Watching a tennis match between two promising juniors, one
an Australian and the other a New Zealander, earlier this
year, I observed a very interesting incident.
At matchpoint down in the second set, the Australian player
clearly failed in an attempt to run down a drop volley from
his opponent. Scooping the ball (which had clearly bounced
twice) over his opponent's head, the Australian player continued
to treat the point as if it were still "live".
Meanwhile, the New Zealander, certain that the match was over,
headed towards the net to shake his opponent's hand.
With the exception of the umpire, everyone who was there,
including the Australian player, knew that the ball had bounced
twice. Despite a legitimate protest and an appeal to his opponent's
honesty, the New Zealander "lost" the point, came very close
to "losing" the set, and, I'm sure, would have found it extremely
difficult to win the match had it gone to a third set.
Had that been the case, had the Australian won the match,
would it have been a case of dishonesty, not honesty, being
the best policy? After all, when it comes to sport, isn't
it a case of winning being everything, even if it involves
And even if it isn't a case of either dishonesty being the
best policy or of winning being everything, how do you explain
to a young player who has just lost because of his opponent's
dishonesty that honesty is the best policy, and that winning,
if it requires cheating (or even if it doesn't), ISN'T everything.
Although others may disagree, it is my contention that any
attempt to win by means of cheating automatically brands the
cheat as the loser -- no matter what the outcome.
Aside from the fact that any honest spectator can't help but
lose all respect for a cheat, even more significantly, a cheat
can't help but lose all respect for himself.
No matter how hard he tries, he cannot escape the negative
consequences of his dishonest actions. He cannot evade the
fact that he has used deceit to gain something (a counterfeit
win) that otherwise would not have been his.
In so doing, he must live with the self-knowledge -- as well
as the knowledge of any spectator -- that he has defaulted
on the principle of honesty, and instead, become a cheat.
He can never feel happy, in the true sense of the word, about
his so-called win.
Therefore, I would explain to any young tennis player who
has just lost to a cheat, and who, as a consequence, mistakenly
thinks that cheats do prosper, that nothing could be further
from the truth.
And to make my point, I would then ask him if he'd like to
trade places, if only for a second, with someone who has a
deserved reputation as a cheat, or if he would feel good about
winning through cheating.
Discussing sports ethics with children is extremely important
for two reasons:
The first is that sport provides them with one of the best
opportunities to formulate the ethical principles which they
can then apply in all spheres and stages of later life.
The second is that sports cheats give the purity of healthy
competition a bad name, and should, therefore, be roundly
Copyright © 2006 Chris Lewis
Chris Lewis is a former Number 1 ranked junior tennis
player in the world (1975), and Wimbledon finalist (1983).
During his playing career, his coaches were Harry Hopman and
Tony Roche. You can read more of Chris's articles and tennis
tips at his website, Expert
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