Using Soccer to Show Connections across Space, Time, and Nature

by Leidy Klotz, author of Sustainability through Soccer: An Unexpected Approach to Saving Our World

This guest post is published to coincide with the Ecological Society of America conference in Fort Lauderdale. Check back every day this week for new posts through the end of the conference on August 12th.

9780520287815Global connections is the core idea of my book: Sustainability through Soccer: An Unexpected Approach to Saving Our World. I make connections across nature a running theme, for example in the true story about how a volcano in Iceland prevented Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona from winning three straight Champions Leagues. I also use soccer to describe connections across space, by comparing a jheri-curled Colombian goalkeeper to the nine-dots brain teaser – and across time, by describing the Iroquois’ seven generations principle and the need for rest in between soccer games.

Why use soccer? Because soccer is played and watched in every corner of the world and therefore affects our lives more than any other sport. It was soccer that the philosopher Albert Camus gave credit for “all that I know most surely about morality and obligations.” What’s more, just like ecology, soccer requires a systems view. It is a holistic sport where a slight change in one play will shape what follows in unexpected and dramatic ways. As in Nature, all of the moves and plays in a soccer game are intricately woven together in a web of interdependence.

I hope that learning about sustainable systems and connections through soccer is more fun and therefore more memorable than learning via tired analogies to made-up water reservoirs. Plus, real-world interdependencies, not just analogies, connect the soccer system and the systems we hope to sustain; it’s just that these connections are not usually obvious. So, by discovering such connections between soccer and sustainability, we can sharpen our ability to find them elsewhere.

Leidy Klotz is Associate Professor of Engineering at Clemson University. Less than a decade into his academic career, he has been awarded a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and named to NerdScholar’s inaugural list of “40 under 40: Professors Who Inspire” for his ability to captivate and engage students. Before becoming a professor, he was a professional soccer player.