To ease cross-sex competition:

* "Avoid letting the issue of one's masculinity or femininity get in the way," says psychiatrist Judd Marmor. "Try to let it be an honest competition over tennis or whatever, not over who's a real man or a real woman."

* "Openly discuss any discomfort," says Rev. Steven Preister, director of Catholic University's National Center for Family Studies. "Issues that aren't confronted are likely to be acted out in other ways."

* "Avoid thinking in terms of better or worse," says Preister. "Instead think in terms of being different. Realize that both people have competency in different areas, and that one person's skills can balance and complement the other persons. That's probably what attracted them in the first place."

* "Don't stake your self-worth on success," says psychologist Bernard Z. Friedlander. "You can still be a good person and lose. Just do your best and enjoy the effort."

Realize that "in many sports," says Friedlander, "if you're competing with someone outside of your weight and height class, you're setting yourself up for a kick in the pants."

* Examine why another person's success makes you unhappy, says marriage counselor Judy Lansing. "Usually, you have to feel happy with yourself to feel happy with another person's success."

* Avoid trying to match a stereotyped notion of "the way things should be," says Lansing. "Realize your situation is unique and reach for creative, flexible solutions that suit you."

* "Enjoy participating," says sports administrator Ross Merrick. "A good athlete can lose and still feel thrilled if he or she played a good game."

* "Compete against yourself," says D.C. Recreation Department administrator Earle Elliot, "if you feel competition is essential."