What’s the Most Athletic Position in Sports?

Cole Anderson, Sports Editor

MBeing an athlete requires so many things; a combination of hand-eye coordination, speed and strength are just a few things which earn one the title of athlete. Everyone at the professional level is most certainly an athletic specimen, and there are certain professional athletes who stand out as more “athletic” than others – Lebron James and Cristiano Ronaldo immediately come to mind. I had a different question in mind. What is the most athletic position in sports? What position transcends the occasional freak athlete of the generation and consistently requires the most athleticism out of those that frequent it? I tasked the sports writers with making their cases, and these are their answers:

Alec: The most athletic position in sports would have to be those who combine the [above] traits like no other.  A group of specimens who do this on an unparalleled level are the defenseman of the National Hockey League. NHL defensemen have the hand-eye coordination of an MLB slugger, as they must handle the puck most of the game, and have a wicked slap shot which will many times serve as the core of their team’s offense. Combine this with the speed of an NFL running back, as they are forced to track down the best forwards in the game, and also lead the rush into the offensive zone.  They do this so smoothly that many viewers forget the fact that these mad dashes also occur on ice skates, requiring the balance of a world-class gymnast. It is certainly not easy to skate on ice skates, let alone hit and be hit by fully-grown men.  When you factor in the toughness and grit needed to play defense in the NHL on a day-to-day basis (they play 3-4 games per week), it is clear that the best athletes are these defensemen.

Alden: For me, athleticism is a person’s physical capability to perform in athletics, and while it certainly effects how successful an athlete is, it is not the end-all be-all. For example, Cristiano Ronaldo possesses much more athleticism than Lionel Messi. He is taller, stronger, jumps higher, and is arguably faster than Messi. Yet, Messi’s technical ability causes these two players to be considered relatively equal in overall ability. Which position in the sporting world requires the most athleticism? While I believe that center midfielders in soccer, tennis players, and NFL tight ends all deserve shout-outs, the modern NBA forward requires obscene levels of athleticism. As the league has moved away from traditional centers, the forwards are required to play post as often as wing, which requires both the agility and quickness of a guard and the strength and height of a post. Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard are prime examples of the freakish athleticism required to play as swingmen in the NBA. Basketball is also a sport that rewards pure athleticism. While there are players who are technically brilliant (Curry, Harden, Kyrie and shooters like Reddick), it seems that the thing most players share is their athletic ability. The majority are huge, fast, and can jump over small buildings, and it is because of this that I am going to say NBA forwards are the most athletic position in sports.

Mario: It is impossible to accurately compare athletes from different sports, but to attempt to do so one must first dig deeper into what makes up an ideal all-around athlete, regardless of sport. For me, there are three main factors that contribute to overall athleticism: physical fitness, skill, and mental ability. This is why I believe soccer central midfielders are the best all-around athletes in sports.

Their physical fitness has to be incredible in order to play at a high level, as they are forced to run constantly for 90 minutes. Strength and jumping ability are also vital, as midfielders must compete for balls in the air all over the field and shield with their bodies to keep possession.

Being the link between the back line and the forwards, central midfielders touch the ball more than anyone. Soccer is often played with triangles offensively, and this wouldn’t be possible without the central midfielders. Touching the ball this much without extremely refined skill and coordination would be useless, so midfielders need to be the most skilled players on the ball.

Much like a point guard in basketball or a quarterback in football, the central midfielders role is to control the team, often calling out both offensive and defensive assignments to teammates. Positioning is all mental, and central midfielders must be in perfect position the whole game, as they may need to step forward to make up for a defensive mistake by the frontline or support the attack as well as track back to cover for any mistake in the back. —

Cole: I have always struggled with this question, and I think I am most inclined to side with Alec here. Though Alden makes compelling points, most NBA swingmen are not Lebron or Kawhi; these two are not normal at all, and thus can’t be considered stereotypes for their position, but rather outliers. Mario also makes great points about midfielders in professional soccer, arguably the most physically fit of any major-5 athlete. However, NHL defensemen possess similar levels of fitness, in addition to unfathomable levels of strength, finesse, and mental fortitude, battling through numerous games per week over a season that can last 9 months for the best teams. For me, they combine most, if not all, traits I would ascribe to a general definition of athleticism.