Weather Facts: How Temperature Affects Soccer Balls and Performance

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Soccer is truly the world’s game, as it’s played in countries all over the globe and by people from all walks of life. As such, the game sees play in almost all imaginable weather conditions, too. The sunny summer days in Mexico City and the frosty Winter afternoons in Moscow have both seen their shares of soccer matches, but the temperature affected more than just the players’ body heat.

Let’s take a look at air pressure, temperature, and science to see how these things affect the world’s favorite game.

What’s in the Ball?

Get ready for a major knowledge bomb. No, seriously, this is about to blow your mind. Are you ready? Soccer balls are empty on the inside. Okay, joking aside, the structure of a soccer ball is extremely important to its behavior on the field and during play. Soccer balls are filled with air so that they bounce off of things like feet, foreheads, and the ground. If soccer balls were made of, say, solid rubber, they’d have dramatically different properties on the field.

That air in the middle of the ball offers the springiness and bounce that every soccer match needs. It also opens the ball up to the potential for weather to alter its properties. This is because of what, exactly, temperature is.

Air Particles

The thing that humans feel as “hot” and “cold” is actually just how active particles are. When particles are excited and moving quickly, they register to our senses as “hot,” and the opposite also holds true. That goes for everything from solid stone to the air that surrounds us. Air particles are unique in this, though: gasses experience temperature change much more rapidly than other state of matter, and their temperatures can dramatically affect their properties.

With a soccer ball, the end result is that higher temperatures (more active air particles inside the ball) lead to the ball bouncing higher and traveling farther. This is because the excited air particles inside the ball are pushing out more aggressively, allowing the ball to carry for more distance.

The opposite, of course, is also true. Slower-moving air particles in cold environments result in a much “heavier” feeling ball. Kicks carry for less distance, the ball bounces on much shallower trajectories, and the whole game slows down. So, the next time you’re playing soccer, try to factor in the weather when you’re considering just how much force to put behind your kicks!