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Competition, Gender and the Sport Experience: an Exploration Among College Athletes

Worldwide, sport and physical activity rates of women generally lag behind those of men. One reason for this could be the way that sport cultures typically frame and value competition. This study provides an examination of the meaning and impact of ‘competition’ on the sport participation experiences of men and women. Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, individual and group interviews were conducted with 76 current and former male and female collegiate athletes from both varsity and club sports regarding the impact of competition on their sport experiences. Results revealed that women and men tended to view and interpret competition differently, which strongly impacted their sport experiences. Sport programming that embraces a balance of cooperation and competition may be valuable for attracting and retaining both male and female participants.