Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Tension Force

Tension is a powerful force. In my 10th grade physics class, I had to build a model rubber band car. Unfortunately, (unlike my older brother Andrew) I do not possess the gift of mechanics, so my first attempt at rubber band car building failed miserably. The car was supposed to travel down the length of the hallway (at least 25 meters) – and if I remember correctly mine went about 4.

The idea behind the rubber band car was simple – the rubber band was attached to one end of the car. In order to move the car forward, the band was coiled around the axel of the wheel on the opposite end (I can’t remember specifically which axel, front or back, but that is insignificant to my story). The car was supposed to move on the principle of converting potential energy (in the form of tension) into usable energy – when the band was released, the tension created a force that was supposed to propel the car forward. The key was to coil the band as tightly as possible around the axel, creating as much tension as possible without making the band snap.

Now, you may be wondering why I am talking about my 10th grade physics project (although those of who know me wouldn’t be surprised if I was just being random Rachel with this story). Well, (surprisingly) it is actually incredibly relevant to the trials and tribulations of the USA field hockey team. You see tension can be an incredibly powerful, albeit uncomfortable, force in the world of sport.

There is the obvious physiological use of tension in strength and explosion training. You know that feeling when you are in the gym, pumping the heavy iron, and before you powerfully explode to lift the weight (roughly 120 kgs over your head Olga style) you contract your muscles in order to create a source of potential energy.

Ok, Olga aside. Tension is obviously ridiculously crucial in movement-based activities like hockey. But beyond the physiological tension of the body, there is yet another powerful tension force in sport.

The tension of being really close to where you need to be, but not quite there . . . yet. This is the predicament we have found ourselves in recently. We have been playing some really consistent periods of quality hockey in the past 10 matches; unfortunately, we have very little to show for it. 2 and 8 isn’t exactly what I call a winning record.

So losing has been strenuous, especially since our desire to win is so intense. This desire is juxtaposed to the reality of the situation - we haven’t been able to find a way to get more wins. We are on the cusp, but not there, quite yet. We know we are playing well, and competing at a high level. We know we have made an important progression in our game, and we know we have learned invaluable lessons from the difficult losses. But we also understand that our rubberband is awfully close to the edge of snapping

We feel the tension. We are coiled pretty tightly around the axel of our wheels. However, with a 4-0 win this evening against Belgium, you can rest assured that our rubberband will not be snapping. And there will come a time, in what I expect will be the not so distant future, when the tension in our rubberband will release, and we will be moving forward, fast and with force.

At that time, I will have successfully redeemed myself for the failures of my 10th grade rubberband car.

**This was not a lesson in physics. Most of the ideas on tension were constructed from vague memories of learning physics. Some of the notions included above were total fabrications of my imagination.

No comments: