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Soccer And Physics

Vanessa Tome


Career Life Connections

Grade 11


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Soccer and Physics

The position of your foot does indeed affect the shot of the soccer ball. Different parts of the foot

can control the direction of the balls path, and even how powerful it is, but there are other

factors that explain how the ball behaves. The main component of this topic is Physics. This

component has an important role in the sport of soccer because as you grow in the sport you

begin to understand the behaviour of the ball and will be able to predict what it will do. The main

ideas in physics that relate to soccer are Projectile Motion, The Magnus Effect, Newtons Laws

of Motion, and Forces, such as friction, gravity, and momentum. These ideas have to do with the

balls path and the direction that the ball goes in. These ideas of physics all support the science

behind the shots of soccer balls and how your foot comes into play as a factor in determining

how the ball will behave.

This paper will showcase the main ideas of the main component of science behind the sport of

soccer. Projectile Motion occurs when an object follows its curved path (Tera Blount, 2013).

Gravity makes the path curved in that the path is a perfect parabola. In this case the ball becomes

a projectile when kicked. The Magnus Effect is so interesting in this particular sport because it is

something that the best players will use to their advantage. The Magnus Effect is the key to a

specific type of shot, which is a curve ball. It is the science and reason behind the shot and it

explains why the ball does what it does. Newtons 3 Laws of Motion also have a big role to play.

The first law has to do with an object at rest verses in motion with an unbalanced force. The

second law involves the change in velocity with an objects movement and the magnitude of the

force. The third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This

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involves soccer because there are many situations where this law can come into play. Lastly,

forces, such as friction, gravity, and momentum cause the ball to spin when in contact with the

foot and also slow down and eventually stop when on the ground.

Physics is a subject that first started out as an idea back in the 1700s. Physics, in Greek means

nature, from the ideas of plants. One of the first physicists was Isaac Newton. He will always be

remembered as the man who saw an apple fall from a tree, and was inspired to invent the theory

of gravity. He also was known for using mathematics to describe physics (Thomas Sutton,

2006). Some of the other first Physicists were Galileo and Einstein. These three were called

Fathers of Modern Physics (Periwal, 2017) for all of their ground-breaking research and first

ideas of physics. The research and study over the years has grown and now people are taking the

method and science to describe more specific things, and in this case, its soccer and how the shot

is affected by the way you kick the ball.

Projectile Motion is a simple idea in that it is the curved flight path of an object when thrown,

launched, or projected, but in this case the object is being kicked. When a soccer ball is kicked, it

becomes a projectile and follows a parabola. How hard the ball is kicked, will determine the

initial velocity and how fast it will travel. As the ball is in the air, the only forces on it are gravity

and air resistance. Gravity always has a force of 9.8m/s (meters per second), which acts

downward. Gravity also affects the horizontal distance of the projectile because its going to

come down at some point. The force of gravity is always directly perpendicular and the

horizontal distance is always dependent on the initial velocity. It affects the ball because it slows

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it down as it goes up until it reaches its peak. Then, when the peak is reached, the acceleration of

the ball will gradually speed up, but going in a downward motion to reach -9.8m/s until it hits the


Another factor that is involved in projectile motion is the air resistance. It also limits how high

and far the balls parabola flight path will be. The size of the ball also is a factor when it comes

to air drag. The drag is a force acting opposite to the motion of any object with a surrounding

fluid, such as air. The bigger the projectile, the bigger the air drag will be. The shape of the

object will affect air drag. A soccer ball is a sphere, which is a good shape for the sport because

it has good aerodynamics. That is why there are no sports that come to mind that use a cube

object to move around. They do not have good aerodynamics and would be hard to get around

because of its shape, which would always stop its motion.

Quadratic Formulas and Equations are used to demonstrate the motion and flight path of a soccer

ball on a graph. These are used because projectiles do not move in a continuous straight line, if

they did, a linear equation would be used. On a graph, the final picture of the graph would

resemble an upside down U for the flight path. In Mathematics, a U shape on a graph is called a

parabola. The quadratic formula is recognizable when the equation has a squared variable. A

parabola shows the rises, the peak, and the falls of the object being measured. On the graph, the

vertex of the parabola shows the projectiles highest point it reached during the kick. The zero

mark and the x-axis on the graph show the time it took from the ball being kicked, to when it

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lands. From those calculations and lining up the vertex with a vertical line down to the x-axis,

you can see what time the ball reached its highest point before gravity took over.

Some natural factors do come into play when measuring the projectile motion of the object to get

a parabola shape. When measuring outside, some factors could include wind, rain, and the angle

the kick is taken from. These factors can cause the projectiles parabola shape to change in

various ways, such as a higher peak or even a longer distance. Wind, for example, can blow the

projectile a certain way and affect the time and distance. Rain can affect the way the ball is

kicked due to slipping, and also a different amount of fluid and air resistance. The angle from

which the ball is taken from can also affect the projectile motion and the parabola shape because

the kick could result in a long range or when kicked straight up the parabola will be fairly

skinny. Projectile motion can be a simple idea, but when all elements come into play, the concept

can get a little more intricate.

The Magnus Effect is the striking effect in which a spinning ball curves away from its principal

flight path (Tera Blount, 2013). The normal flight path is a perfect parabola, which is like a

perfect rainbow shape. By using your foot in different ways to kick the ball, the flight of path can

change, resulting in the Magnus Effect. When kicking with a certain foot, you get the opposite

effect depending on which part of your foot you use. For example, kicking with the outside of

your right foot will result in the ball spinning outward to the right. When using your right foot

but the inside of it, the ball will spin to the left. The Magnus Effect plays with Center of Gravity

in that wherever the ball is hit left, right or straight on will affect the flight path. When the ball is

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hit left of center, it will curve to the right, and vice versa. When it is hit straight on, there is no

spin resulting in what we call a knuckle ball.

As the ball flies through the air, it creates a whirlpool of fluid around it and will experience a line

of force perpendicular to the line of motion. The air speed around the top half of the ball is less

than the air speed around the bottom half; therefore the pressure is greater on top resulting in a

downward force. Another, simpler way to put this is to think of the ball like a big rock in a fast

flowing river. The air, but in this case water, separates as it reaches the rock and is forced to go

to the left or right of it but then meets again after it has passed the rock. Air does the same thing

as the ball travels through the air. There is a backfill area behind the ball where the air will meet

again after splitting off called the wake. The wake is a skinny V shape and is pointed in the

opposite direction of where the ball in travelling. Now looking at the spin of the ball. The air

around the ball is stuck to it, which means it will move in the direction the ball moves. The air

could be on the left side of the ball but it will get pulled to the right side over and over again.

The best players in the world use the Magnus Effect to their advantage. One player in particular

was Roberto Carlos who played for Brazil. He shook the whole soccer world in the 1997 World

Cup when he scored a free kick that they named The Impossible free kick. He used the outside

of his left foot to curve to the right around a wall of defenders! He used The Magnus Effect to his

advantage, which in this game was risky to do. When Carlos made contact, he conveyed both a

force to make the ball move forward, and a force to make the ball spin. The spin causes the ball

to make a curved flight path due to Magnus Effect. The Magnus Effect of Carlos was directed to

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the left in the shot. When seeing the video of Carlos making this shot it seems mind blowing

because no one had any idea how he couldve done it. With further research, it doesnt seem

impossible, but just very impressive. Many people would be shocked to hear about how the

Magnus Effect and Physics can impact soccer in this type of way, but as you have learned it is

very effective.

Newtons three Laws of Motion all apply to this sport and how it can help with the

understanding of a balls flight path when it comes to physics. The first law of motion states,

every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to

change its state by the action of an external force. (NASA, 2017) A soccer ball needs a force to

get it to be in motion, for example, the wind or a players foot. These forces, when in contact

with the ball will cause it to be in motion. Depending on how powerful the force is will indicate

how long it will be in motion for until an external force influences the object comes to rest. On

the other hand, some forces can make objects come to a stop, or stay at rest. In soccer, a big force

that stops the ball is the grass. With the grass being in contact with the ball it creates friction,

causing the ball to come to a complete stop. The ball will be in motion then gradually come to a

stop as it rolls through the grass, which is slowing the ball down. The main point about this law

is that if there is no net force acting on an object then the object will maintain a constant

velocity. If that velocity is zero, then the object remains at rest. If an external force is applied, the

velocity will change because of its force. (NASA, 2017)

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The second law of motion is Force is equal to the change in momentum per change in time. For

a constant mass, force equals mass times acceleration. (NASA, 2017). This basically explains

that the velocity of the object will change depending on the magnitude of the force, and how

much is applied to the object. If a soccer player needs the ball to travel fast, he or she should

apply more force when kicking the ball to obtain the wanted results, and vice versa this can work

to allow the ball to travel at a slower rate. This law of motion is extremely important in soccer.

Players may not realize that it is a law of motion, but with the understanding of it, it makes a lot

of sense when thinking about the game and how much players use this law. In a game, this law

has to do with weighting a pass, which means knowing how hard or soft to play it in order to be

successful. This law can work to your advantage or work against you in the sport. A player has to

trust their teammate to know what they are doing. When a player is making a run, their teammate

needs to apply the right amount of force to the ball so that the player on a run can catch up to it

or be met at their feet. If the pass is too hard then their opponent can get the ball such as a goalie,

or the ball could even be played out of bounds. On the other hand, if the pass is played too softly

then the player on a run will have the ball played behind them, forcing them to stop their run and

turn around.

The third, and final law from Newton states, for every action, there is an equal and opposite re-

action (NASA, 2017). According to Newton, whenever objects A and B interact with each

other, they exert forces upon each other (Physics Classroom, 2017) This means that however

hard you kick the ball, the ball kicks back just as hard. An easy way to test this law is to kick a

soccer ball with different amounts of power at a wall. By doing this, it demonstrates the law

perfectly. Kicking the ball really hard at the wall will result in the ball coming back at you just as

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fast. When this happens, two forces are exerted. Forces always occur in pairs, and one body

cannot exert a force on another without experiencing a force itself (Khan, 2017). The first is

called action, and the second is called reaction. These two forces act with the two interacting

objects. When they come into contact they are always directed in opposite directions (Khan,

2017). Newtons three laws of motion apply to things done every day. They help people

understand the behavior of objects, and in this case, it was a soccer ball.

Now not only are forces involved in Newtons three laws of motion but there are some forces

that play a role in soccer. There have been types of forces such as gravity, and friction that has

been mentioned in sections of this paper, but another important piece is momentum. A frictional

force causes objects like a ball to gradually come to a stop because of the pull it has on the ball.

When you move your zipper up and down really fast for a bit it becomes warm or even hot. That

is frictional force producing heat. Some people think that if a ball moved fast enough to create a

massive amount of friction that the ball would catch on fire. Goalkeepers wear gloves with a

somewhat sticky like material to catch the ball without it slipping. The friction helps to stop the

ball, and even prevent the goalkeeper from dropping it. In soccer, or even any sport where cleats

are needed is to make it easier for players to stop, and change directions. Without cleats, a player

would have a hard time doing this and would end up slipping or falling. This is because cleats

have the ability to grasp the field turf to slow down their momentum.

Momentum is a commonly used term in sports (Physics classroom, 2017). It is defined as the

quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity. An easier

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way to put that is basically mass in motion (Physics Classroom, 2017) which means an object

in motion. When a ball is kicked, the momentum is transferred from the leg to the ball. When the

ball is trapped, or stopped, the momentum is slowed by cushioning the ball (Tera Blount,

2013) so a player has more control. Momentum is dependant on the variables mass and velocity.

In an equation, to find momentum one simply multiplies the two variables together. In order to

gain more momentum, the mass in motion could use gravity to its advantage.

Gravity is a pull on Earth that forces mass to be in contact with Earths surface. It is a

gravitational pull that influences objects. If a ball wanted to get more momentum, it can use a

gravitational pull to speed up. A ball can be rolled down a hill, which creates a gravitational pull

that makes sure the ball will reach the bottom. It uses gravity to speed up, which will increase

masss velocity, and will increase the momentum. When an object has more momentum it will

take a stronger force to stop it. The more momentum the ball has, the longer it will take for

friction to slow it down and eventually come to a stop. There are many forces that all work

together to explain a concept, and each one plays a role in the understanding of how a soccer ball


The concept of physics is used every day in life whether people know it or not. Kids will be

surprised when they see that science and mathematics have a part to play in sports, but hopefully,

they will find it interesting. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world yet how many people

know that the sport is more complex than it seems. Being knowledgeable about the physics in

soccer can help people and players to understand how the ball behaves, and even to make better

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decisions on how to kick the soccer ball to get the right effect. It can also make players better

because they will be able to predict what will happen by knowing the ball will act a certain way

if something happens. These ideas of physics are all different, but they all work off each other,

and they all support the science behind the beautiful game we like to call soccer.


F., A. (2017). Bend It Like Magnus. [online] Science Non-Fiction. Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2017]. (2017). Newton's Laws of Motion. [online] Available at:

12/airplane/newton.html [Accessed 16 Nov. 2017].

Khan Academy. (2017). Forces and Newton's laws of motion | Physics | Science |Khan Academy. [online]
Available at:
motion [Accessed 16 Nov. 2017]. (2017). Newton's Third Law. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Nov. 2017].

Shen, J. (2017). How are the principles of projectile motion applied in soccer? (team). [online] Available at:
principles-of-projectile-motion.html [Accessed 29 Oct. 2017].

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