A learning moment

Posted: 10/06/2012 by bc in Uncategorized

Inattentional blindness is the failure to notice a fully visible, but unexpected object because attention was engaged on another task, event, or object. Who knew? Most often, among those of us of normal range IQ, inattentional blindness is defined as “What the heck were you thinkin’?” or the more brief, Homeric “DOH.”

Yes, we saw the brake lights of the car in front of us beam but it didn’t register and we failed to react. Attention is consumed by some other bit of information. We ignore the fully visible object, the brake lights ahead of us, for another, such as a shooting star. In this example, the shooting star contributed to what is commonly now known as distracted driving.

In hockey as in life, momentary inattentional blindness is measured in nanoseconds. It may occur any time and every time a player makes a decision. We’ve even developed terms of art to explain it measuring how well each player sees the game. We also call it Hockey IQ and/or decision-making.

Former THN and Sporting News columnist Alan Bass discusses inattentional blindness at his new platform, Hockey Buzz. I’m intrigued, first by the fact of inattentional blindness and second by the various stimuli contributing to it.

Bass offers two common stimuli, the coach and crowd. Well, I only ever played in front of a handful of friends to 7,500. Not the 18,000 or more an NHL game can typically draw. One thing every player learns is to tune out the tune out the crowd. When you’re out there you do see them and hear them. Unless it’s something unusual, like the green men crawling on the sin bin in Vancouver, you ignore it. for the most part players are inattentively blind to the crowd.

Actually, I learned to ignore the crowd by committing a cement-head mistake. At a very young age I got a breakaway. As the attack moved up ice,  I saw my Mom and sister cheering and calling out my name at the opposition blue line. When I heard them call out, I looked, stopped and waved back to them. As you might expect an opposition player caught up and robbed me of the puck. The coach chewed me out on the bench and mocked me in the room after the game. Well, it was a good lesson because I never let the crowd get in my head again.

More on this to come….

The single most consequential “fully visible” object is the Coach. Had I got away with stopping to wave to family, it would have been a joke and a learning moment lost.
Players go off script all the time. Conversely the system that accounts for each and all of the options in every situation has yet to be created. Such a system isn’t feasible. If fails to account for the human element.

Demand the basics and give ’em the freedom. respect and trust to improvise.

One of the questions I liked to ask of players is, ” What were you aware of in that moment?” Get them to share that with you to focus attention on read and react. A good drill to accomplish this is the instructional scrimmage.


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