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Article from Coaching Edge Summer 2013: Earn Your Stripes
A survey has revealed that an alarming number of children felt under pressure to cheat because of what they perceive as their ‘win-at-all-costs’ environment.
The research, carried out by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the Cricket Foundation charity, suggested that around a quarter of those quizzed believed that their teammates would cheat frequently if they could get away with it, while one-third suggested they would feel no remorse if they won by cheating.
How do sports coaches react to these alarming statistics? What responsibility do they have to manage cheating? And what education processes do sports have in place?
Charlotte Edwards understands the subject as figurehead of the England women’s cricket team and a coaching ambassador of Chance to Shine, the programme that has taken cricket back to state schools.
‘In terms of the assemblies that we run, we would go into a school and show a DVD to highlight examples of fair play,’ she says.
‘Throughout the assembly we would focus on the MCC’s Spirit of Cricket, so I would talk about what that means, and then get assurances out of them, before looking for them to display it in the playground.
‘Every time we finish a game we encourage shaking hands and we also stamp down on any cheating.
‘Children generally know the key messages. They know they have to respect people and win or lose, they do it in a gracious way.’
No wonder then that the 33-year-old was initially taken aback by the results published by the Opinion Matters’ survey.
‘Since then I have listened to the children playing a bit more and it was surprising how many of them accuse each other of cheating, “you did this” or “you did that”. ‘If they are on to it that’s a good thing but they are also influenced by seeing right and wrong on television. They know the right way and it has to be enforced all the time. We are fortunate that we have some really good role models in cricket. Every sport has its moments but cricket certainly leads the way in terms of fair play.
‘Walking (accepting voluntarily that a batsman is out) is the only kind of grey area in cricket, but it is an accepted opinion among the majority of international players that you don’t walk as the Decision Review System is in place and someone is paid to be on the field and make a decision. I certainly do not deem that as cheating.
‘You still see instances of fielders being uncertain of whether they have caught a ball cleanly saying exactly that, and if someone is run out when they have been impeded I would like to think that at the top level most teams would realise that is not within the spirit of the game.’
Reinforcement of a sport’s etiquette by the conduct of its elite is an infinitely more
powerful tool compared with words imparted by coaches, according to England Golf performance director Nigel Edwards. ‘You have to teach people the ways of the world. Let’s be fair, people have picked up on the odd incident in golf but how many tournaments have been played around the world where there are no incidents reported at all?’ he says.
‘Generally, golf is played in the right manner. There is always somebody who steps out of line, but all you can do is educate them. We do not hold coaching sessions for players on how to behave. Learning about that goes with the territory. If someone steps out of line – as does happen, because people are not perfect – then individuals are made aware of it and an apology is expected.
‘Our players are constantly reminded that they are representing their country and should act accordingly.’
The highest profile transgression of golf’s myriad of rules came at this year’s Masters when Tiger Woods was penalised two strokes for an incorrect ball drop.
‘I would like to think Tiger’s reputation has not been tarnished at all because he’s a fierce competitor and has no need to try to break any rules,’ Edwards reflects. ‘You get the odd incident, but it is about playing hard and playing fair. There is a very complex set of rules in golf – over 1,100 decisions – so very few people know them or carry a decisions book around with them.’
Part of former England rugby league coach Tony Smith’s coaching ethos is to create the man not the player.
It was at the heart of the culture of his successful Leeds team of a decade ago and is recognisable with the work he currently does with Warrington Wolves.
‘Decent people don’t tend to let others down with their behaviour – that goes for teammates and opponents – so they make good team players,’ Smith says.
‘I am not a win-at-all-costs man by any means. As a coach I would encourage players to do their best. It is their job and as well as rugby league players they are human beings.’
The human element is reflected upon on a weekly basis at the Wolves through their ABCD award – given to the player that has gone Above and Beyond the Call of Duty. Nominations for off-field acts are made and the one whose efforts are most respected sports a special shirt in training. Recognition of others’ achievements is crucial in the best players’ temperaments, Smith suggests.
‘I often hear about people being great winners, but great champions have been terrific losers as well,’ he said.
‘Nobody admires people who do anything to win. Real champions believe they will be in that situation again and accept the result. ‘I tried to remember that at the grand final last year. To lose a game of that magnitude hurts like hell but I am very fond of a lot of people at Leeds and I simply hugged them and told them: “We are coming to get you next year.”
‘There has to be a desire to win but at the end there will be a winner and a loser and whichever side you are on you have to try to handle it with class and dignity.’
Australian Smith, 46, has no desire to portray himself as an angel and admits failing tests of character as a player himself.
‘It is very much physical combat at times and there are temptations to cross the line for players and coaches alike,’ Smith said.
‘But when that was high on the agenda in our sport, I put a few examples into our weekly reviews and asked a simple question: “Would you like this to happen to you?” ‘It was not a choice for us. We always talk about treating people as you would want to be treated yourself.’
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