by Rachelle Tannenbaum
How can we talk to children about cheating? That is the issue addressed in this month’s ezine, written by Dr. Matt Yeazel. Matt is a psychology professor at AACC, and has a private practice in Annapolis. He is a licensed clinical social worker whose previous positions have included working with the Anne Arundel County Department of Health providing clinical services to children and adolescents. A lifelong basketball player, Matt has coached basketball, football, and baseball for children in elementary through high school.
If you’d like to know more about this month’s topic, you may be interested in our course “Making Sports a Positive Experience for Your Child.” Details about this and all our classes may be found on our courses page. Alternatively, you can bring us to your neighborhood and have us offer courses or workshops at your school, church, or organization. Contact us today for more details!
CHEATING AND YOUR CHILD
by Matt Yeazel
I’ll never forget 2002. My beloved Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings in the NBA playoffs and went on to win the NBA championship for the third straight year. Or did we?
It's only now, six years later, that the revelation that there might have been foul play in that Lakers-Kings series has come to light. In 2007, the National Basketball Association was rocked by allegations (not yet proven) that referees had been paid to fix certain elements of those playoff games. What’s worse, one of the referees alleged in June of this year that the finals were specifically fixed to allow the Lakers to win, because having a marquee team in the NBA finals would provide a substantial financial windfall for the league.
Did my beloved Lakers really win fair and square? There is a possibility that we may never know. Allegations like that are hard to prove and, though I want to believe otherwise, there will always be that thought in the back of my mind. If it is ever shown to be true, I probably will be devastated.
We all know this isn’t the first time that cheating has found its way into sports. The allegation of steroid abuse in baseball is a constant presence in the media. And steroids might not even be the worst illegal performance-enhancing issue. The use of human growth hormone (HGH) presents an even greater concern in competitive athletics, since there is no way to test for it. If we are to believe some of the anecdotal reports, HGH is rampant in sports and, like steroids, gives an athlete who takes these substances an unfair advantage. In other words, it is cheating, which is when someone acts dishonestly or deceives others in order to gain an unfair advantage over others.
A referee cheating or an athlete using illegal substances to gain a competitive advantage are usually easily explainable (and understandable) to our children. These two examples are usually comprehended by a child quite easily. But could there be other times when we unknowingly avoid pointing out cheating, even rationalizing it as “part of the game?"
I have a confession to make: I have cheated many times when I played sports. I did it knowingly and explained away my transgressions using that popular axiom that it is just a part of the competition and nothing more. Though I was an above-average defender when I played basketball, I admit to stretching the rules routinely, including elbowing my opponents at convenient times and a litany of other “it's not a foul if the ref doesn’t see it” practices. Yes, I admit doing things that I shouldn’t have done. And yes, I admit I was cheating. And yes, I worry that the next time I play basketball I might rely on my old tricks to gain an unfair competitive advantage.
It’s important to note that the natural response to the above argument is that cheating in sports involves a different mindset than cheating in other areas of one’s life. That’s certainly been my response when people brought it up to me! But maybe it’s time that I, like many of us, take a fresh look at things. For example, in 2006, NASCAR chose to overlook the fact that one of its Indy 500 participants was using a substance similar to jet fuel to gain an unfair advantage. The crew chief was thrown out, but the car was still allowed to be in the race. Not much of a punishment!
I am wondering if maybe I have to rethink my thoughts on this matter. Could I have missed something along the way? As a professor at AACC, I view academic honesty as essential. Would I be offended if a student had a friend write his paper for him? Isn’t that similar to using jet fuel in my vehicle? Would I be offended if, ten years from now, I ran into a former student who received an A but was now admitting that she cheated on every one of my exams? The answer is yes on both accounts.
NEXT: COMBATING CHEATING