Moral attitudes predict cheating and gamesmanship behaviors among competitive tennis players
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Background: The present study tested Lee et al.'s (2008) model of moral attitudes and cheating behavior in sports in an Italian sample of young tennis players and extended it to predict behavior in actual match play. In the first phase of the study we proposed that moral, competence and status values would predict prosocial and antisocial moral attitudes directly, and indirectly through athletes' goal orientations. In the second phase, we hypothesized that moral attitudes would directly predict actual cheating behavior observed during match play. Method: Adolescent competitive tennis players (N = 314, 76.75% males, M age = 14.36 years, SD = 1.50) completed measures of values, goal orientations, and moral attitudes. A sub-sample (n = 90) was observed in 45 competitive tennis matches by trained observers who recorded their cheating and gamesmanship behaviors on a validated checklist. Results: Consistent with hypotheses, athletes' values predicted their moral attitudes through the effects of goal orientations. Anti-social attitudes directly predicted cheating behavior in actual match play providing support for a direct link between moral attitude and actual behavior. Conclusion: The present study findings support key propositions of Lee and colleagues' model, and extended its application to competitive athletes in actual match play.
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