Kansas City Current and U.S. women’s national team midfielder Sam Mewis believes soccer leagues must take climate change into account, she wrote in an op-ed published in The Athletic.
Weather can impact athletic performance, which Mewis has learned both in theory and in practice during her playing career.
Her move from the NWSL – where she had been subject to extreme heat and hurricanes – to Women’s Super League proved an eye-opener. That WSL season in England’s more moderate climate was the “best of my career,” she wrote.
“I started the season off strong. When I was expected to make those max-effort runs up and down the field, I was able to do so without feeling like I weighed a million pounds,” she wrote. “As the season went on, I started to recognize that I wasn’t just adjusting well to a new league, I was consistently playing really well. I was physically dominant, I was playing better than I’ve ever played, arguably in my entire career.
“I kept joking that it was the weather, but it wasn’t entirely a joke. When I wasn’t so physically drained from the heat, I was sharper mentally and better able to utilize my physical attributes against opponents.”
Studies also have shown how weather can impact a player’s performance, as Mewis highlights in her piece. A Polish study showcased how players performing in conditions meant to mimic the climate in Qatar reached maximum effort faster. And “because players were reaching higher work rates earlier in the match, they were also starting to show signs of fatigue earlier,” per the study.
“Climate change is something that is possible to view through the lens of sports,” Mewis argued. “Not only should we focus on preserving life, but also preserving our way of life.”
Mewis believes sports leagues and organizations should adjust so players don’t face such harsh conditions. Athletes must be protected – particularly those in vulnerable communities. And organizations must take larger steps to combat climate change.
“To organizations making broader decisions about how to operate, I would urge you to put sustainability at the forefront of your priorities,” she wrote. “I urge the soccer community to consider and discuss how climate change will impact not only our beloved sport, but our world. Protecting our planet, our players, and our game needs to be seen through the lens of climate change if we want soccer to remain the preeminent sport in the world.”