On Deception

Deception is a key part to any sport, perhaps with the exception of golf.

Anytime you’re playing against another player or team, you can bet that a healthy dose of deception is a great addition to your strategy. In fact, if you’re wondering who is deceiving whom, you’re likely already being deceived by your opponent!

Deception in sports comes in many forms.

In some cases, deception can be as straight forward as a head fake in basketball.

In this case, you use your body language to trick your opponent into thinking you’re going to move one way, and instead you move the other. Common examples of this would be a juke step in football, a no-look pass in hockey, or a play-through (dummy ball) in soccer. Using deception in this way can really open up the defense to be exploited. Even better, if you can fool your opponent into a false sense of security by allowing them to stop an attack once or twice using the same move, then when crunch time comes, you can lure them into your deception.

Another example of this type of physical deception is the fumblerooski, an American football play that spurred many fun variations.

In the play, the quarterback intentionally drops or places the ball on the ground. 

When the quarterback and all the running backs all run in the same direction, the defense assumes that the ball is in motion with those backs. 

Once the defense has committed to the motion, an offensive lineman will step back to pick up the ball, which has been lying on the ground, in play, behind him.

The original play was so deceptive that it was outlawed by the NCAA only a couple of years after it debuted.

Check out the video to the right, and you’ll notice on the first pass that even the camera follows the QB and RB!



Once you’ve mastered the art of physical deception, it’s time to take the next step: intellectual and emotional deception.

This is the masters-level stuff, where even as an outsider you can only see the deception once it has been successfully accomplished.

Great athletes use all sorts of mind games to toy with their opponents.

Consider Muhammad Ali, talking tough before his George Foreman match. Ali, a great fighter but nonetheless a physical underdog in the match with Foreman, played an incredible mind game before and during the match.

Ali had always had the knack for getting the media on his side. Through his energetic, and highly quotable press conferences, he’d always get the chance to take a shot at his opponent. His fight with Foreman was no exception. Getting the press on his side was just the start of what would be a master class in taunting, misdirection, and deception.

During the fight, Ali kept under Foreman’s skin by needling him, telling him “They told me you could punch!” and asking him if that was all he had. Foreman was so enraged, he spent the first five rounds swinging wildly at Ali, who carefully conserved his energy by dancing around the ring and blocking punches. When the time came to finish business, Ali had all his energy left and was able to knock Foreman out, a total shock to everyone in the arena!

To increase your level of play, and maybe get a chance to take down an opponent where you’re the underdog, use deception whenever possible. Once your opponent has lost the edge, it won’t take much more for you to knock them out too.