Ty Riddick

World History  & Health/Physical Education Secondary Teacher  

Game Sense for Critical Decision Making in Sports

If you read the Philosophical Model section then you already know Game Sense is a model that helps students develop the ability to think critically during sports and activities. The thought is that increasing the skill level of a student is not the only way for them to increase their confidence and competence in a wide variety of physical activities. Skills are important, but only if you have an understanding of how and when to use them. The main premise of Game Sense is that a student who understands how to read a game with a basic skill level can be just as successful as one with a much higher skill level. 

The Game Sense cycle is primarily based on a commonly accepted information processing model (below) of how we sort and respond to different cues in our environment. 

One of the key parts of the information processing model is the conversion of information from working memory to long term memory. In order for this to occur, students must reflect critically on the outcomes of the responses they've made. By doing so, this experience will be unconsciously converted to long term memory so that it may be used as instantaneous reference when a similar situation arises. For example, a passer may deduce that their is enough space between the intended receiver and the defender to successfully complete the pass. The passer decides to attempt the pass and performs it (response to reaction), however, the pass is intercepted by the defender. At this point, the passer has received feedback, that in fact there was not enough space, or that the pass needed to be targeted area. Either way, this information needs to be reflected upon so that it can be converted to long term memory store for the desired benefit that if a similar situation was to occur the passer would be able to recall the past experience and may adjust their response. Without this reflective process, the previous experience is not recalled and the same mistakes may be repeated. 

The big question that still remains is - how do you teach information processing? How do you teach students what environmental signals they need to respond to and which they can ignore? The answer (for us) has been using Go Pro cameras (or any other wearable video recording device). The advantage of such technology when coupled with a head or chest strap is that it records first person footage, video evidence from the participants point of view. Third person view such as recording a game at height certainly has it advantages especially when it comes to skill analysis, but while participating in sports, when will students ever see things from a spectators point of view? Never. It may be painfully obvious to an observer what the correct decision might be (this is why you seem to know exactly what is wrong with your favourite sports team) but to the participant what they are seeing and experience will be completely different. 

Example 1 - Touch Rugby: In rugby, the primary reads I try and get my students to read several things. Firstly, identify the open space and more importantly scan the field to try and identify the overlap. When attacking with the ball students are taught to read the hips of the defender and not to pass the ball until the defenders hips are pointed in your direction. In rugby (or at least the touch version) you can be very successful if you know how to identify an overlap and commit a defender before passing. Potentially even more successful then an individual who can spin a perfect pass but without the sense of when or where to use it. 

Watch the video to the left - this video was taken at the conclusion of a 4-day mini unit, participants in the video have a combined 0 years of experience playing rugby. This video is also indicative of the type of analysis we do with students on a regular basis. 

Example 2 - Badminton: The very simple reads we try and get our students to make are - what hand is your opponent? and where are they on the court? Watch the clip to the right and try and assess the quality of the reads the student wearing the Go Pro camera is making. 

In case you weren't counting (or looking) 12/13 shots the student wearing the Go Pro made, successful or otherwise were placed to her opponents forehand. As you could see, the girl in view got the best of this match up. Presumably, the vast majority of badminton players are weaker on their backhand...so why not try and place more shots there? Think of the amount of points you could stand to win simply by knowing the handedness of your opponent. Just another example of how reads can be just as vital as the skills themselves.

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