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5-Minute Film Festival: The Science of Sports

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Editor's Note: VideoAmy here ... I'm excited to have Edutopia's new Web Video Strategy Coordinator, Keyana Stevens, guest curating today's Five-Minute Film Festival. You may be seeing more of Keyana in this space moving forward, I'm sure you'll love her picks as much as I do!

All the attention around the World Cup last month got me thinking: sports offers a perfect opportunity to explore scientific concepts like force, motion, potential energy, velocity, and torque. Use these videos to inspire your students to look beyond the surface of the game's latest score and find out why a ball bounces, how physics keeps a bike upright, and how a football slices through the air to travel long distances. You just might be able to spark a sporty kid's interest in science -- or vice versa!

Video Playlist: The Science of Sports

Watch the first video below, or watch the whole playlist on YouTube.

  1. Why Do We Play Games? (12:12)

    Maybe you're wondering: why do we play sports at all? This video from Vsauce explores the history of games and what makes them appealing. It's on the long side, but a great place to start. 

  2. Why Some Balls Don't Bounce (02:04)

    Basketball, soccer, football, baseball... what do all these sports have in common? In this quick "Moment of Science" from PBS, host Mandy Striph takes a look at why some balls bounce and others don't.

  3. The Science of Riding a Bicycle (08:45)

    This video by KQED Quest explains the deceptively complicated forces that allow bicyclers to balance on two wheels. As a fun bonus, they also take a look at some vintage bikes from the late 1800s.

  4. Cold Hard Science: Slapshot Physics in Slow Motion (07:00)

    Destin of Smarter Every Day, who's known for his amazing slow-motion videos, explores how energy transfer works, and gets to break some hockey sticks in the process.

  5. Shaun White Winter X Games Superpipe -- ESPN Sport Science (02:51)

    Professional snowboarder Shaun White utilizes a few specific physics techniques to achieve his remarkable jumps and tricks in the half pipe.

  6. The Physics Behind a Curveball (03:32)

    Ever wonder how a baseball player can throw a pitch that curves across the plate? Physics Girl shows how the Magnus Effect lets athletes curve the path of a ball.

  7. Science Xplained: Football Physics (02:23)

    Yale professor (and Edutopia contributor!) Ainissa Ramirez explains some of the science concepts that make football a unique American sport.

  8. Science of the Winter Olympic Games: Alpine Skiing and Vibration Damping (05:32)

    The National Science Foundation takes an inside look at the mechanical engineering that goes into building a pair of sports skis for a Paralympic athlete. You can also use this as an opportunity to talk to your child about differently-abled athletes!

  9. Could Sports Ever Replace War? (14:18)

    The Olympics were invented as a way to encourage friendly competition and help mediate conflict between different provinces in Greece. PBS Idea Channel asks the question: "Could Sports Ever Replace War?"

More Resources for Exploring Science and Sports

Whether you want to explore online, get out and play, or do some hands-on learning, there are many more resources for learning about how science and sports intersect.

If you have any resources of your own, share them by commenting below!

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Comments (4) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

TODD SENTELL's picture
Author of the hilarious schoolhouse memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave"

A kick in the head. One of the schools where I subbed and taught longer sessions for sick or infant-nursing teachers asked me if I'd help coach the girl's soccer team. Naively, I said what the heck.

It was a sudden shock to learn that most of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade girls on the team had never played organized soccer before. They were cute and all in their new cleats and bubbly, pre-season attitudes, but I also found out, very quickly, such as in the first seconds of our first practice, that most of the girls had never experienced someone raising their voice at them. Running laps and sprints was new to them, too. Someone blowing a whistle real loudly in their vicinity freaked them out. Someone pretty much telling them what to do and exactly when to do it was extremely unnerving to most of them. Their eye rolling and bickering and questioning and whining and mood swinging and complaining was brain melting--for four afternoons a week for two and a half months.

But the head coach and I never stopped blowing our whistles and raising our voices and telling them how to play and practice the character-building game of middle school girl's soccer. We got through the season without too many tears...mine and theirs...and finished second in our school's sports league. I was proud of them.

But I have to admit: after the last game of the year, before I started for home, I sat in my truck, and while breathing a sigh of relief that would have filled the Goodyear blimp, I questioned--out loud--my existence on Earth.


Todd's teaching memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave," at corkscrew turns hilarious, heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking, will be published this fall by Stairway Press.

Rick Onofrey's picture
Rick Onofrey
Physics Teacher

Hi Keyana,

Thank you for the above links - I will be using many of them in my Physics classes. Another site that I use frequently is the collaboration between the National Science Foundation, the National Football League and Lester Holt (of NBC fame). The videos they put together can be found at

They're a great addition to your list.




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