"When you look up, look wide, and even when you think you are
looking wide, look wider still." Lord Baden Powell - founder of the Boy Scouts.
The joke goes, "You
know how some players on the basketball court, when they're coming down the court dribbling the ball they can just look out
and see the whole court?"
"Well, he wasn't one of those players."
could have been written about me, though I probably can't claim exclusive rights to a tendency towards tunnel vision.
TEACHERS - PERIPHERAL VISION NATURALS?
One time I was explaining my interest in seeing,
and developing peripheral vision in particular with a friend. She had recently become a high school science teacher and shared
an anecdote with me.
She explained that she was taking a vision exam, which included a test of peripheral vision.
She got a very good peripheral vision score. The vision person asked her casually if she happened to be a teacher by any chance.
After she responded in the affirmative, she asked the vision assistant why she asked her if she was a teacher. "Oh,"
the assistant responded, "Teachers generally do very well on our test for peripheral vision."
My friend then shared
with me that, when she was first teaching, students would do things behind her back, like throw some object across the room,
while she was writing at the chalkboard, and she would very seldom catch them in the act.
Now, with more experience
as a teacher, she can notice and address students' potentially inappropriate behavior with her peripheral vision though turned
away from the class as she writes at the chalkboard. The days of anonymous student misbehavior in her classes have disappeared.
Another teacher I know, who worked with a small class of second and third graders in a local private school, told
me she cultivated the perception in her students that she could see behind her without turning around.
It keeps her
students wondering in a helpful way she indicated. She also said that this kind of full peripheral seeing comes naturally
to her, and though she is slightly near sighted, she avoids wearing her glasses as much as possible, because she feels the
glasses tend to interfere with her preferred mode of softer focus, full peripheral seeing.
WAYNE GRETZKY'S RINK AWARENESS
Hockey great, Wayne Gretzky had this to offer on his full rink awareness, "Chalk it up to fear. When you're 170 pound
playing with 210 pound guys, you learn to find out where EVERYBODY is on the ice at all times. If not, you'll find yourself
forechecked into the mezzanine."
Gretzky also mentions that on the rink he couldn't afford to notice details of his
teammates or opponents, but relied primarily on quick sideways glances of the color of their uniforms to keep tabs on the
Hockey great, Wayne Gretsky had more things to say about his own particular way of seeing when he was
on the rink. He prefaced them by pointing out that among all his teammates he always tested out worst in strength, flexibility
and, interestingly, peripheral vision.
"It's funny, but when I'm on the ice, I can barely see the goalie. It's an
attitude. If you ask a fifty-goal scorer what the goalie looks like, he'll say the goalie's just a blur. But if you ask a
five-goal scorer, he'll say the goalie looks like a huge glob of pads. A five-goal scorer can tell you the brand name of the
pad of every goalie in the league. I'm seeing the net, he's seeing the pad."
"That's all hockey is: open ice. That's
my whole strategy: Find Open Ice. Chicago's coach Mike Keenan said it best: "There's a spot on the ice that's no-man's land,
and all the good goal scorers find it." It's a piece of frozen real estate that's just in between the defense and the forward.
For a defenseman, it's hell because he doesn't want to commit too far out and leave other people open. And yet, if he leaves
you alone, you get a great shot."
"I remember one of the reasons I always had trouble playing the New York Islanders
was because they had the same color pants we did. I know where everybody near me is, but I do it by taking quick side glances
without pulling my head up. You don't have to see a guy's insignia on his sweater to know what team he's on. You just need
a split-second glance."
"But the Islanders' pants were so much like ours I kept getting them confused. My teammate
Semenko thought I was kidding when I told him that. "Right," he said. "I suppose we could ask the Islanders to change colors."
But it was the truth."
JOE MONTANA - FEEL THE COLOR
Football hall of famer, Joe Montana, in his book AUDIBLES:
MY LIFE IN FOOTBALL with Bob Raisman, also described how he used his peripheral vision to be aware of the differences in the
respective teams' uniform colors.
He called it 'feeling the color' and used it, beginning in high school, to help
him determine how well his line was holding back the rushers and how much more time he had to stay in the pocket without getting
"When people talk about my style, they mention my ability to find a receiver and hit him when I'm on the
run. Well it all started in high school."
"This is where I started to feel the color. Feeling the color is how I'm
able to tell when I'm getting pressured in the pocket. When I come out of the huddle to take the snap from center, my eyes
are focused straight ahead on the defense. I'm looking to see if the "D" is in a strange formation."
"When the defense
puts on a strong rush. I see the colors. I only see colors, not faces, helmets, arms or legs. Just that wall. If the 49ers
are wearing red jerseys and our opponents white, my vision picks up the changes. If the wall of color quickly changes from
red to white in the first two steps of my dropback, things register automatically."
"This is especially true for color
changes up the middle. I move out of the pocket fast when that happens. A lot of people including Bill (Walsh) and my teammates,
criticize me for bailing out in a hurry. Defenders rushing up the middle are on me so fast they can inflict pain in my rib
area.. If I was looking at an individual face, my reaction time would be slow. My method works."
MAGIC JOHNSON'S HUNDRED
L.A. Laker basketball great, Magic Johnson, famous for his great smile and no-look passes, had the following to offer
on his court vision from his basketball instruction video, YOU'RE MAGIC:
"Now to make great passes, I have to see the
whole floor. One of my campers once said to me, "But Mr. Johnson, I've only got two eyes!" To me, that's not true. I think
I have about 100 eyes all over my head. Some of them are in the back; others are on the side or behind my ears. I just had
to train myself to use all those eyes."
"For instance, I'll take that same camper down the floor with me on the fast
break. OK, here we go. First, we've got to look behind us to see if someone's trying to catch up to us and flick the ball
away. Now we've got to look around in both directions."
"We've got to look at all the players on defense and see who's
fast and who's slow and where they are on the floor. Are they in front of us? Are they alongside us?"
got to check out our teammates. Who's where? Who's in the best position to shoot? To rebound? To set a screen? Who's covering
our teammates. Are there any mismatches? Who's free? Who's quick? Who's slow? Who can make the shot? Who can block the shot?
Where are the passing lanes? The cracks? The seams? Now, who's going to see all that with just two eyes?"
hall of famer, Bill Russell, who led Boston to eleven playoff titles in thirteen seasons, did it with great defending and
rebounding, but also with passing. He calls it "orchestating games." By this he means seeing that all his teammates got their
"This is a subtle thing. A man may be open, but he may not be in a place from which he shoots best. The
secret to good passing is getting it to the right man in the right place at the right time."
section we have visited many activities that profit from going peripheral, from an expanded field of vision including: nature
awareness, classroom management,bush survival, office survival, basketball, hockey and football."
where enhanced peripheral awareness would be beneficial would include: air traffic controllers, airplane pilots, especially
helicopter pilots, police officers, engineers, ship captains, switchboard operators, waitresses, receptionists, mothers of
young children, preschool teachers, bus drivers, and good cooks. Let's not forget singers and dancers, also race car drivers,
mountain climbers, ice skaters, fencers, gymnasts, a really good birder and the list goes on.
Going peripheral with
soft eyes is also very helpful in reducing stress, as it promotes a more relaxed, yet attentive, perspective and helps to
free our breathing which is often constricted when we are feeling tense.
"In closing, the Dalai Lama offered this
observation at a talk at Universal City, "If I look at the local situation, there is quite a bit of frustration, so I try
to look at it from a wide angle and try to keep hope."
"Wrap yourself with passion" "My new holistic view is to keep
hope, not doubts." he said stressing that every individual has an opportunity to make a difference. "We each as individuals
have the responsibility in the future of humanity."
(The Dalai Lama, Universal City, Monday June 26, 2000) As quoted
in the LA Times