Archive for the ‘News & Events’ Category

Sports Psychology Workshop in London with Dr. John F Murray

Sports Psychology Workshop featuring Dr. John F. Murray.

LONDON, March 7, PRNewswire — You’ve heard of spoons mysteriously bending and breaking. But tennis rackets? This is a very exciting weekend for an exclusive group of tennis players in London intent on improving their mental game and having fun. USA Sport psychologist, Dr. John F. Murray presents a series of workshops on March 11, 12 and 13 assisted by Barry Cowan, the player who took Pete Sampras to 5 sets at Wimbledon in 2001, and LTA Tennis Coach Paul Barton.

Uri Geller, a personal friend of Dr. Murray, agreed to make a guest  appearance on one of the three days, bend a tennis racket, and give a one-hour inspirational message. Spaces are limited to 12 tennis players each day, at any level of play above age 10.

Participants receive a full-day of coaching, complete mental skills workshop (on and off-court), personal sport psychology evaluation conducted by Dr. Murray, the same one he used to help Vincent Spadea (Current #18 on ATP Tour) overcome the longest losing streak in tennis history, and a full year of mental coaching via computer with Dr. Murray.

Guests will also receive a personally signed copy of Dr. Murray’s book  “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game” cover endorsed by Wimbledon Champion Lindsay Davenport. Dr. Murray’s workshops are sponsored primarily by my hotel Chelsea and the David Lloyd Club Raynes Park (site of the event). All LTA tennis coaches earn 6 license points for attending. While working regularly with a sport psychologist would normally cost over 5,000 pounds sterling for the year, it is being offered here at a promotional rate for only 250 pounds! There are only several places remaining and players are accepted on a first come first serve basis.

Reserve your place by contacting Dr. Murray at drjohn@smarttennis.com, calling him directly in the United States at: 561-596-9898, or contacting Mr. Paul Barton in London at info@Londontennis.co.uk, Tel: 020 8789 0482, Fax: 020 8789 0479.

For more information and the brochure, just go to http://www.JohnFMurray.com and click the News and Events tab.

Dr. John F. Murray is available for workshops, and public speaking events on the importance of mental skills improvement and sports psychology.

Beijing Olympics: Sports Psychology profile of Adler Volmar

Sports psychologist Dr. John Murray is providing Journal Star readers daily updates from the Olympics. The former tennis pro and Florida resident is working with judo competitor Adler Volmar. The goal is to offer insight into the mental and psychological aspect of sports, right up to Volmar’s matches and immediately following them. The doctor will add some Beijing observations both inside and outside the sports venues. Murray’s full work and profile can be found on his own Web site: http://www.johnfmurray.com/

August 12, 2008 – Wednesday early Morning
Adler is nothing but energy! Yesterday was a big day as we finally met up with the man with a heart of gold who is going for the less significant piece of gold. He showed us all around the Olympic complex, the Team USA headquarters and living accommodations, and just about everything there was possibly to see in the Olympic Village.

The security, as you might imagine, is matchless. Once you finally do get in there are countless additional restrictions unless you have this number, decal or color on your badge.

What a great feeling as the weather cooperated following a rainstorm and the air looked actually clear and clean! Athletes were trading badges, walking from training session to another, playing silly video games, lounging, or meeting with media. If you can imagine a major university campus in the USA, with only
all the athletes out and about, and then multiply this by 150 — you get a glimpse of the awe.

I mean these are the best of the best, and the dreams of every country all in one spot.
Let’s talk a little more about Adler. He was born in Miami when his mother visited his sister, but he grew up in Haiti. When he was a teenager he was picked on by bullies and given a good beating. His mother insisted that he learn to defend himself, so at age 13 he started training for judo. By 15 he was a black belt and three years later, he was going to his first Olympics in Atlanta, where he carried the national flag.

After Atlanta, with very poor English, he was tricked into thinking that he had to join the US military and served in the Navy as a combat medic. He missed the 2000 Olympics largely due to his military service but tried again for the judo team in 2004 and missed, coming in third. Many would have given up but Adler persisted with the dream for the gold and he rose in the ranks and won several major international events leading up to the Beijing Olympic trials.

That is when he tore both his anterior cruciate ligament and lateral cruciate, and the Miami Dolphins team physician, Dr. Caldwell, surgically repaired his knee in February and told him he had between a 0 and 1 percent chance of even competing at the June Olympic trials. Adler heard “one percent” and he said “that was plenty enough for me!”

At the trials, he had to win in a sudden-death overtime and it was a highly controversial ending … but the fact is he won and he now represents the USA Team Judo in the 100kg class.

I’ve given you just a sketch of the facts. What you might not realize is that he is one of the most humble and caring persons I have ever met! Can you believe this … for a world class athlete. His mother died last year and she has been an inspiration. His wife has been tirelessly patient and supportive as he reaches for his goals. He had a great training staff in his recovery and then I had the honor of him calling for an appointment only a little over a month ago. We hit it off immediately and he kept telling me that he was taking me with him to Beijing. I kept denying it sarcastically. Well … he felt strongly enough about the mental game and our rapport that he inisted I go and got the plane ticket and hotel reservation.

Very few in the world media or judo land really believe in Adler. He is a definite sleeper from those in the supposed know. But when you meet him, you realize it is never about Adler; rather, he is on a mission to change lives. He has a great family with three kids and he wants to make their lives better.

He wants to get the first gold for judo in U.S. history. He even told me that he wants to help me with the sport
psychology. The man is sincere and he is funny, too. During our long walks around the village he often teased and joked, but the serious side came out too and there is no doubt in his mind that he will walk away with gold, but even that he ultimately gives up to a higher source — his belief and his faith.He never should have been here after that injury, but he is, and the world will have to deal with it.

There are 32 fighters in the draw at the 100kg class and his first opponent Thursday is from Bosnia. He says, “just five steps to change our lives forever,” meaning just win five matches and he will fulfill his mission, and his faith removes any anxiety.

As he said, “This is way beyond me … I’m here for the ride!” Thanks for all your support readers. Today we will go watch some live judo matches and I’ll do some more imagery and relaxation training with Adler. He is one of the best that I have ever seen mentally … yet he also realizes that he needs to be tip-top shape physically as well as mentally. So he takes our work together seriously … looking for ever-so-slight an edge.
I’m going to get some more sleep now.

Dr. John F. Murray attended the Beijing Olympics to provide his unique perspective from the world of Sports Psychology.

Beijing Olympics: Competition looms

Sports psychologist Dr. John Murray is providing Journal Star readers daily updates from the Olympics. The former tennis pro and Florida resident is working with judo competitor Adler Volmar. The goal is to offer insight into the mental and psychological aspect of sports, right up to Volmar’s matches and immediately following them. The doctor will add some Beijing observations both inside and outside the sports venues. Murray’s full work and profile can be found on his own Web site: http://www.johnfmurray.com/

August 13, 2008 – Thursday Early Morning
The day began with the most delicious won ton soup on this side of the Great Wall!
I went back twice to the special hotel soup bar, quite analogous to a nice omelet station in an American hotel. This morning’s “snake sausage” was replaced with “link sausage” so I curiously asked the hotel staff if it was snake meat and they bent over backwards in apologies – explaining that it was just a typographical error on the sign above the food, and then sent me a huge beautiful basket of fruit to my room as a gesture of apologies.

My goodness, I did not expect this and was somewhat embarrassed! But thank you China Resources Hotel, a superb 4-star accommodation about 20 minutes taxi ride from Olympic Village.

Crystal, Earl and I engaged the same routine of walk, subway, and walk and made it to the gorgeous gymnasium before noon to watch a full day of judo. By the way, the subways are ultra modern and I have been in the best and consider Beijing’s subways cleaner and faster than others, with nice digital tvs to watch the Olympics while you wait.

The people seem overall happy, like people in any large city, but there is a strange fascination with cats and dogs which we have seen few of. One cat yesterday came up to Adler in between our watching judo and sprawled on his back right in front of him for a 20 minute nap. Countless locals approached with smiles to take pictures.
I’m not sure what the fascination with a simple cat was, but it aroused more attention than an appearance by the greatest judo master ever — who never lost a match in his entire career — Yasuhiro Yamashita.
I was excited to meet Yamashita and get his autograph on my Olympic flag with a photo and I left the cat where he was.

Adler today was very reflective about his overall mission and how this all fell into place, winning at the trials and now having a chance to represent Team USA. The one thing that is absolutely clear is that he believes totally in his chances and works as hard as anyone in training, but at some point lets go and realizes that it is out of his control, and that competitive outcomes are influenced from an above higher source.
He is indeed very Christian in his beliefs and wants his success to give him the platform to show others what faith does. If it moves mountains tomorrow and he wins gold, he wants the world to know that it was much more than Adler.

As he stated again, this is way beyond me. While he appeared ready to rumble the next day, my only concern was that he not overextend himself in being the perfect tour guide and judo commentator, and get back to his village and get ready for war tomorrow.

He assured me repeatedly that his being with what he calls “his family” here (Earl, Crystal and I) was far more helpful than going back to his dorm room in Olympic Village. So he stayed with us all day until he finally slipped off around 7 p.m. to head back while Crystal, Earl and I watched the semifinals, bronze matches, and gold medal bouts of the day.

Perhaps the most interesting storyline was the performance by a Georgian Judoka, who beat a Russian with sheer passion and then went on to win the gold medal. Seeing the emotion and hugs you just knew there were the politics of Russia and Georgia as much as you want to keep that element out of the games.
Today is the day now that we have all been waiting for. The table is set, the cards are shuffled, and we will soon witness Adler Volmar in all his raw form as he goes up against the absolute best 31 other judoka in the world in the 100 kg class today.

The 32-man draw is set up that you have to win 5 matches in a row to win the gold. If you lose, you can still fight an extremely hard uphill battle for the bronze medal but you need some help in that the person who beat you needs to win the next round. It is sort of like a single elimination tennis tournament with a small chance for third place.

Whether Adler wins or loses, I will be extremely proud of him and eternally grateful for his bringing me to Beijing to experience all of this. While the matches are televised in some parts of the world, they are not being televised in the USA, so your best bet by far — where all matches can be seen live — is to log in to www.nbcolympics.com and you can see it as if you are in the stands!

Beijing is 13 hours ahead of Peoria time, so you would want to get your computer ready no later than 10:45 p.m. and be ready to start watching matches at 11. Be attentive because these matches can last over 15 minutes with the timeouts, or be over in a flash before they start.

Adler appreciates all your support, prayers, and love. He sincerely realizes that social support from the so many good people he has met over the years will be a major force. Now he needs to just compete and I am sure he will be brutal today. If someone beats Adler today, I will credit them endlessly.

I can tell you that I would not have to face this determined warrior today. This is the day he has been waiting for his entire life so tune in and watch him win the gold! None of the traditional press has given him a chance. I know he can do it. Go Adler!

Dr. John F. Murray attended the Beijing Olympics to provide his unique perspective from the world of Sports Psychology.

Arrival at the Beijing Olympics

Sports psychologist Dr. John Murray is providing Journal Star readers daily updates from the Olympics. The former tennis pro and Florida resident is working with judo competitor Adler Volmar. The goal is to offer insight into the mental and psychological aspect of sports, right up to Volmar’s matches and immediately following them. The doctor will add some Beijing observations both inside and outside the sports venues. Murray’s full work and profile can be found on his own Web site: http://www.johnfmurray.com/

August 11, 2008 – Tuesday Morning Blog
We all got in to Beijing quite late last night and made it over to the taxi stand around 10PM. It took a bit of haggling to make sure we were not overcharged $60 and the three of us squeezed into a small taxi ride that took about 45 minutes only cost $18! The bargains ended abruptly in the hotel, however, as a bottle of Evian water cost $10. The city is vast and spralling and we did not notice anything that unusual about the air quality late at night. So now on a Tuesday morning we all had a great buffet breakfast consiting of dumplings, rice, snake sausauge (no not real snake), breads and eggs. I asked if the mild was pasteurized and it took 4 or 5 attendants to finally say they did not know. But since this is the 4-star China Resources Hotel I am assuming all will be fine. TV here is interesting. There are a few English stations including CNN and CTV, and at least 5 or 6 different stations were covering the Olympic games so I had the pleasure of watching women’s polo (US vs. China), some of the women’s basketball (US vs. China) and weight lifting.

We are all excited because today we go over to the Olympic village and get a tour with NBC and Telemundo while meeting up with Adler Volmar here for the first time. My goal really is to just make sure he is aggressive and hungry as Adler historically has a tendency to need adversity in a match to really turn it on. He is such a nice guy but nice guys don’t win gold medals unless they keep their perspective and realize that everyone out here would like to send him home with nothing to show for it but an Olympic appearance. I did the sport psychology evaluation on Adler and have now worked with him for a month, and I will say that he is perhaps the strongest athlete mentally that I have ever seen. Something tells me that he very well might toss the judo world on their head and walk away with this gleaming gold medal. Nobody expects it … now if i can only keep him hungry, mad, and on fire I think he has a great chance!

Dr. John F. Murray attended the Beijing Olympics to provide his unique perspective from the world of Sports Psychology.

Beijing Olympics: Here we come

Sports psychologist Dr. John Murray is providing Journal Star readers daily updates from the Olympics. The former tennis pro and Florida resident is working with judo competitor Adler Volmar. The goal is to offer insight into the mental and psychological aspect of sports, right up to Volmar’s matches and immediately following them. The doctor will add some Beijing observations both inside and outside the sports venues. Murray’s full work and profile can be found on his own Web site: http://www.johnfmurray.com/

August 9, 2008 – Sunday – Detroit – 2:15 PM
If you are going to the Olympics, and especially as far away as Beijing, you better not miss the flight, so I stayed the night in a Ft. Lauderdale hotel not far from the airport and we just arrived in Detroit to catch the flight to Tokyo and then on to the big city.

I flew up with Crystal and we met her father, Earl, smartly attired in his red, white and blue sporting clothes, so the three of us can pursue with Adler (Volmar) the mission of (judo) gold. Over lunch we discussed again how all athletes need to believe totally in their abilities and in their chance of actually winning the gold. At the same time, the best athletes — Adler included — know that while they are giving their best and outworking and out-thinking their opponents in preparation for the big day, ultimately outcome is decided by a higher force, be it spiritual or the mere fact that as hard as you prepare there might be someone else on the other side of the mat who prepared longer, smarter, or better.

Still you pursue the dream with total confidence and willpower, with the best possible strategy, nutrition and physical training possible. Another topic that came up over lunch was the “Tiger Woods” element. This is the flow that was written about so long ago in the book “Flow” in the 1960s. There are a lot of cliches that cover the topic of focus and concentration, but so few athletes come even close to maximizing their use of flow.

Just look at the history of Olympic records and how records are broken every year, and how it is almost a steady progression of faster times and greater strength, so if you examine the Olympics 100 years from today the accomplishments of today will look very average. Mentally this highlights that we are never truly reaching our human potential in sports — but only approaching an unlimited human potential.

OK, enough philosophizing for now. I am seated amongst about an 80 percent population of Japanese citizens returning to their homeland as we all three get ready to board the massive 747 with upstairs seating and a food/drink lounge to Tokyo.

The upcoming 14 hours of flying would seem taxing if not for the fact that less than two years ago I flew down to Australia with Vince Spadea for the three tournaments at the start of the 2007 season — Adelaide, Sydeny and Melbourne and it was about a 26 hour trek! So, we are all excited to join Adler in Beijing as this two time Olympian gets ready for his day of destiny on August 14.

Dr. John F. Murray attended the Beijing Olympics to provide his unique perspective from the world of Sports Psychology.

Coaches Who Can Turn A Phrase

Sport Psychology Commentary by Dr. John F. Murray – December 26, 2012 By DOM AMORE, The Hartford Courant

It’s one of the most famous phrases ever uttered by a coach, and yet Vince Lombardi always regretted saying it.

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

“He actually hated that,” said Dan Lauria, the veteran actor and Southern Connecticut State University grad who portrayed Lombardi on Broadway last year. “He didn’t mean it the way it came out — obviously, he didn’t think you should cheat to win. The saying he did always like was, ‘If you pursue perfection, you can reach excellence.’ ”

Back in September, Kevin Ollie became the UConn men’s basketball coach, and he opened with a memorable phrase of his own: “We’re going to take the stairs — escalators are for cowards.”

That one is now available on T-shirts. And since then, he has used his gift for turning a phrase, or in some cases tweaking a phrase to make it his own, to fashion a number of what one might call “Ollie-isms.”

“Ten toes in, not five” … “First you bring the sugar, then you bring the hot sauce” … “You don’t go through life, you grow through life.” … “In trying times, you don’t stop trying.”

The buck doesn’t stop here, to paraphrase Harry S Truman. History offers many examples of catch phrases that define a leader — a coach, a general or a politician. Ollie, 39, has made a favorable impression in his first season as coach, and his way with a phrase is obviously part of the reason, as he tries to get out a message, not only to his own team, but to fans and potential recruits about what he, and his program, will be all about.

“They can have a lot of value,” says Dan Gerstein, former adviser to Sen. Joseph Lieberman and president of Gotham Ghostwriters, a New York based writing firm. “Especially today, when the Internet and social media has made for such a cacophonous environment, it’s much harder to stick out. If you can come up with phrases that are short, pithy and memorable, it can be a great asset.”

Sometimes, they happen by accident. Leo Durocher, the most famous baseball manager of his day, watched the opposition work on the field and predicted to a sportswriter in 1946 that the team would finish last, because they were not competitive enough, but all nice guys … and “Nice guys finish last.”

It became the title of Durocher’s memoirs, and it stamped him forever as the ultimate hard-nosed, fiery competitor among his peers. But he saw a need to clarify it after he retired.

“Writers picked it up and made it sound as if I were saying you couldn’t be a decent person and succeed,” Durocher wrote. “But, do you know, I don’t think it would have been picked up like that if it didn’t strike a chord, because as a general proposition, it’s true. Or, are you going to tell me that you’ve never said to yourself, ‘The trouble with me is, I’m too nice.’ ”

Durocher also said he would “trip his mother” if she were rounding third with the winning run against him.

Catch phrases may become oversimplified, but the ones that stick do have that strong strain of universal truth in them. John Wooden, who coached UCLA to 10 national titles, had dozens of them and is often quoted by both Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma at UConn.

Calhoun’s favorite: “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.”

Others from Wooden included, “Discipline yourself and others won’t have to.” … “Ability may get you to the top, but takes character to keep you there.” … “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Author Rick Reilly wrote of Wooden: “He believed in hopelessly out-of-date stuff that never did anything but win championships.”

Alan Castel, associate professor of cognitive psychology at UCLA, interviewed John Wooden just before his 98th birthday while doing research on aging and memory.

“There are likely many reasons coaches develop these short catching phrases,” Castel said, “ranging from, the phrases can be easily remembered and recited to the idea that they can be widely applied – often beyond a sports context. Wooden was a classic example.”

The catch phrases that catch on, naturally, are the ones backed up with success. Jerry Izenberg,a veteran of over 60 years of sportswriter, has written 13 books, one of them, on a week behind the scenes with the Giants, took one of Bill Parcells’ catch phrases as its title — “No medals for trying.”

“You have to remember that what works for college doesn’t always work for the pros, and vice versa,” Izenberg says. “Woody Hayes had a lot of sayings, and once in his locker room, there was a sign over the trainers’ room — ‘You can’t make the club in the tub.’ … Could you imagine saying that over and over to professionals? They’d laugh at you.

“And when Vince Lombardi first got to Green Bay, diagramed a play, his ‘Lombardi sweep,’ and the tackle had to make this incredibly difficult block. The tackle, Forrest Gregg, said it was ‘impossible,’ and Lombardi said, ‘if you think it’s impossible, I’ll find someone who thinks it is possible.’ … You couldn’t say that to college players.

“… But the main thing is, these guys won. Imagine Lombardi saying, ‘winning isn’t everything …’ if he lost?”

The Giants won the Super Bowl the year “No medals for trying” came out. Parcells had many phrases, but Izenberg did not recall his using them behind closed doors. Behind the scenes, he tailored his messages to the individual.

When a coach becomes too closely identified with his sayings, it can obscure his true talent for leadership.

“What happens,” Lauria says, “is that these things get taken out of context. Vince Lombardi knew how to push the right buttons with each individual player.”

The value in phrases is that they can make good habits second nature. That, Ollie said earlier this year, is what he has in mind.

“It’s the mind-set I’m so concerned with,” Ollie told The Courant in November, “that you don’t take the easy way in life. I think taking escalators is the easy way. You should take the stairs in life, each and every step. … I try to use [the sayings] sparingly, I don’t want to use them all the time. I am trying to make a point, and I try to use word pictures. I think it resonates with guys. Instead of a, b, c, d, they can picture things in their own minds.”

Dr. John F. Murray, a Florida-based sports psychologist, says the most popular page on his website (johnfmurray.com) is the one that lists more than 100 famous quotes from coaches. However, he says, catch phrases should be considered only one of many tools a successful coach uses in reaching his players.

“The danger,” Murray says, “is that they can become a superficial mask for serious issues. But when they’re used properly, they can be a very effective tool.”

Dr. John F. Murray has compiled a list of quotes from great coaches to help motivate your players mentally.

Locker room tolerance and sensitivity have simply changed forever with Michael Sam

Sports Psychology News – Dr. John F. Murray - February 10 2014 – A look into the locker room after Michael Sam.

NBC News, Melissa Dahl -  We now know what Michael Sam’s teammates have long known: The All-American defensive lineman from the University of Missouri is gay, and could very well become the first ever openly gay football player in the NFL.

Much has and will be written about the historical impact of Sam’s coming out, but a quietly remarkable aspect of Sam’s story is this: For at least an entire college football season, Sam’s teammates knew his secret, and they not only accepted it, they helped him keep it.

Sam has said that he came out to his team before the 2013 season, during a team meeting in which each player was asked to tell a secret about himself. “I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Sam told the New York Times. His team, and the coaches, kept their star player’s secret, even as the team faced building media attention as they competed for a national title.

But even in a generation notorious for social media oversharing and in a sport not known for its tolerance, no one let Sam’s secret slip. Not even Sam’s dad found out.

“I think it’s tremendous, in this day and age, that they could do that without anything leaking,” said Leif Smith, a clinical and sports psychologist who works with athletes at Ohio State University.

It’s also possible that his teammates didn’t think it was that big of a deal, Smith and other sports psychologists said. “I do think it’s more of a ho-hum issue for this generation,” Smith said. “It was a big issue to address it, but once they started playing football, they could care less.”

According to the day’s stereotype of a macho-bro culture like college football, an admission like Sam’s could lead to ostracization, or a Miami Dolphins-esque case of bullying. And indeed, some unnamed NFL insiders have reportedly already responded to Sam’s admission by saying things like an openly gay player would “chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

But sports psychologists who work with college athletes say that they see this generation being more tolerant when it comes to the matter of their peers’ sexual orientation. Seventy percent of millennials — defined here as those born after 1980 — said in a 2013 Pew Research Center survey that they support gay marriage, and that percentage is rapidly increasing, up from 51 percent in 2003.

Sam’s teammates said his sexuality was no big deal in the lockerroom, and many of them joined a chorus of public support that included first lady Michelle Obama.

Sam is a gifted athlete, named in his last year at Mizzou to the College Football All-America Team, which means his team has even fewer reasons to care about his personal life.

“I think the bottom line for most players is — if you have a teammate that can help you win, it doesn’t matter,” said John Murray, a clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla., who has worked with NFL athletes.

If Sam did explicitly ask his teammates not to share his sexual orientation, the team’s secret-sharing may even have strengthened their cohesion as a group.

“We know that when people choose to confide secrets with us, that can draw us closer together, because that disclosure signals trust and intimacy in itself,” said Clayton Critcher, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has researched the psychology of secret-keeping.

In ideal circumstances, a team may function much like a family, experts say “Teams are going to protect their own,” Murray said.

“The family will kind of circle the wagons, and protect their secret,” he said. “Because a family very well represents that concept of a unit that needs to be able to be cohesive to be able to perform well, to be able to win.”

A fascinating view into the world of sports psychology.

 

MPI Being Taken to a New Level

lombarditrophy

Sports Psychology Commentary – John F. Murray, PhD – December 14, 2013 – Two years after publishing my book “The Mental Performance index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” with the exciting news that mental skills matter, and that when you analyze the top 37 football performance statistics available including my newly developed MPI, the MPI correlates with winning higher than any other, there is some new buzz in the works.

“In the past couple months,” says Dr. Murray, “I’ve began looking at the MPI as a viable means of possibly predicting what might happen in future games, and the initial statistical analyses are encouraging.” While Murray never intended the Mental Performance Index to be used for prediction, he realized that the strong correlations with winning (as high as .81 statistically) could simply no longer be ignored, and he has begun that long arduous process of pilot testing to determine how well it predicts.

“I enjoy football as a fan and as a consultant to teams and players, and now I’m beginning to realize that the MPI’s clarity in accurately rating both mental and physical team performance might have some other interesting uses. Stay tuned for the developing excitement!

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of sports psychology.

 

My Guarantee

Special Report by John F Murray, PhD – May 8, 2013 – The world of sports is constantly evolving. New techniques and plays are always being developed and there is an almost linear progression that seems to takes place from year to year as more money, research and accumulated experience contribute to a better performing mousetrap. NFL passes thrown as they were in 1946 would be easily picked off by most high school safeties today. Tennis forehands in 1930 at Wimbledon would not come close to winning in the first round of any boy’s 16 year old championship today, and major league baseball pitchers from the 1920s would probably be knocked out in the first inning of every division I college game today. Darwin was right … evolution is relentless!

One of the still rarely discussed, but no less important aspects of peak performance improvement takes place in the training of the mind or “mental coaching” as it is often called. While athletes may only be able to jump so high and sprint so fast, there is an equally important aspect of achievement that is much more flexible and amenable to change. It has unlimited potential unlike the physical ceilings of jump height or strength. It resides between the ears in that most marvelous computer of all – the brain – and it flexes its own form of elbow grease in areas such as hope, confidence, focus, resilience and smarter decision making.

Sports psychology is the science and practice most responsible for this training of the brain for high performance, and many casual observers just assume that all great athletes have a sports psychologist or mental coach, but I have found that not to be true at all. In fact, in my estimation having worked 14 years as an independent practicing clinical and sports psychologist, it seems that less than 10% of college, pro or Olympic athletes are doing mental training regularly and properly. While this may seem very odd, since gaining a performance advantage is crucial and the most pressing need for these great competitors, consider the reality. When I completed my specialized internship in sports psychology from 1997 to 1998, it was the only sports psychology internship in the United States that was also approved and accredited by the American Psychological Association’s internship consortium! I’m not sure the situation is much better today, 16 years later. Training opportunities are rare and hard to find.

The truth is that the profession that trains practitioners to do mental coaching and sports psychology work is still in its infancy. Let’s consider the analogy of the development of the field and practice of psychology itself. While the science of psychology began in a Leipzig, Germany lab in the 1880s, it was not until the 1960s and 70s that it was commonplace to see a psychologist in private practice. I like to call this beginning recognition of the field as the “Bob Newhart” era, after the popular sitcom of the 70s depicting the Chicago-based psychologist we all know and love.

Dr. Phil is an extension of Bob Newhart in the media today, but even he is not a sports psychologist. So when you consider that it took about 90 years for the science of psychology to become a viable widespread clinical practice, there should be no surprise that qualified and experience sports psychologists are few and far between since this science only began in the 1960s and 70s, or just 40 years ago.  By psychology standards, the field and practice of sports psychology is like psychology was in 1925! It was all over the world in academic and research settings, but only a handful of rare individuals practiced psychology back then. It was not until after WW2 with the training opportunities of the VA hospital system brought about by head injuries sustained on the battlefront, that psychology really had an opportunity to become a profession. The Boulder Conference, as it was called, created hundreds of internships for future practicing psychologists overnight in the VA system. There are many thousands of psychologists today but still only a handful of properly trained and qualified sports psychologists.

I knew I was taking a little bit of a risk in getting into such a new field when I went back to graduate school in 1991. I had been a tennis coach worldwide, and mostly in Europe, and over there the idea of mental coaching had taken much firmer hold philosophically, but the graduate school education was still far better in the United States. So I came back to the University of Florida, got a couple masters degrees, a PhD, the aforementioned specialized internship, and finally a specialized postdoctoral fellowship. By 1999, I was on my way with a new practice in a very rare field.

I was in a field that was so new that I realized I had to publish to get the word out.  I wrote hundreds of articles and I wrote the book “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game” and got the top tennis player at the time, Lindsay Davenport, to endorse it. It is now in three languages with almost 20 printings. I later wrote a second book that expressed my passion for all that is football and titled it “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.”  This book was also very well endorsed. The reviews from NFL Films and Tom Flores were excellent. Even Don Shula gave me a quote. However, even these powerful recommendations will take time to hit the mainstream. I had to do more.

In writing this second book, I realized that I had stumbled upon a major finding, and I grow ever more excited whenever I ponder this. Since the beginning of mankind, mental skills and smart play were always important for survival. In the cave era, if you wanted to feed your village, you had to remain calm, poised and focused to be able to properly throw that spear into the wooly mammoth. While there were certainly no sports psychologists back then, and still few today, the truth then and today remains that mental performance is and always was critical to success. Spear throwers had to figure it out alone back then.

Broadcasters, sports writers, and authors all lend credence to the vast importance of peak mental performance that still exists today. Athletes known as overachievers constantly outperform those with more raw speed or strength because they make better decisions. The stay focused rather than getting rattled in the heat of battle. They remain confident and resilient no matter what the situation is, and we all recognize that their performance has nothing to do with their limbs and muscles and everything to do with their brain! It was this realization that mental performance matters that led me on the passionate journey of creating a “Mental Performance Index” and writing a book with the same name in order to share my passion.

I realized that mental performance was critical, but I was astounded that nobody was taking the time to measure it. There were no statistics to capture how well a team performed mentally, so I decided to create one, and the abbreviation is MPI.  The most amazing part of this is what happened when I analyzed the data for my book. I had studied every play in Super Bowl history and rated each play with the MPI, essentially measuring football a different way by looking at each moment and including an adjustment for the mental performance. When I did this with the help of several statisticians, I discovered something phenomenal. It was this MPI, or measurement of the moment, that correlated best with winning when compared with almost 40 other statistics. This emphasis on performance in the moment and mental skills, in other words, had best captured what it takes to win a football game. In my mind, what had always been known, but never formerly measured until the MPI, was not only important to success …. it is probably the most important factor in success!

Since my book and passion are very much centered on the sport of football, why are there still so few sports psychologists in the NFL? How about the other major sports of hockey, baseball and basketball? While I’ve worked with professional franchises and their top stars, both privately and paid by the teams, it has usually been to put out fires or help a single player rather than as a program to prepare entire teams for success.

The bottom line is that coaches and executives in the major professional sports have still not really discovered sports psychology. Given that today is still analogous to only the year 1925 in psychology terms, this should not be too surprising. But given the amount of money spent on top players, and the turnover rate in coaching and high management, one would think that mental coaching would have been long ago discovered as essential for every team from day one of training camp. What else could be going on you might ask?

I think there is still a fear of the unknown. It is a fear that coaches and managers have about mental coaching and peak performance sports psychology. Could this be a fear that hiring a top employee or consultant will somehow steal the thunder of the head coach, or put the team at risk in some way?  Coaches cannot be that controlling, can they?

While I cannot speak for other sports psychologists, I always start with the assumption that the coach is the captain of the ship and I am there to provide a needed service just the same way any professional would, all the way from the team physician to the dentist, trainer, assistant coach, and massage therapist. I am not the coach and have no desire to be the coach. He brings me in to help with his own philosophy of football. I am there to adapt to his needs to help him and help the team and players achieve worthy goals.

I do know that about 10 years ago, while on the sidelines of an NFL team practice, the head coach said the following to me: “While you might be the best and most well trained sports psychologist in the world, I just cannot stand in front of my team today and tell them they have a psychologist.” That comment still reverberates with me today as the possible reason why there is hesitancy, but I think times are changing. In other words, in the past there was the idea that it was shameful or showed weakness in some way to seek mental coaching. When you consider the history of mental health care, which began in treating those who were mentally ill, it makes sense. That coach somehow thought that telling his team that they had a success coach was the same as telling them they were all mentally ill. How ludicrous, but how probably true! I get it. He was afraid!

It is my hope that today more coaches and managers will realize that just as doctors and lawyers and coaches study for years and practice for years to accumulate knowledge and practical wisdom in their chosen area of study, smart sports psychologists are no different. I did not get into the field to treat mental illness. I did not spend years in graduate school to have someone be ashamed of my profession. I had been a worldwide coach, and I wanted to open my expertise to the new and exciting findings about training the mind rather than just the body.

I love what I do today as a sports psychologist. But I still get the majority of my clients from pro and amateur athletes calling on their own, or the parents or private coaches calling. It is still rare for the phone to be ringing off the hook from the coaches and managers of major sports teams despite the obvious benefits the field had to offer. I want that to change, and it is partly why I wrote “The Mental Performance Index.”

If you would like to read more about this coach/sports psychologist relationship and how to ensure that everything goes smoothly to best help the team, how coaches are respected as the boss, how problems are prevented before they occur, and much more, you will want to read “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.”

I want everyone to know that there is no shame associated with trying to make yourself or your team better through proper mental coaching. A player can only run so fast and hit so hard, but by helping football players tweak their mental performance just a little, the whole team benefits. Imagine what would happen if each player got 15% more confident, more focused, and more resilient. Do you think the team would also benefit. You can bank on it. The days of fear are over. The biggest fear might be not investing in mental coaching for our teams and players.

This is my guarantee.

Students Wishing to Become Sports Psychologists Should Read This

Do You Want to Become a Sports Psychologist?

Where does the field and the science of sports psychology stand today in 2013?  In a nutshell, it is still an emerging science and profession that is often cloaked in mystery and ignorance. Part of the problem is that there are so few people who have actually become fully licensed and legitimate psychologists who specialize in sport. Another aspect is that to become a licensed psychologist and sports psychologist who can see clients independently and provide both mental training for sports and more general psychotherapy too, you have to obtain training and experience in two vastly different disciplines: psychology and the sports sciences. Understanding the field and profession of sports psychology can be difficult at best!

Ponder the implications for a second. Psychologists are social scientists who usually come from an orientation of helping others through careful listening, understanding, reflecting and providing a needed therapeutic intervention for mental distress. Of course there are exceptions but I believe I speak for many. Now contrast that with the role of a competitive sports psychologist like myself, coming from a sports and coaching background, whose mission is more likely to help my clients win the Super Bowl, become the heavyweight champion of the world, or find the strike zone better in baseball. Whereas one profession is associated with “therapeutic” and gentle caring, the other is directed toward helping athletes sharpen their fighting skills to destroy their opponent! Imagine the sea of potential differences!

In some ways this contrast in styles is true and in some ways not, as even top prize fighters need therapy at times and even depressed middle aged managers need to perform better in their weekend bowling leagues! Of course, extreme contrasts are more salient in memory than fine nuances or technical differences. The fact is that to help an athlete or team in a profession that is known as sports psychology, you really would be well suited if you could offer a broad range of skills acquired through a total and complete exposure to both sports and the various sports sciences, as well as all that professional psychology has to offer. It is the merger of these two often contradictory and different disciplines – the various sports sciences and psychology – that produces state of the art applied sports psychology today. Mental toughness is rooted in a lot of training and experience!

Training for this profession is never easy or rapid, and only the most persistent and completely focused graduate students and beginning professionals will even stand a chance of gaining specialization in two totally separate academic disciplines that appear so different.  Patience and practical experience in these two areas is needed. Try to find a supervisor to help you gain the hours needed for a state license and it is not easy at all as there are so few psychologist/sports psychologists. Those not licensed by definition cannot supervise. It is a classic catch 22!

While psychology programs for years have been organized to provide academic and professional training opportunities (after WWII injured soldiers’ needs led to the creation of vast internship opportunities at VA Hospitals), similar programs in sports science departments have not been nearly so well organized and usually do not exist. As a result, a student going through a sports science program is not likely to obtain the hands on training gained by his psychology student counterpart even if he or she is exposed to marvelous research and literature, ideas and dogma. In a similar way, the psychology student does not receive sports science training because the courses do not usually exist in those areas in a psychology department. The key for the student is independent thinking and resourcefulness, and mental toughness too.

As a general rule in life, we become who we are surrounded by. The sober truth is that if you go to a sports science program you will become just that – a sports scientist – because your mentors will be those people.   The same holds true in reverse with those being trained by psychologists. This all further highlights the fact that to gain this training and experience students need to be extremely open-minded, creative, and flexible. In my own pursuits as a graduate student, I started in a sports science program, got a masters degree, and was fortunate to jump ships and gain admittance to a totally different world – a clinical psychology doctoral program. It was like going from a football stadium during homecoming to a university library on Spring Break. The world of contrasts jumped out at you. Students in sports sciences tended to be fitter, more jock-like, and less rigorous academically. This is not to say that the jocks were lacking intelligence or that the egg-heads lacked in physical coordination, but there was a clear distinction between blue and white collars, GPA, GRE scores, educational background, sports experience and more.

The same contrasts held true for practical training opportunities in each program. The psychology part was easy to gain since the system is set up for that. The hardest part for me was to find an internship (the last year of any PhD program in professional psychology) that was both APA accredited as a psychology internship but also with a full year training program in sports psychology. You might be shocked to hear this, but it was the only accredited psychology internship in the country with this dual designation! I had been granted a truly rare internship and this was going to help me become the sports psychologist I had always wanted to become.

The following year this pattern continued with a similar set-up of working with athletes on my post-doctoral fellowship at FIU in Miami where I was hired in the counseling center, but did a lot of outreach to the athletic department and the various teams and coaches. I was able to work with athletes and teams on many issues including performance enhancement with a tennis team that had their best season in history (the same happened the previous year on internship with the tennis team) as well as working with general students through the counseling center.

While you may not have the opportunity or time to gain training in separate graduate school programs like I did, you don’t need to lose hope or give up. You might consider looking into some programs that did not exist when I was in school. You can also gain this experience in the community once you finish your formal studies, and one way is to pay a current practicing sports psychologist for extra supervision until you are qualified (usually 2000 hours after the doctorate of supervised work).

The main message here is that the bare minimum to be able to practice this profession independently, ethically and legally, compels you to obtain training, supervision, and academics in two arenas that may seem worlds apart. You definitely need a state license to practice. There is no getting around that if you want to practice independently.

If you think getting entry into this field is hard, you are right. But don’t lose hope. It is possible to do what you love. I do it. With persistence anything is possible and what is nice about the challenges in getting properly educated and credentialed is that it nicely mirrors what we are asking our athletes and teams to do on a regular basis! Just as they need to achieve and become one of the top 1% of 1% of 1%, those who make it into this profession are often the hardest workers who just refuse to quit or give in, even to monetary pressures!

I am hopeful that more get into this profession so that more know about sports psychology. I often feel like I am fighting an uphill but winning battle in letting others know about it and that is why I am so grateful to the media for helping me spread the good word.

Whether you are a sailor, salesman, stock broker or sports psychology student, never give up on your dreams. Work hard and you will find that your luck increases! Did I really say that? I am supposed to be a scientist! I am just kidding. Let’s get real. And let’s tune into sports psychology! If the most basic need in life is survival, and sports psychology teaches and trains people to survive and even thrive better, then by definition a huge key to life is sports psychology and what it offers!

There are great benefits for athletes, coaches, managers and owners for fully integrating this sports psychology science and profession into their training and programs. If you want to get into the profession, you have to battle and hang in there and battle again, and never lose hope. You really get to use the skills you teach others! With effort you can make it in this exciting science and profession of success. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of sports psychology and I would be happy to help you on your career course by answering any questions.