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Mechanical Principles   

Rules for Sport Skill Techniques
      The science of physics provides mechanical principles that apply to all sports and govern the efficient execution of skills. Using these principles as guides, athletes can develop excellent technique that can give them an edge provided by their use of the greatest mechanical advantage. Newton's Laws of Motion are the foundation for these mechanical principles, which must be applied in concert with other sports training principles to achieve higher levels of sport performance.

      Teaching a new skill can often be achieved by various methods. The problem is how to determine which method should be used for athletes who may require different approaches to achieve the maximum result for the time and energy expended.  It is possible to transfer techniques developed and used successfully in one sport and utilize the knowledge in another sport.

      Sound mechanical principles can serve as a valuable guide in developing technique for specific sports; however, applying these principles must be accompanied by the sound application of training principles combined with effective teaching methods and an inspiring and motivating environment.

      Newton's Three Laws include:
  1. Law of Intertia
  2. Relationships between force and accompanying change in motion
  3. Law of Interaction
      The study of dynamics is how motion changes under the application of force occurs. When the forces exerted cancel each other, resulting in no change in velocity or acceleration, the system is described as being in a state of equilibrum. The study of this is called statics and plays a fundamental role in the concept of momentum. The total momentum in a closed system is always conserved.

      Force is the agent of change.  Forces are not easily observed, rather it is the effect or the change that occurs because of the force that is perceived as being twisted or moved!  Attempts to perform measurements that conform to Newton's definition of force as being a change of motion have not been fully successful. While force is a fundamental concept that is used, there isn't a completely satisfactory definition.

      There are four fundamental forces - strong and weak gravitational and electromagnetic forces. The following are brief descriptions of different types of forces that must be considered in developing physics equations:
  • Gravity - constant, energy conserving
  • Spring forces - position dependent, velocity dependent, and energy dissipative
  • Friction - direction dependent, energy dissipative
  • Viscous drag force - velocity dependent, energy dissipative
  • User interaction forces - direct controll of position and velocity is unnatural, a better choice is interaction through external force, e.g. mouse spring (time dependent, not energy conserving
  • Constraint forces - restrictions on motion can be imposed using constraint forces, constraint with allowed positions/velocities force (position and/or velocity dependent
       The first of Newton's Three Laws - the Law of Inertia - A body once set in motion and thereafter undisturbed will continue at a constant speed forever, all by itself.  - Galileo. Aristotle proposed that gravity and friction are two forces that affect a moving body and cause it to come to rest without the continuous application of force.

The Law of Inertia
  • An object will experience partial or complete cancellation by oppositional forces. Multiple forces apply to the same point will react of if there was a single force.
  • To achieve skilled movements, athletes must effectively combine linear and angular motion. For example, a skater must takeoff and land on edges that represent the same curivature for high marks in execution.
  • When two or more motions are necessary, an athlete must continuously execute the complete sequence of movements. For example, if a skater hesitates, skids, or stops at the end of the extended axel takeoff, the advantage of the skater's forward velocity is impeded and reduces the potential spring to achieve the desired elevation.

  • Athletes can increase mass and/or velocity to achieve gains in momentum proportional to the energy expended. For example, in sports like football, basketball, hockey, etc., when a player increases his/her weight without any loss of speed, it is more difficult for an opposing player to alter the opponents forward progress.

  • Efficient Transfer of momentum from individual segments to the entire body. For example, a skater performing a step sequence must use the driving action of his or her arms to contribute to the total momentum and direction of the body whwen performing their turns.

The Law of Acceleration
  • Forward and backward acceleration is proportional to force. For example, a skater increases acceleration by increasing the force that he/she applies against the ice. Increasing force by 10% causes a 10% increase in acceleration. A loss of weight, while maintaining the same level of force (power), would cause acceleration to increase.
  • Maximum acceleration is achieved when the entire body is coordinated so as to maximize and controll forward or backward momentum.

  • Minimize body actions that do not contribute to a skill should be avoided to prevent wasted energy that can be otherwise applied towards completing productive movements.

  • The speed of the body's rotation in spins or jumps is affected by the length of the radius. Lengthening the radius slows the rotation and shortening the radius increases rotation. For example, a spinner rotates faster, when the arms are pull in closer to the body because the spinning radius is shorten. A camel spin results in a slower spinning rotation because the spin's radius is greater (longer}.

  • When jumping, the trajectory in the air is established at take off. Once a long jumper is in the air, his or her arms or legs may cause body rotation that is rotating off axis, but the flight path is not affected.

The Law of Counterforce
  • The ice is a solid surface that offers the same amount of force back as is generated against it.  A softer surface absorbs a portion of the energy applied against it.  Note: there can be groves cut into the ice by the blades of other skaters that may cause an edge to slip sideways which can alter a skater's  ability to spring from the ice and alter the trajectory/arc of the jump.
  • To achieve maximum jumping height, push directly downward upon take off. The direction of counterforce is directly opposite that of the applied force, and the applied force is most effective when it is perpendicular to the supporting surface because "the loss of the edge" is minimized.

  • Maximize total force. When jumping the total elapsed time in the air depends upon the both the body's momentum over the ice and the upward spring (height) generated.

     These physics principles are valuable guides for developing mechanical technique, but their application requires using effective coaching methods and sound training principles.

Recommended Reading List:
Principles of Training Athletes: Developing Course Materials:
PDF  Trainability of Children
PDF  Trainability of Young Athletes
PDF  Writing Objectives


Pearson - Teaching Cues for Sport Skills for Secondary School
Dec. 22, 2010  A brand new core chapter focuses on basic skills and techniques. Rules of Play and Safety sections are included for virtually every sport.

Athletic Insight - Mental Skills Training For Sports  A review of the relation to general cognitive-somatic techniques. These techniques include mental rehearsal, mental imagery, etc..

Sports Information Sports Training


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs: 

The Learning Environment:     The Learning Process
Skill Development Environment: Mental Training:
Principles of Sports Training: Developing Course Materials:
PDF  Trainability of Children
PDF  Trainability of Young Athletes
PDF  Writing Objectives

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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