The Red Ledger has set out to try and answer the question of what sport on campus is the most difficult, not in terms of skill requirement, but in how much of a physical toll the sport takes on the athlete’s body.
Soccer players sometimes run up to seven miles in one game. The constant movement of the sport and few breaks require the player to have lots of stamina. Approximately 700 calories are burned in one hour of playing soccer.
“There is a scene in Dogma with Matt Damon, he is the Angel of Death,” head girls soccer coach Jeff Kear said. “He is responsible for destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, and he is asked about whether or not that is a tough job and he says ‘It’s raining fire and brimstone down, it’s the most physically exhausting thing a person can do, other than soccer.’ It’s a funny line in the movie, but it’s kind of a good line too, because it’s a physically demanding sport. Playing 90 minutes, every player plays both ways, there are no time outs, you don’t get to stop and talk over your strategy, coaches can’t tell you stuff, and if somebody knocks you on your butt you just have to get up and keep going because we are not going to stop the game for you. It takes 90 minutes of actual game time, which is a lot different than 60 minutes of a football game which actually takes three hours to somehow finally get through, because you’re not actually playing the whole time. I think for all of that it is the most physically demanding sport.”
Powerlifting is one of those sports that requires hard work, but outside of the few seconds of the lift, is not very physically demanding. The weight room training that the sport requires can be exhausting. However, one of the most important things about powerlifting is the technique. Having correct technique can greatly improve the amount of weight one can lift.
“I think the most physically demanding sport, even though I am the head powerlifting coach, I’m going to have to go with football.” head powerlifting coach Greg Gibson said. “Football is going to test your anaerobic and aerobic and it’s going to test your mental toughness. When you go to powerlifting, it is going to test your anaerobic capacity. When you have to get in the squat rack, and you have to load 2, 3, and last week I saw a kid lift 4 times his bodyweight, that is going to also test your mental toughness. However, for the most physically demanding sport, I am still going to have to go with football.”
Basketball can involve a lot of physical contact but that can change from game to game. One part of the sport that is consistent: the amount of conditioning needed to succeed.
Running up and down the court every possession requires stamina. The distance ran in a basketball game can vary. In 2012, the NBA player that averaged the most distance running per game was Luol Deng. He averaged 2.72 miles a game. Basketball games can get physical as well. When playing down in the post, elbows are thrown and fouls are frequent.
“I think all the sports present different physical demands,” head basketball coach Kyle Herrema said. “Obviously from a cardio standpoint you have to look at how tough some of the cross country runners have to be. I think you have to deal with the collisions of football. You’ve got to deal with, in wrestling, I mean wrestlings probably physically the most demanding sport of any of them. From a cardio and a physical standpoint. Probably wrestling is the most difficult. In basketball too, you have a lot of bodies flying against each other, and so they all have their merits so im not really going to pick one or the other, but there are a lot of difficult ones.”
Wrestling is a front-runner on the list of most physical sports. A wrestling match consists of three two minute periods, and an overtime period if necessary. In five minutes, a wrestler burns about 450 calories which is more than most sports in an hour.
“[The most physically demanding sport is] wrestling,” head wrestling coach Mike Eaton said. “I would say you could argue swimming too, because swimming is all total body, but they’re not cutting weight in swimming, they’re not watching their diet in swimming as much as a wrestler is. A wrestler is going against somebody one on one, the whole time, and he is also having to watch his diet, trying to keep that down as well. It’s also a longer competition period (non stop).”
Football requires physical toughness making it a contender for the school’s hardest sport. About 600-700 calories are burned during an hour of play and having to hit someone in almost every play takes a physical toll on a player’s body. However, between each play there is a break for the players to gain their breath and prepare for the next burst of physicality.
“I’m biased as the football coach, but in my opinion football is the most violent, for many reasons,” head football coach Matt Green said. “One, you have collisions on every play, tackling, hitting. But two, the reason it’s so physically demanding is because sometimes collisions happen from long distances where kids are running at each other full speed. And sometimes you have some major collisions. Every single play entails kids making contact from a distance apart and colliding. I think that that, in itself, creates a physicalness to the sport. Also, kids are so big and strong. In other sports as well, sometimes you matchup by weight so it is fair. In football that is not always the case. You may be playing as a 160 pound linebacker against a 280 pound offensive lineman. Therefore, it’s not always fair. You don’t always match up with an opponent that always matches his size. So, that makes it a very physical sport, because you have to use techniques to defeat people that are bigger than you, maybe even stronger than you, and you have to be very physical to do it.”
Swimming is perhaps the most underrated sport when it comes to the physical toll it takes on the body. Running a mile burns roughly 130 calories. Swimming a mile burns roughly 550 calories. Also, freestyle swimming uses just about every muscle in your body.
“I believe that swimming is a physically demanding sport, because it requires endurance, and it also requires upper body and lower body strength,” head swim coach Greg Fisher said. “The workouts that we do are pretty physically challenging, because I keep them swimming pretty much nonstop for two hours every day, and that’s kind of what you have to do to be competitive. I think [swimming] is right up there with any sport. I would challenge any other athlete to come out and do what we do on a regular basis, and compare it to what they do for their sport.”
Some sports require no physical contact, but are still very exhausting. This is the case for cross-country and track. To be a runner requires having endurance and stamina but a great amount of mental toughness can also be necessary. On a 3.1 mile course, runners must adjust to different elements like the weather and the course conditions.
“I think, probably, anything that requires a high level of cardio [should be considered as the hardest sport],” head cross country coach Greg Christiansen said. “I think they are all hard in their own unique way. I mean for football you have to be able to hold up against other guys. Swimming is probably one of the tougher ones I would say. Cross country, track, I would say they all are. I don’t think you can really single out one as far as physically demanding. Even bowling, with the mental approach that it takes and the hand-eye coordination. If I had to say one, I would say probably cross country or 400 meter runners.”
Tennis requires stamina, focus, and technique. It also takes a great amount of hand-eye coordination, agility, and quickness. In a five set match, a tennis player can run up to three miles, and a person weighing 150 pounds will burn about 560 calories during an hour of playing tennis.
“I should say tennis, because I am the tennis coach,” head tennis coach Adam Cherry said. “But, I think wrestling is the most physically demanding sport on campus, because it is 6 minutes of going all out with no rest time. Wrestlers are also using every muscle in their body during a match.”
Volleyball takes an extreme amount of technique and focus. During an hour of play, approximately 560 calories are burned. The constant movement of short distances and the very frequent amount of jumping can require lots of stamina.
“[The hardest sport] is going to be either hockey or football, but I’m going to say hockey,” head volleyball coach Ryan Mitchell said. “Like football there is hitting involved, so it is physically taxing. But then it takes a high level of conditioning skill to be able to skate up and down the ice. It’s probably between football and hockey, but I’ll give the edge to hockey.”
Some say that golf is one of the most difficult sports in the world, but not in terms of physical demand. It take tons of technique and practice to perfect one’s swing, but in terms of physicality, there is not much to say.
“I don’t think there is any one sport that is the most physically demanding,” head golf coach Romi Irons said. “All sports are demanding in their own way. I think any sport where you are constantly moving, intensely training, changing your diet, or constantly focused is challenging. Any sport where you are competing at your peak performance 100 percent of the time is strenuous and demanding. Golf is not only demanding on your body because of the full body control needed when you swing, but it is also mentally demanding. Golf requires extreme body awareness and control. It is one sport where you are in a constant state of analysis and evaluation for 5 hours straight. We are at the course either practicing or playing 3-4 times a week and conditioning and lifting weights 1-2 times a week. Golf does require core strength and stability to maintain a strong, supportive swing. Golf is also a sport that we have to play in all types of weather (rain, cold, extreme heat, wind) all while walking and carrying your 40-50lb clubs on your back.”
Baseball is a sport of skill. The focus and reaction time that it takes to hit a baseball at 80 mph or more is extremely high. However, this list is of the most physically demanding sports. Occasionally a base runner and a catcher collide at home plate creating a big collision, but for the most part, baseball does not take much physical toughness. However, stamina is important, as there is no time cap on a baseball game.
“Honestly I think all sports are physically demanding in their own ways,” head baseball coach Russell Reichenbach said. “But if I had to choose the most physically demanding, I would choose football. Football is a very physical sport. You need to be in good shape and also strong enough to take a physical beating play after play. Whether you are on offense or defense, you can be hit hard from any direction. While there is not a lot of hitting or contact in baseball, I believe it is still a very physically
demanding sport. There is no time clock in our sport. The game could go 2 hours or 4-5 hours. You have to be physically ready to make a play on every pitch in that 2-5 hour range. That takes endurance and physical readiness. The other big challenge in baseball is that it is an extremely demanding sport mentally. While there is a break between pitches, every player on the field has to be ready to make a play the entire game. And like I said earlier, that game could last up to 4-5 hours. It is a challenge to be that mentally locked in for that amount of time.”
Hockey is arguably one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. It requires a lot of balance to skate on ice. Being able to control the puck, violently hit the opponent, and score goals is tough. The sport takes lots of conditioning as players are usually in constant motion on the ice. Not to mention the temperature on the ice is cold, so the air is thin which makes breathing difficult.
“I believe hockey is the most physically demanding sport,” hockey player Levi Castelle said. “Hockey players have to train their bodies and minds to move at a high speed while trying to make quick and smart decisions all while trying to deal with the pressure of the other team with sharp blades strapped to your feet. Hockey is a game of physicality, mental toughness, and quick decision making and is highly under-rated in the state of Texas.”
What are your thoughts on the toughest sport on campus? Let us know in the comments below.