Weather and winning: how climates can affect sports games

JEREMY DANG / AGGIE

UC Davis athletes comment on how they see weather playing into their sport, performances

For the sports required to play outside the protection of covered arenas, teams can sometimes find themselves battling the elements just as much as they battle their opponents. With temperatures beginning to rise in Davis and spring sports entering into their second month of play, the weather has proved to be both an advantage and disadvantage for the Aggie teams.

Freshman Chethan Swanson reflected back on his first year with the men’s tennis team and shared an instance in which his team beat the University of Hawai’i when the Aggies had the home advantage, but lost when they traveled to their opponent’s island courts.

“It was a tough loss for our team, but it definitely goes to show you how home court advantage can play a big part in college tennis,” Swanson said. “They probably struggled with the lack of humidity here in Davis, the time change, and low temperatures, but felt more at home when they played us in warm, 80 degrees, and humid conditions the next week.”

Sophomore community and regional development major Mitchell Iwahiro added to his teammate’s thoughts and shared how the different climate causes him to change how he prepares for matches.

“In some cases when it gets windy, I definitely take that into account and try to aim more through the middle of the court and adjust using different spins when necessary,” Iwahiro said. “Also, during the colder months, I string my racquets looser, and vice versa during the summer. Something about the hot air just seems to make the ball fly, so the tighter tension gives me more control.”

With both the debate of climate change on the rise and the record-setting temperatures that the sports world has experienced in the past decade or so, weather has found itself on the forefront of some of athletics’ biggest concerns. In the 2015 U.S. Open for tennis, played in New York City, the temperatures exceeded 90 degrees with 40 percent humidity just during the first round, and 10 players retired after the event was over — an all-time high for the sport. The speculated reason for the high retirement number was the heat stress these athletes experienced. The Australian Open for tennis even changed its heat policy for the 2015 season, due to multiple players experiencing hallucinations, vomiting, fainting, burns and damaged equipment due to temperatures passing triple digits in 2014. Heavily-padded sports, such as football or the catcher’s position in baseball, are forced to be cautious of players overheating during the warmer seasons.

Colder weather sports also come with their fair share of difficulties due to the climate. A study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada found that nearly half of the past host cities of the Winter Olympics would most likely be too warm for Alpine sports competitions. The 2014 Sochi Olympics experienced temperatures in the 50 and 60 degree range, making the conditions both unpleasant and unsafe for the athletes competing. Sports that are typically played in outdoor rinks, such as outdoor hockey, have seen significant decreases in the length of their seasons as well due to the gradually rising temperatures the globe has faced in the last few decades. Even American football teams have seen negative dips in their players’ statistics during exceptionally cold games in the early winter.

However, multiple studies have also been conducted to find a relationship between the weather and how different sports teams play. A search study conducted by a reporter for the Star Tribune in 2016 focused on the 10 coldest football games ever reported in the National Football League’s history. The study found that the majority of the wins were earned by the teams whose home cities’ average temperatures were colder than their opponents,’ suggesting that the teams’ familiarity with the freezing numbers was on their side. On the other hand, a study played out by Bet Labs looked at the weather data available for the seasons between 1990 and 2013, and a direct correlation was found between higher temperatures and more runs scored. Batting averages, slugging percentages and isolated power percentages all rose as the weather warmed up, hinting at an advantage to the warm weathered seasons that the baseball season is found in.

Women’s tennis’ first-year Sara Tsukamoto has experienced this advantage firsthand, but she also recalled an instance during her rookie year in which Davis’ weather was on her team’s side against the University of Hawai’i.

“During the springtime, we play schools that still have snow at their schools, and coming here to play us […] is very different, and it is very hard to go from freezing cold to 80 degrees,” Tsukamoto said. “During the winter, it got very windy during our match against [Hawai’i]. No one on the [Hawai’i] team was playing very well [… so] we had the advantage because we always train in the Davis wind.”

Swanson mentioned why he prefers playing his sport in the climate California is famous for.

“My favorite climate to compete in is the spring time because the weather warms up and favors my aggressive style,” said Swanson. “The summer favors me as well, but, as most of my fellow Sacramento area kids would tell you, nobody ever gets used to playing tennis in 100 degree heat. Tennis is an interesting sport in a sense that weather plays a major factor in gameplay.”

 

 

Written by: Kennedy Walker — sports@theaggie.org