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Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Updated: August 13, 1:20 PM ET
Toughest high school sports: non-sanctioned sports

By ESPNRISE.com

This week, as some schools are back in session and others are only a few weeks away from the first bell of the school year, ESPNRISE.com is ranking the toughest high school sports. On Thursday, we look at some of the sports that aren't sanctioned by the National Federation of State High School Associations but have high school national championships.

paintball
The National Collegiate Paintball Association hosts the High School National Championships. Seven 3-man teams competed in this year's event.

We ranked each sport based on five aspects of toughness:
How physically demanding the sport is
The athletic ability required
Training required
How much endurance is needed
How much strategy goes into the sport

The rankings are on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest and 5 the toughest. We are taking varsity-level play into account.

Rodeo: 5
It takes a lot out of you to be a cowboy or cowgirl. In addition to being one of the most physically demanding sports, there is no predictability since you are working with animals. That means you have to be ready for anything and quick to react. You have to be able to change your game plan on a moment's notice. The chance of injury is also high; if you need a grown man in a clown costume to distract a bull from charging at you, you know your sport is tough. Read more on rodeo.

Crew: 5
This sport demands athletes have strong lower-body and upper-body strength. Rowing is such a total-body workout that rowing machines are in gyms across the country. Rowers have to stay focused throughout the race to make sure they are rowing in rhythm with their team. The Scholastic Rowing Association of America's National Championship Regatta is a 1,500-meter race, which is from five to seven minutes of continuous rowing.

Surfing: 4.5
The National Scholastic Surfing Association hosts the national championships for high school surfers each year. Catching the perfect wave takes timing and balance. Waves can toss surfers around like seaweed, so getting back up on the board after a big spill takes courage and confidence. Surfing takes a lot of practice. The ocean is volatile, and surfers must learn to read the water and the waves, and to stay in control of their boards and bodies.

Paintball: 3.5
Paintball will almost always leave its mark on the players. A clean hit in paintball equals a nickel-sized amount of paint on the player, and can leave bruises and welts that last for days. Players have to wear goggles and protective gear; except for swimming, what other sport requires goggles? This is also a game of strategy and teamwork, as teams work together to set traps for opponents and maneuver through the course. Find out what it's like getting hit with a paintball pellet.

Racquetball: 3
2009 marked the 22nd year of the USA Racquetball National High School Championships. While similar to tennis with racquets and service lines, racquetball is a faster sport with a different strategy. The game is played in a small room that is 20 feet wide by 40 feet long. The ball can be played off the walls, which are 20 feet high. Though the court isn't too big, players are constantly keeping their feet moving and running after the ball, so endurance is a key to this game.

What do you think? Blog about which sport you think is the toughest.