The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Simple Gifts

The Set Up

I ran a small routine with a rugby side that involved approximately 18-20 players jogging around inside a 10 metre square. Into this I introduced eight rugby balls, and they merely had to pass the ball to someone not carrying one, whilst staying on the move. 

The following video clip, although filmed as a matchday warm-up, shows a similar set-up for the exercise I describe. If you pay particular notice to the players eyes, hands, voice volumes, where their attention is going, the nature of their movements and their reactions to the whistle, you can get a sense of how most of them are being at the "default" setting of their focus.

After 1 minute I stopped and asked them to tell me what they noticed they were doing with their hands and eyes through the exercise. Most of them said they were watching out for other players, looking out for free hands, concentrating (old style) on catching the balls, staying inside the square, and some other things as well. 

Ostensibly at this stage they were operating in a narrow visual focus. Balls were dropped. Those responsible cursed, while others apologised. Yet there is more than just a narrow visual focus going on - for the effects of that frame then spill over into other sensual areas. There are feelings, judgements, thoughts etc that combine to filter for us a perceived level of mental focus.
And here's the thing - that level of mental focus is, not unsurprisingly, also narrow!

Opening Up

Next, I asked them to jog around, passing and receiving for another minute – only this time I wanted them to keep their heads up, broaden their focus by not looking out for hands and bodies but instead noticing and paying attention to all the space and goings on outside the square instead.
The results were interesting. 

Overall, fewer balls were dropped. Some players “got it” really well, whilst with others I noticed they still had darting eyes that had to watch the ball to catch it.
There was a new player, not only to the group – but also who had never played rugby either. His feedback comments were that he found this harder than the first minute – because he was TRYING too hard! 

This was a golden nugget for me, because I was able to make the point that when we TRY we actually tighten up and narrow our focus! The conflict between his TRYING to open his focus, and also his (old style) concentrating too much while doing it, had actually caused it to be a far more difficult exercise for him.
It was an explanation not lost on this new player, or indeed on the whole group.

We ran the exercise for a third minute – and this time I asked him to NOT try, just to relax and do it. If balls were dropped it didn’t matter.
I invited everyone to just keep their focus outside the square for another minute.
The results were revealing. 

Even fewer balls were dropped, there was a lowering of the volume and tone of the inter-communications, and there were also fewer strong collisions. The players’ movement around in the square seemed far more fluid, and certainly the guy who had previously been trying too hard, noticed a big change by just letting go.


Now there’s an interesting discovery we can make when doing tasks using an open or broader focus rather than a narrow one, and it is this:-.
Essentially, with a broader focus you will:-

You will facilitate a freeing up of skills to such an extent that you will find you are able to do more in less time, to notice more, react better, judge with more clarity. And probably the most noticeable thing of all is that you won’t need to try! The proof comes in the moment you do start to TRY – because in that moment your focus starts to narrow again and things start to get harder or they break down.
With an open focus you won’t get drawn into wasting your attention on everything under the microscope, for you are not using one. Of course, there will be times when the microscope will be necessary, but these are only occasional moments - rather than the default setting.

(An extract from Gateways to The Zone – Pathways to Peak Performance