How to Deal with Cheaters

Dealing with cheaters is something all athletes must face. Not every athlete practices sportsmanship. Some athletes cheat occasionally. Some athletes cheat often. Athletes cheat because they either don't care about right and wrong, and/or they desperately want to win. It is usually a combination of these two things.

Here of some examples of athletes cheating in games (I won't get into off the field cheating):
Flopping to draw fouls.
Getting away with holding/pushing and other illegal moves.
Calling balls out in tennis.
Stealing signs

The number one rule for dealing with cheaters is to not let them get inside your head. Cheaters don't just cheat to gain a competitive advantage, but also to get inside their opponent's head. If a cheater gets inside your head and you begin to get frustrated and overly emotional, it can hurt your performance. Your main priority when dealing with cheaters is to prevent them from getting in your head and maintaining peak performance. To do this, you can think to yourself "stay calm, I know he's trying to get in my head, but I will stay focused." It is hard to do this in the heat of the moment, so you really need to prepare for these situations mentally before games so you can be ready for them.

However, this only solves half the issue. It is still not fair that your opponent is gaining a competitive advantage over you. Ideally, you stay focused on maintaining peak performance AND stop your opponent's cheating.

When an opponent cheats, most athletes react in frustration. They may throw their hands in the air, yell, and complain. This does send a message to your opponent as well as the refs that you want the cheating to end. This can help solve the issue since the opponent may feel bad and the refs may confront/penalize the opponent, but at the same time, your negative emotions can hurt your performance. Here are some better ways for dealing with cheating that don't hurt your performance:

Confront your opponent and be assertive. Tell your opponent not to cheat anymore. Tell them that you know specifically what they're trying to do and tell them that you're not alright with it. However, you don't have to be a complete asshole. Be somewhat polite. This also shows that they haven't gotten in your head, which may be their main intention.

As well as confronting the opponent, you can also confront the referees. Tell them to be on the look out for your opponent cheating. Tell them specifically how your opponent is cheating. You need to be very sincere, convincing, and polite, because referees hear these complaints many times during a game and might not trust you (How many times have you seen basketball players from both teams claim that their opponents touched the ball last before going out of bounds? Many athletes lie to referees to get their way.)

Better yet, tell your coach to confront the referees. They will most likely handle it better than you, and this also allows you to stay focused on performing.

In certain cases, it is okay to cheat back. If your opponent's cheating gets out of hand, and the referees are not enforcing the rules, you might as well cheat back, depending on how important the game is and how deserving you are of winning. It feels terrible to lose an important game to an inferior opponent just because they cheated a lot. It is only in these cases where I think cheating back is justified.

My favorite advice for dealing with cheaters is to be so good that it doesn't matter. Perform so well that you win despite your opponent cheating. Cheating can only influence a game so much. If you opponent cheats you 3-5 times, that's only 3-5 points/plays/possessions. That's a small percentage of the overall amount of points/plays/possessions in a game, so if you dominate the rest of those points/plays/possessions, you will most likely still win. One good part about this strategy is that you can brag to your opponent after the game, saying you won despite them cheating. Tell them that hard work and skills are most important and they should focus on that instead of cheating. Tell them that their cheating proves that they have no self-belief in themselves. You don't have to be that mean, but hopefully your opponent will learn not to cheat again.

Lastly, you can adjust your tactics to prevent your opponent's from cheating. In tennis, if your opponent is calling your balls out in, you can aim inside the court more since your opponent is less likely to call these balls out. In football, if a cornerback is holding a receiver on deep routes (and the refs aren't calling it) you can run different routes or call more run plays. This can take you out of your normal gameplan and therefore hurt your performance, but this may be a better option than having the opponent benefit from cheating, depending on the situation.

In a perfect world, everyone would play by the rules and you wouldn't have to deal with cheaters. Unfortunately, the world isn't perfect and athletes cheat sometimes. Therefore it is important to know how to properly deal with cheaters. Your goal should be to never lose solely because your opponent cheated. If you apply these tips, you will minimize the amount of times you lose to cheaters.