Have you ever had a debate with a friend about comparing sports and which ones might be more difficult? I recently had this type of conversation with a friend weighing the difficulties of certain sports based on particular attributes. My friend bested me in the debate and pushed me to find substantial evidence that proved that some sports I suggested were more difficult than sports that my friend suggested. While researching I found a dated (maybe circa 2002), yet interesting article that was published by ESPN that quantified sports based on certain criteria.
How was the data compiled, what categories were tested, and who judged these attributes? A panel of three Ph.D.’s that specialize in the science of muscles and movement, a Director of the Coaching and Sports Sciences Division at the United States Olympic Committee, a sports star and various other pundits voted on what makes certain sports more difficult. The committee evaluated ten categories; endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, flexibility, nerve, durability, hand-eye coordination, & analytic aptitude. How they conducted the study as follows:
We identified 10 categories, or skills, that go into athleticism, and then asked our eight panelists to assign a number from 1 to 10 to the demands each sport makes of each of those 10 skills. By totaling and averaging their responses, we arrived at a degree-of-difficulty number for each sport on a 1 to 100 scale. That number places the difficulty of performing each sport in context with the other sports we rated.
In the end, boxing is the toughest and fishing is the easiest. The total results are as follows:
Some observations I made that were pretty striking are the following… You can tell the article is dated by the examples of athletes that embody certain features such as Barry Bonds for “strength” and Lance Armstrong for “endurance”, which almost makes me roll my eyes and say the study is a write-off. However, when looking at the table I did some blind comparisons of sports based on my own perceptions and they mostly lined up with the tables. In the context of skiing, and especially freestyle skiing, the dated aspect of the article might not fully express how much the sport has progressed over the last decade. Younger kids are going bigger, completing more rotations, and pushing the sport in so many different ways. Maybe there are other sports that have become more difficult since the article was first written?
Which sports do you think were unfairly judged? Or do you not see any problem with the table?