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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Zajdel, PhD

What Do You Do When an Opponent Cheats?

Updated: Jan 1

Encountering cheating in sports can be disheartening, challenging the spirit of fair play and integrity. When facing a cheating opponent, it's essential to handle the situation with poise and follow appropriate steps to address the issue. Here are practical steps to consider:

During the Game

  • Stay Calm and Focused: It's natural to feel frustrated or angry, but maintaining composure is crucial. Refrain from confronting the opponent in the heat of the moment. Your opponent could be cheating as a way to sabotage your flow/strategy, so staying calm and focused is key!

  • Focus on What You Can Control: You cannot change your opponent’s behavior. Instead, think about what strategy you can use to respond. For example, in tennis you can hit your shots closer in to make it more difficult for opponents to call shots out.

  • Zoom Out to the Larger Picture: While a cheating opponent is frustrating in a game, try to focus on who will be better off in the long run. The player who is winning through effort and skill development will likely be a better player in time than a player who wins through cheating.

  • Reframe the Cheating: It is easy to get stuck in anger and frustration about the cheating. Alternatively, you can view the cheating as a challenge or a puzzle to solve. Or you can view it as an obstacle to overcome and an opportunity to build resilience.

  • Focus on Your Performance: While the cheating incident can be distracting, redirect your focus to your own performance. Stay committed to fair play and sportsmanship. Your dedication to the game's integrity will not go unnoticed.

  • Avoid Retaliation: Resisting the urge to retaliate is important. Engaging in similar behavior in response to an opponent's cheating can escalate the situation and potentially damage your reputation.

  • Gather Evidence: If possible, collect evidence of the cheating behavior. It could be eyewitness accounts, video footage, or any tangible proof that supports your claim. This will be valuable when reporting the incident.

After the Game

  • Consult with Officials: Approach the referees, umpires, or officials overseeing the event. Present your concerns calmly and provide the evidence you've collected. Officials are responsible for maintaining the fairness of the game and addressing rule violations.

  • Follow Proper Procedures: In many sports, there are established procedures for reporting rule violations or unsportsmanlike conduct. Follow these procedures by submitting a formal complaint or report to the relevant authority or organizing body.

  • Accept the Decision: Once you've reported the incident and the authorities have made a decision, respect their judgment. Accept the outcome, even if it's not in your favor. Upholding the decisions made by the governing bodies is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the sport.

  • Use it as a Learning Experience: Every challenge, including facing a cheating opponent, can be a learning opportunity. Reflect on the experience, understand how to deal with such situations better in the future, and focus on improving your game.

  • Advocate for Fair Play: After the incident is resolved, consider advocating for fair play and ethical conduct in sports. Encouraging fair play within your sporting community can help prevent future incidents of cheating.

  • Move Forward: Finally, let go of the negative experience. Dwelling on a past cheating incident can hinder your progress. Focus on your training, performance, and future competitions.

Encountering a cheating opponent in sports is undoubtedly frustrating, but responding with dignity, following proper procedures, and advocating for fair play contribute to upholding the true spirit of sportsmanship.

Have you recently encountered a cheating opponent that you can't stop thinking about? Therapy can help move past this setback!


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