do women play team sports differently than men?

I normally play mixed (co-ed) ultimate frisbee, but this weekend I played in a women’s tournament for the first time. The one noticeable difference was the slower tempo. This was partly due to us making fewer cuts, having less explosiveness, and simply sprinting slower.

It was furthered by a tendency to throw fewer overheads and fewer long passes, opting for shorter, more direct passes in general. There were exceptions, of course; the team that slaughtered us 15:3 reached that score largely via impressive knifes from far back in the field to deep in a corner of the end zone. And we came from four points down to win our third game partly with overheads. But there were generally fewer than in mixed games.

Attempts to run into open space were often not followed through and slowed down before completion, indicating a hint of doubt that the disc would come. It’s a calculated move in my case: I don’t want to spend all my energy on one sprint if I have doubts that the disc will come my way. Closely linked to this was a tendency to throw the disc to the recipient, while men more often make the pass to the spot where the recipient should move to.

As a result, the women’s games were more static. There seemed to be fewer turnovers than in mixed games, but maybe that’s just my imagination. What I know for sure is that I felt more certain about how to position myself on the field, where I was supposed to run, and what I was supposed to do with the disc. The one exception was when our opponent threw a zone defence at us that completely bewildered me. But I had a better idea of what my female teammates would do next. That was partly because of the style of play – slower, surer – but also because I felt more connected with them; we were on the same page more than when mixed, despite diverse experience and skill levels.

The slower pace allowed us more time to think and implement plays we had learned during practice. The games therefore resembled practice more. For example, there weren’t many risky passes. Don’t get me wrong – there were enough turnovers. But many were simply bad passes (poor throwing technique), bad decisions (shouldn’t have thrown it that way) or bad catches. Few were calculated decisions that were intentionally risky and carried out anyway.

We communicated less, but we communicated more multilaterally. I, for one, said far more than I would in a mixed game, and felt more listened to. We didn’t have a team captain, so that might have had something to do with it.

We had better spirit, too, especially after a loss. After each game, there was no singling out of individuals and rehashing of what the individual did wrong, which is not an uncommon thing for my male teammates to do. We took each game seriously but were generally less pissed off when things went pear-shaped.

These are just my observations. My teammates agree with some points but disagree with others. What has your experience been with co-ed vs. single-sex team sports? Have you noticed any differences? Do you have a preference for one or the other?

And a couple of thoughts on “Do women hold themselves back in sports?” (German)

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