Standard 11v11 soccer also referred to as football outside of North America is no doubt the most popular sport on earth. It is enjoyed by both players and spectators of all age categories.
It is estimated that as many as 250 million people in over 200 countries play soccer as a career. Judging from the large number of players involved in the game, you may be swayed to say that it is one of the easiest sports on earth. But is that really true?
- According to ESPN Ultimate Degree of Difficulty Grid, soccer is a moderately difficult sport
- Soccer can affect you physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally
- The more skills you have, the easier soccer will become
The major objective of soccer players is to play the ball past the goal line of the opponent as many times as possible within a stipulated timeframe.
For professional games, players will get 90 minutes split into two halves of 45 minutes each to accomplish the task of scoring as many goals as possible.
Similar to other team sports, soccer demands a lot of physical and psychological investment from players. Little mistakes made on the pitch can cause enormous losses to your team. This is why professional soccer players often train as though their life depends on it.
Due to the demanding nature of the game, only a handful out of the large number that played soccer in their childhood end up becoming professional soccer players.
It is very difficult to become a successful soccer player without having a strong passion for the sport. You must also be ready to face criticism.
So, how hard is soccer and how does it affect the players? Keep reading to find out.
- How hard is soccer?
- 1. Risk of injury
- 2. Requires fast reasoning
- 3. Only a few players attain mastery of the sport
- 4. Demands a high level of focus
- 5. Soccer players are expected to maintain high fitness
- 6. Haphazard movement of soccer balls
- 7. Demands a great level of physical strength
- 8. Numerous techniques and skills
- 9. Physical separation from family
- 10. High mental stress
How hard is soccer?
It is almost impossible to say with certainty that soccer is hard or not if you have not played an active role in the sport. However, what is true is that how hard the game will feel will vary from one player to another.
Soccer usually starts getting more challenging from college soccer. In earlier years, the focus is usually to enjoy the game. However, from the college level, the focus shifts to becoming a professional.
In soccer, players are required to make game-defining decisions within the shortest possible time. Therefore, players that have mastered this may find the game easier than those struggling to master the art of fast decision-making.
Soccer players are required to have a good level of cardiovascular endurance, stamina, composure, patience, and intelligence aside from physical and technical skills.
The difficulty level of sporting activities is often measured by considering the techniques and skills demanded from athletes.
Performing effectively in highly competitive stages in soccer requires players to possess numerous skills and abilities.
To generate a viable prediction of how difficult soccer is, we would need to weigh it against some other popular sports using the ESPN Ultimate Degree of Difficulty Grid.
The ESPN ranking grid was developed by a couple of sports scientists residing in the United States of America. Ten parameters responsible for athleticism were outlined for study by these scientists.
They include hand-eye coordination, analytic attitude, nerve, durability, agility, flexibility, speed, strength, endurance, and power. The difficulty level of each sport is measured by the grid on a scale of 1 to 100.
Sports registering higher numbers on the grid are considered more difficult than those registering lower numbers. With a difficulty rating of 68.375, soccer is regarded as the third hardest sport in the world.
Boxing and ice hockey come first and second respectively because they register higher scores on the grid. Soccer made it to the third spot in the ESPN difficulty ranking because of its immense physical intensity.
Athletes who succeeded in other sports might find it difficult to transition into soccer. Using Usain Bolt as a practical example, it is easy to see that soccer goes beyond just being the fastest man alive.
A soccer player going into the game needs to surmount certain difficulties. The lower your skill set and physical fitness, the harder it would be for you to cope with the sport. Below are some of the factors that make soccer hard.
1. Risk of injury
Although no contact sport is void of injuries, soccer is known to record a high rate of head and leg injuries. On certain occasions, such injuries become so critical that they keep players off the pitch for many months or force them to retire prematurely from the game.
Soccer injuries are so common on the pitch that you will hardly come across any professional soccer player who hasn’t had one of such injuries before. These statistics are somewhat responsible for discouraging newbies from pursuing a career in soccer.
Injuries occur during collisions because soccer players wear protective gears that don’t protect them as much as hockey players. However, soccer players can avoid frequent injuries by playing cautiously.
2. Requires fast reasoning
Professional soccer players can testify that soccer requires as much brain work as physical exertions. We all understand that making quick decisions under pressure requires a lot of hard work.
Modern soccer has become faster which means that players now have less time to make important decisions on the pitch. Oftentimes, smarter players make quick calculations on the field ahead of time.
To easily win matches, soccer teams need players who can make effective decisions within the shortest possible period. Such players can correctly predict the moves of their opponents before they make them.
Interestingly, making quick decisions is a skill that you can learn through constant practice. It is not surprising that soccer players invest long hours every day into training individually and as a team.
3. Only a few players attain mastery of the sport
We often see soccer as a hard sport because we only hear the names of a few players who gained mastery of the game. Such players go ahead to win numerous awards every year as though other players aren’t impressive enough.
Even though the basics of soccer are easy to learn, progressing into gaining mastery of the sport is often not as easy as it looks. You would have to work extremely hard to attain such a status.
Exceptional players like Mbappe, Neymar Jr, Ronaldo, and Messi all gained fame by training beyond other regular players. They gave their best to the sports and got rewarded for it.
Successful soccer players weren’t born that way—they worked for it. If you are passionate about the sport, you can also rise above other average players. However, you must be willing to put comfort aside and work tirelessly until you start seeing results.
4. Demands a high level of focus
Soccer requires the players to stay focused for the entire 90 minutes of the game. One moment of switching off (especially among defenders) can be costly. As attackers, staying focused is the key to beating defenders.
This high level of focus can easily trigger emotional stress among younger soccer players. It becomes harder if you try to focus on your game and your teammates at the same time.
To combat this setback, it is advisable to focus more on your assigned task on a team and less on the roles assigned to other team players.
5. Soccer players are expected to maintain high fitness
During soccer matches, only a few players can be substituted by both teams which means the other players would have to complete the entire 90 minutes. You can only run, walk, or jug around the pitch for 90 minutes or more without a problem if you are fit.
A high level of fitness can only be attained through proper nutrition and exercise. However, this may not be as easy as it sounds.
As a soccer player, you need to work closely with your trainer and health team to ensure you stay healthy and fit.
6. Haphazard movement of soccer balls
Since soccer balls are made with soft materials, they have a high tendency of being blown around by high winds when in flight. The direction of soccer balls is often unpredictable which is why even the best goalkeepers sometimes conceive multiple goals in a single match.
This makes playing soccer difficult because you can’t be fully sure that a ball will always act as intended when played. Even soccer balls traveling as fast as 80 miles per hour can be easily deflected in the wrong direction.
Soccer balls aren’t completely spherical which is why they must be kicked at specific angles and intensity to achieve the desired effect.
7. Demands a great level of physical strength
Soccer players today are looking more built and stronger which shows that the game demands a great level of physicality even though it is supposed to be a low-contact sport. Stronger players can hold balls longer and easily penetrate their opponent’s defense.
Physical strength is something you can build over time if you are consistent at the gym. Defenders and strikers are the players in crucial need of physical strength due to the demanding nature of their roles.
8. Numerous techniques and skills
Aside from basic soccer techniques and skills like the first touch, tackling, dribbling, passing, and shooting which soccer players are expected to possess, there are other skills to learn.
Soccer might seem hard to you if your goal is to learn and perfect all the soccer skills and techniques in existence.
Instead, focus on skills and techniques that enhance the position you occupy on the pitch. Make sure you perfect one skill before jumping to another.
9. Physical separation from family
Soccer players are often sold or loaned to clubs in a country or continent different from where their family resides. Some don’t get to see their family for an entire league season which can increase the soccer player’s mental stress.
Thanks to technology, soccer players have more ways to stay in touch with their families—albeit not physically.
10. High mental stress
Soccer doesn’t impact you physically alone. It can also impact you mentally. The pressure from coaches, teammates, and fans is often the main cause of mental stress for soccer players.
Some soccer players say that the mental stress from teammates and fans is even harder to cope with compared to physical stress. It is one of the biggest dangers of playing soccer.
There is always the pressure not to make mistakes. Players have received death threats in the past for either missing a penalty or taking actions that cost their team the game. A few have even died in the process.
The fans are not also left out when it comes to mental stress. Some games are so tense that some fans often see their blood pressure rise to dangerous levels simply from watching the game.
Tension in a soccer game is usually at its highest during injury time and during the penalty shootout.
With more than 3 billion fans all over the world, soccer remains the most popular sport in the world. But, the smaller number of players that make it to the professional level shows that the game is challenging.
The challenges of soccer go beyond the physical impact. Playing soccer can affect your mental and social life too—especially if you are signed to a club.
It takes a constant team and individual practice to stay ahead of the competition in the game. The moment you stop putting in those daily efforts to become better, you will end in your team’s bench.
Without a doubt, soccer is hard. However, having a strong passion for the game and always being on the good books of the fans can make it feel more bearable.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!