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Mattie Brennan’s Research on How to Successfully

Manipulate Forces While Playing Water Polo

Mattingly Brennan Engineering Applications Wheeler High School

Abstract – In water polo, there are many different forces also drag that is considered to be helpful. This drag happens
that act upon a player. This paper was created to describe the when you thrust yourself by kicking, treading, etc. This
forces being applied to the player and how to use these forces for “good” drag is often called Thrust Force.
a personal benefit. The method I used to find these forces was B. Minimizing Drag
examining water polo players and testing many ways to increase
Since the relationship of velocity and drag is a direct
relationship, people may believe that reducing the velocity of
Index   Terms   –   Drag,   Kinematics,   Momentum,   Parabolic a swimmer will allow for less drag. This is technically true
Arch, Stroke Frequency, Stroke Length, and Velocity. but this technique does not allow for the swimmer to gain an
advantage and increase velocity without increasing drag.
I. INTRODUCTION There are many ways that you can reduce small amounts
of drag. The first way is to position hands at a 180 degree
Water polo is a very complicated and challenging sport. angle with your arm. This allows for less mass to split the
The sport of water polo consists of two teams with seven surface of the water. Although, only doing this will not
players each in the water at one time. The objective of the effectively reduce the drag constant.
game is to throw a ball, similar to a volleyball, into the Another option on reducing the drag constant is to
opposing team’s net to obtain points. The team with the position your head to look down towards the bottom of the
higher score wins. I am very interested in physics and forces pool rather than straight forward on the surface. This allows
and I realized how beneficial it could be to a player to for water to easily split across the top of your head rather than
examine forces in the water. This project describes how being stopped by your face. Your head position is also
players and coaches can manipulate the forces acting upon a important when needing to breathe. You should try to take out
player to create a positive outcome. This paper consists the the minimum amount of your head needed to breathe of the
listed subjects: water. This will allow your momentum to be only partially
A. Drag
1) “Bad” Drag and how that can impact a player’s
2) Minimizing drag
3) Mathematically proving the extreme benefit of
reducing drag

B. Ball Passing
1) Throwing a water polo with certain angles to get the
farthest and fastest throw possible

C. Momentum and Kinematics

1) Relationships in Momentum
2) Manipulating Momentum Relationships

. Figure 1. This shows the direct relationship between Drag and Velocity
C. Mathematically Proving
II. DRAG Drag is a vector quantity therefore it has direction and a
A. What is Bad Drag? magnitude .Using The magnitude formula is how we can
Drag is the force that works in the opposite direction of prove that if you drop the drag coefficient (C) by only 1
movement. Bad drag is classified as the force that is pushing percent there will be an increase in velocity.
you the opposite way you are attempting to swim. Sadly, most  Drag formula:
people assume that swimming faster will reduce the drag but
this is wrong. The drag force actually increases as your speed
increases, which negatively impacts fast swimmers. There is
 Decrease the drag coefficient:

 The new velocity comes out to be 1.0034

This means that by reducing the coefficient, you are able
to increase your velocity by .34%. .34% may not seem like a
large difference but in a sport that measures thousandths of a
second, this can allow players to gain an advantage.


A. Ball Passing and Its Importance

While playing water polo, it is crucial to be able to throw,
catch, and pass a ball to your teammates. Many people may
believe that if you throw a ball horizontally towards another
player it will go faster and farther, but this is actually
incorrect. The most effective way of throwing a ball to your Figure 3. The position a player should obtain to throw a
teammate is increasing the height to get your maximum water polo ball
displacement from yourself. Therefore, the best shape to
throw your ball is the shape of a parabola (also known as a This 45 degree angle allows for the maximum distance and
parabolic arch). highest acceleration than any other angle. Below is a graph
that shows the distance of an object being thrown from a 45
degree angle. You are clearly able to see that the ball that goes
the farthest compared to 75, 60, 30, and 15 degree angles.

Figure 4. Projectile Path of a Thrown Object from different

Figure 2. Parabolic Arch Shape Degrees
Although when throwing the ball in this shape, it is
important that your shoulders and arms are placed in a IV. MOMENTUM AND KINEMATICS
certain place in relation to your body. Your shoulders should
A. Relationships in Momentum
be facing toward the goal which can help increase your
accuracy. During the moment of throwing, the elbow should When discussing momentum, the most important
be right behind the shoulder, out of the water. The best angle formula is usually:
to throw the ball is 45 degrees from your shoulder.  p=mv
By using this formula, you can identify the inverse
relationship between mass and velocity. This relationship can
help us conclude that the less you weigh, the faster you will
go. Although, depending on the stroke, your velocity can
increase or decrease without having to consider body mass.
When looking at velocity of each stroke, examining the
independent variables is important. The independent
variables in all strokes are stroke length (SL) and stroke
frequency (SF). Stroke length discusses the horizontal
distance the body travels when doing one stroke. Stroke [2] Stankovic Ratko. “Kinematic of Water Polo Shot Kuwait
frequency is how many strokes are done per minute. Fly” Youtube, Youtube, 30 Dec. 2012,
These two factors play a huge role in increasing your
velocity while swimming. Swimming factors are important to [3] (2019). What is Drag?. [online] Available
look at because a major part of water polo is based off of at:
swimming ability. 12/airplane/drag1.html [Accessed 25 Feb. 2019].
B. Manipulating Momentum Relationships [4] OpenStaxCollege Introduction to Sociology – 1 st
When it comes to momentum, a swimmer uses the same Canadian Edition, BCcampus 23 Jan. 2012,
amount of momentum to push them forward as the water uses
to push the swimmer back. This is why it is important to do [5] “Kinematic Equations.” The Physics Classroom,
small things that will help you maintain momentum. Stroke
length and stroke frequency can help swimmers maintain 6/Kinematic-Equations.
momentum. [6] “Momentum.” ThePhysicsClassroom,
When taking a stroke, it is important to cup your hands
and extend your arm to take the full stroke. Taking a full
stroke means after your hand enters the water you pull your
cupped hand towards your body all the way to your hip. Most
athletes will not finish their strokes, swing, etc. so by doing
this you are using your stroke at its full potential. Stroke
Frequency is also important because taking an insufficient
amount of strokes can be the difference between winning and
losing. The correct timing for strokes when playing water
polo is to begin your next stroke when the other arm has just
re-entered the water after taking the previous stroke

Figure 5. The image above shows to bring the elbow out of

the water as the other arm has re-entered the water.

. Overall, when learning how to be the best water polo player,

it is crucial to look at momentum, drag, and kinematics.
Many players, professional or not, can improve by studying
different forces and how the forces can be used to an
advantage. I believe this paper will be able to inform players
of the best ways to manipulate forces and become a better

[1] Allain, Rhett. “Wanna Swim Like Phelps? Take a Dive
Into the Physics of Drag.” Wired, Conde Nast, 3 June