Defend our right to a sporting chance

Defend our right to a sporting chance

Before suffering heat stroke, I played as a defender in the wonderful game of netball at a national level for nearly 10 years.

Then, on March 5, 2016 on a 39.3°C day, during the ANZ Championship, my life changed.

After a full-length game at goal defence, one of the most energy intensive positions on the court, I had pushed my body too hard and was taken to hospital after collapsing on my way to the team bus.

Little did I know at the time, but it signalled the end of my netball career.

Since then I have suffered chronic health conditions which have inspired me to work on educating the public about the risks of the changing climate on our sport, and in particular, extreme heat.

The frequency and intensity of extreme heat days in Australia is increasing, accelerated by man-made global warming.

In the past we have been a bit naive about the effects of extreme heat on athletes, believing we can tough it out and that it's just part of living in this amazing land.

We can no longer ignore climate change as something that is happening.

It's not just the high-profile, big tournaments where players wilt in the heat and matches are cancelled, but games in schools and at an amateur level.

I despair for a generation of young children who may be confined indoors, frustrated and lacking exercise, because it is simply too hot for them to play sport.

The most important message though, is that we can act now to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.

Every new sporting venue has an obligation to factor in climate change in design and management of facilities.

Every existing sporting venue must consider what adaptations must be made to maintain sporting fixtures and protect players and spectators.

Every athlete and spectator must ask themselves what can we do to spread the message that climate change is a shared responsibility.

We must demand that our elected representatives treat it as seriously as we do.

We must demand that they act on changing our carbon-based economy to one that is sustainable, clean and reliable.

As a defender, I used to focus on preventing goals from the opposition.

Now I'm focused on preventing the number one issue the world is facing, climate change.

Amy Steel is a manager in Deloitte's Sustainability team and former netball player for the Adelaide Thunderbirds, Melbourne Vixens and Queensland Firebirds.