Critical Thinking in Sport
Meaning of critical thinking
Ennis defined critical thinking as “reasonable and reflective thinking that focuses on deciding what to believe to do” (Ennis 1987, p.10). Beyer views critical thinking as an evaluative skill that allows an individual to assess information in order to make a judgment on its validity, value, or accuracy. Both Ennis and Beyer claim that critical thinking also involves a systematic process of approaching, evaluating, and thinking through a problem or challenge.
Critical thinking is that the ability to think clearly and rationally regarding what to try or what to believe. It includes the flexibility to have interaction in reflective and freelance thinking. Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself. Critical thinking should not be confused with being argumentative or being critical of other people. Although critical thinking skills can be used in exposing fallacies and bad reasoning, critical thinking can also play an important role in cooperative reasoning and constructive tasks. Critical thinking can help us acquire knowledge, improve our theories, and strengthen arguments. We can use critical thinking to enhance work processes and improve social institutions. Some people believe that critical thinking hinders creativity because it requires following the rules of logic and rationality, but creativity may require violating rules. Critical thinking is quite compatible with “out of the box” thinking, challenging consensus and pursuing less popular approaches. If anything, critical thinking is an essential part of creativity because we need critical thinking to evaluate and enhance our creative ideas.
The way we think can be divided into three different levels of cognition. The first level is made up of basic thinking skills or functional skills that we develop with our parents’ interaction from the time of our birth to the time we start school. The second level of cognition is made up of procedural skills that we develop in school such as reading and writing. These skills are dependent of the efficient development of the functional skills. The final level of cognition is the conceptual level of thinking, where we combine ideas into concepts that gives us our beliefs about ourselves and the world. This level of cognition is directly impacted by the efficiency of the functional skills as well. Inefficiencies in the basic thinking skills impacts our effectiveness in every facet of life, including sports.
The importance of critical thinking
Critical thinking is a general thinking skill in the domain. Whatever we choose to do, the ability to think clearly and rationally is important. If you work in education, research, finance, management, or the legal profession, critical thinking is obviously important. But critical thinking skills are not limited to a particular subject area. Being able to think well and systematically solve problems is an asset for any career. Critical thinking is very important for the new knowledge economy. Information and technology are the driving force behind the global knowledge economy. You have to be able to deal with changes quickly and effectively. The new economy places increasing demands on flexible intellectual skills and the ability to analyze information and integrate various sources of knowledge in problem solving. Good critical thinking promotes such thinking abilities and is very important in the rapidly changing workplace.
Critical thinking enhances the skills of language and presentation. Clear and systematic thinking can improve the way we express our ideas. Critical thinking also improves comprehension skills in learning how to analyze the logical structure of texts. The critical thinking promotes creativity. Developing a creative solution to a problem involves not only having new ideas. It must also be the case that the new ideas being generated are useful and relevant for the task at hand. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in assessing new ideas, selecting the best ones and modifying them if necessary Critical thinking is crucial to self-reflection. We need to justify and reflect on our values and decisions in order to live a meaningful life and structure our lives accordingly. Critical thinking provides the tools for the self-evaluation process. Good critical thinking is the basis of science and democracy. Science requires the critical use of reason in experimentation and confirmation of theory. A liberal democracy’s proper functioning requires citizens who can think critically about social issues to inform their judgments about proper governance and overcome biases and prejudice.
CRITICAL THINKING IN SPORT
It is generally agreed that a very important part of the game is the mental part of any sporting activity. Good thinking skills help from just beginning to the professional level at any level of sport. At the college level, however, and especially at the professional level, it is even more important because the physical abilities between athletes are often very minor and it is the way athletes think and use good judgment that will make the biggest differences. In fact, the better your mental abilities are, the better your physical abilities. How you think can have a profound effect on maximizing your physical abilities at a very basic level.
Some of the basic thinking skills that have a direct impact on sports are form recognition, direction and orientation, classification and categorization, environmental acuity, field discrimination, analysis and synthesis, pattern recognition, abstract sequencing, motor integration, and others. If any of these skills are inefficient, it could have a big impact on the performance of an athlete. How well we recognize things, how well we process them, how well we strategize and how well we execute has everything to do with the efficiency or inefficiency of these cognitive basic or functional abilities. Critical thinking may be adapted to the physical domain in two ways. The first of these involves taking advantage of opportunities that are already present in the teaching area and the second involves making use of the various strategies available to us through critical thinlung. While there are many opportunities for students and athletes to apply the four broad areas of critical thinking to the psycho-motor domain, the challenge is learning to recognize when these opportunities become available. The teacher/coach must be able to recognize those situations in which students can apply critical thinking, assist those students/ athletes through the critical thinking process(es), and then must follow up on this process by asking the students questions that prompt critical thought.
Secondary teachers and coaches can also challenge their students/ athletes to think critically by providing opportunities for creative and independent problem solving. Opportunities exist in the sporting arena, such as allowing learners to think out a strategic plan or having them create a unique movement solution. Such strategies can be included in sport, fitness, and extra-curricular activities.
Critical thinking has a place in the psycho-motor domain. Physical education and sport environments can provide individuals with a supportive environment to learn how to think critically. The practical nature of physical activity allows the individual to apply a new strategy, attempt a new movement and evaluate the worth of the response almost immediately. Students can be challenged to produce unique solutions to movement problems, create new versions of a game, and think through issues related to fitness and health. However, both teachers / coaches and students must be able to recognize the opportunities available to apply and use critical thinking. But, as stated earlier, the challenge is to learn to recognize when these opportunities become available.
Regardless of the strategies taught or the activities involved, the teacher must be the facilitator of the critical thinking process. The teacher fosters the students ‘ ability to focus their attention on decisions that are necessary for skilled performance. Through this active role, the teacher will be able to assist the students in using critical thinking to achieve success in the areas of fitness and movement.