MadSci Network: Physics

Re: Why do soccer gloves help goalies catch balls?

Date: Sat Jan 12 07:09:54 2002
Posted By: Gareth Evans, Senior Research Associate
Area of science: Physics
ID: 1010443661.Ph

Brian thanks for your question.:- “Why do soccer gloves work to help 
goalies catch soccer balls? Is it related to friction? Can I improve my 
ability to catch balls by changing the materials used in the gloves 
(rubber, leather, felt, etc.)?”

You have almost answered it yourself.  Yes it is related to friction.  In 
this situation we can think of friction as the resistance to the movement 
of the surface of the glove across the ball’s surface.  
Often, friction depends on whether the surfaces are actually rubbing 
together or are static.  We sometimes call the static friction “stiction” 
and it is usually higher than the “dynamic” or moving friction.  This is 
because when the surfaces are moving, some air or water can get between 
the surfaces and can lubricate them by reducing the area of the surfaces 
on contact with each other.  It is important for goalies to hang on to the 
ball when they catch it so this static friction is important.

If you look at some goalie gloves they have a tin layer of synthetic 
rubber foam on the front.  This is usually smooth so that contact area is 
maximised and the static friction is high..  The foam probably helps to 
absorb some of the impact of the ball and will help keep your hands warm.  
My son is a goalie and in most countries, soccer is a winter game.  Felt 
or woollen gloves would keep you warm but have rough surfaces and low 
friction.  You can easily tell the difference if you handle a ball with 
different types of glove.  My son, of course, insists on expensive gloves 
and replaces them when the foam gets worn.  Who do you think pays for 
this ?

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