Archive for the ‘News & Events’ Category

I love wearing my YES watch

Special to JohnFMurray.com – February 22, 2017 – The YES watch is so unique that if you have not yet worn one, you simply have to try it out. At the very least go to their website at http://www.yeswatch.com and you will see what I am raving about.

If you travel, you will fall in love with and find the YES brand of watches very useful. It’s rare to have the ability to program any city from a selection of hundreds into this watch and also to see the moon phases change regularly in this city. But one of the coolest things about this watch is the new concept and completely unique way that this brand of watches dipicts a day. It shows the daylight hours remaining graphically in a way that is more logical than any other watch I have worn.

On top of all that, and the great watches already produced, is that the new Equilibrium which is going to be their best watch ever and it is due for release in just over a few months. This link will take you to the complete description of this most complex and exciting watch.

Enjoy what I enjoy … and check out YES today!

 

Dr. John F Murray Launches New Show Jumping Column

Palm Beach, FL – February 16, 2017 – JohnFMurray.com – Clinical and sports performance psychologist John F Murray has launched a brand new column on sports psychology on the world’s premier website for show jumpers at www.WorldOfShowJumping.com. The column is called “Mental Equipment,” similar to some of his past columns and radio shows, and is designed to help show jumpers all over the world to improve mental skills such as focus, confidence, and resilience as they prepare for and enter the show ring.

“Over the years, I’ve noticed a modest but steady flow of show jumpers in my private practice, so it’s about time that we have a regular feature column on the topic,” stated Murray. “It will be fun.” You can find the first column at the following link:  Mental Equipment Column at www.WorldOfShowJumping.com.

 

 

Hot Take: Redskins should use a sports psychologist

USA TODAY – Washington Redskins Wire – By Lake Lewis, Jr. – January 26, 2017 – Over the years, sports psychologists have helped some of the top teams and high profile athletes gain a mental edge over their opponents. And while NFL athletes are some of the most physically gifted individuals, fragile egos can quickly lose confidence if their play and performance are not up to par.

The Washington Redskins, for whatever reason, have a history of epic meltdowns during prime-time games. In fact, some of their worst games were matchups with big consequences.

This past season, the Burgundy and Gold had could have clinched a playoff spot with a win in either of their final two home games, but their performances were lackluster.

Could a sports psychologist have helped determine a different outcome?

Some of the more storied franchises in sports have used sports psychologists, and these teams are known to be mentally tough.

Teams that have won championships, such as the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, have used forms of sports psychology to help them perform better. Other elite pro teams, such as the New York Yankees (MLB) and the San Antonio Spurs (NBA), have employed it as well.

Dr. John F. Murray, a well-known author, speaker, clinical psychologist and sports psychologist has worked with several high-profile athletes and teams over the years.

Murray states that the “athletes known as overachievers constantly outperform those with more raw speed or strength because they make better decisions. They 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.”

Several current and former players I spoke with revealed they had sports psychologists in college but not with the Redskins. Players can seek out help independently, which many in the league do, if their team doesn’t offer the service.

Washington could use help in the mental approach to the game. Too many times they have underachieved when the lights were the brightest or the stage was unforgiving.

The team could start performing at a higher level winning if they maximized the mental approach to the game, since the talent has improved over the past several seasons.

The Patriots are back in the Super Bowl with a roster that is not the most talented. They were also hit hard by injuries and still didn’t miss a beat. Their mental approach to the game from coach Bill Belichick to quarterback Tom Brady is better than it ever has been. (Tom Brady, it should also be noted, recently stated after the 2017 championship win over the Steelers that the mental toughness was the most important factor in team success)

This is the difference between teams with talent and teams with a mental capacity that can’t be broken.

Hope you have enjoyed this feature from the world of sports psychology.

Sports psychologist on Odell Beckham: Time to learn ’emotional control’

Metro New York – January 25, 2017 – By Kristian Dyer – After a season with plenty of antics and ravings from Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants fans might need some therapy if they are going to endure another emotional year with their star wide receiver. The tantrums that have become associated with Beckham are concerning, but the nation’s most prominent sports psychologist advises that it simply means the diva wide receiver needs to develop not just his physical side but his mental one as well.

From picking a fight with the kicking net one week, to last year’s fight on the field with Josh Norman, there is no denying that Beckham is a lightning rod for criticism. While his production on the field remains strong – he did lead the Giants in receptions and receiving yards this year – his actions continue to be a distraction and they show a penchant for self-destruction. It seemed at times this past season that he simply checked out of games and/or was baited into emotional responses – as a certain piece of drywall at Lambeau Field can attest to.

While a diagnosis is impossible from a distance, Dr. John F. Murray thinks that Beckham might benefit not just from running routes and lifting weights this offseason, but also from some mental training.

“A diagnosis is never appropriate from afar and if I were working with him clinically I would certainly keep it confidential,” Dr. Murray told Metro. “There are many popular and usually erroneous notions about erratic behavior in sports in which that behavior is connected to bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder or some other mental instability. While those things are possible, it is more likely that this athlete with enormous talent is simply underdeveloped in one of the key mental training areas that I would call ‘emotional control’ or ‘energy control.'”

Dr. Murray, author of The Mental Performance Index as well as the highly-acclaimed Smart Tennis, is one of the nation’s foremost sports psychologists. He is often called “the most quoted psychologist in America.”

He cautions not to read too much into some of Beckham’s behavior over the past couple of seasons and that he wouldn’t want to change the player or the personality.

“Temperament is like hair color,” Murray said. “It comes in all different forms. Top athletes can often appear manic or even depressed after games but this does not necessarily mean they are going off the deep end. The key is smart performance on the field that allows an athlete to play consistently at his highest level.”

Hope you have enjoyed this feature article from the world of sports psychology.

Jamar Taylor Helps in Cleveland Browns First Win & Endorses Dr. John F Murray’s Sports Psychology

Sports Psychology Feature – December 27, 2016 – Former Miami Dolphins and current Cleveland Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor is back in a very big way. The Miami Dolphins probably should not have let him get away. His terrific play last Sunday helped the Browns to their first victory of the season, and he was rewarded for his play with a new 3-year, 15 million dollar contract extension. Prior to the season he was released by the Miami Dolphins, and his status as a newly signed Cleveland Browns player was uncertain at best. He wasn’t even on the top of the depth chart. But he wanted more and he wanted to have a great season mentally and to make it in the NFL.  Taylor called sports psychologist John F Murray and they began working together in the spring of 2016. The rest is history as he had a superb season. After the big win against the Chargers in week 15, Taylor wrote the following about the benefits of mental coaching and sports psychology:

“Dr. John F Murray’s mental coaching and sports psychology services helped me get ready for the 2016 season with great confidence and focus. We focused on what I have done in the past to help me reach what I wanted in the future. With great confidence and focus we were able to get positive results”    Jamar Taylor, Cleveland Browns cornerback, December, 2016

Thank you for the comments Jamar and keep up the great work! Below is an article that just came out after the Browns  stunning victory over the San Diego Chargers:

CLEVELAND — WYKC TV – The Cleveland Browns rewarded veteran cornerback Jamar Taylor with a three-year contract extension (for 15 million dollars) earlier this month, and he repaid that faith with a solid defensive performance against the San Diego Chargers at FirstEnergy Stadium Saturday.

Taylor defended three passes, intercepted another and registered five total tackles in helping the Browns to a 20-17 win over the Chargers for their first victory of the season.

“They kept trying me, but I knew I was just going to keep making plays,” Taylor said. “I didn’t know if they thought I was going to be the weak link, but I knew I wasn’t going to be that guy. My teammates depend on me, and our coaches do a great job of preparing us all week. Every time they tried to make a play, I tried to make one too.”

The Chargers scored on each of their first two drives of the game, and the 43-yard field goal from Josh Lambo gave them a 10-7 lead over the Browns with 1:49 to play in the first quarter.

Lambo’s field goal capped off a seven-play, 50-yard drive that took 3:23 off the first-quarter clock.

The Chargers started the drive at their own 25-yard line, but a 15-yard pass from quarterback Philip Rivers to wide receiver Travis Benjamin moved the ball up to the San Diego 40-yard line.

On the next play, Rivers found wide receiver Tyrell Williams for a 27-yard gain that became a 42-yard play when Taylor was flagged for unnecessary roughness after exchanging shoves and words with Williams out of bounds.

However, Taylor broke up a potential touchdown pass and his interception led to a Browns field goal.

“He made some plays,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “He is a guy I am glad our organization signed back here. I think he is another one of the young building blocks on our football team as we move forward.

“He has made some plays all year, and the guy has been playing injured, so I am really appreciative of his effort and what he has tried to do by staying out there. We have a lot of guys that are banged up, but they were not going to give up the chance to win a game together, and that is what they were able to do.”

After playing a critical role in the outcome, Taylor embraced the fact that the Browns’ win over the Chargers broke a 17-game losing streak.

“It was a great team win,” Taylor said. “The offense started on fire. They held it down when we were messing up. The defense, we capitalized. They were driving and we got off the field, and that’s what it’s about. Getting off the field, give the offense a chance and give them a short field. We just played our tails off.

“It’s real special for Cleveland and for Head Coach Hue. It hasn’t been the best year, but we know if we just stick together and find a way, no excuses, just find a way. It’s big for Cleveland, but more importantly, this team and Coach Hue.”

I hope you have enjoyed this feature article from the world of sports psychology.

You Have to See this Amazing New Watch: The Smartest Watch on the Planet

Special Feature by Dr. John F. Murray, Palm Beach based Sports Psychology – November 26, 2016 – It gives me great pleasure to review the Indiegogo campaign and new Equilibrium watch produced by the YES watch company. YES has sponsored me in the past when I was traveling a lot on the ATP Tour, going to Olympic games, doing workshops in London and worldwide, coaching fighters at UFC championships, and much more, and they are sponsoring me again now. I have the fortune of continuing my work with the best and brightest and helping them develop smart skills to be even better, so this smart watch product and campaign makes sense.

I am proud to wear and promote the extremely unique and high quality watches produced by YES. I wear my Cozmo and Kondalini watch proudly and people are always interested in looking at because it is so different and rare. Read below about some of the features of YES watches and you will understand what I mean. Also be sure to read about the new Equilibrium and look at the photos and features described in detail on this website. This watch will retail at around $1400 next June when it is produced, but you can get one now at a ridiculous and incredible savings if you order it now.

In this article, I would like to explore with you what I believe are special about YES watches for athletes like tennis pros, and I am sure that I will miss much but hopefully this will give you a taste. Be sure to check out the website at YESwatch.com for all the exciting watches.

I have coached players at all 4 major ATP Tour and WTA Tour tennis tournaments (Australian Open, US Open, Wimbledon, and French Open) as both a coach and sports psychologist, and helped reverse the biggest losing streak in tennis history with American tennis pro Vince Spadea when he was playing. I also wrote a best-selling book “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game, cover endorsed by the world’s number one ranked tennis player, Lindsay Davenport. I have been fortunate in my career to be around great athletes in all sports, and have a little idea about what it takes to be smart and successful in sports. This year, I was also fortunate to have articles were written about me in both USA Today and Psychology Today, calling me the best in the business. Whether that is true or not, I am not going to argue against it (Laughing). My purpose is never to brag, but just to inspire others about mental training and to share now that I feel that YES watches and the exciting new Equilibrium represent extreme quality and high performance, just like a pro athlete’s performance or high level sports psychology counseling.

Here are my main reasons for getting behind the YES brand and particularly the new Equilibrium campaign:

1. I know what it takes to win in tennis and other sports, and I am confident that YES watches are a great asset to any tennis player or world traveling athlete.

2. The YES mantra of being the “most intelligent watch on the planet” fits perfectly with what I have taught and promoted in my almost 20-year career as a sports performance psychologist. Smart and successful athletes and business executives need a smart watch on their wrist and this one meets the bill without taking all the bills out of your wallet!

3. Precision and rhythm are everything in sports. They are also everything the YES watch brand epitomizes, and especially the new Equilibrium. While the watch is indeed cool and trendy, and much more interesting and functional than the Apple brand of I-watches, I think the better argument is that having this monster on your wrist alone provides a confidence and focus boost due to its incredibly complex and precise nature. This watch is more exciting functionally than the more expensive and complex movements that cost over $100,000 and it’s the ideal gift or conversation piece.

4. Tennis pros, other athletes and business executives travel the planet multiple times in short order due to the fact that tournaments, business meetings and conferences are worldwide on a regular basis. Jetlag and travel fatigue are common, so having a complex computer on the wrist to help orient the tour player, coach, or executive is fantastic. What is amazing is that the YES watch brand goes far beyond black and white time of day. Knowing when the sun rises, moon phases, times in hundreds of different cities, and having a nice alarm, and in multiple languages is simply too amazing and powerful to ignore!

5. The stopwatch function is critical in training in sports and the watches take a real beating with their high-quality construction. The YES watch can be worn frequently in the gym and on the court or field in multiple training activities with both sports and fitness activities.

6. As a sports performance psychologist, I know the incredible value that learning alone can provide in terms of sharpening awareness and professionalism. This watch is so informative as it teaches the wearer about the earth and planet, and gives them a feeling of immense joy from the pure learning it creates.

7. Getting familiar with the times in the next city and cities you will be visiting during your travels helps alleviate the tiring and often confusing effects of travel. Tennis players, for example, who lose in the first or second round quickly move on to other cities, and I have often heard tennis players complain that travel is one of the most difficult aspects of being a tennis pro. Players who win tournaments also have to more quickly get to the next tournament, so it works regardless of results. This watch helps makes the grueling travel all more fun and bearable.

8. The Swiss construction and materials represents the highest level of quality. For a long time, the Rolex brand has been associated with tennis as the tennis timekeeper and we all know the impact that Swiss watches have had over the years and how influential Roger Federer has been. This YES watch/Swiss connection just adds credibility and quality awareness. Imagine a day when the YES watch provides the score-keeping functions at the Olympics or Wimbledon. Why not? The smartest watch deserves a place in the spotlight too. Whether it makes it to Wimbledon or not, you will like it on your wrist.

9. The YES watch brand is a winner, and the YES Equilibrium will be the most exciting watch in a long line of successful products that tennis pro and talent agent from Beverly Hills, Vince Spadea, and I wear and enjoy. There is a final angle that might be even more valuable. It simply looks great on the arm and it attracts lots of eyeballs and conversations. It is a masterfully smart tool that is immensely fun!

In sum, I am thrilled to again promote the YES watch line of products, and especially recommend this upcoming Equilibrium watch at pre-production prices that will never be available again. I got behind this brand because the YES watch promotes what I emphasize daily in my work – namely, intelligent performance. Vince Spadea is showing his YES watches now to his clients in his amazing talent agency in Beverly Hills and on the tennis court with people like Donald Trump and Bill Gates, and now you can have this amazing watch too.

I hope you have found the above information useful. It is indeed shameless promotion for a great product. For the most current and informative website for this new Equilibrium, go to the following site YES WATCH EQUILIBRIUM

Poem about being a US citizen by a 12 year old

My 12 year old daughter, Caroline, loves to write poetry. Here is her most recent poem about being a US citizen that took her no more than 5 minutes to write. Colin Kaepernick should read this ASAP.

Together we stand,
And together we fall,
Together we unite,
With love, hate, and all,

The people in the snow,
The people in the trees,
The people in the oceans,
And as far as you can see,

Walk as one,
And some may flee,
But pledge as one,
To our Country, so free,

And it may be so vague,
And to some not mean much,
But under all the blindness in the world,
Is love that remains untouched,

The good,
The bad,
The hopeful,
The sad,

All have something in common,
And we should all be glad,

Though our history will never change,
And we’ve been through hard times,
Just remember Rosa Parks’s courage,
And we’ll be free to climb high,

So we stand two by two,
And our bond shall never undo,
Because I am a citizen,
And so are you.

Psychology Today Features Dr. John F. Murray

Sports Psychology Interview with Dr. John F Murray – Psychology Today – By Marty Nemko – April 30, 2016 – After conducting today’s The Eminents interview with sports psychologist John F. Murray, I’ve come away feeling that his advice applies not just to athletes but to most people who want to improve their mental performance.

Murray has helped NFL quarterbacks overcome slumps, coached tennis at Wimbledon, trained athletes at the Summer Olympics and even at the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Tennis Week called him, “The Roger Federer of Sports Psychologists,” The Washington Post called him “The Freud of Football, and USA Today called him “one of the best in the business.”

MN: The classic sports psychology book, The Inner Game of Tennis, argued that key to success is not concentration but relaxation: Quiet the mind and let it happen. Do you agree?

JM: Yes but the science of mental performance has since developed many other good practices. For example, rather than just passively allowing performance to happen by the athletes getting out of their own way,” sports psychologists develop training protocols.

MN: Okay, let talk about those. How do you help athletes improve their concentration?

JM: It often helps if the athlete creates or refines a pre-shot or pre-performance routine. In fact, the time between points in tennis, shots in golf, or plays in football, may be as important to master as the playing time. The pre-action ritual replaces distracted thinking with something constructive.

MN: What’s your advice for an athlete in a slump or who cracks under pressure?

JM: Such athletes often are trying too hard or focusing too much on the outcome. S/he must focus on what’s controllable: Winning is not, mental skills are: confidence, focus, emotional control. For example, in working with a slumping NFL quarterback, we created imagery scripts loaded with pressure-packed moments, often more extreme even than what they’ll face in the game. Eventually his self-talk improved. he stopped worrying about uncontrollables, began loving even adverse situations, and pulled out of the slump.

MN: Some athletes are too competitive, for example, the football player who deliberately tackles a player by yanking his face mask. Any advice?

JM: Let’s not confuse competitive with stupid. A high level of competitiveness without cheating is usually a clear plus while deliberately fouling is stupid. I like to have my clients imagine all the possible scenarios that can lead to a severe penalty. Then I train them to picture themselves behaving constructively, for example, walking away from a fight.

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MN: Conversely, some athletes are too laid back.

JM: The biggest challenge is when an athlete lacks drive. That’s very hard to change—The best chance is with traditional counseling to try to get at the root of the problem. Occasionally though, the problem can be addressed symptomatically. For example, a soccer player who needs more intensity might benefit from listening to fast dance music before a game, watching video of their favorite player scoring goals, or even jumping rope.

MN: Many athletic coaches wish they could motivate players better. Any not-obvious tips?

JM: First, as I just implied, the athlete is best motivated from within. Motivation is not like an outboard motor attached to the player’s outside. The motor must reside deep within.

Having said that, good coach behavior can help.:

Be relatively tough but not overtrain athletes.
Make the effort to relate humanly to players, include pre-season bonding sessions far from the training center.
Keep practice interesting, for example, by varying routines.
Let players have input into practices’ structure and even in decision-making during a game. But the coach must have final say. Anarchy rarely leads to success.
MN: There are psychological issues in recovering from an injury. What can help?

JM: Injured athletes in team sports are often ignored and isolated from the team. That isolation on top of the physical pain can make the injured athlete feel sad, anxious, and even abuse substances. The athlete and team members and, if available, a sports psychologist, should stay close and listen well to what the injured athlete is feeling. Relaxation with imagery can also help with pain and attitude. Short-term goals often keep things moving along smoothly.

MN: Especially as they get older, many athletes (and of course non-athletes) gain weight. How do you try to address that?

JM: I use athletes’ own psychology by turning weight control into a sport with a daily challenge.

MN: Many college and pro athletes must do media interviews. Any tips?

JM: Without scripting, they should play-out their answers to likely questions and think about the kind of impression they want to make. It’s always safe to think team-first and to give earned praise to coaches and teammates. Try to be natural and have a little sense of humor—but just a little.

MN: You yourself have done many print and TV interviews. Tips?

JM: Rather than thinking that a million people are in the audience, I just focus on the interviewer and the question. Another thing: Don’t over-prepare. Sure, if you need to bone up on content, fine. But overall, it’s better to pretend you just met the interviewer in a coffee shop and roll with the interview.

MN: You developed a system for rating mental performance in football. What are its key items?

JM: There are about a dozen factors but key is how they perform at critical moments, like 3rd or 4th downs, how they respond after a bad play, and how rarely they make mental errors such as a careless penalty.

MN: What’s next for John Murray?

JM: Continuing to refine that Mental Performance Index for use in predicting a game’s winner. I’d also love to help an NFL team or two win a Super Bowl. That would be the icing on a cake I’m already grateful for.

Marty Nemko’s bio is in Wikipedia. His new book, his 8th, is The Best of Marty Nemko. I hope you have enjoyed this special feature from Psychology Today and the world of sports psychology.

Sports Psychology Article: The 10 Biggest Issues Seen in Private Practice

Sports Psychology Article: My name is Dr. John F. Murray, a clinical and sports performance psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida. I have been licensed and in practice since 1999, providing a variety of mental coaching and psychotherapy services to athletes, business people, and people just looking to live a healthier or more successful life. This work can occur in the office, by phone or skype, or at client locations, and I also deliver workshops and speeches worldwide.

While I believe clinical psychology skills and training are vital in providing sports psychology services because people and their range of issues need to be understood and often treated, it is interesting that the vast majority of people who have hired me come in initially seeking performance enhancement for their sports, businesses, or performing arts. The truth is that mental skills are rarely trained in formal education and so there is a huge gap and need. Just as true, people who struggle with clinical disorders find it very difficult to achieve lasting success in any endeavor.

Today, as I look back on 17 years in private practice, I would like to share what I believe to be the top 10 issues that I have dealt with in working with clients. These issues are in no particular order in terms of frequency and severity, and each case in unique, but this should be a pretty representative sample of what I have seen. I’m sure I am missing many issues, but this will account for a huge percentage of them.

(1) PERFORMING WELL IN PRACTICE BUT NOT IN GAMES: Athletes often get in my door with this one. They tell me or their parents tell me that practice is great but actual live games are a total mess. While there may be many reasons for this, competitive pressure comes to mind as a frequent culprit. Sometimes the person is not training properly. Learning to face the pressure in guided imagery, relaxation, goal setting, and cognitive restructuring can work wonders. Here is an article by Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that I contributed to that addresses the issue of pressure in baseball.

(2) ANXIETY: This is an overworked word and one person’s anxiety is never another’s anxiety, but for lack of a better term let’s use it. People in all walks of life think too much, obsess, worry about what other people think (often coaches, parents or teammates), and lose the game or botch the boardroom presentation long before it even begins. Luckily for those who come in, anxiety is one of the problems that resolves best with treatment. I use a variety of techniques depending on the client. Often an approach that combines new learning, classical conditioning, and some form of relaxation with guided imagery is the key to success. It might take a little time to make progress or it might occur rather soon because each case is so different. It is one of my favorite problems to work with because the success rate is so high. Here is an article by John Nelander in the Palm Beach Daily News that I helped with that addresses the problem of anxiety.

(3) LOW SELF-ESTEEM OR LOW CONFIDENCE: While these are different issues, I lump them together here for simplicity. People are rarely born with confidence, and any number of past or current factors can tear away at confidence. The most typical problem is when an athlete is in a slump or bombarded by what is perceived as failure. Just like any solid mental skill, confidence is a tool that needs to be sharpened and continually used in battle in order to gain the edge. I build confidence in a variety of ways through education, self-talk modification, stories, examples, quotes, audios, videos and just good old solid cognitive-behavioral therapy. In fact, all of these approaches may be used in treating the 10 issues in this article. Here is an article I once wrote on the topic of confidence for a regular column I was writing for the Tennis Server website.

(4) POOR FOCUS OR CONCENTRATION: Since human beings are designed to be distracted with what is called the “orienting response” (it had survival value in the wild for our ancient ancestors to be easily distracted by the crocodile when stopping to get water from a lake) we are quite susceptible to distractions of all kinds, both sensory distractions and distractions from inner thoughts and feelings. Add to this the number of clients whom I have seen with attentional disorders such as ADHD, and you soon realize that focus in anything is never guaranteed and rarely natural. Like any mental skill it needs to be properly practiced and refined. Golfers lose focus in a tournament just as much as linebackers do in football, and training is called for. I use a number of techniques to help including pre-performance routines, key words and phrases, guided imagery with relaxation, and goal setting. Since focus might be the most important mental skills for success, it is vitally important to ensure that the person is optimally thrilled in the moment of whatever they are doing. Here is an article I wrote about how to get better focused in football.

(5) ANGER OR FRUSTRATION: Competition can bring out the best and worst in us, and one nasty little enemy is the anger that often builds up without relief, and then explodes at the wrong time to wreak devastation on the competitor in whatever they do. Communication fails when couples try to resolve their issues with anger, MMA fighters lose poise and get submitted more quickly, and tennis players blow the next four points and ultimately the entire match as their emotions sandbag them. Like anxiety, a cousin of anger, treatment for anger has very high success rates. The sources of anger and anxiety begin in the deep temporal regions of the amygdala, that little part brain shared by almost any walking organism on the planet. It was a great alarm mechanism in caveman days as it sends important signals of danger and allows quick fight or flight reactions automatically. Unfortunately, it rarely helps the quarterback thread the needle on a critical 4th down pass. Many techniques are successful here including helping a client learn new ways to break the pattern, and these behaviors like any new learning need to be rehearsed many times in imagery and practice before they become habits that sustain future success. Success here might also require a total change in how a person perceives reality. Here is an article in Men’s Fitness magazine that I contributed to about ways to control and manage anger better.

(6) RELATIONSHIPS: People are social creatures, and I learned in doing my doctoral dissertation on the 1996 national champion Florida Gator football team, and in other studies, how incredibly important social support and feeling the right things from others can be in achieving success and coping with stress. The problem is that people are so very different. It’s hard to get along, and stress of competition can often spell disaster for relationships. On teams, the coaches have important decisions to make and players who are snubbed or overlooked often feel slighted. Favoritism happens a lot in junior athletics, when the baseball manager starts his son or best friend’s son over another player just as good or better. Feelings are easily hurt and sometimes hard to repair. Football players may worry about what coaches think about them, and corporate executives might have serious philosophical differences with the way the CEO wants things done. Treating these problems requires experience and savvy. Helping people see things a bit differently or helping them to communicate more effectively often works. Being relaxed and less stressed can also do wonders. Changing expectations and learning to be more assertive without being too aggressive is useful too. Here is an article in the Sun Sentinel that I helped with right after the tragedy of 911 that was focused on the value of relationships with others.

(7) PERFECTIONISM: Think about who might be the first person to seek out a sports psychologist for mental coaching. It is of course the perfectionist, seeking another avenue for success in their relentless pursuit of the ideal. The problem is that true perfectionism is actually like a mental disorder. The perfectionist is never really satisfied, and despite extraordinary attempts to be the best at all costs, the person usually sabotages performance rather than enhancing it. I like to get my clients to see the pitfalls of perfectionism and encourage them to strive for excellence which is a far healthier recipe for advancement. This takes a little time and savvy, but it works well. Here is a column article I wrote entitled “Eliminate Perfectionism for Success”

(8) DEPRESSION: This problem, like many other clinical problems, illustrates why it is so helpful if your sports psychologist is also a trained and licensed psychologist. In a lifetime, a huge percentage of people (over 25%) will be depressed in their lifetime, whether they are the cleanup hitter for the New York Yankees, a world champion boxer, or your next door neighbor. Athletes and top executives are people like all of us, so they get depressed and need help too. The problem is that mental disorders like depression are stigmatized, labeling a person weak or telling him or her to just suck it up. As Jon Wertheim so aptly pointed out in his article “Prisoners of Depression” in Sports Illustrated over a decade ago, those with serious clinical depression are more impaired than a person with a broken leg. A broken leg will heal nicely and teammates will cheer on the recovery, but a person with depression is still often seen as a team outcast or virus and their performance usually suffers just as if their leg were broken. Many cases go untreated due to shame. I’m hoping for a day when mental problems are taken just a seriously, or more so, than physical ailments. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in young people. To treat depression, I use an eclectic approach, often finding cognitive behavioral psychotherapy to be effective as the client learns to change irrational or illogical thoughts and perceive their world differently. While I am not equipped to prescribe medication, and believe that less intrusive approaches such as talk therapy should be attempted first, I also keep a keen eye to the severity of depression and suicidal ideation. More severe cases might justify my referring the client to a medical doctoral for a medication evaluation to go along with the psychotherapy we are doing. Here is that article ‘Prisoners of Depression” that Jon Wertheim wrote.

(9) LOW MOTIVATION/WANTING TO QUIT: Parents bring me their junior athletes for any number of reasons, usually just to help them perform better, but this can also be a reason for referral. An athlete or high performer who has done very well for a number of years might suddenly lose the fire and want to quit. This can puzzle those around the person. The reasons can vary from A to Z, but hiring a trained professional to help sort out the issues and provide treatment can often be the difference between that child going on to compete at the college and professional level or quitting at age 14. This problem also presents amongst older athletes or those considering retirement, or just normal people in jobs they’ve lost passion for. As a clinician, it is important that I determine if there is a serious clinical disorder, or if this is a temporary phase including mostly staleness, burnout, or stress. Quitting might be in the best interests of the client. While I never make this decision for the client, I can help sort it all out, and rule out many factors that might have been overlooked. Intrinsic motivation is so important in all that we do and passion and joy is important for any success. Often time off from physical training and competition combined with psychotherapy or mental coaching helps. This is a tough one to treat but that does not mean that it does not need to be addressed. On the contrary, the person’s entire sport or career could be at stake. Self-esteem and huge money could be on the line. Here is an article by Janie McCauley in the Associated Press that I helped with recently about athletes retiring in the prime of their careers.

(10) TRAUMA/SUBSTANCE ABUSE/EATING DISORDERS: I’ve put these three clinical problems together as one just for the purposes of this article because they often go together, but technically they are quite different. Past horrible events and circumstances can often play themselves out later in life and the diagnosis of PTSD is one of the most common amongst those who have been in war or have been sexually or physically abused. Did you even wonder why so many NFL and NBA players who have the world at their fingertips and multi-million dollar contracts suddenly throw it all away as a result of domestic violence, drug use, or other criminal behavior. While some people are just wired wrong and need to be incarcerated to protect society, I would venture to say that this is rare and that the vast majority of these serious problems have their roots in serious problems that have huge historical origins, often of a traumatic nature. The media and public is often quick to condemn people who act out but slow to truly examine why they do it. Society has a long way to go. Again, these types of problems are rarely going to be well treated by a mental coach guru without proper training and credentials as a psychologist too. The truth is that many people, often evident in pro sports but even more prevalent in the general population, struggle with things that happened many years ago. It can sabotage self-esteem and lead to so many inappropriate ways to compensate including murder. Serious psychotherapy is needed and it is needed as soon as possible. This is just one why all 4 major sports should have a licensed clinical and sports psychologist present in the team headquarters throughout the year. This person should be equipped to deal with these more serious problems just as well as being able to provide mental coaching and lectures to the teams and players needing just a mild to modest performance boost for their upcoming game. Here is an article in AFP (Paris) about the effects of trauma for a skier.

I truly hope you have enjoyed this brief exploration into the world of sports psychology!

Caroline Murray, age 12, sings national anthem

In anticipation of her upcoming performance at the Palm Beach Polo Club, my 12 year old daughter, Caroline Murray, practices the national anthem on Valentines Day, 2016.

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