In competitive sports, there are always athletes who want to win so badly, that they will do absolutely anything to accomplish that goal. Yes, there are cheaters in table tennis too. Instead of giving you dozens of examples of how cheaters get away with it, I’m going to give you a more general perspective on how you can properly handle any situation that arises.
The number one most important aspect when dealing with a fair-playing opponent or a cheater is to give your best! If you say, “I was playing great until he did this…. Or that…” You need to be mentally strong, shake off the thing, and re-focus on the task at hand. If you say, “It was a close battle, BUT when he started cheating, I got mad and crushed him!” Then you need to have the same level of determination and focus regardless if his opponent is cheating or playing fair, regardless if you are up against an enemy, a practice partner, or a complete stranger.
Here are some closing comments that might help you through the situation. The first two comments are pre-tournament ideas, the next four comments are in-the-moment ideas, and the final comment is a post-match idea:
#1 Expect Some Drama
As you prepare for a tournament, just expect some cheating from your opponent. In the upcoming weeks and months leading toward the US Nationals, you need to mentally be prepared for it. Like I mentioned (without being specific), there are dozens of different ways to cheat. You need to expect it and actually ask your coach to apply some of the cheating methods during training sessions.
#2 Evaluate Yourself
Sometimes you might not even realize if you yourself are cheating. Take an hour to read through the rules applying each rule to yourself.
#3 Stay Calm
During the tournament, if someone is cheating, try to stay calm. Most cheaters want you to get worked up, tight, angry, trying to muscle the ball because you are mad. Go back to your think circle (think circle article http://www.samsondubina.com/coaching/think-circle) , think about your tactics, and play your best.
#4 Evaluate the Advantage
This is one of the main points. If the cheating doesn’t give any advantage, then why get all worked up over the cheating? You are in a match against a 3’ tall kid who is wearing white shorts. He always stays close to the table and the white shorts are never visible during the point. Ok, what is the big deal? Why are you red-in-the-face angry about this six-year-old cheater who isn’t getting an advantage from his white shorts. Evaluating the advantage is basically stepping back and saying, “Is he getting any advantage to his cheating?”
#5 Seek Help
If your opponent is getting an advantage, then ask for a tournament umpire. The umpire will know the rules and will deal with the situation. Please keep in mind that the umpire will be evaluating both of you. There are many situations where the umpire comes and finds both players to be cheating.
#6 Agree With the Decision
This is the toughest point. Once the umpire has made a decision, agree with it. You might not like it, but agree with it. If you stay positive and agree with his decision, you will be able to regain your focus and continue playing well throughout the tournament. If you keep fighting with a bad call in your mind, it will mess up your match and possibly even mess up your entire tournament. Many bad performances and be traced back to one bad call. Let it go, agree with it, and perform your best!
#7 Forget It
After the match, should you remember it or forget it? In every match, you need to be able to somewhat remember the main tactics and briefly analyze your performance. On the other hand, you need to forget about the cheater and forget about the incident. If you continue racing around the tournament loudly declaring what that guy did to you and how much of a cheater he really is… then it will not be good for you, not be good for your performance, not be good for the cheater, and really not be good for the sport. Forget it, move on, and play your best in the next match.
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