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Invalid Logic in Sport Coaching

James Smith



Contrary to public misconception, we do not gain understanding knowledge by imitation.

            The reality is that “All knowledge is conjectural, and comes from within at first”- David Deutsch

            What this signifies, though non-intuitively at first and in refutation of the fallacy of Empiricist claims, is that we do not gain or create knowledge by way of observing, bearing witness, watching, listening, being mentored, or in any other way explicit derivation. Imitation, sure, but not explanatory knowledge.

            In order to gain or create knowledge, we, often unconsciously and especially in the case of ‘relative’ knowledge gain (some knowledge that is already known elsewhere), always, and without exception, criticize, conjecture, and test/experiment in order to arrive at our own understanding. If not, we do not know, and merely repeat/mimic- which, is a sort of knowledge (how to copy), however, not the level of understanding type that is assumed.

            In sport, and elsewhere, however, a propensity to seek ‘recipes’ instead of methodological understanding is the driving mechanism behind the relatively static environment of sport culture. The explanatory reason for the ‘stasis’ is rooted in the suppression of critical faculties/reasoning and creativity that is overshadowed by dogma and received wisdom.

            According to the rules of sentential/propositional logic (the logic of implication) it is invalid, and a fallacy, to affirm the consequence of the antecedent.

  • If antecedent, then consequent, or in logic, If A, then B
  • If A, then B
  • B
  • Therefore, A

This logical fallacy is what coaching thrives upon and is, in fact, a violation of correct reasoning (affirming the consequent). In words this reads:

  • If I use this coaching method, then we will win the game.
  • We won the game
  • Therefore, it’s because of the coaching method

This is, and has been, in effect, the bedrock of sport coaching and it violates the rules of correct reasoning. The ends cannot justify the means. The most that can be done is the exact opposite (affirm the antecedent):

  • If A, then B
  • A
  • Therefore, B

 This presupposes the theory, that was criticized and attempts were made to refute it, is what is represented by A, and thus, it is rational to suggest that if this is done, the result will follow.

The amount of champions, or championship wins, a coach has associated with his/her name means ZERO with respect to their coaching knowledge. It is only a coach’s knowledge that has the possibility of developing championship level performances; yet the sport results can never explain the coach’s knowledge. The coach’s knowledge is only demonstrable via his/her explanations, and knowledge of logic in general, specifically the rules of propositional logic and correct reasoning, provide a criterion for analyzing such explanations.

Email James@globalsportconcepts.net for consulting information on coach hiring, interview preparation, and education




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