Are soccer players better athletes?

Which sport can boast breeding the best athlete? In my humble opinion, I believe that soccer is THE sport that produces the best athletes. While it may be difficult to agree on the proper definition of the word “athlete,” I feel that a true athlete is one who would succeed in a wide-range of athletic tasks outside his or her target sport. (In other words, a soccer player would thrive on a basketball court, hockey rink, or baseball diamond.) Included in my definition is the ability to complete even the most grueling of challenges, with little to no training leaning on your experience as an athlete of your particular sport.

Here is my challenge and how I am going to prove my above statement

October 1, 2010.

Over some friendly banter at work comparing soccer players to baseball players, I claimed that baseball players were the non-athlete “athlete.” To put it differently, I stated that soccer players would thrive in other competitions while baseball players’ skills, both physical and technical, could only lead to success on a baseball diamond. We started imagining applying our skills in other sports, first to football and basketball, and later to marathons and ironman distance triathlons. I felt hands-down, soccer built superior athletes to baseball players.

I stated that soccer builds endurance, stamina, hand-eye and foot-eye coordination, while also raising one’s agility and speed. I claimed the abilities that I’ve gained from playing soccer would enable me to succeed on a basketball court, on the grid-iron, on skates, or behind the plate. I didn’t stop there. I proceeded to state that endurance one gains from playing soccer would provide me with the mental and physical fortitude to even complete an Ironman, without formal training.

My history as a soccer player started when I was 4 (I’m 24 now). I feel I can lean on my 20 years experience and physical and mental capacities gained from playing the beautiful game to complete even the most grueling of physical tests. While I realize that people run across the Sahara or to the North Pole, an Ironman is the highest test of athleticism, mental strength, and physical aptitude for mainstream society.

To make a long story short, he scoffed and said I was crazy (while laughing in my face.) I repeated my claim and told him to find me an ironman race and I’ll do it. He thought I was continuing to bluff until I made him the following proposition: you spot the flight, hotel, entrance fee, bike rental, and transportation and if I don’t finish, I’ll pay you back double. His laughing continued and called me out saying I’d never go through with it. Who else would willingly swim 2.4 miles, then bike 112, and top it off by running a marathon (26.2 miles) to prove a claim? It’s impossible without at least some sort of preparation, right?

I repeated my claim, “I could do an Ironman, no training.”

He thought he’d called my bluff when he found an upcoming race (in 3 weeks time in Florida nonetheless) and waited to see if I would register. He handed me his card and went to lunch. By the time he got back, not only did I register, I booked a flight, a hotel, and a bike for the race! He was shocked (which, needless to say, is a tremendous understatement)

Full disclosure: I’m not a swimmer (haven’t swam recently but intend on practicing once or twice), rarely bike, but I do play a fair amount of soccer. )

Well, I believe I can finish the race in 16 hours. The race starts at 7:30am, with several cut offs along the way where if you don’t pass you get DQ’ed. Everyone who hasn’t finished by 1:00am will be DQ’ed. (17.5 hours is the maximum time allotted)

Here’s the bet I’ve made with other people. For every minute I finish the race over 16 hours, I’ll pay you $1. If I don’t finish for whatever reason (bike failure, fatigue, drowning, heat exhaustion, alligators, etc) I’ll front a $50 non-finishing payment. However, for every minute I finish under 16 hours you have to put up $1 (all of which will be donated to the Susan B Komen Center for Breast Cancer Research).

Up to this point I have raised over $10,000 that will be donated to charity. I encourage you to take me up on this bet or if not donate to such a worthy cause. I have a vested, personal interest in finding a cure for breast cancer and am using this as an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the Komen Center’s effort to rid our Moms, sisters, daughters, and friends of this terrible disease.

Maybe I’m naive and crazy. I’ve never biked for more than 30 minutes at a time (the average time for the bike is 5-6hours) and cumulatively my life-time swimming endeavors don’t even add up to a mile. Or maybe I’m right. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

5 days until the race, please keep reading for further updates, funny stories, and news about the race, my story, and my efforts to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research.


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14 Responses to Are soccer players better athletes?

  1. Adam says:

    There is an argument to be made that soccer players are the best “conditioned” athletes in the world… not sure I agree with it, but there’s an argument. There is NOT, however, an argument that they’re the best “athletes” in the world. That goes to NFL cornerbacks. Ridiculous hips, great feet, blazing fast, 40inch verticals and great HAND eye coordination. Deion Sanders played professional football, baseball, probably could have run track professionally and played in the NBA…..

    I’m a soccer fan, and think they’re great athletes, but certainly not the best in the world… IMHO

    • elton hassall says:

      How many NFL players have done an iron man – with only 3 weeks notice? Have any NFL players done marathons?

      • Adam says:

        I agree Kuritzky is a stud (becoming more confident he’ll finish in well under 16hrs) and that soccer players are exceptionally well fit, but the title of this blog and the question proposed is if they’re better atheletes… to which an ironman is a terrible proxy. Running straight, riding a bicycle and swimming does not display athletecism. It does, however display incredible fitness when you do it for 26.2, 112 and 2.4 miles, respectively. NFL players don’t do ironmen because it’s terrible preperation for a sport comprised of explosive “fast twitch” 6 second plays… long distance preparation (especially swimming and biking) wouldn’t make any sense. By the time they’re done with they’re careers (which probably shortened their lives 15 years), the last thing they want to do is put their bodies through more torture – although of the huge pool of ex-NFL players, I’m sure some have.

        Do you really think the top 5 atheletes in soccer could complete with the top 5 cornerbacks outside their sports??? You really think they would win in baseball (their sport doesn’t allow them to use their hands), basketball (again… no hands and I doubt any of them could even dunk), track etc etc??? I really don’t think this is worth debating. The Duane Wades and Lebron James’ of the NBA should be discussed… but, again, I don’t think soccer players are in the picture.

  2. elton hassall says:

    I think it depends a lot on your definition of “athlete.” I take it that an athlete is someone who is “a person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance, that are necessary for physical exercise or sports, especially those performed in competitive contexts.”

    Based on that definition, I think that a good athlete is someone who can compete in a diverse range of strength, agility, and endurance formats- and I think BK’s point is that a soccer player – more than other athletes – can, in general, do better than other athletes in other athletic activities. This is because soccer has the quick-twitch component needed by NFL cornerbacks. But it also requires endurance to run for up to 10 miles at pace for 90 minutes – something an NFL cornerback would probably struggle to do. And strength. And agility. So, if we were to take soccer players and have them compete against other athletes in say, a decathlon -or as BK is doing in an ironman, I think that the soccer player would come up trumps more often than not.

    Not sure that baseball should even be in this conversation at all because it barely fits into the definition of athlete – while strength plays a role – it’s more about skill and hand-eye co-ordination (like golf or bowling).

  3. Mitch Dayan says:

    Brian et al,
    First – Good luck. I hope you finish, if you don’t you will have to redeem yourself next year (with some training). The charity wager is great, I am in.
    The greatest athlete discussion has been going on without resolution since ancient Greece. The only question is “How long after the race it will be before you can play soccer again”?
    strength and blessings for you,
    Isaac’s dad

    • Thank you very much. It seems I will need it. I have a soccer game the following weekend so I am hoping to be recovered by then. That means lots of ice baths, epsom salt baths, advil, and stretching. We’ll see.

      thank you very much for the well wishes!

  4. I’m impressed by your goal and your attitude – I really am. Finish or no finish you are a winner in this endeavor.

    It’s a good thing you have such a strong commitment to your goal because you are going to have some very dark moments out on that course. Trust me – I’ve trained for and done one of these races. Keep your desire to find a cure for breast cancer in mind and remember that no matter how much you are suffering it pales in comparison to fighting for your life while hugging the porcelain goddess after a chemo session.

    Good luck. Stay strong and read up on Ironman race day nutrition. If you don’t fuel the machine properly it will fail no matter how fit you are.

  5. SM says:

    Well, the good news is you won’t be the first undertrained person to race an Ironman, and the recovery from this race will (ironically) be easier than if you just went out and ran a marathon (since the intensity is much lower). That said, as an Ironman finisher and an Ironman coach, I do believe that you are taking this much more lightly than you will on Race Day. Soccer might be a decent simulation to an Olympic distance triathlon (lasting between 2-3 hours for most people), but the rigors of Ironman require a completely different kind of training. Luckily, you chose the easiest course in North America:

    That said, if you can get some good nutrition/hydration advice, work on your swim stroke, make sure you fit well on your bike, and figure out a good run/walk strategy for the marathon, I hope you finish well under 16 hours so you can raise a lot of money for a great cause.

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  7. it was the great floridian triathlon. ironman distance but not under the ironman series. is the website.
    thanks for your post

    • JDT says:

      Interesting thanks for the reply. I will be checking your progress. I do believe that a fit person your age could tough it out.

  8. josh jones says:

    I like the comments. however, I can’t see a soccer player stepping into a basball game and being able to do it. they wont hit and catch a ball that is going 90 mph. But a baseball player can easily go onto a soccer field and run around and kick a ball.

  9. score says:

    Interesting thanks for the forward

  10. mike says:

    I am 39 yrs old and have played soccer since I was 5… In 1998 1999 and 2000 I ran three marathons under 3:30 .. Yes I did train for them but playing soccer all those years gave me an edge…As a whole I believe professional soccer players are better conditioned than professional nfl players.Nba players are a close second. baseball yes there are some athletes but come on look as some of the players fat and one name John daily..

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