There are challenging aspects of just about every sport imaginable. In soccer, people may initially think that it is easy to get into, and there is no denying that. However, one could make the case that it is the hardest sport in the world to master fully.
What are some of the reasons why it is particularly difficult to play? These are a few reasons why it has picked up that label throughout the years.
1. Easy To Learn, Hard To Master
Soccer has one of the easiest entry levels for any player. All that is needed to jump into soccer and learn the sport is to purchase a ball and have some open area.
The concept seems simple enough, but it becomes much more intricate as time goes on. Each new level of play brings in new tactics and techniques to have success. Eventually, all players are speedy, fit, skilled, and all-around great soccer players. The margin of error is tiny, and players either step up to the challenge, or find themselves falling short.
2. A Test Of Fitness
In a lot of soccer leagues, there are a minimal amount of substitutions a team can make each match. That means the majority of players on both sides are playing all 90 minutes of a contest. That is enough running around to test anyone’s physical fitness.
It is one of the rare sports where players need to have plenty of endurance, as well as plenty of sprinting speed. There are times when players can pick up an opportunity to sneak in a walk and rest in that way, but a player still needs to be on their feet and moving at some capacity for 90 minutes with just a short halftime break.
3. Growing Focus On Physical Play
There is a misconception out there that soccer is not a particularly physical sport. When compared directly to something like football, of course i is not going to be as physical overall. However, players are becoming bigger, faster, and stronger than ever, and that means physical play across-the-board when fighting for the ball.
Some people think that physical play automatically bends the rules a bit, but that is not necessarily the case. There is such a thing as being physical and playing by the rules, and it is a tactic that a lot of bigger teams will use to slow down smaller and speedier players.
4. Long Seasons At All Levels
It is hard to look at soccer across all levels, but it is a sport that can be played almost year-round in most areas. Even if there is snow on the ground, there are ways to play a soccer match, which means there is no true offseason. Younger players are trying to play as many matches as possible to see how great things can become, while professionals are pushing the limits as well.
One reason why professional players end up playing so many matches is that they have club and international duty. International competitions might not mean as much in other sports, but all the top players want to play for their country if they have an opportunity.
That can often mean playing a club match on the weekend, and then flying halfway across the world to play an international match in the week. Finally, a player needs to bounce back in just a few more days to play another club match the following weekend, putting a lot of mileage on the body with little rest.
Younger players are finding that travel and club teams are as competitive as ever, and it is becoming very hard to play any other sport while keeping up with the rest. Since soccer requires so much skill, even missing out on a season or two can’t put a player behind.
5. Reading The Field
Teams are continually trying new things to try to throw off their opponents as much as possible. To be a successful soccer player, one must be able to read the defense and make new decisions when they take something away. It is all about making adjustments here and there that will be beneficial to team success.
Since soccer is the ultimate team sport, players must hold up their end of the bargain for teams to excel. Most are only going to be as strong as the weakest link, so providing value and getting on the same page as far as reading the entire field will be that much more beneficial.
6. Playing Both Sides Of The Ball
There might be certain positions on the pitch that have more of a focus on offense or defense, but players are required to do a little bit of both. This means the players need to be pretty versatile so that they can provide value for their squad as much as possible.
Teams off and use their defenders the end matches to push up a bit and become a goal-scoring threat. That is why at the end of each season, most defenders who start will have a few goals to their name. It is also important for attackers to play defense when necessary. Some teams will drop back if they have a lead, but just playing defense in the flow of the game can lead to some quick offensive attacks as well.
7. An Unpredictable Ball
People think of a soccer ball as this basic, round bar that provides a perfect roll or bounce each time. However, playing soccer at any level will quickly kill that notion. A soccer ball is very unpredictable, and is not even a perfect sphere. Players need to strike the ball in just the right spot to make it go where they want, and even then, it is bound to curve considerably.
It makes life even more challenging, as every soccer ball performs a little differently. People also must factor in that the amount of air in a soccer ball could make a difference between a shot on goal going in, and it sailing well over the goal.
Is Soccer Definitively The Hardest Sport In The World?
There are plenty of sports fans who love to argue about the toughest sport out there, but soccer is without question in the discussion. While cases can be made for other sports, it is pretty clear how challenging soccer is despite being so simple to learn.
While I do think soccer is the hardest sport in the world, there are one serious contender to soccer, tennis. There are so many different skills that you need to master to play tennis at a somewhat good level, you can read more about why it’s such a hard sport in this post.