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Cheating in the tennis world

Vic Braden by Vic Braden
Contributing Tennis Writer

Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) - Cheating on the tennis court is not new, but now it's becoming an epidemic in competitive tennis, especially in the junior ranks. USTA officials, at the moment, appear puzzled about possible solutions. Tournament administrators simply can't afford to place an umpire on every court. Normally, when there's a complaint from a player, the local tournament referee will send someone to the court to help out for a brief period, but that person will soon have to leave to complete other responsibilities, and then the cheating resumes.

The cheating culprits aren't just kids. Some parents have been known to support their child's cheating, and even a few unprofessional coaches have been caught in the act. In one case, an irate father told his son to chase his opponent and to strike him with his racket. On official told me that several cheating parents seem to have a similar foreign accent. That, sadly, goes beyond cheating...it is outright intimidation.

One former champion told me that she has pulled her children out of competitive play because the cheating is so rampant, and increasing with regularity. In one case, a young player failed to return a serve that cleared the net by three feet. The young player who missed the return called a "let." The father in the stands yelled, "Yes, I heard it." Insanity run amok.

The causes for cheating vary, but most officials point to the parents, parents and parents. Some of them openly state that their goal is to help their ten-year old child to eventually obtain a college scholarship thanks to his/ her high ranking. It is common for children to avoid playing other young players in their own club for fear of losing their ranking, or giving away secrets to their game strategy.

In the end, only well placed cameras can solve the problem. That's if there are not enough linespersons to sit on every court where cheaters are known to be playing. Yes, the names of young cheaters are often well known to tournament officials but that does not always help.

In some communities there are conferences to help parents understand the etiology of cheating. Also, years ago, I managed a research effort to understand the nature of proper line calling. We looked at how one's eyes function, and from what position there is great accuracy, and/or errors, in calling lines. The USTA has that video and it would be wise to obtain a copy.

The bottom line is that cheaters must be removed from competitive play, either temporarily, or permanently, depending upon the seriousness of the infractions. That is not an easy task for disciplinary committees as there must be proof, or there's a possibility of a lawsuit, and these are, after all, youngsters with a long lifespan ahead. As in all competitive sports, there are serious issues that must be addressed. In tennis, cheating appears to be at the top of the list.




Comments? Contact Vic Braden at vicbraden@vicbraden.com.

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