Game Sense Continued – II

By | October 29, 2017

Exercise 3 – The Attention Demands of Playing


Read the basketball example below.

The players and coach use the information gathered about their position on the court  to analyse the situation and prepare for the likely outcome prior to the play commencing at the re-start.

This provides a context from which modifications can be made as play develops.

In chronological order cues that allow an accurate analysis to be made may be as follows. Many will be sub-conscious.

The situation is based on our team having just scored and is the reaction of the players and the coaches to the situation. Let’s say one player in particular but you would hope the others would tune in to the same degree.

  1. Do they attempt a fast break? – Broad / External.
  2. Have they passed to the point guard or is the player bringing the ball down a poor dribbler. Narrow / External.
  3. Look at their formation:
    • Who is on the periphery? Broad external.
    • Who is posting up on the edge of the key hole? Narrow / External.
    • Who is looking to spot up in their favourite long shooting position? Broad / External
  4. Looking at us:
    • How are we matching up? Broad / External
    • Where are the miss matches in our favour? Narrow / External.
    • Where are the miss matches in their favour? Narrow/ External.
    • How do we counter these? Narrow / Internal.
  5. As the clock counts down to 24secs:
    • How do we adjust to force a low percentage shot without conceding a foul? Broad / Internal.
    • How do we prevent a high percentage shot? Broad / Internal.
  6. How do we block out to prevent an attacking rebound allowing them to regain possession? Narrow / External.
  7. How quickly do we react to the shot going in? Broad / Internal.
  8. How quickly do we react to a defensive rebound that enables us to try a fast break? Broad/ External.
  9. Now we are on attack ask the same questions of us from an attacking point of view.

Read through the notes below and then indicate how each of the following attention demands are met in the particular situation.

Coaching players in the skill of attention demands

The attention demands of sport fall into four categories that correspond to the styles of attention.

The four types of attention required in sport are:

  • assessment
  • analysis
  • preparation
  • action

As you enter any rugby situation, you must in some way assess what is going on around you. Prior to the game you glance around the arena and notice as much about the field, it’s environment, the opposing team and match officials as your can.

Once the game commences assessment becomes an on-going activity.  Each time a team or player reacts you must assess that action. Therefore, assessment occurs during competition as well as prior to the start of the game.

Analysis can occur at many different times:

  1. It can take less than a second or continue for several minutes.
  2. Before the game you will analyse what patterns of play and game plan will be most effective for your team.
  3. During the competition you will need to react to the information you have gained through your assessment of a situation as the game unfolds. You need to then analyse your options and decide your course of action.
  4. After the game analyse your performance for future reference in an effort to learn from what has and hasn’t worked.

Preparation means putting the finishing touches on your mental preparation for the game.  You will have already assessed and analysed what you need to do.

In this stage, you mentally rehearse the skills and strategies you will need to be successful. Imagery should be used.


  1. Action requires you to examine the essential cues that occur during the game and determine which of your preparatory skills are most appropriate for each playing situation.
  2. It also requires you to concentrate on the immediate play.
  3. These situations will divide themselves into:
    1. Static situations that are, to a degree, predictable and in which you will be able to exert a lot of control, and
    2. Dynamic situations that are the ever-changing situations of general play. These are much more demanding and are most relevant to the result of the game.

Increasingly in rugby general play is occupying more and more of the 80 minutes and each individual episode lasts longer and longer. While there is usually no greater range of situations each of these occurs more frequently.

For the coach or a particular playing position take an episode that frequently occurs in a game and work through its attention demands on the worksheet below.

Coach – how to go about reacting to a deterioration in the weather that has occurred on game day.

Prop – after 4 scrums you recognise that you can dominate your opponent.

Second Five-Eighth/ Inside Centre – you have planned to attack 3-5 passes wide but you now recognise that the defence is drifting creating greater defensive numbers in this part of the field.

Episode Explanation




Explanation of Attention Demands

For each of assessment, analysis, preparation and action explain how these will be used to enhance performance.

Gather as much information about this situation before and during the game.




  1. The time for analysis varies from 1 second to 10 seconds.
  2. This is assisted by the comprehensive development of patterns of play and a game plan.
  3. During the game these enable the players to react in a flexible way to situation and the play of the opposition .
  4. After the game patterns and game plan enable modifications to be made systematically.
  5. This will lead to a practice plan that will improve the performance and create more options for the patterns and game plan.


How would analysis be met in this episode?




After assessing and analysing you will need pre-game rehearsal skills to cue the body and mind as one so that recall during the game ensures the speed and accuracy of decision making.

Examples of pre-game mental rehearsal:

  1. Goals – the most important are process goals followed by performance goals and finally outcome goals over which you have less control.
  2. Self talk and having a positive mental attitude.
  3. Mental attitude.
  4. Concentration
  5. Key factors.

How preparation would be met in this situation

Prioritise functional roles, outcome and key factors within the patterns of play.

Modify them based on the game plan.
Those of highest priority may be all you need to focus on as they may be all encompassing.
During the game use these to react to the opposition’s cues successfully.
Remember these cover immediate static and dynamic situations.

How would actions be met in this situation




What aspects of player’s position place greater demands and should be the focus of attention?

  1. _______________________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________________
  4. _______________________________________________________________

“Paralysis By Analysis”
One of the keys to successful attention control is performing each of the functions of assessment, analysis, preparation, and action at appropriate times.

“Paralysis by analysis” can easily occur if you get caught analysing when you should be in the action phase.  Such an error causes attention to be focused in the wrong hemisphere.

Remember, analysis takes place in the left hemisphere, whereas a smooth, integrated action sequence is controlled by the right hemisphere.  So we must strive to become more involved in the various attention activities at the appropriate times.

In continuous sports (those without breaks in the activity) the preparation phase should occur only prior to the start of the contest.  For others, the preparation phase may recur during the time between plays or events.

Understanding the attention demands of each situation makes performance more effective.

Even though the game is dynamic there are a limited number of frequently occurring situations that can be prepared for with some degree of certainty. If you understand the demands of these situations you will be more effective.

A checklist of the most common situations could well be:


Attack – with the ball.
Defence – without the ball.

Static Re-Starts

  • Kick re-starts including kicks at goal.
  • Scrums
  • Line-outs.

Dynamic Play

  • Contesting the high ball, kicking duels and counter attack.
  • Close quarter contact and turnovers leading to counter attack.
  • Attacks that get over the gain line.
  • Attacks that don’t get over the gain line.
  • Attacks that penetrate the defence.

Field Positions

  • Attack / defence in red zone.
  • Attack / defence in amber zone.
  • Attack / defence in green zone.
  • Attack / defence open side.
  • Attack / defence blind/narrow side.


Exercise 4  – Your Attention Skills

Having investigated the attention demands of at least some aspects of play, you have probably found that more than one focus of attention or attention style is required.

Open skills require considerable ability to shift attention because they necessitate a response to cues in the external environment, whereas closed skills require somewhat fewer shifts.  Regardless, the key to successful performance may well be the ability to shift attention at the appropriate times.

Take time to investigate your attention skills.

Completing the test below enables you to plot a profile of your attention style’s strengths and weaknesses. You are encouraged to use this test.  The results will be enlightening.

The purpose of this exercise is to create an awareness of your own attention abilities by formulating a profile of your skills. Complete the scale below then plot your scores on the graph provided.


  1. Complete the scale below by circling the number that best describes your response to the questions.
  2. Score the scale by following the procedures outlined.
  3. Plot your scores on the graph provided.

Rating Scale

0 =Never
1= Rarely
2 = Sometime
3 = Frequently
4 = Always

0 1 2 3 4
1. I am good at quickly analysing a complex situation such as how a play is developing and when to get into the line of traffic at a roundabout.. 0 1 2 3 4
2. In a room filled with children or on a playing field, I know what everyone is doing. 0 1 2 3 4
3. When people talk to me, I find myself distracted by the sights and sounds around me. 0 1 2 3 4
4. I get confused trying to watch activities such as a rugby game or circus where many things are happening at the same time. 0 1 2 3 4
5. All I need is a little information and I can come up with a large number of ideas. 0 1 2 3 4
6. It is easy for me to bring together ideas from a number of different areas. 0 1 2 3 4
7. When people talk to me, I find myself distracted by my own thoughts and ideas. 0 1 2 3 4
8. I have so many things on my mind that I become confused and forgetful. 0 1 2 3 4
9. It is easy for me to keep thoughts from interfering with something I am watching or listening to. 0 1 2 3 4
10. It is easy for me to keep sights and sounds from interfering with my thoughts. 0 1 2 3 4
11. I have difficulty clearing my mind of a single thought or idea. 0 1 2 3 4
12. In games I make mistakes because I am watching what one person does and I forget about the others. 0 1 2 3 4

 To score the scale, use the following key, give yourself 4 points if your answered always,

3 if you responded frequently,
2 for sometimes,
1 for rarely, and
0 points for a never response.

Add items 1 and 2 together and plot the score on the broad-external (BET) line of the graph in the graph.

Next, combine items 3 and 4 and plot them on the external overload (OET) line.
The total score for items 5 and 6 should be plotted on the broad-internal (BIT) line;
items 7 and 8 on the internal overload (OIT) line;
items 9 and 10 on the narrow effective focus (NAR) line, and
items 11 and 12 on the errors of underinclusion (RED) line.

Now, what does all of this mean?


BET______  OET_____  BIT_____  OIT _____  NAR_____  RED_____

Now place a dot on the graph below to indicate the placement of your scores.  When you have finished joining the dots and compare your graph to those sh

90 7 8
80 8 6 8 7 7 8
70 6 5 6 6 6 76
60  5  4  5  5  5  5
50  4
40 3 3 4 4 4 4
30 2 2 3 3 3 3
20 1 1 2 2 2 21
10 1 1 1

Note:  From The Inner Athlete (pp. 115-117) by R Nideffer, 1976, New York:  Crowell. Copyright 1976 by Robert Nideffer.  Reprinted by permission of Robert M. Nideffer, PhD. President, Enhanced Performance Associates, San Diego.CA. 

The higher your score on the BET subscale, the more able you are to deal with a large number of external cues effectively – your broad external focus is effective.

The higher your score on the OET subscale, the more difficulty you have narrowing your attention to the appropriate cues.  You appear to be overloaded by external cues.

A high score on the BIT subscale indicates an effective broad internal focus.

A high score on the OIT scale indicates an overload of internal cues inhibiting effective attending.

Additionally, a high score on the NAR subscale signals an ability to narrow attention effectively.

Whereas a high score in the RED subscale is symptomatic of perpetually narrowed attention.

Effective attenders (those who are able to give their attention – concentrate) score higher on the BET, BIT and NAR scales than on the OET, OIT, and RED scales.

Figures 9.1 and 9.2 illustrate effective and ineffective attention profiles, respectively.  Compare the profile you have constructed with these illustrations.

Plot your scores on this graph

90 7 8
80 8 6 8 7 7 8
70 6 5 6 6 6 76
60  5  4  5  5  5  5
50  4
40 3 3 4 4 4 4
30 2 2 3 3 3 3
20 1 1 2 2 2 21
10 1 1 1


90 7 8
80 8 6 8 7 7 8
70 6 5 6 6 6 76
60  5  4  5  5  5  5
50  4
40 3 3 4 4 4 4
30 2 2 3 3 3 3
20 1 1 2 2 2 21
10 1 1 1

Figure 9.1  Effective attention profile.  Note. From The Inner Athlete( p121) by R.M. Nideffer, 1976, New York:  Crowell. Copywright 1976 by Robert M. Nideffer.  Reprinted by permission of Robert M. Nideffer, PhD.  President, Enhanced Performance Associates, San Diego, CA.

Link the red numbers to obtain the profile.

90 7 8
80 8 6 8 7 7 8
70 6 5 6 6 6 76
60  5  4  5  5  5  5
50  4
40 3 3 4 4 4 4
30 2 2 3 3 3 3
20 1 1 2 2 2 21
10 1 1 1

Figure 9.2 Ineffective attention profile.  Note. From The Inner Athlete( p119) by R.M. Nideffer, 1976, New York:  Crowell. Copywright 1976 by Robert M. Nideffer.  Reprinted by permission of Robert M. Nideffer, PhD.  President, Enhanced Performance Associates, San Diego, CA.

Link the red numbers to obtain the profile.

Comments are closed.