we want all purchased pairs to last. Spend less on gear, more on playing Dodgeball.
One aspect of the kneepad feedback/suggestions coming in that completely caught us off guard was the request from Tim Fullerton of Rise suggesting a longer "knee sleeve" at the Elite Dodgeball Nationals in 2018 to help mitigate slippage. I was immediately on board with this idea, as this was coming from one of Dodgeball's greatest players and like myself, has been playing since before wearing kneepads was even incorporated into Dodgeball.
The first of many to suggest this.
As we worked to close out our first year and keep up with the demand post-2018 Elite, we started looking at other models to see what type of fabric is built for consistent friction. The potential solution came from Wrestling Kneepads as the consistent pressure applied from pivoting, shifting of weight, and all doing so on a mat, seemed to simulate the wear and tear that a sliding Dodgeball player's kneepads would experience.
Knowing that it would be easy to add length to the knee sleeve, we prioritized getting the fabric and mold completed as we did not want to waste money mass-producing an inferior fabric. After weeks of back and forth messaging, sending and waiting for examples, our first sample official fabric came in.
First pad with the new fabric on the left. Post Elite Nationals 2019 Friction Burn on the right (after one wear from Hooch).
Orlando "Hooch" Huicochea (Grit, Team Mexico, and who's knee is seen in the photo above) was gracious enough to test the "fabric tester" kneepad to the left of the image and wore it on his left (sliding dominant) knee through many local tournaments to include training camps in Mexico. Returning with just a few scuff marks, but with the kneepad predominately intact provided me with enough of a "green light" to begin working on a Dodgeball specific design.
Fabric first. Mold second.
After more back and forth late-night emails with the manufacturer (so much that a virtual assistant translator was hired) a first sample was made (V2.1) but due to a miss-communication, it was missing the sleeve length.
However, two weeks later would come the actual V2 (The V2.2) with the longer sleeves, and so far, its been looking pretty good. So good in fact, I had to let Tim know the night we received them:
It only took roughly 7 months...
At the time of this blog, V2.2s are currently en route to their designated testers (individuals that have come across "friction burn") for the ultimate and final test.
...it wasn't even close...(long)
From a concept in September of 2018 to distributing an approved prototype in December of 2019, the V2s have undergone a long and arduous journey. Ranging from setbacks to miscommunication, frustration and falling victim to loss of time, they have no doubt a lot to prove and deadlines, such as having them ready for Elite Nationals 2019 in Austin, Texas, or now Sin City 2020 would be missed. In the coming weeks, feedback will be received from those testing them, and should things go well, they will be available (with silicon gel grip on the inside of the sleeve, included) in early to mid-March of 2020.
Out for testing. Godspeed my children.
Thank you to all that have had a hand in Ballistae's latest iteration of kneepad. We sincerely hope that this not only resolves the friction burn, and slippage problem but helps us continue to honor our commitment of creating the best Dodgeball gear for all Dodgeball players out there for we mean it when we say:
"Ballistae: Elevating the game. One pad at a time."