How the climate crisis is impacting sports

The changing climate is providing athletes and sporting competitions with new and greater challenges

How the climate crisis is impacting sports

There is no denying that the impacts of the climate crisis are being felt all around us. From the increased intensity and frequency of hurricanes, to longer periods of drought across the world, many people are directly facing the catastrophic consequences of our changing climate. Sports, like many other aspects of our lives, have not been left untouched. The climate crisis has the ability to turn many summer sports into deadly heat-traps and force winter sport athletes and organizers to take drastic actions in order to prolong their seasons.

Winter sports, especially, are prone to the changing climate. According to a study conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation, warmer winters will lead to shorter ice and snowfall seasons, as well as a reduction in snow cover. As a result, the skiing and snowboarding season across Canada and many other countries, whose tourism revenue relies on the winter season, will see an overall reduction across the board.

Resorts are being forced to use fake snow to counter rapid melting of snow and maintain their skiing and snow- boarding seasons. Unfortunately, this option comes at a major price both financially and environmentally, as snow-making machines are costly, water-intensive, and the snow created is water-tight, which means that water cannot seep back into the ground, thus impacting the water table.

Summer sports are not spared from this crisis either. Athletes and spectators will be more prone to heat-related illnesses. For example, during the 2015 US Open, many tennis players felt the effects of record-high temperatures and humidity levels. This contributed toward 10 players retiring from the tournament in the first round due to heat-related circumstances, with many others throwing up and passing out.

American tennis player John Isner said that these illnesses had absolutely nothing to do with the fitness levels of the competitors. The body is unable to cool itself off in a combination of high heat and humidity, and continued exposure leads to illness. With temperatures continuing to rise globally and with more intense heat waves, it is easy to imagine that there will be a massive spike in heat-related deaths and illnesses.

However, this does not mean we need to give up sports entirely to minimize damages. ere are changes that can be made at the amateur, university, and professional levels to respond to this crisis. is includes providing cooling provisions for athletes and fans during times of extreme heat, such as playing in sheltered, air-conditioned venues or allowing extended water breaks to the competitors. For example, the US Open provided tennis players with at least a 10-minute break between sets to allow their bodies to properly cool off.

Outdoor soccer and gridiron football stadiums will also have to improve their water drainage systems in order to prevent pitches from clogging up due to heavy downpours, which could lead to athletes seriously injuring themselves. Furthermore, athletes and organizations will need to use their reach and influence to encourage environmentally-sustainable lifestyles and initiatives.

One example comes from the English Football League Two soccer club, Forest Green Rovers. The club became the world’s first United Nations-certified carbon-neutral club by feeding their players and supporters vegan food and having numerous eco-friendly facilities at their stadium, such as electric car charging facilities and an organic football pitch. The club’s stadium is also 100 per cent powered by green energy.

Their supporters have been in favour of these initiatives and have taken it upon themselves to adopt these same principles at home, for example by transitioning toward a vegan diet to lower their carbon footprint. This is just one example of how teams are able to use their reach to influence the decisions their supporters make.

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 300 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Concussion resource proposes an end to ‘bedroom jail’

Research encourages gradually reintroducing activity sooner after injury

Concussion resource proposes an end to ‘bedroom jail’

Commonly-held post-concussion practices have been upended at U of T as researchers join a growing international consensus for concussion recovery by calling for less hiding away in a dark room and more activity.

On the frontline of this new research is U of T’s own Dr. Nick Reed, who is an associate professor at the Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy. Reed, along with Dr. Roger Zemek from the University of Ottawa and the rest of their team, published an online resource in September called Brain Injury Guidelines, assembling the most up-to-date studies into a tool for patients and medical professionals alike.

Previous reccomendations suggested that concussion patients be prescribed what Reed calls a “bedroom jail,” effectively staying in a dark room until they are feeling better. Now, studies are finding that locking someone away from their life can lead to more harm than good.

Updated concussion guidelines recommend rest for the first 24–48 hours following the injury, as the cells in the brain are undergoing an energy crisis. “After those first couple of days, sort of 24–48 hours, we want to start gradually reintroducing activities which are tolerable,” Reed said in an interview with The Varsity.

Medical consensus says that concussions may cause volatile emotions, and so it’s important to take care of one’s mental health during recovery from a brain injury. With the everyday pressures faced by most U of T students, anxieties are only exacerbated as papers and midterms are pushed off to the near future while they are being told to take a break.

The greatest challenge faced by those resuming activities after a concussion is moderation. In the early stages, going to half of a lecture can sometimes make you feel more aware of what you may be missing. Students struggling with post-concussion symptoms should reach out to their faculty and use the supports and accommodations in place to find and keep their own pace.

Griffin Giles, who plays on the Varsity Blues men’s rugby team, experienced a concussion last October which “messed up [his] whole year.” Giles clarifies that while the university itself was very understanding, most of the pressure came from himself, as he didn’t want to take more than four years to graduate.

Giles spoke highly of U of T’s MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic and their staff. “U of T was really helpful”, said Giles. “They gave me extra time [on exams]; I could write them in a darkened room.”

“One of the goals of this guideline is to get everyone on the same page and to create a culture that supports the individual first and foremost,” Reed explains.

“At the end of the day, concussion is an injury that most people can recover quite well from,” said Reed. Having played lacrosse at U of T in the past, he is a strong advocate of “sports and the values sports instills,” but he wants to ensure people are “engaging in it safely.”

The Brain Injury Guideline is a living document, meaning it will remain up-to-date as new studies come out. “What we want to make sure is that this great product is used… We need to make sure people are aware of it, spread the word, and make sure that people are using this tool,” Reed said.

Madeleine Kelly on running her way to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Varsity Blues alum and National Champion on her recipe for steady success

Madeleine Kelly on running her way to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Lounging on her sofa with a bowl of salad in hand, Madeleine Kelly, former Varsity Blues mid-distance runner, stretches her legs and winces. She’s sore after a long day of training.

No longer running for the Varsity Blues, Kelly has new goals in mind to work toward: namely, the Olympics. “I’m training for cross country with the Varsity Blues and will have an indoor season,” Kelly clarifies, but it is clear that she is hungry for more.

Kelly found her stride while running at U of T. “I met my coach through the Varsity Blues — actually I met him in high school when I was 16. I’ve [ran] with him ever since, and I still do, so I’ve known him for eight years.”

Meshing well with Coach Terry Radchenko and the support system of friends and teammates that she amassed over her years studying at U of T, Kelly decided to stay in Toronto and run with the U of T Track Club.

She felt that the familiarity and camaraderie of the club would lead her to success: “[Terry Radchenko] is part of the reason I chose to go to U of T, and why I stayed to run for the U of T Track Club.”

The decision to stick around paid off. In late July, at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Montréal, Kelly defeated favourite Melissa Bishop-Nriagu and defending champion Lindsey Butterworth in the 800-metre event to secure her first national title. “It was one of the most memorable days of my life,” she chuckled. She was undoubtedly the underdog: “I just had a really good last 100 metres, and won by the skin of my teeth. It wasn’t even on my radar to win this race.”

But make no mistake: this win is just the beginning for Kelly. When asked what her sights are set on next, she didn’t hesitate: “Going into this year, I wanted to make the Olympics, and I still do.” Instead of inflating her ego or allowing her to rest on her laurels, her recent win has stoked her competitive fire and fueled her drive for bigger wins. She’s using the recipe that led her to success to orient herself for wins at future races. “I de-stressed that day, and felt pretty good. I went shopping with my sisters, ate some food, watched some Real Housewives, and went to the track.”

Kelly is also quick to credit her steady success to her support system. “A bunch of people were there to watch, which was very nice, like my family, my boyfriend, and my teammates. And there were a bunch of people watching at home.” With a goal within reach and a group of people to keep her focused, it’s no wonder that she’s so confident for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

She may not have Bishop-Nriagu’s media attention, but Kelly doesn’t need it. She’s steadily working her way to the tantalizingly-close standard time for the Canadian Olympic team, and she’s not letting any distractions get in her way.

Watch out for Madeleine Kelly — she may very well be on your TV screens next year. “It’s not a guarantee,” she says, “but I’ve got a chance. I’ve got a real chance.”

Blues men’s soccer team secure 1–0 win against Laurentian

Win moves the Blues to second in the OUA East Standings before showdown with third-place Ryerson

Blues men’s soccer team secure 1–0 win against Laurentian

The Toronto Varsity Blues men’s soccer team defeated the Laurentian Voyageurs 1–0 last Friday, vaulting them up to second place in the Ontario University Athletics East Standings, and keeping them undefeated for this season. This win puts them even with Ryerson University with a game in hand, setting the stage for a rivalry showdown at Varsity Stadium on September 22.

Toronto controlled much of the possession in the first half, generating most of the scoring opportunities. In the eighth minute, a great play from Toronto in the box led to the ball just squeaking past the keeper, but it was cleared off the line by Laurentian defender Graeme McLean. In the 17th minute, Toronto midfielder Atchu Sivananthan forced a turnover from McLean, and made a brilliant pass into the box to fellow midfielder Gabriel Milo, who then hit the crossbar from a tight angle. The Blues didn’t stop pressing when an exceptional cross from Sivananthan led to a great opportunity for Jacob Maurutto-Robinson, whose header missed just wide of the goal.

The Blues offence finally broke through in the 23rd minute, when a free kick by defender Kenny Lioutas led to a header goal in the box by Atchu Sivananthan. More great passing from Sivananthan led to a great one-on-one opportunity with the goalkeeper for Artem Tesker, but Laurentian keeper Adam Scanlon dove out for the ball before Tesker could get the shot off. Laurentian started to get some chances going with their best coming near the end of the first half, but a chance in the box from midfielder Brandon Moxam went just over the net.

The second half saw the Blues play a more defensive style, congesting the box and not letting Laurentian get any quality scoring opportunities. Laurentian didn’t get any shots on the goal in the entire half. It was also much chippier than the first half, with Laurentian receiving two yellow cards, the first coming from Kristian Shuttleworth in the 71st minute, and the second coming from Nicholas Correa in the 84th minute. Laurentian’s final opportunity came with a throw-in in the final minutes, with the keeper coming down the field to help the offence, but they were unable to get a shot on the goal before the final whistle.

“I think we played well in terms of the attacking parts,” head coach Ilya Orlov said in a postgame interview. “The game plan was to go out and attack. We knew we were going to have possession most of the game, and obviously if you watch our game, our plan was to attack the wide areas and we were successful in getting the ball there.”

Blues football narrowly drop a 37–33 decision to the Queen’s Gaels

Toronto secures sixth-place standing in OUA

Blues football narrowly drop a 37–33 decision to the Queen’s Gaels

It was a constant chase for the lead for the Blues football team, who fought valiantly until the end against the Queen’s University Gaels in their fourth match of the season. This score puts an end to the Blues’ two-game winning streak.

Despite the result, Toronto made some standout plays against the Gaels, a team that they have not had a regular season victory over since 1975. With a hefty 11-point lead out the gate for the Gaels, Blues quarterback and U of T’s East-West Bowl representative Clay Sequeira narrowed the lead with a six-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Lehmann to finish a 75-yard drive.

The first quarter also saw some impressive defensive efforts, with an exceptionally notable interception by linebacker Kalvin Zhou at the Blues’ own 37-yard line.

The second and third quarters saw more points for the Gaels than the Blues, with impressive plays on their offence: Richard Burton of the Gaels secured a seven-yard touchdown reception, and Queen’s kept this ball rolling well into the third quarter. The Blues were not, however, handing it over easily. With multiple incomplete passes and near-touchdowns in the Queen’s endzone, it was clear that Toronto was putting it all out on the field.

The Blues came out strong in the fourth quarter, with a connection between Sequeria and Nolan Lovegrove over 18 yards for a touchdown to further close the gap. The game had a nail-biting finish, but, in the end, the Blues fell to the Gaels. Despite the loss, quarterback Sequeria is still leading the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) in passing with an average of 400.5 yards per game. Lovegrove also secured the number-one spot in the OUA rankings for receiving, averaging 115.8 yards per game and five touchdowns.

The Blues will be in Ottawa September 28 to face off against the Carleton Ravens.

Liberal, NDP, Green MP candidates debate transit

Conversation focused on environmental and safety concerns at Innis Town Hall

Liberal, NDP, Green MP candidates debate transit

There were no major roadblocks at a transportation debate for Toronto federal candidates at Innis Town Hall on September 17, as Liberal Party, New Democratic Party (NDP), and Green Party members largely reached a consensus.

The debate, hosted by Transport Futures, featured two of the candidates for the Spadina–Fort York federal riding: incumbent Adam Vaughan of the Liberal Party and Diana Yoon of the New Democratic Party (NDP), as well as Tim Grant — the Green Party candidate for the University–Rosedale federal riding.

Absent from the debate were invited candidates of the Conservative Party and Renata Ford of the People’s Party of Canada.

The conversation was moderated by Ben Spurr, a transportation reporter for the Toronto Star. While the discussion covered a breadth of topics, three issues persistently came up during the evening: environmental impact, safety, and funding for transportation.

Platform comparisons

Vaughan kicked off the debate by announcing his party’s intentions to deliver a $180 billion infrastructure program — $28 billion of which will be allocated to public transit. Under this plan, funds will be distributed on a per-rider as opposed to a per-capita basis. The TTC will receive just under $4.9 billion over a 10-year period, with pedestrian and cycling infrastructure also being supported under the Liberal plan.

The hallmark of the NDP’s platform is fare-free public transit. Yoon emphasized the importance of this policy for low-income and marginalized communities who have faced decades of Liberal and Conservative underfunding on the topic of transportation.

Grant advocated for his party’s transportation strategy, which he described as a “hub and spoke” system. The Green’s plan proposes the use of rail as ‘the hub’ and electric buses, the ‘spokes,’ which would connect more remote areas to a central rail system. The aim of this vision is to use as much electric transportation as possible by 2040.

Environmental implications of transportation

The debate touched on the impact of public transit on the climate crisis at length, as the candidates spoke on the future of Toronto’s public transportation. All three candidates made impassioned arguments for the role of zero-emission cars and public transit in their plans to fight the crisis.

Yoon, who worked at the City of Toronto’s Atmospheric Fund, said that the “motivating force” for her candidacy was the climate crisis, emphasizing equity in her policies.

Bike lane accessibility also played a large role in the conversation, which prompted discussion around the question of whether or not the lack of infrastructure was the true problem surrounding environmentally-friendly transportation.

Yoon attributed the alleged lack of investment in proper infrastructure from the federal government to be a concern. Grant disagreed, blaming increased congestion in the city on the development of ride-sharing applications instead.

While the NDP, Liberals, and Green Party candidates all agreed on providing tax incentives for the creation of zero-emission vehicles, Grant made an effort to note that electric busses, more than cars, are a “big part of the answer.”

“What we really need is harder, bigger, and more ambitious federal targets on vehicle use and on carbon reduction,” argued Grant.

Transportation and safety

Pedestrian and cyclist safety was a priority for all candidates: “I am not a cyclist because, frankly, I am concerned about my own safety,” Yoon said, and argued that Toronto’s poor urban street design is the root of the problem.

Vaughan referred to his work as a city counsellor in establishing more bike lanes, and he credited the King Street pilot for taking a step toward safer transit. He continued by saying that federal investment was necessary to design safer transportation policies.

Grant’s safety concerns were focused on train rail safety. Notably, he pointed toward the Dupont Street corridor, where the City of Toronto cited a lack of rail safety in blocking a condo development from being built too close to the rail.

The Green Party candidate argued that rail companies need to have higher standards and include the implementation of safety options such as electronic sensors. The concern for the Dupont Street corridor was shared by Vaughan, as he agreed that bigger security measures need to be taken to avoid a catastrophe like the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in 2013.

Ontario Liberal leadership candidates promise reversal of Ford policies

Mitzie Hunter, Alvin Tedjo, Michael Coteau, Kate Graham, Steven Del Duca on their plans

Ontario Liberal leadership candidates promise reversal of Ford policies

Following the resignation of Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Liberal Party will be electing a new leader in March 2020 to challenge Premier Doug Ford in the 2022 election. In the past year, the provincial government, led by Ford, has made several significant changes to postsecondary education, most notably the restructuring of Ontario university and college funding, cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), and the implementation of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI).

In an article from The Queen’s Journal, all Ontario Liberal Party leader candidates announced their intentions to restore OSAP and reverse the SCI if elected as premier.

The Varsity spoke to all five candidates about their plans for postsecondary education: Mitzie Hunter, Scarborough—Guildwood MPP and former Minister of Education; Alvin Tedjo, former Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities; Michael Coteau, Don Valley East MPP and former Minister of Community and Social Services; Kate Graham, a political science teacher at the University of Western Ontario; Steven Del Duca, former MPP for Vaughan and Minister of Economic Development and Growth.

Mitzie Hunter

Hunter said she will reinstate $750 million in OSAP cuts: “I’m hearing directly from students who have lost thousands of dollars that they were previously receiving under the former Liberal government, and they no longer [receive] as a result of the Ford cuts. This is delaying their completion of their programs and this helps no one.”

“It’s certainly a challenging bar for various universities and colleges because each of them have different conditions in which they operate,” said Hunter, on the topic of tying funding to performance metrics. She also expressed concern about equity in the new postsecondary funding system.

In addition, Hunter plans to increase the interest-free grace period to two years, as well as provide mental health coverage through OHIP to people under 30.

Alvin Tedjo

On the Ford government’s announcement that 60 per cent of postsecondary funding will be tied to performance metrics by 2024–2025, Tedjo said, “I think in theory it should be a good thing. But in practice, I worry that the Ford government will use it to manipulate what they want more out of the system and in their own ideological way and not in a fact-based way.”

To Tedjo, the SCI is “[the] government attacking student leadership, attacking student program, attacking student life, attacking student media outlets, because they’re afraid of it. They’re afraid to give students that voice… And we’re seeing how devastating it is for a number of governments and student groups, in terms of what they’ve been able to do.”

Tedjo’s campaign is exploring the idea of universal basic income and universal child care, especially for students with dependents.

Michael Coteau

Instead of focusing solely on academic success through performance metrics, Coteau believes we should also be “looking at the health and well-being of students, looking at ways for the university to benchmark and make improvements in those areas.”

“I think some of the pieces that we should be looking at — and this is what we’d need from the [Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities] — is, number one, enrollment numbers,” said Coteau on understanding the effects of the OSAP cuts, emphasizing that the ministry should look into Indigenous and low-income enrollment.

“If I was the premier of Ontario, I would reverse those cuts immediately and I would continue to explore ways to invest [in] postsecondary education and training only because I believe that is probably our number one economic development strategy by getting people ready for the new economy and the opportunities.”

Kate Graham

In an email to The Varsity, Graham wrote that in her experience as a university instructor, she saw “how damaging the recent OSAP cuts have been for students.”

“Even in the single year of expanded OSAP, the initial numbers showed increased enrolment from Indigenous students and mature students — we heard stories of people going back to school who would never been able to afford it otherwise.”

Graham added that she believes “investing in people and their skills is the best kind of investment.”

“I would plan to bring back funding into the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities: not only for student aid, but for the direct funding of institutions that has also been cut by this government.” Graham would also reverse the SCI if elected premier.

Steven Del Duca

Del Duca told The Varsity that, if elected, he would reverse the SCI, “bring back truly affordable tuition,” and “[restore] an OSAP upon which students can rely.”

He called out Ford’s policies by saying that the cuts the current provincial government have made come “at the expense of student experience and success.”

“I will fight so that every single individual in Ontario has a genuine opportunity to go as far in life as their talent and effort can take them. To accomplish this, high-quality education must be accessible regardless of income level.”

The Varsity has reached out to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Editor’s Note (September 24, 12:39 pm): This article has been updated with comment from Graham.

Editor’s Note (September 24, 1:04 pm): An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that The Varsity had reached out to Graham for comment. The Varsity regrets the error.

Editor’s Note (September 29, 3:16 pm): This article has been updated with comment from Del Duca.

Valley Land Trail opens at UTSC

Accessible trail connects Highland Creek Valley to UTSC

Valley Land Trail opens at UTSC

UTSC is finishing up the final touches on its highly-anticipated Valley Land Trail. Opened to the public on August 29, the 500-metre trail will undergo periodic closures as the last of the work is completed.

The trail slopes at a five per cent grade, 19 metres down into the Highland Creek Valley. It includes a number of safety features that meet design requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

“The motivation behind the project is to make the path more accessible, beautiful and enjoyable for our community,” wrote UTSC Media Relations Officer Don Campbell.

According to fourth-year UTSC student Lubaba Gemma, prior to the opening of the new trail, “It was definitely difficult to find your way around the valley… A lot of the ‘path’ beforehand was uneven and really difficult to manoeuvre around.” Now, Gemma noted, “It’s a lot easier to get around but also, students are actively going to the valley more often.”

Preliminary designs for the trail began in late 2016. Construction started in April 2018 and finished at the end of August 2019 — with the exception of the benches and plant life signage, which will be added throughout September.

As for the potential consequences on the Highland Creek environment, UTSC Professor of Human Geography Andre Sorensen wrote, “There is no doubt that such a construction project does have significant environmental impacts.” However, Sorensen added, “The benefits of the new trail well outweigh the environmental impacts… and [the trail] is likely to reduce other impacts over the longer term.”

The Valley Land Trail was built atop a pre-existing trail which had been severely eroded by human activity over the years. Sorensen explained that “[having] a well-built trail in this location will be likely to mitigate that kind of environmental impact in the longer term.” Additionally, the new trail is “highly likely to greatly reduce foot traffic in other areas of the valley slope,” which, he noted, is an “environmentally sensitive” locale.

Sorensen also pointed out that UTSC has “a number of facilities in the valley,” and therefore “access to the valley is very important for UTSC as a whole.”

Community member Tom Gretton was hiking the Highland Creek Trail when he decided to try the Valley Land Trail. Gretton told The Varsity that “the trees have to grow a bit and the vegetation has to come back, but it’s a very enjoyable walk up and down into the valley.”