School of Sheffield Wednesday – Physics

Article written for

Sir Isaac Newton

Welcome back to class. I see you’ve had a mixed start to the school year. We do need to concentrate on a few areas of your education to ensure you develop into accomplished players.

Today’s lesson is about the physics of football and you have a great deal to live up to at Sheffield Wednesday. Some of our past students have excelled at this subject.

The physics of football begins with Sir Isaac Newton.

Newton’s First Law of Motion

Now I need a volunteer to explain Newton’s First Law of Motion. Madine, you’ll do. Stop moaning and come to the front of the class!

So Madine, you took a penalty against Crystal Palace didn’t you? And what did you do with the ball when you took it from the referee’s hands? That’s right you put it on the penalty spot. Newton’s First Law states that this ball will stay still until another force is acted upon it. This football is in a state of inertia.

So what happened next? Well yes you did hit it hard but I don’t think there is any need for that sort of language in class.

Your foot Gary, is a force and connecting with the ball causes the inert football to move. This is simply the first law of motion.

Yes, you can sit down now.

Newton’s Second Law of Motion

So once the ball is in motion Newton’s Second Law of Motion comes into play. The acceleration of the ball is directly proportional to the force acted upon it. So for example the harder you kick the football the faster the ball will accelerate.

I mentioned earlier that former Sheffield Wednesday student’s excelled at this subject and you should take a leaf from David Hirst. Hirst remains in the top five fastest recorded shots with his 114mph attempt on goal at Arsenal in 1996.

There are a number of variables that can affect the speed of a ball, the angle of approach, kicking with a preferred foot, accuracy, how much training you have had, even your age.

Newton’s Second Law can be broken down into a formula F=ma.

Force (how hard to kick it)= mass (the weight of the football) acceleration (how fast it goes).

Jermaine Johnson are you writing this down? You probably need to learn this and then work on your directional acceleration!

Newton’s Third Law of Motion

Newton’s Third Law is the more difficult to explain in football terms. It states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that when you head a football there will be an equal force pushing back on your head. The harder you head the ball the harder the force will be on your head.

This could account for your lack of concentration in my classes!

Another example of Newton’s Third Law, and this is a cautionary tale, is when expelled student Paolo Di Canio pushed the referee Paul AlCock during the game against Arsenal in 1998.

Di Canio pushed Alcock with both hands and the referee stumbled backwards and fell to the floor. When Di Canio pushed, according to Newton’s Third Law, an equal force pushed back on his own hands but Di Canio remained on his feet because of the Second Law variables mentioned earlier. I do not recommend you put this into practice!

Any questions from today’s lesson? Right the Headmaster would like a word with you before next lesson. Mr Jones didn’t look happy so I would be on your best behaviour!”


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