How many times have you heard someone debating the most difficult position to play in all of sports? Personally, I've heard it enough times to choke a horse, so I finally decided on my top 10 most difficult positions in sports. (This list is based on both technical and physical difficulty.)
10. Center (Basketball): Anytime a center receives the ball down low, they know they are going to be hacked and hand-checked and bumped. That they can keep going strong in the paint for 25-30 minutes a night takes incredible strength, both mental and physical.
9. Running Back: Running itself can be hard work. But a running back is expected to run 40 yards in around 4 seconds, all while dodging 300 pound defenders and linebackers intent on hitting them as hard as possible. Then, after they get hit, they're expected to get back up and do the same thing 20 or 30 times a game. Could you do that?
8. Shortstop: OK, I know what you might be thinking. "How hard can it be to play shortstop? All you have to do is field ground balls and make a few throws to first." But a shortstop is also the quarterback on the field, having something to do on every play, and also having to react instinctively (Derek Jeter, 2001 ALDS "The Flip"). Plus, how willing are you to stand on top of second-base with a runner bearing down on you, coming in spikes high?
7. Midfielder: Soccer in itself is a 90-minute endurance test. But a midfielder has to run up and down the pitch endlessly. Top midfielders routinely have to run upwards of 8000 meters. On top of all the running, they are expected to be able to contribute offensively, then be able to get back to help on defense almost immediately.
6. Center (Football): They need to know what every defensive lineman is doing. They need to be able to recognize blitz schemes. In addition, they need to be able to get the ball back to the QB without any hiccups, then block whoever is coming at them as fast as they humanly can.
5. Pitcher: The physical strain that is put on the human arm throwing a ball at 90 mph is incredible. From the loaded position, the human shoulder rotates forward at 7000 degrees per second at peak speed. That is the fastest motion of any human activity. According to a doctor of physics recently quoted in SI "If your entire body was accelerated at that rate of speed for over 60 seconds you would die." A pitcher's arm is basically defying the laws of physics, 100-plus times a game. Add in the stress of throwing breaking pitches and it is easily one of the most physically demanding activities in sports.
4. Quarterback: It takes unbelievable nerve to be able to stand in a few feet of space, knowing that at any second you could be hit by a 300 pound lineman. And like a pitcher, throwing a roughly one lb. ball 30 times creates incredible stress on the arm.
3. Catcher: Try squatting for hours on end. Then add catcher's equipment in 90 degree heat. Then go ahead and run 90 ft. about 15 or 16 times . Then, just for fun, have one of your friends run into you at full speed. And if that isn't enough to convince you that being a Major League catcher is physically demanding, try doing it six times a week for six months.
2. Goalie (Hockey): Would you be able to stand in front of a 100 mph slap-shot? Even with all that padding, it cannot be fun to catch an NHL slapper square in the chest. I can't even begin to imagine the thoughts that go through a person's head before they decide they want to be a goalie. Crazy.
1. Keeper: This is probably going to upset some people. But defending an 8x24 ft net is not easy at all. Even the tallest of keepers cannot lay down and cover half the width of full-size goal. At least hockey goalies have all kinds of padding. A keeper has padded gloves and little else to stop balls traveling at speeds around 70 mph. There is a reason that people say "You have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper."
This is a topic that is always open to debate. This is probably going to generate a large amount of disagreement. Feel free to sound off.