A perfect pump? This high-tech sports ball inflator finds early traction with MLS teams

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Former Sounders FC defender James Riley uses TorrX’s ball pump. (Photo via TorrX)

TAYLOR’S TAKE ON THE WEEK IN SPORTS TECH: Inflating a soccer ball or football with the exact amount of air doesn’t seem like a huge deal. But whether it was the controversy that arose from “Deflategate” or the damage an overinflated soccer ball can have on a teenager’s head, accurate gauge pressure is actually quite important.

That’s why TorrX is finding early traction with its high-tech ball pump that has a built-in gauge and LED screen, making it easy to quickly inflate or deflate a ball to a precise pounds per square inch (PSI) measurement.

Customers from around the world at all levels of soccer, from Major League Soccer to NCAA to leagues in Europe, are using the pump. The Seattle-area startup is focusing initially on soccer, but basketball, volleyball, rugby, and water polo teams have purchased its product. The company has validation from athletes like James Riley, a former Seattle Sounders FC defender who is building a youth soccer coaching program.

“I have seen a lot of products come and go during my college and MLS career, but I really believe TorrX is the pump of the future because it is so accurate, easy to use, and durable,” he said in an email.

Former U.S. Olympian and World Cup hero Brandi Chastain, who is now an assistant coach with the Santa Clara women’s soccer team, also vouched for the pump, particularly with concerns around head safety. She uses it to get the right weight of the ball, depending on player age.

“As a coach, and parent, having the proper air pressure in the ball reassures me that the players and my kids will be safe,” she said. “Anything we can do to help lower the number of concussions, the better.”

Torrrx creators Tom Neir and Sally Otten. (TorrX Photo)

Tom Neir, a veteran entrepreneur and City of Kirkland councilmember, came up with the idea for TorrX with his co-creator Sally Otten, who previously co-founded Pacific Coffee Co. and is a partner in the Cow Hollow Associates consulting firm.

Neir said TorrX is meant to eliminate problems with needle breakage and help improve PSI accuracy.

“Now, there is really little excuse for a ball that is under or over inflated,” he added. “Coaches/referees/league or match management can now become much more specific about what constitutes a perfectly inflated ball for their sport and be sure the standard is easily adhered to.”

The pump can inflate 50 soccer balls on one charge. It designed to get better over time, with algorithms that learn how to get the PSI more and more accurate with each use.

The pump is currently available on Amazon but TorrX is exploring other sales channels. The company is bootstrapped and employs less than ten people in the Seattle region.

Highlights from the week in sports tech

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  • Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton threw an epic no-hitter this week. Mobile alerts helped my colleague Kurt Schlosser catch the last few innings, but he also relied on a $150 per month cable subscription. Perhaps the NBA’s idea to sell streaming access to parts of live games will find traction.
  • Speaking of the Mariners, the only way fans can watch next week’s game against Texas on May 16 will be via Facebook. The game won’t even be on TV. It’s part of the exclusive streaming deal Facebook inked with the MLB.
  • Retired NBA star Chris Bosh showed up at the launch of NASA’s Mars InSight lander from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — GeekWire space and science editor Alan Boyle has the details here.
  • Fornite has become a cultural phenomenon. Now the video game is being blamed as a potential reason for keeping pitcher David Price off the field.
  • The NBA and Intel Capital announced a new collaboration.
  • Topgolf continues to stay innovative, inking a deal this week with Lyft, which will have designated pick-up and drop-off zones at the high-tech golf driving range facilities.
  • ESPN inked a deal with UFC to stream bouts on the company’s new streaming platform, ESPN+.
  • Former Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard is back with a new ticketing startup, Rival.
  • NFL rookie QB Sam Darnold is using smart footballs made by Wilson to enhance film sessions.
  • USA Today looks at how video and new tech is changing track and field.
  • Can blockchain technology help companies in the fitness industry?
  • The inventor of the yellow first-down marker was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Thanks for tuning in, everyone!  — Taylor Soper



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