Sports' hardest feats

What's the most difficult thing to do in sports?

I've been thinking about that question because a friend, Jessica, recently read my book "No Easy Way" to her son, Avery. The book is about legendary baseball slugger Ted Williams. I quote Williams as saying, "Hitting a baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in sports."

Jessica and Avery loved the book but asked, "Is that really true?"

Ted Williams thought so. But let's take a look at some of the tough stuff in sports.

I've been watching the NFL playoffs, and catching a football zipping through the cold night air with tacklers flying all around looks really hard. I'm surprised those wide receivers ever catch the ball.

Hockey goalies have to stop a hard rubber puck that's flying at 100 miles per hour. They have lots of pads to help them, but it's still tough. Lacrosse goalies have it even tougher: They don't have all the pads.

Returning serve in tennis is tough, too. Venus Williams can smack a serve more than 125 miles per hour. That's faster than any pitcher's best fastball. Male tennis stars hit their serves even faster.

All those flips, twists and vaults that gymnasts do during the Olympics sure look hard. It's the same with divers. I'd hate to watch my kids do a forward 1½ somersault. I'd be afraid they would get hurt.

My friend Jennifer thought landing a quadruple toe loop was the most difficult thing in sports. Only the strongest skaters can do that jump.

Athletes who compete in Ironman triathlons have to swim 2.4 miles, ride a bike 112 miles and then run a marathon. I get tired just thinking about all that exercise.

For kids, lots of stuff in sports is difficult. For an 8-year-old, a 10-foot basket can seem a million miles away. Controlling a soccer ball for more than a few touches can be tougher than long division. Especially with everybody yelling and screaming.

Some things in sports that have nothing to do with jumping or throwing or catching are tough, too. Things like learning to be a good sport when you lose, or trying your hardest even when you know you can't win. That stuff is really difficult.

Of course, if sports were as easy as 2+2, they wouldn't be much fun. When kids master a difficult new skill or do something they have never done before, they feel as excited as any pro who just made a game-winning catch.

Fred Bowen is the author of 15 sports books for kids, including the picture book "No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season."

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