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  • The Enormous Cheating in Junior Tennis

    Enormous Cheating has to Stop Now! Robert Lansdorp

    Recently I was asked to become a member of a special advisory council for USTA player development, so apparently I am now officially entitled to share my opinions about what is happening in American junior tennis.

    So let me start by making a few comments about a topic no one ever talks about publicly: the enormous amount of cheating now going on in junior tennis. Maybe the most shocking thing is that it’s so prevalent in the younger divisions, the 14 and unders, and even the 12s.

    I’m not talking about an occasional bad call here and there. I’m talking about a culture that almost sees cheating as part of the game, almost as a strategy to use at certain times to win matches. Somehow that is now ok.

    Here’s an amazing and shocking example from a national tournament in Florida in the girls 14 and under division.

    Like most tournaments today, at this tournament there were scorecards on the court. If you’ve seen them, you know that the kids are supposed to flip the cards on the changeovers so the spectators and officials can see the score. The kids are also supposed to turn the cards so that the card with each player’s score points to his or her side of the court.

    So here is what happened. At 4 all in the third set, one of the players holds serve to go up 5-4. As they change sides, the player who held serve flips the scorecard to show that she now has 5 games and the other girl has 4. But she neglects to turn the scoreboard so that the 5 is pointing to her side of the court.

    So the girl that is behind 4-5 serves and wins the next game. The actual score is now 5 all. But the girl that just held serve claims she has now won the match. She claims that since the 5 was pointing to her side, she was the one who was ahead 5-4, and that she just won the third set 6-4.

    Of course the other girls says no way, it’s 5 all, and calls the official to the court and explains the situation. And guess what? The official looks at the scorecard, sees which way the numbers are pointing, and awards the match to the girl who just cheated on the score. The referee probably didn’t know the rules. So here you have a young girl, whose family traveled all the way to Florida to watch her get cheated out of a match at 5 all in the third.

    But the problem actually goes beyond incidents like this that are just between players. More and more the families are getting involved in the gamesmanship. They are clapping and cheering on every point, including clapping when the opponent kid chokes or makes a bad error.

    Here’s another horrible story. In a first round match in another national tournament, the family of a younger player who upset a seed in the first round ran on the court and carried her off on their shoulders. Carried a 12 year kid off the court after a first round match! What’s going to happen if this kid wins a match in the junior French Open?

    Sometimes you see the adults in the families yelling at each other from opposite sides of the court. I won’t go into details but I even know of some incidents that have ended up in physical confrontations with the dads exchanging blows.

    So what’s the solution? The tournaments and the USTA have to step in right now and get this problem under control before it becomes even more widespread. I mean enact a zero tolerance policy.

    In the old days there were far fewer kids playing tournaments and it was much more controlled. Everything happened more or less where everyone could see it, including the officials. Now you have literally hundreds of kids playing the big national and international events. They are spread out at multiples sites that can be 10 miles away from each other. And the amount of supervision is completely inadequate.

    Think about it, there is no other sport where kids compete against each other with absolutely no direct supervision. It doesn’t happen in soccer. It doesn’t happen in basketball. What if in basketball, the kids were allowed to make all their own calls? Then if there was a dispute, they call out the referee who has been sitting around in the lounge and didn’t even see what happened first hand—and he comes out on the court and tries to figure it out? It’s ridiculous to even contemplate. But that’s what we have now in tennis.

    The parents get very disillusioned. They spend thousands of dollars and then watch their kids getting cheated out of matches. I know for a fact it’s causing kids to quit the game.

    The responsibility to fix this lies with the tournament directors. If they want to run these huge tournaments, than they have to have control over what happens and the ability to make sure all the athletes follow the rules. A couple of roving umpires isn’t going to get the job done. What we need in junior tennis is a stationary umpire for every two courts.

    It costs $100 to enter some of these big tournaments. For that amount the least the kids should expect is a chance to let their tennis do the talking, without all these ridiculous other factors that have no place whatsoever in our sport. It has to stop and not next year, it has to stop now.

    Since most tournaments are sponsored by the USTA, it becomes the responsibility of the USTA to control the environment of competition. If the tournament directors don’t want to live up to what the USTA demands, take the tournament away. You are better off having fewer tournaments with a complete controlled environment then places where you compete for points in a free for all state. Have the ITF follow the same rules if the ITF tournaments are played in the USA. There has to be a way where the tournament directors deputize college players or seniors in high school and pay them for their work. Let’s find a way where people can send their kids to compete without cheating and coaching from the side. It’s time!
    Last edited by johnyandell; 01-25-2009, 12:50 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by RobertLansdorp View Post
    Enormous Cheating has to Stop Now! Robert Lansdorp

    Recently I was asked to become a member of a special advisory council for USTA player development, so apparently I am now officially entitled to share my opinions about what is happening in American junior tennis.

    So let me start by making a few comments about a topic no one ever talks about publicly: the enormous amount of cheating now going on in junior tennis. Maybe the most shocking thing is that it’s so prevalent in the younger divisions, the 14 and unders, and even the 12s.

    I’m not talking about an occasional bad call here and there. I’m talking about a culture that almost sees cheating as part of the game, almost as a strategy to use at certain times to win matches. Somehow that is now ok.

    Here’s an amazing and shocking example from a national tournament in Florida in the girls 14 and under division.

    Like most tournaments today, at this tournament there were scorecards on the court. If you’ve seen them, you know that the kids are supposed to flip the cards on the changeovers so the spectators and officials can see the score. The kids are also supposed to turn the cards so that the card with each player’s score points to his or her side of the court.

    So here is what happened. At 4 all in the third set, one of the players holds serve to go up 5-4. As they change sides, the player who held serve flips the scorecard to show that she now has 5 games and the other girl has 4. But she neglects to turn the scoreboard so that the 5 is pointing to her side of the court.

    So the girl that is behind 4-5 serves and wins the next game. The actual score is now 5 all. But the girl that just held serve claims she has now won the match. She claims that since the 5 was pointing to her side, she was the one who was ahead 5-4, and that she just won the third set 6-4.

    Of course the other girls says no way, it’s 5 all, and calls the official to the court and explains the situation. And guess what? The official looks at the scorecard, sees which way the numbers are pointing, and awards the match to the girl who just cheated on the score. So here you have a young girl, whose family traveled all the way to Florida to watch her get cheated out of a match at 5 all in the third.

    But the problem actually goes beyond incidents like this that are just between players. More and more the families are getting involved in the gamesmanship. They are clapping and cheering on every point, including clapping when the opponent kid chokes or makes a bad error.

    Here’s another horrible story. In a first round match in another national tournament, the family of a younger player who upset a seed in the first round ran on the court and carried her off on their shoulders. Carried a 12 year kid off the court after a first round match! What’s going to happen if this kid wins a match in the junior French Open?

    Sometimes you see the adults in the families yelling at each other from opposite sides of the court. I won’t go into details but I even know of some incidents that have ended up in physical confrontations with the dads exchanging blows.

    So what’s the solution? The tournaments and the USTA have to step in right now and get this problem under control before it becomes even more widespread. I mean enact a zero tolerance policy.

    In the old days there were far fewer kids playing tournaments and it was much more controlled. Everything happened more or less where everyone could see it, including the officials. Now you have literally hundreds of kids playing the big national and international events. They are spread out at multiples sites that can be 10 miles away from each other. And the amount of supervision is completely inadequate.

    Think about it, there is no other sport where kids compete against each other with absolutely no direct supervision. It doesn’t happen in soccer. It doesn’t happen in basketball. What if in basketball, the kids were allowed to make all their own calls? Then if there was a dispute, they call out the referee who has been sitting around in the lounge and didn’t even see what happened first hand—and he comes out on the court and tries to figure it out? It’s ridiculous to even contemplate. But that’s what we have now in tennis.

    The parents get very disillusioned. They spend thousands of dollars and then watch their kids getting cheated out of matches. I know for a fact it’s causing kids to quit the game.

    The responsibility to fix this lies with the tournament directors. If they want to run these huge tournaments, than they have to have control over what happens and the ability to make sure all the athletes follow the rules. A couple of roving umpires isn’t going to get the job done. What we need in junior tennis is a stationary umpire for every two courts.

    It costs $100 to enter some of these big tournaments. For that amount the least the kids should expect is a chance to let their tennis do the talking, without all these ridiculous other factors that have no place whatsoever in our sport. It has to stop and not next year, it has to stop now.
    Robert is right on again... even when the umpire is there,these kids are talking back,arguing,and questioning the umpire's calls.. and a lot of them know that USTA umpire are are tutored not to go against a kids call,so any far side lines calls are never reversed .... parents are coaching kids in a foreign language... kids from the same academy are told to go cheer for the group and against every point when the other guy makes an error... they take bathroom breaks when they get broken(when I was growing up playing Jr tennis in SoCal,we never had bathroom break,except after the 2nd set)this is just the small part of all the B.S. that goes on..

    Comment


    • #3
      Great article..I couldn't agree more with Robert. I try my best to discourage any cheating among the players at our academy, and feel tennis players should try to have the sportsmanship protocal of golf, where players have disqualified themselves for cheating. Unfortunately I believe much of the pressure to cheat comes from the juniors parents and coaches. I've seen parents yell at their kids for not calling balls out that where clearly in, this is truely unfortunate. Maybe the USTA needs to keep parents from watching courtside and just allow viewing from the clubhouse or 100+ feet. Now as far as coaches encouraging cheating and poor sportsmanship, what can I say but, it should not happen at all. Hopefully something can be done since this is now an ever growing epidemic in junior tennis, too bad since above all teniis should be fun, as well as competitive.

      Comment


      • #4
        Cheating in Juniors; HGH; Human Growth Hormone

        Not only is there widespread cheating of the type that Robert has witnessed, I would like people to comment on the growing and widespread use of growth hormone at the junior levels. Sometimes the use of growth hormone is for legitimate and/or medical purposes such as when parents are concerned that their child will not grow to a normal height, but often this treatment is abused by parents who want their kids to be taller for sports purposes. I am told that Andy Roddick was 5 ft. 2 inches at 15 and that his brothers are both about 5 ft. 9 inches tall. Perhaps they just wanted to make sure that he started his growth spurt but it appears that some of this was also motivated to make sure he was tall for sports. Many believe that Sharapova was on this treatment and that's how she ended up being 6 ft. 2 when her parents are reportedly of below average or average height at most. She was still growing at 19 years old which is almost unheard of for a girl. Many parents of juniors are open about their use of HGH claiming that it's just for medical purposes but once these kids are at least average height and they keep going to well above average it becomes obvious that they are also motivated by trying to give their kids an edge for sports.

        Presumably, this sort of thing has health risks and it's amazing that these parents seem to be unconcerned about this.

        Keep in mind that since there is no drug testing for junior players, there is no way that this will be discovered. And, presumably these players will no longer be on the stuff when they're in college or the pros, but does anyone know whether the NCAA's even tests for this stuff?

        Comment


        • #5
          Great topic

          I have sons playing junior tennis and the cheating is wide spread. The culture in all sports is out of control-When Wayne Gretzky says your not trying if your not cheating then I know something is way out of whack in sports. The parents and kids feel so much pressure that they actually believe their own crap. The sport is being ruined with this attitude. Cheaters used to be taken care of by being cast out but now there parents are involved and so now they have a fan base. Yes it all starts and ends with the parents. Parents should be parents instead of fans or coaches. The parents should not be allowed to watch court side-they should have to sit at the clubhouse to watch. Clapping on someone's answers error has to be a point penalty. The things I have seen in the 8 & unders - why would a kid want to put themselves through this. We are losing players in our sport because of this. My youngest would rather play soccer and I can't blame him. I have had umpires have to get in between parents and players on the court in the middle of the match and they let the kid keep playing. The more pressure that is put on a kid the more the kid will cheat and then burn out.
          Last edited by tanker; 12-22-2008, 06:59 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            it's so bad

            it's so bad I want to write a book of "How To Cheat in Tennis Tournaments" so everyone can read read it and all the kids will be on a level playing field so if someone tries to pull a BS trap they would know how to handle it... a lot of people says that kids will eventually grow out of it but as I see it today,the kids who cheat now just grow up to be better cheaters and more sophisticated cheaters ... I hear that it's even worse in college,that's why college play a no-let rule...

            Comment


            • #7
              Fyi

              Originally posted by kmoranon View Post
              Robert is right on again... even when the umpire is there,these kids are talking back,arguing,and questioning the umpire's calls.. and a lot of them know that USTA umpire are are tutored not to go against a kids call,so any far side lines calls are never reversed .... parents are coaching kids in a foreign language... kids from the same academy are told to go cheer for the group and against every point when the other guy makes an error... they take bathroom breaks when they get broken(when I was growing up playing Jr tennis in SoCal,we never had bathroom break,except after the 2nd set)this is just the small part of all the B.S. that goes on..

              Hear, hear! We spent three years in Florida (now back in France but we are all Americans) and here are our conclusions on cheating:

              1. The Eastern Europeans are the worst and most sophisticated cheaters. They do it in different languages and often "give" an unimportant point only to hook at 4-4, 40-30 in the third to cheat for that important point.

              2. I have talked about cheating with a well-known tennis coach in Fla who just said, "What do you expect me to do? I can't control all those people out there. The kids have to learn how to go out and f----- fight!"

              3. I have written several letters on this and sent them to different USTA officials and all I have been met with is SILENCE.

              4. The solution is to (as I and now Mr. Lansdorp says although in different words; hopefully it will carry more weight because he, Master Lansdorp, has talked about it): use local kids and pay them $10-$20 to referee a match and use the roving umpires who are just retirees making about $150 a day to patrol the courts and help the kids with difficult decisions. Maybe use one or two less roving retirees per tournament to pay for the kids. By paying the kids, you are empowering them to be fair judges, to really "see" the balls that land in or out and most kids will not just root for their favorite, they'll probably lean over backwards to be honest. If the kids don't know how to referee, they can at least keep score and see if the ball goes in or out. The roving retirees do the best they can but one cannot referee a match by only observing a few points here and there. Here in France, all competitive tennis players have to go to "arbitration" school (within their tennis clubs) financed in part by the French Federation de Tennis.
              Why can't we do this in the good old USA?
              Last edited by labete; 01-04-2009, 02:10 PM. Reason: submitted by labete

              Comment


              • #8
                SO sad. And, probably a commentary on modern society.

                As long as there is benefit to cheating behaviour ( ie. win more matches) it will continue.It's become a rational decision based on a risk/benefit analysis.

                When the risk/benefit analysis shifts then so will the behaviour. Somehow, there needs to be a system for catching and penalizing cheating.

                Without the stick, the carrot often doesn't work.

                Parents who get into arguments should be banned from the next tournament. and, perhaps their kids should be banned too. That would take all the incentive away from the parents to cause trouble.

                Of course, someone will write in and say can't be done because of potential lawsuits etc. and maybe that's true. But, other sports don't seem to have this problem.

                I know that at most good clubs when a top junior gets to play with a top adult player ( and usually gets a free lesson in a way ) the kid better be on his/her best behaviour or word will get around and the kid won't get those matches again. So, maybe these kids should play with older players, get their butts kicked, and learn some humility and sportsmanship.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Astonishing

                  Well, as amazing as the actual cheating was in this anecdote, what is more amazing is that a USTA official at a national tournament would actually award the match to either player. Isn't the rule, as it has always been, that in any dispute about scoring you go back to the last point at which both players agree?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Cheating

                    I read with great interest the posts above. Certainly the parents and the USTA have a large role/responsibility to correct the problem. But I believe coaches have a responsibility as well. Sportsmanship is the backbone of the game. What makes tennis (and golf) unique is that you do call your own lines. If you do not call them honestly it makes a mockery of the game. How can you say there is a true winner or loser if the person wins by cheating? Coaches of beginners and advanced players need to emphasize the true underpinning (sportsmanship) of the game. I am not a full time coach, but through the years I have worked with local kids in their formative stages some of whom have achieved sectional and national rankings. To my knowledge, they all call the lines fairly. I drilled into their heads from the beginning the underlying principle of sportsmanship. I often tell them that I am really proud that they call the lines fairly. If I see them play a match, I mention in the “positives” in the post-match analysis that they called the lines fairly. I know it sounds naïve, but I believe that if a coach suspects a student of cheating he needs to have a serious talk with the student and tell the student that if he or she persists on cheating the coach will no longer coach him or her. I realize the counter-argument is that the kid will just leave for another coach who does not care about sportsmanship. But at some point coaches have to take responsibility.

                    For 99.999% of the kids who play tennis, the value in the game is not a pro career but what playing the game can do for them in terms of discipline, friendships, learning a game for a lifetime, travel, etc. Character is built when you play your heart out and your opponent hits a shot that is just hits the line and you call it in. As for the 0.001% who might have a chance for a pro career, if you rely on cheating to win big points what are you going to do when there are lines people? Pay-off the lines people?

                    One of my favorite tennis book is the older book "Tennis the Professional Way" written by the top touring pros of the 1950s and 1960s such as Laver, Hoad and Rosewall. The back of the book jacket has a review from a newspaper which praises the book as an “intensely moral account” of the game. Those guys were great champions who understood what the game is all about. Roger Federer is no different.

                    P.S. if the statement in one of the posts above re Sharapova is true then I would have as much respect for her titles as I do for Mark McGuire's home run totals.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Right On!!!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by dunlop_maxply View Post
                        Well, as amazing as the actual cheating was in this anecdote, what is more amazing is that a USTA official at a national tournament would actually award the match to either player. Isn't the rule, as it has always been, that in any dispute about scoring you go back to the last point at which both players agree?
                        That's right, but many of these refs don't have the background to handle the matches. They are there to scare the kids into doing the right thing, but it only scares the wrong kids.

                        I don't really know how to fix this. All you have to do is watch pro players call their own matches to see how bad the prob is. They routinely call the lines out. Qual events are really known for it. how many times have we seen the pros cry about a call, only to watch it hit the line on replay. If he was calling his own lines you would have been hooked!

                        Maybe Robert is talking about even worse than this, like cheating on score or balls 4 inches inside the lines, as I've seen that too.
                        In college they put adults out there, but they so rarely overrule anything, so they are really no help if you hit a line. I guess that is the best system, even if far from excellent. They at least can watch the score and any flagrant bad calls.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Fueling The Fire

                          Somebody has to play devil's advocate here, or this thing is going to get boring so...knowing that I don't agree with much of what I'm about to write...here goes...

                          Suck it up. When you hit college and pro tennis, there will be umpires. Tennis development is long-term and worrying about your results when you are a little kid is senseless. If the cheater happens to get a few more matches over the long haul, then play another tournament each year to make up for it.

                          Get tougher. I remember playing juniors and we had a kid who cheated every match and had a terrible reputation for it. So, we got a group together and, after a friend lost a match to the cheater, we all went to the tournament desk and said the friend won. The cheater went crazy but since everyone at the tournament knew his reputation, no one believed him. He never cheated again in Socal junior tennis.

                          Learn to deal with it. Someone cheating is just one more obstacle that will toughen you up for higher levels of the game. As displayed by shotspot, umpires screw up all the time, as do players. If you learn to handle it now, you'll be better for it later. Coaches can use these matches to teach a lesson about reacting to challenges.

                          Cheat back. Ha, this one ought to get great replies. On the next big point, catch the ball that lands in the middle of the court, call it out, look your opponent straight in the eye and say "Is this how we're gonna do it?"

                          Cheating sucks but sometimes there are just bad calls and people assume it is cheating. Not every bad call is the result of a cheater so play on until the brutal one. Or, get a lines person at the first bad call and understand that is the system tennis has implemented to deal with line calls. Not every guilty person ends up in jail, so learn to play by the system and get tougher.

                          There are plenty of coaches and parents who teach their students when to cheat. With sponsorships, grant money, college scholarships on the line, why the heck shouldn't they cheat if they can get away with it. Winning is worth a fortune and honor means crap in the greater scheme of a failing economy.

                          Focus! Parents can scream and kick and fight all they want. If this were football, or baseball, we'd hear cheering and booing on every shot. What happens on the court is between the opponents. Anything outside the court is irrelevant to competition.

                          And finally, we can teach and train these kids all we want but there will always be bad apples out there. Eliot Spitzer...Bernard Madoff...Rod Blagojevich...Ted Stevens...and that's just the last few months. These are people who gained our trust and cheated the hell out of us. There must be something in the arena of competition that brings out the worst in people, eh?

                          Ok, now go back and read my first sentence so you remember to destroy the message, not the messenger.

                          CC

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Not everyone has Craig's ability to confront adversity (or is that desire to confront adversity??)

                            I would agree that with my high school players running into a little irregular behavior is a good thing. They all go to a private school where people are far too nice to them and they actually get the mistaken impression that the world is fair...

                            BUT what people are describing here is crazy, like the wild wild west. It used to be that eventually the bad actors got caught and disciplined. We won't mention some famous norcal players who spent time on the sidelines in the juniors for "behavior" issues.

                            From what I'm getting the problems are now so much more widespread that players and families go through whole careers never being brought to heel.

                            The Code is great. It just isn't enough anymore.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I have not seen, in my son's brief exposure to the 10s and 12s, anything much different than when I was playing in the 1970s, with one exception.

                              As bad a reputation as tennis parents typically have had, these days many are sort of off the charts delusional.

                              They are not delusional in the sense or rooting for thier own kid, that's been the case will parents, probably forever.

                              They are delusional in that tennis produces the worst possible odds of a professional career or probably any professional sport, yet parents continue to behave as if there is some chance.

                              Think about it, how many American men have made enough money to retire and not work the rest of their lives out of tennis? What, less than ten over THE LAST 25 YEARS? Roddick, Sampras, McEnroe, Agassi, Chang? It looks like Courier is still working, although he might too qualify.

                              I would bet that James Blake is going to have to get some sort of post tennis job, not that anyone would not want to be James Blake, mind you.

                              But any logical parent (like, say, Ivan Lendl) would direct their kids towards golf or baseball.

                              Cheating in tennis is not only wrong in the moral sense, its wrong in that it is against a players own enlightened self interest. Much better to spend your serious tennis playing days building a network of good friends who trust you than winning a couple of more matches that are guaranteed to be meaningless anyway.

                              Comment

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