In Cheating, Problems in Youth Sports

Cheating is probably one of the most upsetting behaviors that athletes have to deal with during competition. When your opponent cheats, not only is he/she dishonestly bending the rules to your disadvantage, but he/she is flat out stealing from you. The result: Most athletes get emotionally-knocked off balance.

Athletes cheat for a variety of reasons: They feel like they’re under too much pressure to win and therefore are terrified of losing; They are inherently dishonest and feel no guilt when they cheat; No one has ever taught them that cheating is wrong.

Why your opponent cheats may be an interest in study. However, how you handle the cheating is what’s crucial. The are two keys to successfully dealing with a cheater.

First, you need to remain calm and emotionless.

The natural reaction to someone cheating is to get “emotionally hijacked.” That is, the “cheatee” gets so enraged with the “cheater” that he totally loses his cool. Once you allow these kinds of strong emotions to enter your game, we can stick a fork in you because you be well done! If you allow yourself to get emotional, then you’ll be unable to concentrate on the task at hand. If you get emotional, you’ll immediately get physically tight. When both of these happen, your game/match strategy will fly out the window and you will be unable to effectively execute. Instead, you must remain physically and mentally calm. Since staying relaxed under pressure is the key to peak performance, your job is to put your energy into keeping your cool.

How do you do this?

Maintain control of your breathing. Keep it slow and low in your chest. Physically ACT AS IF you are in control. Do not let the cheater see that you are upset or angry. Keep your head up, your shoulders loose and a relaxed expression on your face. If you have to directly confront or challenge the cheater’s dishonesty, do so clearly, simply and in control. (humor is sometimes nice to disarm the cheater. Remember, he is trying to get an emotional rise out of you) i.e. “You’re calling that out? Seriously? You’re not trying to kid me here?….I’m so sorry, but that ball was a good three inches in” If you need help, calmly get an official or a coach immediately involved.

Second, and directly related to the first, you need to maintain control over your focus of concentration.

Cheaters are really skilled at DISTRACTION. They can effortlessly knock your concentration off of the performance and what you are doing, and onto them! By getting you to think about the cheating, your anger and them, they have effectively taken you out of your game. You can not allow this to happen! You must resist the distractions and maintain your focus on what YOU are doing in the NOW of the performance. So instead of continuing to go back into the PAST to the point/shot that they cheated on, you must move your focus back to the current point or play.

Finally, keep in mind that those who cheat, come from a place of weakness, not strength. Usually athletes will cheat when they feel threatened that they might lose. They worry that their game and skills are not, by themselves, enough to beat you. Use that information to your advantage. When the cheating starts, remind yourself that this is a good time for you to relax and apply more pressure on your opponent.


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