Cleaning up the field, one cleat at a time

May 15, 2014

After watching a muddy high school soccer game, Dr. Rob Kitei and his two daughters were inspired to create a product that could be applied to players’ cleats to prevent mud accumulation. Following acquisition by global brand Mission Athletecare in September 2012, it will be nationally sold this summer.

 

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After watching a muddy high school soccer game, Dr. Rob Kitei and his two daughters were inspired to create a product that could be applied to players’ cleats to prevent mud accumulation. Following acquisition by global brand Mission Athletecare in September 2012, it will be nationally sold this summer.

By Rose Schneider, Content Specialist, Ophthalmology Times

Bethlehem, PA-All it took was a muddy high school soccer game with a slippery field due to rain and an idea born from two young girls.

Four years ago, as the teenage daughters of ophthalmologist, Rob Kitei, MD, sat and watched the soccer players struggle to maintain balance due to the mud-and having to stop and dig the swampy dirt out of their cleats-the two girls’ minds began to buzz. After the game, Dr. Kitei said his daughters returned home, and began proclaiming how ridiculous it was that players have to battle mud accumulation on their cleats, which hinder performance, on rainy game days. There must be some product out there to prevent this problem, the Kitei sisters thought.

(Figure 1) The Kitei family (from left: Gigi, Rhea, Arielle, and Rob) pose with Supercleat, now known as Cleat Grip.After some market research, the determined young girls, Dr. Kitei said, discovered no such product existed.

“We went to some sporting good stores to see if there was any products that (prevented mud accumulation on cleats), and there weren’t,” said Dr. Kitei, pediatric ophthalmology and adult double vision, Bethlehem Eye Associates, PA.

The girls then decided that their family would invent that product, he said.

 

“It’s great to see their minds buzzing when they see a problem, how they can fix it,” Dr. Kitei said. “They’re able to think through and come up with solutions to problems.”

The Kitei family’s original conception of Supercleat. (Images courtesy of Rob Kitei, MD)It was not long until Kitei, his daughters, and his wife were tossing ideas around on what kind of product would prevent mud accumulation. After some trial and error, Dr. Kitei said his family decided they would create something that would cause the cleat’s surface to be resistant to mud, and went straight to a polymer chemist to develop the formula.

Creating a universal formula for all cleats proved to be the family’s first challenge, Dr. Kitei said.

“Every cleat will be made of a different rubber plastic, so one chemical isn’t good for all cleats, it’s a compromise,” he said.

With the chemists’ help, Dr. Kitei said the next 6 months were dedicated to testing each concoction as they were developed on about a half dozen cleats-walking around the Kitei family’s own muddy backyard on rainy days-until the right formula was found.

Once the family felt they had found the best formula that hindered mud accumulation, Dr. Kitei said his experience as a physician kicked in, as he knew the product would need to be scientifically tested.

“It’s one thing to walk around a backyard,” he said, “but I’m a doctor . . . so I want something that works well.”

 

Dr. Kitei said to make sure their product would not harm athletes, he reached out to Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences Center for Sports Surface Research.

“They got a bunch of cleats and used our chemical and coated (the) cleats against a control,” Dr. Kitei explained. “(So) it didn’t harm, didn’t cause too much tractor or decrease traction. We wanted to prove how much material would stick less.”

Following nearly 9 months, that number was found-the Kitei family’s formula, which they called Supercleat, had an average of 40% less mud build-up.

The final product, newly renamed Cleat Grip. (Image courtesy of Mission Athletecare)“Even on just wet grass, it actually improves your traction because of the chemical properties of the material, so it’s win-win whether you’re playing on turf or mud, you still get a big improvement,” Dr. Kitei said of Supercleat.

With the Penn State data to back-up their formula, Dr. Kitei said his family then began production on Supercleat in October 2011. Not long after-and before the invention was even available yet-Dr. Kitei said he began receiving orders from his fellow community members.

“We got a lot of orders right off the bat,” he said. “We pre-sold more than 200 orders, before we even had the product.”

With their small business booming, Dr. Kitei said he began to wonder if Supercleat could be something more.

 

“(We wanted) to bring it to as many people as we could to help as many athletes as we could,” he said.

In mid 2012, Dr. Kitei said his family got the chance to do just that when Mission Athletecare, a sporting-goods global brand, expressed interest in purchasing the product.

By September 2012 a deal was reached, and Mission began its work on turning the Kitei family’s Supercleat into a national product.

Mission retooled Supercleat’s packaging, Dr. Kitei said, into “an entirely different animal . . . a really great ergonomic applicator.” The formula was also renamed Cleat Grip-ironically one of the names Dr. Kitei said his family suggested before going with their original Supercleat name.

While Cleat Grip has been on the shelves since March, Dr. Kitei said Mission will hold the hard, national launch for the family’s product over the summer.

Professional athletes, like football player Reggie Bush-of the Detroit Lions-have endorsed the product, and will be a part of the launch.

“For my daughters, (the launch) is fantastic, for us too,” Dr. Kitei said. “It’s a great feeling to come up with something and see it on shelves . . . and have national distribution.”

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