Another important part of critical thinking in quizbowl is “situational awareness”, or understanding what’s going on around you.
To use a baseball analogy, your team is at bat and the opposing pitcher has just walked the bases loaded. Now you’re up. You need to be aware–the pitcher can’t throw a strike right now, so you should be careful what you swing at. Don’t make it easier for him by swinging at bad pitches. Either don’t swing unless it’s right down the middle, or don’t swing until he throws at least one strike.
Quizbowl also allows for situational awareness by considering things like: the score, the questions or time left in the game, how well your opponent is playing now, how well your opponents have played in other games today, the momentum, whether or not you have a timeout to use, whether or not to use that timeout, and how everyone on the team seems to be feeling. All of those things can affect whether you buzz at all on a tossup, and if so, how quickly to buzz.
Granted, these things seem like a lot to process all at the same time, and they are. A good coach can be extremely useful in reminding players of these things, but not so many that the players think more about those things than about the next question.
In my playing days, we sometimes had to remind each other, “Don’t buzz right away against [this team], because they haven’t won a game all day. If we just relax and play normally, we’ll win easily.” Sometimes, we had to remember, “Oh, these guys are really good, so take a chance or two and buzz a little earlier than you might otherwise.”
Some of these situations can be practiced by using our subscription set during your weekly practice. Keeping score during practice tends to help focus players a bit more on the game. You can practice situations from recent matches where critical thinking seemed to have been forgotten and it affected the outcome.