Why Women Struggle at Learning a New Sport and How to Get Past It

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I teach adults to ski and, while everyone’s different, there are some big differences between teaching men and women to ski. A common one—women are a lot more afraid to fail than the men. They are also a lot less confident in their skill—even though the men lack the same skills. Women HATE to be the one who stands out, who slows down the group. So what causes this and what can we do about it?

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Me trying really hard not to cry after my second attempt at rapelling ended with me upside down in a waterfall. I had ten more rappels left.

This fear of failure has been backed up by several studies between the sexes, according to an article by Elle.

There are many reasons that feel this way. Women are criticized more heavily than men in male-dominated areas (cough, sports), when girls are critiqued it’s more personal and less about their abilities, and we just plain take failure more personally.

“Women hold themselves to higher standards and are more quickly discouraged.”—Elle

Let’s face it, men aren’t super helpful when teaching the women in their life a new sport. The first time I snowmobiled, I was reamed out for not keeping an eye on the temperature gauge and not running through powder to keep the machine cool. No one had told me about the temperature gauge.

I’ve taught countless women to ski who thought they hated the sport because their husband/boyfriend/relative took them on a slope that a first-timer had no business being on. Big surprise, they failed. The men were more interested in showing off and having fun than taking the time to teach.

So how do we get passed this huge mountain of fear and awkwardness and actually enjoy the sport we’re trying to learn?

  1. Ditch the person with you who’s the so-called expert. Being good at a sport doesn’t mean a person is good at teaching it. If it’s something you really want to do, pay for a lesson or find someone at your own skill level to do it with until you feel more comfortable.
  2. Do not feel guilty for holding the group back. I’ve been with people who were very patient with me, and I still hated making them wait. It’s okay, everyone has had to learn at some time, and everyone is at different levels.
  3. You’re going to look bad. Embrace it—or at least accept it as part of growth
  4. Don’t give up. We as adults forget that rarely are we naturally good at something. Just because it’s difficult at first doesn’t mean it’s worthless or you are.
  5. Find a learning buddy. I recently went golfing with a friend who can’t golf that well either and we had a blast. No holding anyone up, no feeling guilty, and without the pressure, I actually golfed better.

For a an outdoor adventure without ever having to get outside, check out the Lost Gorge Mystery series!

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8 thoughts on “Why Women Struggle at Learning a New Sport and How to Get Past It

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  1. Sighhh. I’m unfortunately guilty at feeling all of these combined when I’m learning something new (+ even when I’m not), so these tips are super helpful! Thank you for this!

    Like

  2. You have certainly nailed what’s behind women feeling as if they can’t learn an outdoor sport sometime. I think the socialization around competency is so different for women and for men. Men have a high sense of competence that often exceeds their actual competence in the outdoors. Women often have a higher actual competence but a low sense of that competence. I particularly agree with your reason #1.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a good post (and it really rings true with me.)

    I started to learn to ski a couple of years ago at the same time as my husband. I felt terrible whenever I held others up or was the slowest in the class. I HATED being the slowest/least balanced person in the group. I still feel bad about slowing my friends down. But I kept with it and at least now I looooove being on the slopes. It has made my winters infinitely more fun, so I am really glad I started to learn.

    I have improved massively, but annoyingly my husband got even better!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good on you for sticking with it! If it makes you feel better, there might a be a time when you surpass him. Men have larger muscles and can muscle through the beginner levels without learning proper technique. You can only do that so long until you stop progressing. Women take longer to learn but master the technique.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It may take me a while. He snowboarded when he was younger, so he has less fear than me. My technique is okay, but Ire just get a bit scared when I go fast.

        I’ll get there. Every year is less scary and more fun.

        Liked by 1 person

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