In Cheating, Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair, Problems in Youth Sports

I was recently talking to Maddy, one of my 11 year old athletes after she had just returned from a tennis tournament. In her last match, she had to play an old teammate and practice partner from her former club. Maddy and her parents had made the decision to leave this club and its’ coach 6 months prior for reasons that will become immediately obvious!

During the entire match, Maddy’s old coach and several other former teammates of hers stood directly behind the fence giving her “the evil eye.” “They were trying to stare me down,” Maddy told me. “They were deliberately trying to intimidate me and make me feel uncomfortable.”

REALLY COACH? You not only encouraged your players to do this to another athlete, one of your old players, but you actually joined them in the process? And how old are you? Just exactly what were you modeling for your athletes here? That this kind of behavior as a competitor is acceptable? That if any other players of yours decide to leave you, the same will happen to them?

During the first set, which Maddy won, her opponent made several very “questionable” calls. Translation: She was cheating, deliberately and boldly calling “IN” balls “OUT!” This all took place under the watchful eyes of her former teammates AND coach!

REALLY COACH? You’re giving your player the green light to cheat in a competition? You’re actually teaching your team and all those watching this match that this kind of corruption and dishonesty is acceptable? That it’s OK to cheat and win? When your players go on to compete for their high school teams, will their new coach sanction the cheating that you so skillfully taught them? And if they should be good enough to play in college, surely their college coach will embrace this character revealing habit of yours? And if they were ever good enough to turn pro, maybe we could all watch them cheat on TV? Whoops! I totally forgot! You don’t get to call your own lines as a professional! Now that’s a bummer!

In the second set, Maddy’s opponent stepped up her “creative” calls. The cheating and intimidation was beginning to get to Maddy, distracting her and making her really nervous. As a result, Maddy lost the set and both girls prepared for the tiebreaker. No doubt you made your pleasure loudly known coach! You must have been so proud to watch your protege “play” so well and valiantly “come back” after being down?

REALLY COACH? Are you that out of touch with what you’re teaching here? Are you that oblivious to the fact that good coaching is NEVER about the outcome of any match? Do you not see that you’re supposed to be helping prepare these girls for becoming competent, confident adults? Are you that unaware that you are teaching them to be dishonest, petty and mean spirited?

Despite all of the crap that she had had to deal with, Maddy went up 6 points to 3 in the tiebreaker. She then hit a beautiful winner, a good foot and a half inside the line! Score: 7 – 3! But wait! Her opponent called it “OUT!” And despite the fact that Maddy argued with her and then got a lines judge, her opponent refused to give Maddy the point!

REALLY COACH? Even when it’s painfully obvious to everyone watching, you allow this to continue? REALLY???? So what you’re actually teaching here is that “winning is everything” and how you go about it is irrelevant, just as long as you get that outcome! And Maddy told me that, yes indeed, this is exactly what you tell your players directly. “Win any way you can! Do whatever you need to and whatever it takes to win!”

You must be so proud then coach! This last call totally and completely pushed Maddy over the edge. She fell apart and your player “won” the match. I hope you all got to celebrate this fine “victory” afterwards! There’s no question that you have your job as a coach in perspective, know what’s really important here and what needs to be done to properly mold young women to become competent adults in the world!



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