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 Friday, we look at four sports that are making their ways to the high school level.
We ranked each sport based on five aspects of toughness:
How physically demanding the sport is
The athletic ability 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 top-level competition into account.
Mixed Martial Arts: 4.5
Thanks to UFC and other fighting competitions on TV, high schoolers are becoming interested in MMA. Winchester (Mass.) High School started an MMA club that has grown to about 18 members, and gyms across the country offer classes in the sport taught specifically for teens. On the other side, amateur fighting is not legal in 12 states, according to the International Kickboxing Association.
A lot goes into becoming a mixed martial artist beyond being in top physical form. In competition, athletes have to be mentally prepared and make sure that they perform all of the techniques they practice, from the stance to their form to the way that they move. And they have to be prepared to get hit and kicked. When they're down, they have to push themselves to keep going and fight through the pain. And when they are in control, they have to stay focused and work to stay the dominant fighter.
Weightlifting is becoming a popular competitive sport for boys and girls in a lot of high schools. And why not, since athletes are already pushing themselves in the weight room. This sport places an emphasis on the proper techniques for lifts like the bench press and the clean and jerk. Mentally, lifting demands focus and determination. With the constant demand on the body, weightlifters must know how much their bodies can take and when it's appropriate to add weight to their lifts. Adding weight too quickly and not having the proper form can result in muscle strains and sprains.
Bowling is the fastest growing sport in high schools, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. This lifetime sport doesn't take a lot of conditioning, but it does take a lot of practice. This sport requires focus and strategy, especially on the second throw when the bowler goes for a spare.
The Illinois High School Association held the first-ever bass fishing state championships in the spring, casting this outdoor sport onto the high school landscape. Fishing isn't a physically demanding sport, nor does it take a lot of athletic ability for anglers to succeed. There is skill in the technique of baiting and hooking, and this is a patient sport. Sometimes the fish aren't biting during the competition, and anglers have to stay calm and wait for the fish to become active again.