What is the Most Difficult Sport? Part 1 – Stick & Ball Sports

Over the course of time from major media outlets to amateur locker rooms, professional to youth – debates have raged over what sport is actually the most difficult.

There are a plethora of reasons a sport may be seen as difficult. Physical requirements, mental difficulties, and technical prowess can all play a role in what makes a sport “hard”.

Here at Pokatok we are going to attempt to do our best to determine the most difficult sport in the world. By dividing up the sports into categories and determining the most difficult sport in each. We’ll start with the classic stick-and-ball sports.


We’ll kick off the list by talking about the most popular sport in the United States, gridiron football. The physicality of football is the most apparent aspect of football.

The tactical aspect of football at the higher levels is perhaps under represented with offensive play calling and defensive coverages. However, the breaks between plays may work against football in the ranking of difficulty.


From a sport that draws its difficulty from the physical aspect to one that takes an immense amount of mental preparation, golf has long been considered a difficult sport.

To truly be successful in the sport takes a lifetime of technical dedication though some would knock the difficulty of golf thanks to the fact that it can be a hobby as well as a sport.


Since basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith, it’s popularity has skyrocketed as a sport. The top basketball athletes are generally considered as some of the best athletes in all of sports but how difficult is basketball as a sport?

There are high levels of athleticism and conditioning required to compete at a high level and mental intricacies in the many strategic approaches to the game make basketball incredibly difficult.


Hitting a baseball has been championed as one of the most difficult things you can do in sports. The physical dexterity and hand-eye coordination required just to make contact create an incredible level of difficulty, let alone getting the ball in play.

Some would point to the level of conditioning as a reason why baseball isn’t the most difficult sport but there is no doubt the mental and physical burdens make for a tough sport for the casual particpant.


The difficulty of soccer comes down to the ability to direct the ball with precision and the extreme conditioning requirements. The constant physical activity without breaks in play are enough to rank soccer high up on the difficulty scale.

Though it isn’t completely absent, physical contact isn’t as prevalent in the Beautiful Game which may make the game a bit easier for the casual participant to partake in.


If you take the physicality aspect of gridiron football and strip away the pads while also adding in the constant running and lack of breaks from soccer and you get rugby. In my honest opinion, rugby is the most physically taxing of the team stick and ball sports.

Does that make it the most difficult? I’m not sure. While rugby has a mental component adding difficulty, it’s not as involved as some of the other sports already listed.


There isn’t direct physical contact between opposing teams in volleyball but that doesn’t mean the difficulty isn’t there.

In beach volleyball in particular with the added difficulty of trying to move quickly in sand it can be extremely difficult.


Taking the physicality of football and transplanting it onto ice makes for an incredibly difficult challenge. The levels of balance required to be able to skate on ice while dealing with opposition is an incredible feat on its own.

To be able to move as quickly as hockey players are while handling the puck will never cease to amaze me. Line changes do allow for breaks for the athletes but the physical conditioning required is still among the highest in all sports.


Quickly rising in popularity, lacrosse is a sport with a unique set of challenges. It’s known as the fastest game on two feet for a reason and that pace is a big part of the difficulty – as well as mastery of scooping and throwing the ball with the netted stick.

Ambidextrous ability to pass and shoot is almost a requirement for lacrosse adding in another layer of challenge to a physical sport.

The Verdict

If I’m being 100% honest, it is nearly impossible to determine what sport is the most difficult. It varies based on personal experience and athletic ability. There is literally no way to make a one to one comparison. With that being said, I know how disappointed you readers would be if I didn’t pick a winner

My criteria for picking a most difficult physical components like athletic ability required, contact, and conditioning and mental aspects such as strategy and tactics as well as technical requirements.

With all of these factors under consideration, I think I have to give the nod to ice hockey. Physical hits comparable to football, technical abilities needing finesse (particularly the stick-handling), and high conditioning requirements with the unique added component of managing these tasks while skating on ice make the decision a no-brainer for me.


We would love to hear your opinion on Twitter. Let us know what Coach Jay got wrong at @Pokatok_Fest.

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