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Interview: Micheal Hollands of Selsport

Written By Justin on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | 2:47:00 PM

It's always interesting to get insight from inside the top glove companies. Michael Hollands, Selsport Operations Director, took a great deal of time to answer some of my questions last week. I hope you enjoy.





What is the development process like for a new glove, such as the Extreme Prodigy or Purity? How long does it take to go from concept to finished product, and what kind of testing do you do?

Ah, good question. It's probably one which relates back to the original ethos of why Selsport was originally founded: "To provide solutions for goalkeepers". First we have a selection of keepers from various levels from our top professionals right through to academy level which we call Selsport's focus group. They play in different climates and on varied surfaces, and throughout the testing period they give us valuable feedback, pinpointing requirements and highlighting ideas. This gives us an insight to current keeper requirements and emerging trends. Often a number of recurring themes may become apparent, forming a starting point of possible solutions which the keepers would like Selsport to look into and go on to solve.

We can quickly identify what are going to be possible as a number of factors need to be considered before we start drawing any ideas, such as market gap and placement, fabric cost, overall need, tooling etc. The next 6/7 tech drawings are completed, of which are then whittled down to 2 or 3 favourites. These are then sent to the factory for the first round of samples. We will look to get

4/5 rounds of samples made as elements are often added/removed until the glove meets all specific requirements of the original blueprint and benchmarks. This year's range is about to land and we have already completed initial concepts for next years models, so really it a rolling 12 month process which never stops. I'll leave the testing answer as i've just seen the next question. So basically Selsport identify a requirement and find the best possible solution. It's a very simple but effective process which is summed up in three words = Research - Identify - Solution.


What role do Selsport's professional endorsees play in glove research and development?

After the first round of samples, our top keepers put the gloves to the test through a number of drills which give us results on a number of criteria. We have benchmarks that we set ourselves as to how a particular glove needs to perform to - if the glove doesn't hit that benchmark then it's refined until it does. No Selsport glove goes to market without hitting these high standards - if a goalkeeping company didn't do this then they would be only around for a short time. Again a simple and effective process, but sadly, thinking which many goalkeeping companies rarely implement.

Selsport seem committed to developing a collaborative environment with potential customers, from contests to name new gloves, to the Selsport Sponsored Keeper initiative. What benefits have you found from this kind of direct communication with your customers?

Selsport have a strong heritage among the goalkeeping community and a well-defined brand image, and over the years we have always aimed to get people, whatever your age, involved and enjoy the fun of what goalkeeping brings. 5 years ago we introduced the strapline "Be part of it" based around encouraging people of all ages to choose a pair of Selsport gloves and give goalkeeping a go. This concept is extended through all advertising and marketing we do and it holds us well, as seen by the massive response by keepers joining us at:

www.facebook.com/selsportkeeper

a real hive of activity which can see keepers interact, free glove competitions, and retailers often launching exclusive offers. For anyone still wanting to get a Selsport contract for next season there is still time, and all details can be found at

www.facebook.com/selsportkeeper


Every time it seems we've reached a zenith in glove technology, somebody pushes the envelope a little further - for example, the hand protection system of the Elite series. Is it a case of constantly striving for innovation, or do ideas sometimes come in moments of inspiration? And can you give us any hints of what's out there on the horizon?

It's funny where inspiration comes from. Our Q&A with keepers is important and the team at Selsport are always coming up with their own interpretation. At this stage of the process there are no wrong ideas; everything is taken into account and considered...However strange!!!!.

With the Elite, that was the idea of Mark Tipton, who is head of Advertising. On his way into the office, he was stuck in traffic and noticed the protection on a glove from a motorcyclist that had pulled up along side. As soon as he came in the office he told everyone the idea: "A lightweight protection glove with no bones - like a bikers glove." Everyone smiled and thought, you know that might just work. The Elite proved the out right success of last year. So you never know where inspiration is going to be born from. Hints on the horizon...mmmhhh if I mentioned anything about next years range I'd be hung, drawn and quartered! What I can give you is an exclusive that we have decided to go ahead with bring back the Bosnich Deflector in limited numbers and will be available towards November/December time for selected retailers.


How much attention do you pay to what other brands are doing - in particular, other goalkeeper-specific brands?

You need sometimes to take a step back and look at the sports industry as a whole to see how the market is evolving, and what needs & trends are beginning to emerge, so you don't get left behind. Whether that be social media or the even the world wide recession!! You need to be fluid and be able to act accordingly. With specific goalkeeper brands, Selsport never ever look to do comparable gloves. Selsport don't follow others -- we set the bar to which others follow. If we played that game, we wouldn't have the reputation we have now. Unfortunately, we find ourselves copied all too often. First we had other a number of companies copy Selsport's Ribbed backhand, then we had our branding copied, and this year we had a firm start to included goalkeeping products in their range and they included the Selsport RedTab on their gloves wrist strap!? Message boards were full of keepers saying it was a disgrace, so goalkeepers I think are a clever bunch and know what's what. I guess it just proves Selsport continue to do the right things, and its a shame when others can't set up there own stall with new individual thinking, as they would build a better reputation and have greater success if they did... So I guess keep your eyes on whats going on but when you have a tried and tested process as Selsport has, that gives us the confidence to do our own thing, and it continues to work.

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