Top 10 Hardest Sports to Play

When you're considering the hardest sports to play, what factors leap to mind? Is it the physical endurance one must muster to last through a marathon, the split-second decision-making required in a high-speed car race, or the sheer bravery needed to face down an opponent in the boxing ring? Maybe it's the finesse and strategy involved in sports like chess, which, yes, is recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee.

The difficulty of a sport can often be subjective, varying greatly depending on individual strengths and weaknesses. For some, the hand-eye coordination needed to connect bat to ball in baseball or cricket is a hurdle too high. For others, the mental toughness required to maintain focus during a golf round is their nemesis. Yet, there are those undaunted by the grueling hours of training for gymnastics or the bone-chilling resilience needed for mountain climbing.

But let’s dig a little deeper here. Imagine the intense physicality required in sports like rugby or American football, where every play is a potential collision with force enough to knock the wind out of you. Consider the agility and balance needed in ice hockey, where players are not only mastering their movements but doing so on ice skates and at speeds that would earn a speeding ticket in many neighborhoods.

Then there’s the endurance and pain tolerance in combat sports, where the objective is to outlast and outmaneuver an opponent who is just as determined to take you down. Swimming, too, demands not just the ability to slice through the water with grace and power, but also the lung capacity to do so over and over again.

And let's not forget about the mental game. The focus and strategic planning in sports like tennis, where players must anticipate their opponent's next move while curating their own game plan, is unparalleled. It’s a physical chess match where stamina meets strategy.

So, what do you think? What makes a sport particularly challenging to play? What personal experiences have you had that inform your opinion?
The Top Ten
1 Gymnastics Gymnastics is a sport involving the performance of exercises requiring strength, flexibility, balance and control.

Honestly, no other sport can possibly compare to gymnastics. When I quit three years ago, I tried out some other sports. I competed in swimming, horseback riding, and cheerleading for quite a while. I have respect for everyone who pursues these sports, but they just weren't the same level of challenge as gymnastics.

I came back to the gym this year despite the grueling practices, the pain, the inevitable injuries, and coaches who yell at you after every mistake. Gymnastics is just so hard because you are chasing perfection while doing crazy difficult things. It's a mind game. You have to force your body to get over the fear to do insane skills on a 4-inch balance beam, and don't even think about missing your hands! If you have a bad fall, you're expected to get back up and do it again until it's right.

Little girls and boys train their childhoods away with hopes of someday reaching perfection in the hardest sport in the world - gymnastics.

2 Swimming Swimming is an individual or team sport and activity. Competitive swimming is one of the most popular Olympic sports, with events in freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly.

I've done many sports before I started competitive swimming. Each sport had its challenges, but swimming presented a lot more. I have practice every day. Every morning, I wake up with everything in pain. Yet, I will never give this sport up.

Butterfly is my stroke, and I have come to accept it. At each meet, I compete in the 100 and 200 fly, along with whatever other freestyle and IM events are lined up for the day. The utter exhaustion I feel after the 100 fly is insane. No other sport has something that can compare to the 200 fly or the 400 IM.

My fellow swimmers out there, I hope your coach isn't trying to kill you, and you aren't getting hypothermia too often.

3 Horseback Riding Horseback riding (or Equestrian) is one of the most intense sports known to man. Not only because it's physically challenging, but it takes more than athleticism. Horseback riding takes commitment, time, patience, and most importantly building a bond with your horse. If you don't have a good relationship... read more

In no way does the horse do all of the work. Heels down, toes up, calves back and on, supporting the horse - back straight, shoulders back, hands low, and still in constant contact with the horse's mouth without pulling too hard. Look where you're going. Maintain this position perfectly while controlling a 1,000-pound animal with a mind of its own.

This involves moving it with just one leg, constantly supporting it, and worrying about exactly how fast or where it's going. You're posting or rising up and down in the saddle with almost no help from the stirrups. You're turning with a bit of leg rein, weight shift, and looking - but not too much or too little of anything while maintaining speed and perfect position. Try reining in a 1,000-pound animal going 20 mph with just your arms, but not pulling too hard. Try being constantly aware of every part of your body and your horse's at every second while moving at 20 mph, making hairpin turns, and jumping fences. Despite the speed, always be three steps ahead, making sure your horse is on the right stride and judging distances - all while thinking about five other things.

Constantly having to look, be aware, be in control, all while maintaining a perfect position. Try guiding your partner every step of the way, making sure all of your cues are absolutely perfect. Know that if you do even one thing a tiny bit wrong, you could die. It takes strength, endurance, perseverance, intelligence, control, and skill. It takes years. It takes work, practice, and the ability to communicate perfectly with an animal with no words, understand it, and work with it. You have to worry for yourself and your horse, look perfect, be in constant control, always be thinking ahead, and be incredibly strong to hold a 1,000-pound creature together with your legs and make it look easy.

It takes nothing short of hours and hours of practice, perfection, work, skill, physical fitness, and undying trust in an animal that could just... more

4 Figure Skating Figure skating is a sport in which individuals, duos, or groups perform on figure skates on ice. It was the first winter sport included in the Olympics, in 1908. The four Olympic disciplines are men's singles, ladies' singles, pair skating, and ice dance.

Figure skating is for sure the hardest sport. In addition to what everyone else has said, there is a huge mental aspect to it, something that most sports players don't even understand. Sometimes you can be so afraid to fall on that hard ice that you psych yourself out and can't even execute the jump you've been attempting for years.

Gymnasts and cheerleaders feel pain, but the floor they work on gives in and is slightly bouncy. Ice is 100% hard and hurts much worse than any fall I've taken in gymnastics. I have a bruise that has been on my knee for at least two years, and I keep falling on it, so it will probably never heal. It hurts sometimes when I put just a tiny amount of pressure on it.

People often think that once you learn how to skate, you will suddenly be able to perform all the spins and jumps we do. That is ridiculous. You will break something if you try to figure skate after just learning how to glide around the ice.

5 Ice Hockey

You can imagine Zdeno Chara as a star basketball player, or Pavel Datsyuk as a speedy soccer player. You can even imagine Jarome Iginla playing professional baseball because he actually did. But can you imagine LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Miguel Cabrera quickly getting into hockey? No. None of them have likely ever worn ice skates.

While anyone can mount a horse, throw a football, wrestle, or row with a slight amount of practice (I understand the difficulty of becoming skilled), hockey requires the ability to skate. And not just a little bit. You NEED to be an excellent skater to play the game at all. Hockey is tough. Period.

6 Water Polo

Nobody's ever attempted to rip my swimsuit off and use me as a human backboard while swimming - just at water polo. As someone who does both sports, I'd say that water polo is definitely tougher. It requires more stamina to continually release in the water and sprint back and forth. Even when you have moments of rest, you're still treading water, which takes energy.

At the same time, you have to be aware of the other players in the pool and the position of the ball. You try to pass and shoot while other players are pressing you. Players are also extremely dirty, because the refs can't see most of it. They will dig into pressure points, kick off other players, elbow, gouge, scratch, twist - anything they can think of to gain an advantage.

7 Freestyle Wrestling

Competition cheerleading? Are you serious? How does that make any sense? You're competing, and you have to have spot-on timing and accuracy. In wrestling, you need not only your own accuracy but also precision to a tee. Mess up a move, and you're broken. I'm talking metal plates attached to collarbones and potentially life-ruining accidents.

There's no one else to help you. There's no "team" on that mat. It's just you and the other guy, nine minutes, and a lot of pain. If you get hurt, you keep wrestling. If you're bleeding, you keep wrestling. I've watched guys with broken collarbones continue wrestling because they felt as though they had to. The level of dedication it takes to wrestle is unmatched by any other sport, period.

Adding onto the physical challenge of wrestling, you also have the mental pains. When someone is bending your arm behind you in an attempt to make you move and you're not supposed to, it takes as much mental strength as anything else in the world. You push through the pain and fight until the ref blows the whistle. There is no other sport that can compare to wrestling's level of physical and mental toughness. I don't care what anyone says.

P.S. I doubt any of you gymnasts and cheerleaders have to lose 10-20 pounds to do what you do. I doubt you have to give up meals and water while enduring the hardest practices of your lives. I highly doubt any of you would survive a single wrestling practice. If you think differently, then go ahead and test yourself. But I assure you, you won't believe you've got it hard after doing what we do.

8 Wrestling Wrestling is a combat sport involving grappling type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedowns, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds.

Wrestling is the hardest sport, in my opinion. For my credibility, I was the number one girl in my weight class and have tried many other sports, including boxing, track, gymnastics, etc.

The thing that makes wrestling the toughest sport is the excessively unhealthy weight training that wrestlers undergo every week for their tournaments. I remember not eating or drinking anything for two days just to make weight. Wrestlers also carry large amounts of stress because of the significant weight loss in a short period and the will to succeed even from being worn out.

9 Cross Country

I love long-distance running. Running for a solid 8 miles at a calm, relaxing pace is comforting for me, which is the reason why I joined high school cross-country. I thought we would do long-distance running every day. I couldn't have been more wrong.

High school cross-country is more intense than what I've seen in football practice. One of my teammates, who quit football for cross-country, told me that football isn't even nearly as intense as cross-country. The speed workouts we do are physically and mentally demanding. It feels like forever until a workout is over.

Just because you have legs doesn't mean you can conquer this sport. You need to excel in strength, endurance, speed, and flexibility. It isn't just physically demanding, but mentally too. Yes, the key to winning a race is running fast, hard, and strong, but the bigger key to winning a race is how much you can embrace the pain and fight the burn in your legs. How much you can fight the urge to walk and fight the voice in your head that tells you you can't do it. Believing that you can is the hard part.

10 Motorcross

I've participated in motocross for many years, and even a single day at the track leaves me incredibly sore the next day. I've been knocked out twice in races and have had four concussions. Motocross is often overlooked, but there's a reason for that: it requires time, patience, balance, and skill. It's a lost art, but those born into it know exactly what I'm talking about.

Some might argue that taking a big right hook in MMA or boxing requires more endurance than a 30-minute moto with two extra laps. These people have obviously never even sat on a dirt bike, let alone ridden one. In my opinion, as an experienced rider, motocross is the most physically demanding sport in the world. Cheerleading may be cool, but to a contact sport player or a motocross rider, it's not a sport.

When someone talks about a motocross injury, it usually involves a broken bone, a deep cut, or a brain injury. In contrast, a dance or cheerleading injury might be, "Oh, I just sprained my ankle! Someone fan me!" In conclusion, motocross is both serious and the most physically demanding sport.

The Contenders
11 Soccer Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players each. It is played with a spherical ball. The objective is to score the ball in the other teams goal.

Soccer is not just the basic kick the ball and run. You must have stamina, speed, coordination, strength, mental toughness, and the ability to kick the ball with force, along with smarts, aim, and prediction, just to be decent at the sport. Soccer is a team sport, so you and your team all have to be in line and in sync for anything to work. Also, there are no timeouts and up to 40-minute halves.

Soccer is very difficult because if you are going to be good at soccer, you can't just kick a ball. You have to give up your body, and it is very mentally and physically demanding. There will be injuries, but that is just a small price to pay considering what you are doing.

Just using your feet is hard enough, but being good at it or being able to make the ball go where you want it to is a whole other story. In other sports, there are more people playing because they are easier, and way more people can be good at them because of how easy they are. With soccer, not many people go pro or not as many, because it is harder and more difficult to stick through and still remain skillful. Soccer is most definitely one of the hardest sports.

12 Competiton Cheerleading

Cheerleading is definitely the hardest sport I've ever done. People tell me that cheerleading isn't a sport or that all it is, is a bunch of girls clapping and yelling. It's much harder and more complex than that. I've cheered for about 8 years now, and it keeps getting harder and harder.

In the past, I've played soccer, softball, and I danced. None of them compare to how hard cheerleading is. You can get very, very injured if you make the slightest mistake. It's a HUGE team sport. Cheerleaders have to rely on their teammates to keep them safe.

It's really complicated to learn all the chants and cheers because you have to remember the words and moves. Learning the dances is also very hard because you have to remember which move goes on which count, and everyone has to hit their specific move on the right count or the routine won't look right. The conditioning is also a very hard part of cheerleading. People should go out and cheer. See how long they can take it.

13 Rowing

You have two choices: school or crew. Pick your poison. Crew has practices year-round, every day of the week, even in the mornings before school. It's too cold outside to run? Get on the Ergometer. It's raining and you're freezing? Put on a jacket and launch your boat. Your hands hurt? Take a 2k test. Your legs are cramping and you're on the edge of blacking out? Keep drinking water and keep rowing. If you stop, you lose the race. No lie.

Crew is a lifestyle. Unlike other conventional sports where people play for fun and pleasure, an athlete must absolutely love crew to keep working. Without a shadow of a doubt, an athlete can bring down their team and, in turn, lose the race. It's much different than shooting a ball into a basket or hitting a ball with a racket. There's more to this sport than meets the eye. It's a way of life.

So stop complaining about face masks, flat balls, or rained-out fields. Put down those protective pads, that bat, and that basketball if they're not in your favor. Everything is not in our favor, and we don't complain.

14 Bull Riding Bull riding is a rodeo sport that involves a rider getting on a bucking bull and attempting to stay mounted while the animal tries to buck off the rider.American bull riding has been called "the most dangerous eight seconds in sports." To receive a score, the rider must stay atop the bull for eight... read more

Many people have died from bull riding. If you've ridden a mechanical bull before, riding an actual bull is like 10 times harder. People don't realize how difficult it is, but here's a little summary: it feels like you're standing on a gravel road while a massive earthquake is hitting.

The bull throws you around and basically plays with you like you're its doll.

The fact of the matter is that you're dealing with a thousand-pound animal between your legs and you're told to hang on. I'm not saying this just because I've witnessed bad incidents. I've personally sustained injuries from it.

Therefore, I don't understand why horseback riding is ranked higher than bull riding. I train horses as a hobby, and they aren't that difficult to ride.

15 American Football

Football is one of the toughest sports. Grown men colliding is always going to be difficult. However, it's not very "hard." You don't get much of a break, but you get some, and any break is better than none. It's not a very physically demanding sport.

The hardest part about football? The practices. Sports like soccer, rowing, or water polo are much harder. Put a soccer player in pads and make him a running back? He'll almost certainly struggle. But put a football player in a rowing boat, and he'll place last.

Football belongs higher on the list, but not in the top 10. I have played many sports, and football had the worst practices by far, but the games were manageable.

16 Boxing Boxing is a martial art and combat sport in which two people wearing protective gloves throw punches at each other for a predetermined set of time in a boxing ring..

Half of the stuff on here is something elementary kids compete in. This is literally hitting each other until someone stops you - either by KO, TKO, or decision. There are multiple famous cases where people have died in the ring or suffered life-altering injuries to all parts of their bodies.

There are so many different things you have to worry about: technique, power, speed, defense, and probably more that I'm missing. There are several other sports that aren't even on here that should be number one. It's not that these sports aren't hard. It's just that when you think of the hardest sports, most of these don't even come close.

17 Volleyball Volleyball is a team sport in which two teams of six players are separated by a net. Each team tries to score points by grounding a ball on the other team's court under organized rules.

Volleyball stands out as one of the most demanding sports due to its unique blend of athleticism, skill, and strategy. Unlike many other sports, volleyball requires a combination of explosive power, agility, precision, and endurance.

Players must possess exceptional hand-eye coordination to pass, set, and spike the ball accurately, often in split-second decisions. Moreover, mastering the technical aspects of serving and blocking demands hours of practice and refinement.

The fast-paced nature of the game leaves little room for error, necessitating intense focus and mental fortitude. Furthermore, teamwork is paramount in volleyball, as seamless coordination among players is essential for success.

From diving digs to soaring spikes, every aspect of volleyball demands a high level of physical and mental prowess, making it arguably the most challenging sport in the world.

18 Basketball Basketball is a sport played by two teams of five players on a rectangular court. The objective is to shoot a ball through a hoop 18 inches in diameter and 10 feet high mounted to a backboard at each end.

Here's the thing about basketball that many people don't understand. Whether you play professionally or just in an average pickup game, you're going to get hit - hit hard in your face, sternum, hip, or any other vulnerable area. This also applies to highly talented players.

It's difficult to defend against a skilled player without fouling them. You can also roll your ankle occasionally.

Playing basketball isn't easy. You can easily get injured while playing. I am a basketball player and sometimes I hurt my ankle because I play really hard.

If you want to be a basketball player, you have to have the skills to fit into the game. Consistent practice is crucial. On our team, people run 12 to 15 laps for practice. To keep our skills sharp, we start with running 5 laps every practice and gradually add more to improve our speed.

19 Tennis Tennis is a racket sport that can be played individually against a single opponent or between two teams of two players each.

Tennis is one of the hardest sports ever played. I thought tennis would be higher on the list, but it's only #18! Tennis is a challenging sport due to a combination of physical, mental, and technical demands. It requires players to be physically fit, with strong endurance, agility, and hand-eye coordination.

The mental aspect is equally critical, as players need to stay focused, make quick decisions, and handle pressure during matches. Tennis comes with a complex set of rules, scoring systems, and a variety of shots, which can be overwhelming for beginners. Moreover, it involves mastering different equipment and adapting to the unpredictability of the ball's behavior on the court.

Despite these challenges, tennis offers a unique blend of physical fitness, mental engagement, and competitive play, making it a rewarding and enjoyable sport for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to improve their skills.

20 Synchronized Swimming

Synchronized swimming is definitely the hardest sport. It requires endurance, flexibility, strength, mental strength, and a lot of determination. If you think synchro is easy, you're wrong. Have you ever tread water for hours? Have you ever been pushed into a two-foot oversplit? Have you ever had six-hour practices every day?

Have you ever been kicked in the face or the head but had to keep on swimming with that fake plastic smile? Have you ever had to memorize every move and every count for every routine? Have you ever felt your lungs burning and dying in your chest, but knew that if you came up, your coach would kill you? Have you ever swum sprint-free for 20 minutes straight? Have you ever had aches in your toes and knees from extending them too hard? Have you ever had to do all that and live with the fact that people think it's easy? Try doing that, and let me know how it's going.

21 Cycling

I do cycling myself. I've also played inline hockey, water polo, swimming, and tennis. If I were to put these sports in order from hardest to easiest, it would be: 1. Inline hockey, 2. Water polo, 3. Cycling, 4. Swimming, and 5. Tennis.

This sport requires a lot of stamina and thorough exercise. You always have to push yourself to keep up, and technique is crucial. Otherwise, you have little chance of keeping up with others. My heart rate sometimes reaches 200 beats per minute, and I am very experienced!

Additionally, it's not good to sit at the PC or desktop too much, as you can get cramps during a race or training. I think this sport deserves a vote and should be in the top 15 at least.

22 Long-distance Triathlon

I doubt most of you have even participated in a twelve-hour race. Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles, and then you've earned the right to brag for the rest of your life. The Ironman Triathlon is the toughest race in the world, often called the hardest day in sport. It's not a sport for the weak-minded.

After a certain point, your body shuts down, and the only thing keeping you moving is your mind. High dropout rates are common, and many question whether they can even finish after just a few hours into the race. Nutrition and hydration are key to a successful race. This sport combines three individually challenging sports into a monstrous challenge.

23 Pole Vaulting

To be a pole vaulter is essentially having to be good at a plethora of different sports. You have to be as fast as a sprinter, as flexible as a gymnast, as strong as a bodybuilder, and as mentally determined as a boxer. If you are not good at any of these aspects, you cannot be a good vaulter.

At the end of the day, it is you and only you on the runway. If you cannot clear the bar, there is no one to blame but you. On top of that, there are also those areas of mental blockage you can reach.

One bad vault can leave you traumatized, whether it be jumping headfirst into the standards, getting flipped off the pole, or missing the pit entirely.

24 Rugby Rugby league football, usually called rugby league, league, rugby or football , is a full contact sport played by two teams of thirteen players on a rectangular field.

Rugby came before American football and soccer. Then American football added sissy pads and helmets. For rugby, you need to be more fit than a huge majority of athletes in other sports, both mentally and physically.

You're not wrestling. If you were, then the rules would be different. In fact, the entire game would be different. Brave as they are in American football? That's a joke. Not only did Americans mimic the sport, but, as I said, they also wear pads and helmets. Sure, you get hurt, but try getting crushed in a scrum with no protection, or consider that every tackle is followed by 4-8 different solid muscle players.

25 Lacrosse Lacrosse is a contact team sport played between two teams using a small rubber ball and a long-handled stick called a crosse or lacrosse stick.

Come on, how is competitive cheerleading harder than lacrosse? I'm not saying cheerleading is not difficult. I understand it requires flexibility and strength, but it barely requires any endurance. In cheerleading, you don't need to run, you don't get hit, and you don't catch or throw anything (besides people).

Meanwhile, in men's lacrosse, there are many challenges. For example, defense requires strength, speed, ability to catch and throw the ball, and endurance. Middy (midfield) requires extreme endurance due to its constant sprinting, strength, speed, agility, and ability to throw and catch. Also, attack requires all the same traits as middy with less sprinting. For all of these positions, you need to be able to take a hit and shoot. Not to mention the goalie, which is probably the most important player and also the most difficult position to play.

Goalie might seem easy because it does not require much running or shooting, but most people do not understand the importance and danger of being a goalie. My brother plays goalie, and he has permanent bone structure damage from some of the shots that have hit him. With all of these risks, there is also almost always 1 or more moderate-severe injuries per game.

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