This analysis includes data on seven racquet sports: badminton, platform tennis, racquetball, squash, table tennis, tennis, and handball. In keeping with the scope of this website, the focus is on participation of adults over 40 years of age. To highlight the serious competitors and make comparisons among these sports I have used data from each sport's national championship. Unfortunately (for me), each sport has a somewhat different approach to its national championship. Several offer multiple national championships and others only offer one. For a fuller explanation of these differences and to understand how I navigated these differences, see the note at the end of this article.
In terms of sheer numbers, tennis is the 800 lb. gorilla among racquet sports. It has had more than three times as many competitors in its national championships as the next largest racquet sport, table tennis. Table 1 presents the average number of competitors in each of the national championships used in this analysis. All data covers the period from 2008 through 2015 for adults competing in the over-40 age-group classes
||Hard Court Nationals
||National 4-Wall Championship
||Age Group Nationals
This analysis will look at participation by four classes of participants (1) women, (2) women over 60, (3) men over 60, and (4) men over 70. As Table 1 makes clear tennis dominates the other racquet sports. There are more women, women over 60, and men over 60 and 70 competing in tennis than are competing in any other racquet sport. But, which sports attract a higher percentage of women and older men? Which are the most women-friendly sports? It is the percentage of competitors in each of these four categories that are the focus of the following analysis.
So which of these seven sports has the highest percentage of women competitors in their national championships. Keep in mind that we are looking at the percentage of women competing in the over-40 age-group classes.
The racquet sport with the highest percentage of women is Platform Tennis. Over the past eight years, an average of 48% of the competitors in the Platform Tennis Nationals have been women. In 2009, a full 66% of the competitors were women -- remarkable in any sport.
Behind platform tennis in average participation of women are badminton (42%), tennis (33%), racquetball (22%), squash (17%), table tennis (14%), and handball (0%). This does not mean that there are no women over 40 playing handball. It simple indicates that there were not enough women to offer a competitive class for women over 40 at the 4-Wall Nationals.
Women Competitors over 60
What about older women? The racquet sport with the highest percentage of women over 60 is badminton with an eight year average of 23%. In 2008 women over 60 were 28% of the total number of competitors over 40 in the Badminton Senior Nationals. Women over 60 account for the following percentages of competitors over 40 in these sports: tennis (19%), platform tennis (11%), table tennis (7%), and racquetball (5%). Squash and handball did not include any competitive classes for women over 60 in their national championships.
Men Competitors over 60 and 70
The racquet sport with the highest percentage of men over 60 was handball with an average of 63% of the competitors in the 4-Wall Nationals. The average percentages for men over 60 in the other racquet sports were as follows: table tennis (42%), tennis (34%), badminton (32%), squash (30%), racquetball (24%) and platform tennis (23%).
As you might expect, handball also had the highest percentage of men over 70, 25%. The percentage for the other sports were: tennis (17%), table tennis (16%), squash (15%), badminton (14%), platform tennis (9%), and racquetball (5%).
Note on National Championship
The following note summarizes my reasons for selecting the national championships for each sport in this analysis.
Badminton:Badminton USA holds a Senior/Masters National Championship each year. This championship includes both singles and doubles and this is the event I used here.
Handball: The United States Handball Association offers multiple national championships including 4-wall, 3-wall, 1-wall handball. All these include age-group classes, but the 4-wall nationals is the largest of these in terms of participation. This event includes both singles and doubles and it is the one I have included.
Platform Tennis:The American Platform Tennis Association sponsors multiple national championships based on age group -- one for men 45+/55+/65+, one for women 50+, one for women 45+/65+, etc. I have used the results from all these events in this analysis. Platform Tennis is exclusively a doubles game; there are no singles events in the national championships.
Racquetball:USA Racquetball also holds multiple national championships including one for singles and one for doubles. There is also a National Masters Racquetball Association which holds a national championship. With multiple championships I generally try to select the one with the greatest number of competitors. Racquetball presents an interesting problem. For three of the eight years (2008, 2010, 2012)in the study period the National Singles had the greatest number of competitors. For the other five years (2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015) the National Doubles had the largest number of competitors. So, I have calculated a hybrid of the two Nationals so that each year the national championship with the largest number of competitors, singles or doubles, are represented. Each championship includes either singles or doubles, but not both.
Squash:US Squash holds an Age Group National Championship each year and includes only singles matches. This is the event I have included here.
Table Tennis:USA Table Tennis holds two national championships. The U.S. Open and the U.S. National Championship. I have used the latter championship, which includes both singles and doubles, in this analysis.
Tennis:The United States Tennis Association sanctions three types of national championships: Category I, Category II, and Open. Of these, the Category I tournaments each played on one of four different surface: clay, grass, hard court, and indoor. From 2008-through 2015, the Hard Court Nationals have had the greatest number of competitors over 40. This championship includes both singles and doubles and I have used it in the analysis.
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