Missouri soccer players are drowning in unpredictable weather

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As climate change is impacting the Midwest, soccer complexes in St. Louis have experienced extreme flooding over the last 20 years.

Hockey rinks in Canada are melting. Fifty percent of all golf courses will be threatened by rising waters at the end of this century. The 2022  FIFA World Cup has been moved to the fall due to extreme heat.

And the list goes on.

“[I think this is a topic no one talks about because] athletes don’t want the possibility of not being able to play their sport. People don’t want to talk about it because they don’t want to face the reality of the situation,” Holden Potter, a climate change activist and college athlete, said.

Climate change has been disrupting sports around the world. In Missouri, climate change is causing hotter temperatures, more extreme storms and more rainfall.

In the past 20 years, multiple soccer complexes in St. Louis have experienced extreme flooding, which negatively impacts soccer players.

“I played in a league called [St. Louis Youth Soccer Association] SLYSA when I was younger – around 10 years old – and I can count a handful of times where my games were canceled because the SLYSA fields had been flooded,” former youth soccer player Connor Davega said. “It sucked.”

Graphic by Patrick Guinan.

According to the University of Missouri’s associate extension professor of Climatology, Patrick Guinan, warm-season temperatures are projected to increase more in the Midwest than any other region in the U.S.

Guinan also mentioned the oceans are warming, including the Tropical Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. He said this will enhance precipitation.

Other states like Utah, Florida and even parts of Canada are feeling the impact of climate change.

Jake Stronach has been in the sports world his whole life. His former job was with the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour as the manager of strategic partnerships for two years. Based in Orlando, Florida, he experienced hurricanes, rain delays and evacuations while on the golf course.

Stronach said at one point, a golf course was completely underwater.

“It made me stressed out constantly because [Hurricane Junior Golf Tour was] liable for it all,” Stronach said. “We had to cancel tournaments, shorten tournaments or move tournaments because the weather was unpredictable.”

Stronach is now the chief operating officer for Verbero. Stronach has tried to plan outdoor hockey games in Utah Park City and Toronto, but the cities would not commit due to warmer winters.

“We’re pretty skeptical to schedule outdoor tournaments now because there are less and less lakes and ponds freezing during the winter,” Stronach said.

Climate change is slowly but surely entering its way into the sports world and Potter is worried for the future.

“What if sports are taken out of regulation and they aren’t even a thing anymore because there isn’t a correct season or good enough conditions in certain areas of the world?” Potter said.

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