Which sport requires the toughest athletes?

Sam Wendorf, Staff Writer

Sports fans engage in many topics of debate every season. Which team is the best? Which player is strongest, fastest or most accurate? These questions are subjective. There is no right answer. Just as subjective is a question that has been asked since sports began: which one requires the toughest athletes?

This is a complicated question. We must consider the strength, speed, stamina and flexibility of the athletes involved. Each sport requires different targeted muscle groups, weight classes and training schedules. Being an athlete is not as simple as going to the gym and eating healthy. It takes intense training to get to the top of the sport.

Running can appear to be the most straightforward. You begin at the starting line and end at the finish line; however, speed is not the only facet of the sport. Endurance is vital for any long-distance race. While going fast is a key factor, the ability to pace oneself and maintain a consistent speed is more important. This requires a strong will. While legs, posture, heart and lungs must be trained to excel, training the mind is paramount.

Running is not the only sport in which mental fortitude is mandatory. Knowing one’s own body, the rules of the game, and which strategies to employ are some of the greatest skills an athlete can possess. Cooperation is also a huge factor in team sports. You must know not only your own capabilities, but the capabilities of the team, too.

With all of this in mind, training and strength must once more be explored. In sports like baseball, the ability to run is important, but a player must also pay attention to their core, arms, wrists and shoulders. Fine movements of their upper body allow them to strike the ball with great accuracy, but they must also be able to put force behind the swing. Coordination is important as well — you need to be able to catch the ball.

Coordination and core strength, as in baseball, is also important in almost every other sport. In volleyball, players must be able to track the ball and deliver precise hits with their forearms, which can be a difficult task for anyone not trained to do so. They must keep their hips and legs strong to maintain their posture and have exceptional body control to aim the ball where they need it to go. 

Aim is another commonality; in almost all ball sports, the player needs to get the ball to a specific location. For basketball, this goal is clear — aim for the net. Basketball players require powerful muscles in their backs, legs, shoulders and arms — almost everywhere in their bodies. They need to know how to dodge around other players and must hit a very small target from quite a distance away when shooting the ball. While this requires strategy and an innate understanding of the physics acting on the ball, a degree of muscle memory is also required. This requires as much specific training as with baseball and volleyball, along with another angle — basketball players must keep track of all others on the court and position themselves correctly to ensure that they can dodge or pass when needed.

Soccer uses this same awareness of other players. Like basketball, soccer players need to dodge and pass the ball. Unlike basketball, they cannot use their hands to do it. Soccer players’ legs must be strong, agile and just as coordinated as in the other sports to keep control of the ball while accounting for players on the other team attempting to steal it away. This sport also requires accuracy, as getting the ball into the net while the goalkeeper is in the way can be an intensely difficult task. Knowing how to get through other players to score a goal is an integral part of the game.

In football, the most popular sport in America, getting through other players is the name of the game. Players require enormous weight, strength and determination to get through the enemy line and progress down the field. They cannot be afraid of getting injured, and must work closely with their team to enact plays they have practiced over and over. 

Taking all aspects of these sports into consideration, it is difficult to ascertain which requires the toughest athletes. All need strength, endurance, coordination, control and awareness of their bodies, strategy, mental fortitude, power and agility. While they may use different muscle groups or try for different goals, all require the athlete to be trained, disciplined and determined.

It is safe to say that this is a bad question. No sport requires a tougher athlete than any other. All athletes are impressive, not just in body but in mind, and they all deserve equal respect and admiration.