dealing with cheaters

I do some sports psychology for a youth tennis program in the area. Usually when I finish one of my sessions, I ask the kids what if anything they would like to discuss at the next session or if they have anything they would like to add to our list of topics. At our last session one of the kids asked, how do you deal with a cheater? So, this week’s post will be exactly that, how to deal with a cheater.

There are a couple different things to keep in mind. First is that cheating takes many different forms depending on the sport you are playing, for the purpose of this post we will look primarily at youth tennis. Second, dealing with cheaters primarily boils down to controlling your own emotions and controlling the controllable. So, let’s jump right in.

In youth tennis cheating typically takes the form of a player that calls shots out when they are clearly in. This occurs since there are no lines judges or chair umpire. When a player calls a shot out when it was clearly in you must ask yourself several questions. First, if this was the first time, they made a call that you thought wrong, could they have simply been mistaken? Second, if this is reoccurring situation, how am I going to respond? Now, you have two choices for how you will respond to these situations. First you can step back, play your game and hope that they step up and become more honest. Or you can start calling their shots out.

Now if this is the first time, they made a poor call your reaction could determine a lot as to how the rest of the match is going to go. If you start calling their shots out simply because they called one of yours out, they could in turn around and do the same. If though you step up and continue to play and push through there is a chance that they simply made a mistake and it never happens again.

If it is a reoccurring trend and you push through you might lose, but if you start calling their shots out you will simply be dropping yourself to their level. The question then becomes, would you rather win a game because you cheated, or potentially lose a game that you fought hard in? Are you so unsure of your own ability that you are going to start to cheat yourself?

It is a tough situation for sure. Most people would take offense to someone trying to cheat them and return the favor. But I would remind you of Gandhi’s quote, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Think about it, if someone cheats and you cheat back you are no better than they are.

I am not saying it is easy to subdue these feelings and move on, but I am saying you should. Focus on yourself, focus on your game. Believe that no matter what the situation your strong enough to overcome. Trust yourself, trust your game. And remember, if you start to cheat in order to get back at then, will you be able to accept a win that you got because of cheating?