Archive for the ‘News & Events’ Category

The Psychology of Missed Field Goals: Was Nate Kaeding’s Performance Part of a Choking Outbreak?

Newsweek – Ian Yarett – January 22, 2010 – San Diego Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding’s shocking performance in Sunday’s 17-14 loss to the New York Jets caught football fans everywhere—even Jets fans—by surprise. After making 32 out of 35 field-goal attempts throughout the entire season, Kaeding proceeded to miss all three chances in Sunday’s game. That makes Kaeding, who has the highest regular-season percentage in league history (87.2), the first kicker to miss three out of three field-goal attempts in a playoff game since 1995.

Kaeding’s failure topped off an already growing number of unforgettable missed kicks during the playoffs in the preceding week, including two by Cincinnati’s Shayne Graham against the Jets and another by Arizona’s Neil Rackers against the Packers.

All of this raises the question: could the preceding outbreak of failed field-goal attempts have precipitated Kaeding’s spectacular meltdown? Did Kaeding fall prey to a shanking epidemic?

According to Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach-based sports psychologist, it’s a plausible theory, although impossible to prove. “It’s certainly safe to say that [Kaeding] made a mental mistake,â€? Murray says. “Exposure to other people’s failures could have gotten inside his head.â€?

For experienced and consistent players like Kaeding, a good kick is an automatic move that requires little thought. So little, in fact, that extra thinking can be the very thing that does in a player under high pressure. If a memory of another player missing a kick popped into Kaeding’s mind as he prepared to take his shot, that neural signal could have interfered with Kaeding’s mental preparation.

“When you’re kicking a field goal, you’re mostly using your motor cortex—that’s what controls kicking. So when you send a neural impulse from your brain down the spinal cord to the legs to make the kick, you don’t want to have a lot of interference from the frontal lobe or temporal lobe having a memory of some guy who missed a kick last week or any other distraction,â€? Murray says.

Still, if exposure to the failures of other kickers is what did in Kaeding, one would expect field-goal misses to come and go in groups. But, historically, this is not the case, says Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau. Even though these playoffs have been a particularly bad time for field-goal kickers, Hirdt says that missed field goals do not always cluster in this way—at least not enough to identify a trend given the limited data available.

Indeed, there are many other possible psychological explanations for Kaeding’s aberrant misses. He could have gotten caught up in the pressure of the moment, which could feel like “having a gun to your head and being told to ‘make that field goal or I’m going to pull the trigger’,â€? Murray says. Alternatively, Kaeding could have missed one shot due to a technical flaw or a fluke, and then missed the next two because he was dwelling on the past. Or he could have just had a fight with his wife earlier in the day or gotten a speeding ticket on the way to the field, disrupting his concentration.

Patrick Cohn, another sports-psychology expert and owner of Peak Performance Sports, favors these kinds of explanations over the possibility that other failed kickers psyched out Kaeding. “When kickers miss uncharacteristically, it comes down to the pressure they’re feeling,â€? he says. “They don’t pay attention to what other kickers are doing, but a bad miss early in the game could lead to more misses later on.â€?

We’ll probably never know for certain the exact cause of Kaeding’s choke—even Kaeding himself may not know what happened, Murray says. But it surely comes down to mental preparation, which Kaeding will have to work on before he kicks again.

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

Ground Strokes Canada Cover Feature: Dr. John F Murray, Author of “Smart Tennis”

Ground Strokes Canada Magazine – December, 2009 Issue – Lin Conklin – Cover Feature on the Author of “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game” Dr. John F. Murray. To read the full article, please click at this link. You may also click the images below to see them larger but they are bigger and easier to read here.

We Can Forgive Tiger But Not Forget

Los Angeles Daily News – Jill Painter – December 12, 2009 – Sports Psychology Commentary – Let’s forgive Tiger Woods already.

‘Tis the season of giving, and Woods could use a hearty dose of forgiveness.

It’s not to condone the litany of mistakes he made. Not a chance.

But he didn’t kill anyone, did he?

E-mail jokes, “Saturday Night Live” skits and ongoing cocktail waitress revelations surely can’t compare to the inner torture he’s facing from the revelation of his double life.

No yacht named “Privacy” or banged-up Escalade or private jet could take him to a corner of the world that would provide him a safe haven from his demons that have been exposed.

Woods is a billion-dollar athlete, but money can’t buy his happiness.

He’s surely living in a very dark place.

He is in danger of losing his family and would have no one to blame but himself. He’s soiled his reputation and legacy. He’s losing sponsors. He might never be the same golfer.

He seems like a robot, but he’s not.

Woods finally admitted “infidelity” on his Web site Friday and said he was taking a break from golf.

“I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness,” he wrote. “It may not be possible to repair the damage I’ve done, but I want to do my best to try.”

Woods is asking for your forgiveness.

We forgave Michael Vick for running the Bad Newz Kennels in which innocent dogs were murdered, some by his own hands. The Eagles quarterback was applauded when he ran into the end zone for a touchdown on Sunday.

We forgave the Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton, who was ruled by drugs, alcohol and women. Once sober and with his career back on track, he became a wonderful comeback story. He hit home run after home run in the Major League Baseball All-Star home run derby in 2008. That he did drugs didn’t matter anymore.

We cheer for Kobe Bryant and have forgiven him after his infidelity. The woman alleged rape, but the charge later was dropped.

Doesn’t Woods deserve our forgiveness, too?

“A lot of how we might forgive him as individuals differs greatly as how we’ll view him as a role model for society,” said Dr. John F. Murray, a sports psychologist. “Those are two separate issues. We don’t forgive someone in that he’ll be the same role model as before, but you can forgive him on a human level and realize even great presidents had multiple affairs.

“In some ways, it’s very shocking to us. In other ways, it’s the same old same old.”

Woods isn’t perfect. He’s far from it.

We realize such as the parade of women who allegedly had affairs with him continues to grow. There’s so many we’ve numbered them. No. 14 is a 48-year-old fitness instructor from Florida.

Whether it was one or 100 doesn’t matter. His behavior was unacceptable with his first affair.

It’s so bad that Jamie Jungers, one of his alleged mistresses, claimed she was with Woods the night his father, Earl, passed away.

Who trumpets that as though it’s some badge of honor?

Let’s forgive him and hope he emerges a man who has atoned for his mistakes and does more good with his money and power. He’s done many charitable endeavors, especially with the Tiger Woods Foundation, but maybe he can do more.

Golf fan Nick Weiss, a 27-year-old who lives in Santa Monica, doesn’t condone what Woods did but he’s willing to forgive him.

“Everyone, including me, thought he was superhuman – a machine,” Weiss said. “He preached moral values and family and always put on a show. He was clearly hypocritical. He got a little crazy, and I lost respect for him.

“Everyone has demons in their closet. Unfortunately for him, he’s in the public eye. He made numerous mistakes, just like A-Rod and God knows how many other athletes. I forgive him. I want to see him back on the tour.”

Murray doesn’t believe Woods’ image ever will be the same, but he believes forgiveness is possible.

“He wasn’t accused of raping anybody,” Murray said. “It was immoral, but it wasn’t illegal. More than anything, I think it’s the shock of the fall. He was on this incredibly high platform and he’s obviously fallen from it. He is probably under enormous amounts of stress and so are his wife and everyone involved with him.

“Let’s have a little compassion.”

We can’t pretend we’ll forget.

But we can forgive.

I hope you enjoyed this insight from the world of sports psychology.

Will Urban Meyer Ever Mellow Out?

Palm Beach Post – Greg Stoda – Dec. 28, 2009 – sports psychology commentary – The best question asked of Urban Meyer during Sunday’s news conference in New Orleans was this one: Is he in the situation he’s in because of who he is or because of what he does?

“Yes,” Meyer said in smiling reply.

And that’s it, exactly.

It’s what makes it almost impossible to believe that Meyer, who in less than 24 hours switched from retirement to a leave of absence as Florida football coach, will be able to change his style and work habits regardless of how much time he takes off.

He’s wired in the manner he’s wired, and it’s what makes his job even more consuming than it is on its own. The coaching DNA coursing through Meyer’s veins is a significant element — perhaps the primary one, he’ll tell you — in what has made him so successful.

He need not apologize for any of that, and doesn’t.

But neither is he necessarily deserving of our sympathies.

It has taken a health scare to get Meyer to say it’s time to “re-prioritize” his life in terms of faith, family and football. But a series of quotes attributed to Meyer’s wife, Shelley, after the news conference makes it clear she has her own doubts about her husband’s ability to change.

“He has to learn to relax,” she said. “I think he’ll make a really good attempt at that, (but) I don’t know if he can do it. I can tell you I can’t imagine him not coaching again, because that’s all I’ve ever known.

“I can’t have him looking or feeling the way he has been, but I don’t see him becoming a man of leisure. It’s going to be interesting.”

She will have a close-up view of Meyer undertaking the reinvention he promises. He has driven himself at 100 mph all these years, but will slam on the brakes and then re-accelerate in search of the proper speed at which to live and work. The Gators’ date Friday night against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl looks less like a football game and more like a coaching petri dish.

Steve Spurrier, a Gators icon as a player and a coach who is now in charge at South Carolina, once left the job Meyer now holds. Spurrier tired of unreasonable expectations.

“I don’t think he’ll need the whole year off,” Spurrier said in comments e-mailed through a South Carolina spokesperson. “I think in three or four months, he may be ready to get back. Maybe he can delegate a little more.

“Some coaches, if they don’t stay (in the office) until midnight or come in at 6 in the morning, they don’t feel like they’re working hard. … He needs to have some outside interests. He’s got a place on a lake not too far from Gainesville, but I would imagine when he’s (there), he’s probably checking with his coaches. He stays on top of everything from what I understand.”

Spurrier said he thought Meyer — who reportedly lost 20 pounds in recent weeks — looked “exhausted” during the televised news conference.

Now, there are a lot of professions more stressful than being Florida’s head football coach at a salary of $4 million per year. Almost any Web-search list on the subject will include physicians and surgeons, airline pilots and air-traffic controllers, fire fighters and police officers, social workers and customer-service reps, and teachers and retailers and stockbrokers.

But it’s what Palm Beach sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray called the “fishbowl” existence of a high-profile football coach that creates a witch’s brew of stress and pressure.

Relieving that isn’t easy.

“It really does come down to the noggin and how you think,” Murray said. “It’s what makes a situation manageable or not. Nobody can create effective change in life unless there’s a true recognition that there’s a need to change.”

Informed of Meyer’s health issues — chest pain, migraines, high blood pressure — Murray said stress frequently triggers such symptoms.

“If you’re doing that kind of job and don’t have some kind of relaxation technique, it’s a sure path to self-destruction.” he said. “Anyone under stress is at risk of making a mistake when it comes to important decisions. You make good choices when your mind is clear, and you tend to be erratic when emotions are running high.”

Which might explain Meyer’s sudden swing from retirement to a leave of absence.

I hope this article was enjoyable, on the topic of sports psychology.

Can Meyer really ease up?

Orlando Sentinel – George Diaz – December 31, 2009 – sports psychology commentary – Urban Meyer’s obsessive pursuit of perfection has been a constant in life. It’s the essence of who he is, from his days as a defensive back coach at Saint Xavier High School in Cincinnati, to the storied Swamp in Gainesville, where he has hoisted a Waterford Crystal Trophy twice to celebrate a national football championship with the Gator Nation.

Meyer now faces his greatest challenge:

Urban Meyer needs to make that guy go away.

His chase to be the best is like a deal with the devil, and it may crush Meyer if he isn’t careful. The chest pains, dizziness, insomnia, loss of weight are a compass, pointing to the dark side. He must change direction, and reinvent himself a less-maniacal, lower-stressed coach.

That journey begins here Saturday night, when the Gators play the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl. But the more telling moments will come in the next weeks, and in the next months. For the first time in his life, Meyer will need to find another speed other than fast-forward.

“What does slowing it down mean?” said one of his high school buddies Tom Penna. “Not talking to recruits? I don’t think he can do that. Does he stop looking at film? Delegate more to his assistants? What does he stop doing? What can he give up and still be productive?”

Meyer is going to have to ask himself all of those introspective questions, and plenty more. Those who know him now and those who know him from back in the day remain perplexed about how Meyer can find that balance.

Failure is not in his DNA. His father Bud wouldn’t allow it. Urban learned that early on during his days as a baseball player at St. Johns High, when Bud gave him a dollar for home runs and 50 cents for an RBI, but insisted on getting 25 cents back for every strikeout. Football was much the same: While all his friends went out partying after games, Urban would go back to his house to review aspects of the game and how he played with his father.

“He’s been bred for this since he was a kid,” said Rick Pugliese, another one of his hometown friends from Ashtabula, Ohio. “He’s a perfectionist.”

Penna and Pugliese have joined Mark Orlando and George Dragon as four guys from Ashtabula who have made an annual road trip to see Meyer during the football season, dating back in the days when he was a wide receivers coach at Notre Dame. They spend a few days together leading up to kickoff.

He always tells them the same thing: “If we win, come over the house. If we lose, I’ll see you next year.”

Now 45, Meyer’s Type-A personality has many other quirky manifestations. The incessant ring of his cell phone to the beep of a new text message. The lunch that goes cold on his desk because he doesn’t have time to eat. The remotes shattered in a fit of rage while screening game film.

It’s all about working harder than the next guy, busting your butt because that’s the only way you know. It gets you to places that few of his peers will ever see.

It brings two national titles, an undefeated run that stretched 22 games, and three-time National Coach of the Year honors.

But it also gets you to other places, like the Shands Medical Center in Gainesville where Meyer was treated after passing out at his home in the wee hours following the loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. “Urban, Urban, talk to me,” his wife Shelly is heard saying during the 911 call she made that night.

Meyer’s health remains the source of constant speculation, but it seems fairly clear that Meyer is dealing with a health issue more significant than the accumulation of all that stress and strain.

“If he’s got a serious health problem, he’s got to dial it down and surround himself with people who will convince him to do it,” said former Miami Dophins coach Don Shula, who grew up 30 miles away from Meyer’s hometown.

That inner circle should include professionals who won’t sugarcoat the truth. Meyer is setting himself up for a world of hurt if he doesn’t change.

“Don’t try to do everything yourself,” said sports psychologist John Murray. “If you die chasing success or more money, what’s the point of that? Quality of life issues are important.”

Murray suggests any number of things, from Tai Chi, yoga and exercise to “smelling the salt of the ocean.”

It presents a monstrous challenge. Meyer doesn’t do down time, other than snippets of time here and there with Shelly and their three children. And even on the occasional vacations, Coach Meyer, capital C, tags along. A while back, Urban and Shelly went down to the Caribbean with a few friends. One night, in the middle of a faraway tropical bar, a handful of people looked at Meyer and started doing the Gator chomp. He immediately left.

Pugliese recalls having a casual conversation with Meyer at a football camp for kids. In just a few minutes, 10 people were behind Pugliese wanting to talk to Meyer.

Meyer always finds comfort in his extended family, the guys who wear the orange and blue. It’s not some hokey fairy tale.

The four guys from Ashtabula saw it for themselves when Tim Tebow, David Nelson and a handful of other players showed up at a high school volleyball game to cheer on Meyer’s daughter, Gigi. They weren’t doing it to suck up to the coach. They did it because they care.

The best part was that nobody bothered them, but those moments are rare.

That’s why his friends worry about him. They see Meyer “grinding, grinding and grinding,” as Pugliese says, and wonder how he can reconcile that maniacal drive.

“He’s afraid to take his foot off gas,” Pugliese said. “You can’t go at that speed all your life. I’m in car sales. I counted my call log and I had 124 calls come in one day. That’s nothing to him.”

Meyer, intensely private and guarded, isn’t saying much about his game plan. “I have to learn to do is … what they call … delegate,” he said on Sunday, the day after he changed his mind about resigning and taking an indefinite leave of absence. He was also texting while his players addressed the media that afternoon, reflective of a man who can’t sit still.

Meyer is going to feel the squeeze on his privacy even more as he begins his nebulous journey. Everybody wants to know what’s going on. When is he coming back? Will he come back? What’s really wrong with him? The story is riveting. Why else would NPR devote an “All Things Considered” segment on Meyer’s hazy future?

Meyer will hate every single question. He remains most comfortable in the insular world of football, where there is control and everything is easily defined by a scoreboard.

All those victories, all those championships, and all that bling commandeered by Meyer’s senior class define “this crazy monster that we fed,” as Meyer said Thursday.

Another monster waits with a different group of players. If Meyer learns one thing from this experience, it should be this:

Be careful feeding the beast.

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

Video of Dr. John F Murray as Panelist on CBS 12 Show “Beyond the Game” with Rick Horrow

December 12, 2009 – Palm Beach, Florida – Sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray served as a panelist on the new South Florida television show hosted by Toyota called “Beyond the Game,” produced by Ben Becker and hosted by Rick Horrow on CBS 12 and airing at 7:30pm on Saturdays. Horrow is the leading expert on the business of sports and was the sports business analyst for CNN and the FOX family of media properties including FOXSports.com, FOX Sports Radio, and the FOX Business Channel. Click here for the entire show.

In the December 12 show, Murray appeared alongside former NFL player and radio personality Troy Stradford and ex-NFL player Rick Davis. Issues discussed included the Tiger Woods scandal, Rooney rule in college, home field advantage in football and the pressure to go undefeated on Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

More and more media outlets are recognizing the significance in society of sports psychology.

Dr. John F Murray Speaks with Jeff DeForrest and Lesley Visser about Tiger Woods on FOX Sports Radio

Sports Psychology Radio – December 18, 2009 – FOX Sports Radio 640AM South Florida – Hear clinical and sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray’s interviewed by broadcasting legend and pro football Hall of Fame inductee Lesley Visser and longtime radio talk show host Jeff DeForrest on the Friday morning drive to work as they discuss the Tiger Woods scandal, the death of NFL player Chris Henry, and more. This was Murray’s fourth appearance on FOX Sports Radio with Jeff and Lesley.

Later in the show, hear this brief and funny one minute segment in which Lesley teases Jeff that he needs Dr. John F Murray to move into his apartment.

I hope you have enjoyed this radio clip on the topic of clinical and sports psychology.

Might Tiger Woods Morph into the Bad Boy of Golf Now?

Reuters, Times of India – December 12, 2009 – Tiger Woods is making a wise move by taking a break from the sport but faces major challenges when he returns, sports psychologists said on Saturday.

Woods has announced an “indefinite” break from golf and admitted being unfaithful to his wife after a series of short-term relationships with women were reported in the media.

“I think that is a sign that he wants to send a strong message to his family that he is serious about addressing the problems,” Casey Cooper, a California based sports psychologist said. “It really is impossible to do that when you have the travel schedule of a competitive professional athlete.”

Palm Beach-based psychologist John F. Murray, who has worked with professional tennis and NFL players, said Woods’ hiatus could also be simply a case of allowing him to escape the stress.

“It’s the only possible thing to do when you are facing such amazing pressure. … It is too much for him – he needs an escape, some kind of relief from the stress. He definitely needs a break,” said Murray.

“Tiger isn’t just a golfer, he is an empire and he has lots of people advising him. He has probably been advised to take a break, to come up with a plan, come up with a strategy.”

Cooper added she doubted the public scrutiny of his private life would affect Woods’ performance when he returned.

“For the typical athlete, these types of distractions can obviously impact performance but Tiger has shown time and time again that he can manage his off-course life separately from his performance,” she said.

“I think his step away isn’t about protecting his performance, it is about how he is going to address his family situation. That requires time and his physical presence which he just can’t do if he is on the tour.

“Athletes are very all or nothing people, so if he is … going to fix his marriage he is going to fix his marriage and pour himself into that.”

Most observers expect Woods to be back playing some time next year, but a major question remains how he will cope with the loss of his previous image as clean-cut family man and Murray said one way of dealing with that could be to embrace the change.

“He could do what John McEnroe did (in tennis) and become the bad boy of golf,” Murray said.

“There are ways to do it, I don’t know if he could be the bad boy but I don’t know how he is going to keep that clean image.”

Little ‘Kangaroo’ hops into tennis all the way from Australia

CBS Sports – Dec. 9, 2009 – By Lesley Visser – Excellent footwork? Check. Concentration? Solid. Reliable forehand? Naturally. It’s when she says, “Daddy, can you take me to the bathroom?” that something seems a little strange.

Racket control and two-fisted backhands aren’t unusual at a noted tennis academy, but this prospect just turned 5 years old.

Mia Lines ‘has a gift, and 5 years old is not too young to nurture that gift,’ her coach says.

Mia Lines ‘has a gift, and 5 years old is not too young to nurture that gift,’ her coach says.

“She has the best adjustment steps I’ve seen in 25 years,” said Rick Macci, owner of the Rick Macci Tennis Academy at Boca Lago Country Club in Florida, where Mia Lines trains, when she’s not playing Scooby-Doo back home in Australia. “She has a gift, and 5 years old is not too young to nurture that gift.”

Macci, who worked with champions Andy Roddick, Jennifer Capriati and the Williams sisters when they were young, has been celebrated for his work with junior players and has been named the USPTA Coach of the Year seven times. Mia’s father found him on the Internet.

“When Mia was 3, everyone kept telling me she had talent and that I should get someone to look at her,” said Glenn Lines, a former day trader from Melbourne who is now the full-time single father to his tennis prodigy. “I had heard of Rick, and when I researched his program, I brought her to America to train with him.”

At 3 years old? Three years before school starts? At an age just beyond what child psychologists call “object permanence,” the ability of a child to remember what he or she just saw?

“We make sure she’s having fun,” said Macci.

It appears to be the case. Macci, who said Mia had racket control from the beginning, has the child bouncing basketballs with both hands, hitting the ball “on the rise, give ’em a surprise” and taking lemonade breaks. I watched her hit 30 balls in a row over the net, then jump over a couple of Macci-fed tosses as if the ball were a hot potato. She giggles and laughs, but there is something else inside.

“She’s extremely competitive,” said Macci. “When I had Venus and Serena, they would run through glass on the court to get to a ball. Mia’s the same way.”

She is small, short for her age, but when she gets up on her toes, tiny calf muscles pop out in the back. Her movements are efficient and the ball almost never goes beyond the baseline. But where is this heading, what can come of training three hours a day at such a young age?

“Well she’s not going to win any tournaments for 5-year-olds,” said renowned sports psychologist Dr. John Murray. “But it isn’t necessarily bad that she’s developing her passion. At the moment, she’s no different than any child who plays the violin or is precocious at ballet or art at a young age.”

Tennis has had its share of pushy-parent casualties. Stefano Capriati was famous for changing coaches, signing endorsement contracts and courting sponsors when Jennifer was only 12. Her early burnout is the stuff of legend. Andre Agassi wrote in his book that he hated the game his father forced him to play. Damir Dokic was famously ejected from a tournament where his daughter, Jelena, was playing, when he drunkenly accused an official of being a Nazi who endorsed the bombing of his native Yugoslavia.

“Some of these parents are just pathological,” Murray said. “They don’t understand that all athletes go through developmental stages. Being a star at 10 doesn’t mean that child will be world-ranked at 14.”

It’s too early to tell if Glenn Lines has the right stuff to make the precarious journey. He admits he “took a tennis ball to the hospital where Mia was born”, and “waved a tennis ball” over her head when she was in the crib.

But Lines seems to have some perspective.

“I don’t come from a wealthy family,” he said of his upbringing in Wantirna South, a suburb outside of Melbourne. “I’m middle class, and I’ve decided that when Mia turns 14, if she wants to do something else, anything else, that’s her decision. I know that my father, who loves Aussie rules football, wanted me to play, but I never did.”

Macci will not say whether Mia, whom he calls “Kangaroo,” will develop into a world-class tennis player.

“There are too many factors,” he said. “But I don’t resent or worry about her father. Many, if not most great players, had at least one parent devoted to their development — Jimmy Connors, Monica Seles, Chris Evert, Martina Hingis. Not all parents are bad.”

Macci has been on this route before. He is convinced that Mia has skills that put her “on the path” to greatness. And everyone agrees she has the perfect tennis name.

Dr. John F Murray on ESPN2 and NFL Films Network

See Dr. John F Murray’s Recent Appearance on NFL Network and ESPN2 (NFL Films Presents)
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