This article on manliness, says a lot about the need for the competitive spirit, though I don't know that I would limit that need to men alone. Especially like the discussion of the Greek concept of thumos:
If barbarians suffer from a misdirected manliness, wimps suffer from a want of manly spirit altogether. They lack what the ancient Greeks called thumos, the part of the soul that contains the assertive passions: pugnacity, enterprise, ambition, anger. Thumos compels a man to defend proximate goods: himself, his honor, his lady, his country; as well as universal goods: truth, beauty, goodness, justice. Without thumotic men to combat the cruel, the malevolent, and the unjust, goodness and honor hardly have a chance in our precarious world. But two conditions must be present for thumos to fulfill its mission. First, the soul must be properly ordered. Besides thumos, symbolized by the chest, the soul is composed of reason and appetites, symbolized by the head on the one hand and the stomach and loins on the other. Reason has the capacity to discern right from wrong, but it lacks the strength to act. Appetites, while necessary to keep the body healthy, pull the individual toward pleasures of a lower order. In the well-ordered soul, as C.S. Lewis put it, "the head rules the belly through the chest." In the souls of today's barbarians, clearly thumos has allied itself with the unbridled appetites, and reason has been thrown out the window.
In these terms, a lack of thumos explains the unwillingness of many to confront evil through war. It is nice to encounter someone who loves the deep meaning of ancient ideas captured in their words. Here, I love the connection between "pugnacity, enterprise, ambition, and anger." Sun Tzu simply described this in as yong, courage on conviction and a willingness to follow inspiration. Not to be confused with yang, another view of the male principles, but which indicates a superior position and a type of openness and directness.