Local fans of Court Grabbers will have to tune in to ABC's new show "Steve Harvey's Funderdome" on Sunday night, July 23, to see if the product designed to give players' shoes better grip on the court was able to gain traction with the studio audience.
Dave Pruitt and Justin King are both Carroll investors who sit on the board of the company, and they, too, will watch as the product's inventor, Steve McLaughlin, goes head-to-head against another entrepreneur, pitching the product for the chance to win $20,000.
McLaughlin is sworn to secrecy about the results of the competition, which taped last October, but he said the real prize for him was the show's audience. "National exposure like that..." McLaughlin mused. "Money's nice but it's really secondary. With 4 to 6 million people watching, how can you lose?"
Court Grabbers is a product that allows athletes to maintain traction on the court. They clip onto the player's shoes and can be used hands-free, replacing the less-sanitary method where players would lick their hands and wipe dust off of their shoes to prevent slipping on a court.
The product is a favorite of many Carroll programs and is produced locally by Prime Manufacturing in Savage.
"Carroll was one of our first test areas, and is one of our best programs," McLaughlin said.
Pruitt said the potential prize money and the exposure from the show could go a long way.
"We will invest into inventory and new product development, and also brand awareness so we can get the product into people's hands because it definitely works." he said.
To prepare for the show, McLaughlin knew he would have to perfect his product pitch, and he said he changed it nine times in the three days before taping.
On the way to the taping, he met a contestant from a previous episode who said the studio audience was mean and impatient. "I scrapped what I had and cut it in half," he said.
But things were different when he got to the studio.
"She was dead wrong," he said. "The pitch hit perfectly, and I had a great time."
A sportscaster in college, he said he wasn't nervous about being on television. "I know more about this [product] than anybody in the world," he said. "Whatever you guys throw at me, I already know the answer."
Though originally developed for basketball, McLaughlin said the product has been used in 16 different sports including netball and indoor ultimate Frisbee. They are the only on-court traction product authorized by the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NHFS), according to Pruitt.
McLaughlin came up with the product with help from his son, Seth, then 10 years old and part of a basketball program. Seth's name appears alongside his father's on all of the patents for Court Grabbers, and the now-17-year-old plans to study business in college.
McLaughlin said some of the most meaningful testimonials he receives are from kids who use the product. He recounted the story of one Canadian teenager who bought a Court Grabbers kit while playing in the United States. When the kit needed replacing, he saved up his own money in order to pay the $20 international shipping to have it sent to Canada.
For McLaughlin, the ultimate goal of appearing on the show is to get the word out about his product and how it can change a player's game.
"You're asking people to change a habit that's been around for 100 years," he said. "People are so steeped in tradition in sports; they want to do it the way it's always been done.
"It just takes time. And that's what we're working for."