Recommended age group: 7–11 (KS2)
Time required: one to two 60 min session(s) depending on ability
Equipment: Get a Grip activity sheet; each group will need three different types of shoes: for example, a trainer, a school shoe and a plimsoll (all the same size), or a single shoe with different materials to cover the sole; force meters (marked in newtons).


In this activity, students will explore the force of friction and its effects on everyday life, investigating which shoes/materials have the best grip for a game of tennis.

Pupils will be able to:

  • identify the effects of friction between moving surfaces
  • interpret and present data using appropriate graphical methods. 


  1. Define friction as a class. Ask children to slide different objects over each other so they can 'feel friction’.
    Definition: friction is a force between two surfaces that are sliding, or trying to slide, across each other. Friction always slows a moving object down.
  2. Discuss where friction happens in a game of tennis. Examples include: shoes gripping the court, hands gripping rackets or wheels and the ball gripping the strings (for spin). Talk about why friction is important for tennis shoes and for wheelchair tennis, identify the importance of grip.
  3. In groups, ask students to use the Get a Grip activity sheet to begin their investigation into which type of shoe has the best grip. Students will pull each shoe (or shoe with each covering) across a table top with a force meter, measuring and recording the amount of force required to move it.
  4. Ask students to discuss whether the test is fair (for example considering if the shoes need to be the same weight and size to ensure only one variable is changed).
  5. Ask groups can also plot their results on a graph using the squared paper provided.
  6. Once complete, ask the different groups to try out suitable extension investigations from the sheet.


  • Extend the investigation and/or challenge selected students to consider factors such as how different floor surfaces affect grip.
  • Challenge students to design an experiment to test friction in a wheelchair tyre grip.
  • Ask students to investigate tyre grip and other design features of sports wheelchairs used in tennis and present their findings to the class/create an information leaflet. Compare and contrast with an everyday use chair, or a sports chair used in a different sport. How have sports chairs been adapted to make them suitable for tennis?


  • Students can try doing a range of exercises and activities on different surfaces and then discuss how much grip their shoes can achieve, comparing different types of footwear.
  • Remember to encourage pupils to log their activity to your Travel to Tokyo class team for the chance to win exclusive prizes! Find out more about Get Set's Travel to Tokyo challenge here: