A cold and rainy day may put a damper on your mood or prompt you to stay inside, but for an athlete or coach in an outdoor sport, unpleasant weather can make the job exponentially harder. Running in freezing temperatures, fighting the wind, kicking a cold, hard ball and even the potential cancellation of a competition can all affect the play of collegiate athletes.
One of the biggest worries in collegiate athletics is game cancellations. Schedules are usually pretty tight during the season, and having to make up a game can be difficult, while cancelling the match may potentially put players at a disadvantage in their conference, state or national standings.
Unless there is lightning or other severe weather, most sports will play through poor conditions, although varying sports are affected differently by the weather.
Take golf, for example. University of Wisconsin–Stout’s men’s golf head coach, Rob Robinson, said that golf is affected the most by cold weather, as opposed to hot or rainy conditions.
“Cold usually has the most bearing because you need to wear more clothes, and that bogs down your swing,” Robinson said, “Also, the ball doesn’t fly as far when it’s cold, so the players have to adjust their swing based on how far their ball normally flies.”
Robinson said that practicing in cold conditions is the best way to prepare for those circumstances.
Temperature also plays a role in sports like cross country, but extreme heat is more problematic than extreme cold. According to senior runner Trevor Blum (Monroe, Wis.), the temperature is the most concerning weather factor. Different temperatures call for different amounts of clothing to be worn, and extreme heat can be dangerous for the runners.
“The pre-nationals meet from this year had a heat index of around 90 degrees in mid-October. That was quite a shock coming from much cooler [weather], but everyone just toughs it out,” Blum said.
Football is another sport that is affected heavily by the weather, according to head football coach Clayt Birmingham. Birmingham said that the team prepares in various ways depending on the projected weather conditions for the game.
For example, if it is projected to be a rainy game, the team will soak balls in water and practice throwing, catching, snapping and carrying them to get used to it. Birmingham said that he also stresses appropriate hydration during hot weather and dressing appropriately in the freezing cold.
“[Weather is] like anything else, if you’re not prepared for it, it will beat you,” Birmingham said, “Both teams have to play in it, so don’t complain about it, just prepare.”
The football team had quite the spat with rainy weather during their homecoming game against the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. Players, coaches and attendees were consistently drenched throughout the game with an onslaught of rain, but the Blue Devils finished the game on top, 21-16.
“That was probably the wettest game that I have played in,” junior quarterback Jay Alston (Rochester, Minn.) said, “The guys adjusted well and handled the weather great.”