Physics of football engages local schoolkids


Physics is a central part of our culture, and what better way to demonstrate this than by showing its relevance to our national sport?

As our move to King’s Cross gets closer we’ve begun working with a range of different local organisations in the area, one of which is the Copenhagen Youth Project – a community group aiming to create and sustain a positive youth culture that inspires people aged seven to 25, and which is the main provider of youth services in Islington’s Caledonian and Barnsbury wards.

We’ve adapted an existing educational resource of ours on physics and football, originally developed in collaboration with Arsenal Football Club, for the group’s regular football activity slots – the latest of which was held at Copenhagen Primary School on Friday 16 June.

As well as the 15 primary-school children, we’ve also trained up the older members of the project who volunteer as coaches, which should make the project more sustainable. The sessions cover a variety of concepts from physics relevant to football – including acceleration, how to get the maximum range on a long pass, staying balanced by lowering your centre of gravity, and more.

Mariana Salgueiro, one of the leads on this resource and collaboration, said: “It’s been incredibly rewarding working with the Copenhagen Youth Project and the pupils at Copenhagen Primary. Adapting the football resource to primary was challenging since some of the concepts were quite advanced but the pupils themselves did not seem to have a problem exploring these ideas. We started with just seven pupils and we now regularly get around 15, so perhaps word has spread that knowing the underpinning physics can be advantageous when playing football.”

IOP teaching and learning coach Neil Atkin added: “The numbers have grown every week and the students have explored the concepts with great enthusiasm. The partnership with the football coaches has been very rewarding with mutual learning taking place.

“Probably the most effective demo was how to kick or throw a football further without throwing it harder – using the blow balls and firing them at me, most of the students believed it would go further when blown horizontally. All their efforts fell short so they started trying different angles. Later they used the idea of launching around 45 degrees in kicking and throwing drills and massively increased the distance the ball went. I have found it great fun!”

And maybe, one day, as many of Islington’s kids will grow up wanting to be scientists as footballers.