This dispiriting article detailing the bullying culture on the junior tennis circuit would make an excellent appendix to Joe Humphries, Foul Play ( see book reviews ). Just to give you a flavour of the piece Pearson laments, We are at the Lawn Tennis Association junior tennis tour, where cheating and rows have become so commonplace that the former British No 1, Annabel Croft, has withdrawn her 15 year- old daughter from the tour and the former world No 5, Jo Durie, has said she wouldn't be surprised if someone was knifed at a tournament.


Pearson goes on to draw the connection between the amount of cash needed to keep your child active and competitive on the LTA junior circuit ( £35,000 per year) and the emotional commitment that accrues with that sort of money. As the adrenaline levels rise so does the propensity to cheat. The parents are at it, the coaches are at it and the youngsters soon pick up the habit. After all they are keen to please. There are two ways of looking at all of this. Either you get out because what you are witnessing and becoming part of is sickening behaviour, humans at their basest. Alternatively, you can dig in for the long haul, telling yourself that getting through the cheating thing is part of life's learning curve and your child will come out of it a stronger, more well balanced kid by the time they give it all up and reconnect with the other preoccupations of life.

The whole cheating thing is still something of a taboo in amateur sport. Schools don't talk about it, governing bodies don't talk about it and the government sporting quangos definitely don't mention it. The general line that all concerned like to buy into is that sport is good for you, mentally and physically. Sport hits all the right agendas. It's good for your health, it's good as a diversionary activity from anti social behaviour, it's good for creating social cohesion and it'sgood for developing moral fortitude in young people. Try experiencing the unedifying scene of parents haranguing all and sundry at any local sporting fixture and the ennobling character of sport suddenly looks a little thin. Obviously sport has the potential to do the good things that its advocates claim for it, but only if the ugly underbelly is dealt with openly and frankly. In so doing we will tread on a good many toes but to put the problem in the too hard basket is simply to collude with the culprits.

Cheating is inextricably linked to winning. It covers itself with a host of euphemisms like, playing hard ball or doing what it takes to be a winner. While the handful of truly greats in any sport don't need to play dirty, for the rest of us mortals it's the daily grind of trying to get one foot out of the gutter and that too often involves cheating. Sometimes it's blatant and sometimes it's subtle. How often do you see a professional athlete admit to the ref that it wasn't in fact their ball? You can count the positive examples on one hand with a couple of fingers to spare. In amateur sport the examples are more common but too often a player will simply shrug their shoulders and wait for the official to decide. As a manager of a highly successful winning machine I have made many manoeuvres that were within the letter of the law but which came perilously close to breaking the spirit of the law. In blunt language; cheating! I've also been one of those players who, on occasion, have shrugged their shoulders when I knew full well that a decision should go against me. In plain language; cheating!

Nicola Pearson's article is critically important for the future of sport. It should be discussed in every school and in every coaching course and in every club but it won't.

The reason? We don't want to offend. We don't want to offend the coaches, we don't want to offend the school PE staff and we don't want to offend the parents. But most of all we don't want to offend ourselves.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 26 May 2018 15:43 )