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Physics in Sports

A Group Project

In some sports, such as swimming and cross-country running, the winner of a competition is determined by who can move at the fastest average speed. Other sports, such as basketball, figure skating, and ultimate Frisbee, depend on accuracy, technique and teamwork. You have learned that forces are used to control motion by changing the speed or the direction of an object’s motion. These same forces are used to accelerate equipment or human bodies in sports.

Analyze a Sport

In a group assigned by the teacher, select a sport or physical activity that your group would like to study. Choose a sport you can actually play or observe. Use direct observations and measurements to explore the dynamics, or the motion and forces, involved in this sport. Suggestions for sports are listed below.

Soccer Basketball Tennis
Swimming Biking Softball
Volleyball Gymnastics Baseball
Handball Running Table tennis
Wrestling Football Skiing
Hockey Roller blades  

For the sport or activity of your choice, research the following information.

1.     What is the history of your sport? When and by whom was it invented? How much has it changed since it was invented?

2.     Describe the objects in motion in your sport. Do people move around a lot? Do they move in straight lines or do they change directions? Is a ball or other object the focal point of the game?

3.     What two things must be measured to determine the average speed of an object? Design a way to measure the average speed of a moving person or object in this sport, such as the speed of a served ball. Try it! Describe how the athlete controls this speed.

4.     Review the definition of work. Try to identify and describe at least two examples of an action in which work is done in your sport. Remember, the force and the distance moved must be in the same direction. What information would you need to calculate the amount of work done?

5.     Find at least one example of each of Newton’s laws of motion in your sport. Describe each example as clearly as possible.

6.     What simple machines are used to perform the work done in your sport? Include “machines” that are really part of the human body. (Refer to page 186 – 194 in your text book)

7.     Describe how gravity is utilized or impacts your sport?

Using Your Research

After you have investigated the questions, design a presentation for the class about the physics of your sport you chose. Your presentation should answer the questions you investigated. Use actual demonstrations of the sport as much as possible to help make your explanations clear and concise. You might consider videotaping some motions involved in your sport if the sport itself cannot be easily demonstrated in the classroom.

Each and every movement in each and every sport contains a great deal of physics. Make a poster that includes at least one diagram or picture of a specific action. Show an analysis of all forces and motion existing in this action by pointing to specific parts of the body or equipment that are in use. Consider the role friction plays in your sport. In what circumstances is friction desirable? Undesirable? Using your understanding of the physics involved, describe several specific things that an athlete could use to improve performance in this sport.

Project Requirements

Group Requirements:

1.     Develop a poster displaying your findings about your sport. Focus on how motion, forces, gravity and simple machines are utilized to participate in the sport or activity.

2.     Develop a Power Point Presentation to be presented to your class explaining how physics is involved in your sport.

3.     Develop a web page using “Front Page” that teaches others about how physics is involved within your sport.

Individual Requirements

1.     Participate in all group activities.

2.     Write a 3 – 5 page report about your sport of choice following the guidelines set for the group project. OR

3.     Develop a web page or Individual Power Point Presentation on their sport that is substantially different than the group project.


A scoring rubric will be used to grade all portions of the project.

The following criteria will be used to determine each student’s grade.

Group Participation -               30%

Group Power Point -                  10%

Group Web Page -                  10%

Group Poster –                         10%

Group Research –                 10%

Individual Project -               30%

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  This page was last updated on 12/30/01