Dealing with “cheap” opponents

I recently joined a competitive basketball city league, and I’ve been dealing with some “cheap” stuff on the court – pulling on my jersey, pulling on my arms before a rebound (I’m taller than average), etc. The refs aren’t calling this; I assume they aren’t seeing it.

3 Answers
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Competitive sports will be like this. Learning to deal with cheap shots will just be another skill to pick up.

Opponents pull cheap shots for two reasons: to create actual game play advantage and rattle you. In the sports I’ve played cheap shots meant to rattle the opposing player are often legal even if they are cheap. Referees are not there to make sure we play like ladies and gentlemen.

Here are the three tricks I picked up from captains, referees, psychologists, and sports articles that have helped me the most.

Cue phrase: Pick something to repeat like a mantra when you encounter unsportsmanlike play. Pick something that is useful to your sport to refocus your energy away from the other player and back to the game. Mine is “Get to the front.”

Poker face: If your opponent can see that he is annoying you with antics, he will continue them. He will continue them even if your only response is acknowledgement. I de-personalize opposing players. They are just there, like the ball or boundaries. Let nothing show on your face.

Prepare: Think about what you will do when someone engages in cheap play. We prepare for different things that happen in play and this is just one more thing to prepare for. And then practice makes permanent. If there is something in particular that really irks you, you can have teammates do the same thing in warm up and practice so you can work out how you want to respond.

I found the following articles helpful:

  • http://www.stack.com/a/sports-anger-management
  • http://devzone.positivecoach.org/resource/video/how-handle-opponents-unsportsmanlike-behavior

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