Are women less competitive than men? [Part 1]

On the face of it, there shouldn’t be any difference.

Yet over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern on the tennis court. Let’s examine the evidence.

Exhibit 1… tennis tournaments. It doesn’t seem to matter which type of tournament – club, intermediate, senior or city-wide, more men enter than women. For example, witness the recent entries in a small, intermediate tennis tournament in Ottawa:

  • Men’s singles: 16
  • Women’s singles: 6
  • Men’s doubles: 7
  • Women’s doubles: 3

At my club’s regular tournaments, the men often need two draws to accommodate all the entries, while the women usually have no entries at all.

Exhibit 2… tennis ladders. My club has a competitive mixed ladder where players are placed into houses of similar playing ability. Within a fixed period of time, usually a month, participants must play each member of the house once. If you win a lot, you move up a house; losing bumps you down. Over the last 6 years at my club, men typically make up 75% of the ladder. On the other hand, my friend who plays at a different club in the city tells me there is an active women’s ladder that’s only a bit smaller than the men’s. That’s an interesting difference in its own right – more on that in part 2.

Exhibit 3… let’s just hit. I regularly see women “just hitting” with each other – no points, no games, no victory and no defeat. On the other hand, men seem to do this less; a larger fraction play competitive matches, sometimes with two or even three sets.

Exhibit 4… let’s chat a little. Whether playing a match or “just hitting”, women tend to chat with each other before, during and after play. They take regular water breaks when they change sides or, in some cases, whenever they feel like it. When it’s two men playing, it’s a different story. Sometimes they don’t even stop for water, let alone to socialize.

Exhibit 5… a different racquet will fix it. Particularly competitive men carry a plethora of racquets with them on court. When their game starts to melt down, they will switch racquets between games, perhaps more than once during a match to see if they can right the ship. Moreover, some men debate at length the relative merits of different types of racquets and strings. In contrast, I’ve never seen women switch racquets (unless a string breaks) or debate the virtues of racquets at length.

Now, these observations are anecdotal, I’ll admit, but when taken together, they hint a larger trend.

Does this mean that women are less competitive than men? Perhaps, but the answer may not be quite so simple.

Stay tuned for the answer in Part 2 next week.

2 thoughts on “Are women less competitive than men? [Part 1]”

  1. Glad you like it!

    I’m pretty darn competitive myself and it drives me nuts when I do badly, even though it doesn’t matter at all.

    I’ve seen men refuse water breaks because it “ruins their concentration”. 🙂

  2. Laurie, I LOVE your new blog!! I am one of the most competitive people I know, especially while playing tennis. BUT I also really love playing with someone I like and who is fun. So I enjoy getting to know a bit about my opponent, I love to have a few laughs when one of us hits a crazy shot, and yes I still want to win. But in talking to some boys I know who play…they would never chat as they “might give something away”. I am uber competitive but love to have fun, and I realize no one at my level is getting paid. So I think you can be both, but I agree men and women show their competitive side differently….on and off court!

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