How Do Top Sports Stars Use Math and Science to Perform Better?

Sports stars need a range of skills to succeed, and it’s easy to see how areas like fitness, strength, and speed fit into this. Yet, have you ever thought about how they also need to use math skills and science to succeed at the highest level?  

Calculating the Angles and Distances

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the top athletes is how they can work out the angles, distances, and speeds as the game unfolds. In a team sport like football or soccer, there are numerous constantly-moving objects that each player has to take into account when deciding where to go or where to put the ball. Even a relatively simple-looking matter like throwing a ball into a hoop in basketball involves working out the angles and distance so that the player can use precisely the right amount of force.

Does this make these sports more exciting for fans? This look by ExpressVPN at how Americans search for streamed sports shows that the top sports are fast-moving team games like football, basketball, and soccer. Even the newer sports that they list, such as UFC, need the competitors to carry out instant calculations on many different factors. While this might not be an immediately obvious reason for loving these sports, the figures suggest that we most enjoy games where some sort of science is needed.  

Understanding What’s Needed to Win

Have you ever wondered what goes through a quarterback’s mind as they prepare for a play at the end of an important game? Or what an NBA star thinks about when they attack the net in the final few seconds of the game? While we can imagine some of their thoughts, it’s easy to overlook the importance of math in what they consider.

For example, in a basketball game, do they need a three-pointer to secure victory, or might two be enough? Would it be best to delay a few seconds so that the clock gets closer to zero before they make the shot? In this respect, some sports are more complex than others, and it can be more difficult in tournament play, where other games are being played simultaneously. For example, this report from FourFourTwo suggests that Spanish coach Luis Enrique was unaware that his team was going out of the World Cup for a brief period before eventually qualifying.

To Assess Their Performance

One of the most significant advances in sports in recent years has been the introduction of sports science. That allows teams to use the latest technology to monitor their athletes’ performances, measuring areas such as their speed, strength, and distance covered using a GPS tracking device to spot any weaknesses.  

This article by Sports Illustrated suggests that sports science may be behind the recent wave of big contracts for older MLB players, as it can help baseball players to stay at the top of the sport for longer. There’s no doubt that there’s a lot more to come in terms of sports science, and this will see our favorite sports carry on progressing in new ways.

Science and math are more closely linked to significant sports than you might think, and the issues we’ve looked at here show us how it’s now impossible for players and coaches to ignore this subject.

Written by Austin Crane

Austin is the principle web director for Untamed Science and Stone Age Man. He is also the web-director of the series for the High School biology, Middle Grades Science and Elementary Science content. When Austin isn't making amazing content for the web, he's out on his mountain bike or in a canoe.

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