Archive for the ‘News & Events’ Category

Mind Games: Canes Failed in Pressure Situations

Sports psychology in Canesport Magazine – September 28, 2011 – John F Murray – Publisher’s Note: “Mind Games” is a column written for CaneSport each week by John Murray, a noted sports psychologist and author who has developed an index for evaluating the mental performance of players and coaches in games. We think it will provide all of us with a unique viewpoint as the Hurricanes navigate through the season.

The loss to KSU really had to hurt. We all envisioned a little boost of momentum going into the extremely tough part of the schedule starting with Virginia Tech on October 8. Miami had just overcome that huge obstacle in destroying Ohio State, and maybe, just maybe, there was a little too much post-OSU euphoria, or that it lasted a little too long for the team to be completely ready for KSU.

I don’t think Al Golden is to blame. He has been a student of Bill Snyder’s coaching, respects his abilities greatly, and made the strong point that KSU could not be overlooked. Still, one wonders if all the players really bought in to this 100%. Even the fans seemed just a little too comfortable going into the cross hairs of a Snyder attack. Maybe we should have focused a little more on just this one game, called it a huge impending battle, and stopped worrying so much about individual traits such as Jacory Harris’ maturity level or game managing capabilities.

Before the game, I received emails from KSU faithful saying that Miami was in for a huge challenge and probably a long day. I tried my small part by posting a warning in a Canesport forum. “Bill Snyder is genius,” these Kansas people asserted, yet the team wasn’t even in Kansas anymore as they strolled along South Beach and into a hostile Miami stadium with history on its side. It didn’t matter. Naive Kansas lads who didn’t even know the meaning of the word “fear” hid behind wheat fields, unleashed a surprise Snyder attack, and made candy canes of this bunch.

Now that the damage is done, I’m sure we all wish we had yelled louder about the threat of Snyder-trained Wildcats. That KSU team deserved their success, yet UM still had a chance to win at the end. Hats off to KSU. Congratulations to Bill Snyder for another fine football clinic. Lose with dignity when you lose, but please never forget how painful this one was. The “U” will take it and come back stronger in the future because of it. The lesson is as old as time. Always respect your opponent. You are never as good as you think you are, and your opponent is never as bad as you think they are. Painful, hard, and agonizing? Yes. Required reading? Absolutely!

Now that tears are dry and gaping holes in sports bar bathroom walls are repaired, let’s move on. I’ve always loved the phrase: “while mopping up your past you wipe out your future,” and it applies here. No more dwelling on defeat. We have a chance to get to .500 against Bethune Cookman this Saturday, and we will. Nobody will come close to making Bethune Cookman a favorite, but Miami still needs to go out and make it happen in a big way. They need to unleash a major attack with all three units and get a big win against somebody — anybody. They need this game for confidence. Lose this, and I’ll suggest that the U transfer to a flag football conference. Win big and get ready for war on October 8. Then beat Virginia Tech and the whole season has new meaning. Never say never!

Knowledge is power and you learn more when you lose, so let’s take a quick look at what actually happened against KSU. In a game played at a quality level slightly below average, KSU very barely outperformed Miami on the MPI-T by a score of .496 to .494.

If you look at the above chart, however, you will realize that while Miami started slow, by the end of the third quarter they were dominating the game on this overall performance rating .512 to .480! Give KSU credit for their 4th quarter touchdown drive and for keeping Miami out of the end zone on multiple pressure plays at the end. They really rose to the occasion and put a whipping on UM in the fourth quarter. Overall performance only slightly favored KSU and they also won the game 28-24.

Where KSU really excelled and Miami faltered was in pressure moments. KSU destroyed Miami in all three categories of pressure play by approximately 30%! Their total pressure score (MPI-TP=.643) was at 64.3 percent (95th percentile)! Simply stated, KSU came up big when they had to and Miami folded when the chips were on the line (MPI-TP=.336, 5th percentile).

Part of this I credit to a good coaching scheme by Snyder, and part of this falls on the players. KSU executed in the clutch and Miami did not. It was best exemplified when Miami could not get into the end zone after having a first and goal on the two.

Both offenses had their way in the game compared with the defenses. Whereas Miami’s offense dominated the KSU defense by 6.4%, KSU overwhelmed the Miami defense by 9.9%, and this latter statistic is at the 89th percentile for domination.

It was notable that Miami only performed at .439 on defense overall, far below average, whereas KSU performed better at .469. For the third week in a row, Miami’s special teams unit was the best one on the field even though their .550 performance was less than in the first two weeks.

In my last column, I laid out 5 goals going into the KSU game. Let’s see how Miami did on the goals established:

Goal 1: No more than 1 turnover and a T + P < 8 Results: Goals achieved! The Miami Hurricanes had one turnover and 4 penalties (T + P = 5). This is great progress. Jacory Harris does need to perform more effectively, but this is not the game to talk about turnovers and penalties! Goal 2: Better balance with 240 yards rushing, 250 yards passing, 0 interceptions, and an MPI-T > .565

Results: Only 1 of 4 sub-goals achieved. On the positive side, Jacory and the Hurricanes threw for 272 yards. Rushing, however, was reduced to 139 yards despite Lamar Miller’s good performance. There was one interception, and the MPI-T score was nowhere near the .565 target set (MPI-T=.494).

Goal 3: Continued great special teams play with MPI-ST > .630

Results: Not achieved. However, the special teams unit has been the best on the field for Miami. Their score in this game of .550 is well above average even if it did not hit the .630 mark targeted.

Goal 4: Offensive dominance of at least 12%

Results: Not achieved. The Hurricanes offense did dominate the Wildcat’s defense, but by a more modest 6.4% (MPI-O Hurricanes = .533, MPI-D Wildcats = .469).

Goal 5: Dominate in pressure situations by 25%

Results: Are you kidding? Not even close! Not only did Miami fail to achieve this goal, but KSU actually dominated the Hurricanes in pressure situations by 30.7%! Great performance in pressure moments of the game belonged to KSU and this is the single greatest factor in a KSU victory. Overall pressure play for KSU, as stated, was at the 95th percentile.

I hope you enjoy the new graphic this week (you need to read the article at canesport.com to see the graph) in which I showed the cumulative MPI scores for each team every quarter. I will not do that every week, but wanted you to see how the game progressed, and how KSU really turned it up at the end whereas Miami faltered, and especially in the red zone at the end.

Let’s keep this painful loss as a lesson. Never underestimate your opponent, and realize that without smart play and execution in pressure moments, a win that seems easily in reach with first and goal at the 2 yard line can easily become a loss.

But how do you train the mental skills and get players to perform better in pressure situations? Aha, you had to ask a sports psychologist. This is what I do. We specialize in training athletes to prepare for the most difficult pressure moments imaginable so that when game time comes it should be a breeze. It works most of the time and I love what I do.

Let’s take a break for a week on setting goals. The talent levels between Miami and Bethune-Cookman are so different that I will not waste my time. If Miami loses, I will help them vigorously in their new flag football league. Sorry Canes world! I have to find a way to use humor to cope in a difficult time. I love this team and will continue doing whatever I can to help in this column. It all begins with brutal honesty in what the MPI numbers and percentiles reveal.

Win this game big, and we’ll get set for a tremendous week of excitement as we prepare to beat Virginia Tech! Don’t give up hope. This program is growing and will continue to get better even after such a painful lesson as the Snyder attack from behind the Kansas wheat fields last Saturday in Miami.

Dr. John F. Murray, described as “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, is a South Florida native and licensed clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach. He provides mental coaching and sports psychology services, counseling, speeches and seminars. He recently authored his second book, “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” destroying stigmas about the mental game in sports and showing football teams how to perform better and win more games by enhancing team performance assessments and training. For further information call Dr. Murray at 561-596-9898, visit johnfmurray.com or email johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

Mind Games: Reviewing OSU, Preparing for KSU

Sports psychology in Canesport Magazine – September 21, 2011 – John F Murray – Publisher’s Note: “Mind Games” is a column written for CaneSport each week by John Murray, a noted sports psychologist and author who has developed an index for evaluating the mental performance of players and coaches in games. We think it will provide all of us with a unique viewpoint as the Hurricanes navigate through the season.

The Ohio State victory was great to watch, and I later enjoyed chatting online with a few posters from CaneSport.com. While there were many critical comments about the team to go along with the more positive ones, the mood was bright overall.

The detailed level of scrutiny on this team after defeating a powerhouse like Ohio State 24-6 only illustrates more that this is a proud team with super high ambitions. There is nothing wrong with expecting to be the best, and that is actually what I tell my clients to think all the time. I love the competitive fire of this program and those associated with it.

Before we look at the Ohio State game, and beyond it to KSU this Saturday, I want to share a little more about why I believe so much in using the MPI and statistics to help teams like the Canes. Today I’ll discuss four benefits of this approach:

1. MEANINGFULNESS
2. SIMPLICITY
3. RELEVANCE
4. PRECISION

Let’s zoom in a little closer:

Meaningfulness: Most statistics provided after a game give only “raw numbers” such as yards gained, time of possession or quarterback attempts and completions. So much is thrown at you in such a short time that it’s often impossible to make heads or tails of it all. This is because raw numbers are not standardized, or converted into scores which make immediate sense. However, in my analyses, I use percentiles to show more precisely what a number means. I get these by having an extensive database of past games. Furthermore, the seven main MPI statistics are already presented in a standardized form from .000 to 1.000, and this roughly translates into “degree of perfection” which anyone can relate to. So the first benefit of these analyses is that they make much more sense than what is usually presented because the numbers are more meaningful.

Simplicity: The MPI Total score (MPI-T) is just one single number showing how well a team performed overall in a game. How much easier could that be? The MPI Total Dominance score (MPI-TD) tells how much better or worse a team was from its opponent in terms of a percentage. With these two main numbers you instantly know how the teams performed. This simplicity of just one number allows for great tracking of progress from quarter to quarter, game to game, or season to season.

Relevance: Coaches and sports psychologists encourage their players to “perform” their best in every moment of a game. This emphasis of “play well” or “perform” over poorer advice such as “score points” and “win” has been long known to work because players are more aware specifically of what they have to do, more focused, more consistent, and less worried about losing. I often tell my clients to “place process and performance over outcome.” The MPI statistics measure only performance or what is relevant to do, and not outcome. I wanted my clients accountable to what I asked of them, so I needed to measure those relevant factors. Everyone can “perform” well as it is 100% controllable, but only 50% of teams win. Making the MPI relevant was crucial to putting my ratings where my mouth was! If you want to measure free throw shooting percentage, you don’t ask your players to shoot lay-ups. The same holds here. I want my players performing well in the moment, and that is exactly what I measure.

Precision: By including the factor of mental performance in my game reviews, I obtain greater precision through more complete data. I gain this because I am capturing something that is so important in football, or any sport, but not represented in traditional statistics. Mental performance is always present and frequently observable. In fact, it was so obvious (and right in front of our noses that we could sniff it) that we forgot to measure it until the MPI was invented. Isn’t that amazing? Now that we have corrected this historical omission in football statistics with the MPI, we have a more precise instrument. We are able to paint a more accurate picture of how a team actually performed. If you were to paint horses, you would probably not go to a barn where the horses had only three legs and their tails missing. Then why would you rate a football game and ignore the role of the mind or smart play? The key was seeing “mental performance” as just another aspect of performance with all different levels from poor (careless mental errors) to great (smart play). You certainly don’t want to ignore the role of the brain or smart play in depicting the reality of a game.

That was your MPI lesson for the week and I hope it helped you understand the method to my madness a little more.

Now let’s get back to the game, and wasn’t it a thriller!? I don’t care how many ways you criticize this game, the bottom line is that the University of Miami crushed the No. 17 team in the country 24-6, and the team’s name is Ohio State. I have been to that Columbus, Ohio campus, and those folks live and breathe football success as much as any group in America. So let’s start by giving a huge round of applause to this UM team and especially to coach Al Golden. I am so impressed by the knowledge and professionalism he has displayed so far as head coach, and I think Miami’s future with him is very bright for years to come.

Going into this game with the MPI data from the Maryland game shared in my last Mind Games column, I came up with 5 performance goals to crush OSU. Let’s see how the Canes did on these 5 specific performance goals:

Goal 1: Improve total performance on MPI-T from .475 to .500.

Results: Goal achieved with much room to spare! With an MPI-T score of .547, the Miami Hurricanes far exceeded expectations and scored at about the 85th percentile for a football team overall. Teams that perform this well rarely lose and this was the case here, too.

Goal 2: Reduce combined turnovers and penalties from 14 to 6 and have no more than one turnover.

Results: Goal not achieved but definite improvements made. The Hurricanes cut back turnovers and penalties from 14 to 7 instead of 6, but still had two interceptions or turnovers instead of just one (and two other near interceptions). While they only missed each mark by the count of 1, there was clearly a lot of improvement compared with the Maryland game. Al Golden’s message to reduce mistakes was heard.

Goal 3: Improve defensive performance on MPI-D from .424 to .490 and improve pressure play on defense on MPI-DP from .469 to .550.

Results: Goal achieved with flying colors! The defense was the weakest link against Maryland (.424), but improved to .519 overall (71st percentile) and to .688 in pressure situations (86th percentile) against OSU. It certainly helped to have those suspended players back on defense, but I didn’t expect performance in clutch situations to be this high. Huge Congrats!

Goal 4: Maintain great special teams play by scoring .650 on MPI-ST

Results: I say this goal was achieved (read my fine print!). While the special teams unit actually performed just slightly off the mark at .646, readers should know that this is the 95th percentile and represents the best Canes unit of the field once again! I will, thus, round up to an even .650 and say that this unit achieved the goal. Remember when your math teacher changed your 89.6 grade by rounding up to a 90 and giving you an A? I am doing exactly the same thing here, but there is even more reason to do this here since 95th percentile is big guns. Great job again special teams!

Goal 5: Improve offensive performance from .479 to .520 on the MPI-O and dominate the OSU defense by at least two percent.

Results: Achieved with much room to spare! Despite the miscues in the passing game, this offense ran the ball extremely well and overall offensive performance hit the 73rd percentile at .551 on MPI-O. Further, the UM offense dominated the OSU defense by seven percent, above the two percent target.

In review, goal setting showed how this team could crush Ohio State and the team passed this first test well. Miami achieved four of the five goals set, and even improved in the goal they did not achieve. The Canes should be very proud of their overall performance against Ohio State.

Other highlights included time of possession at the 80th percentile, total pressure performance at the 96th percentile (MPI-TP=.679), and rushing yards at the 98th percentile (240).

Now that great improvement has been made in most areas, it is going to be extremely important that Miami keeps performing better and consistently, and not get complacent or overconfident. When a team is supposed to win easily is when I get most nervous as a sports psychologist.

Everyone has concluded that Miami is going to enter the Virginia Tech game with a 4-1 record. Are we forgetting the sting of history, and the amazing upsets that occur each week in any sport and especially the emotional game of football. Read my lips, Miami, “DO NOT LET UP.” Each team that plays against The U will be playing their version of a Super Bowl, so do not think it will be easy and you will be in the best place mentally.

Here are my specific performance goal recommendations for the Kansas State game based on the trends seen so far in the first two games:

1) UM escaped a bullet with only two turnovers and two is not even good. It is average. I would like to see this team reduce turnovers to 1 or less, and maintain a T + P score of no more than 7. This means continued refinement, focus, consistency, and effort directed at perfect execution.

2) There was little balance in the last game between passing and running the ball. Running was exceptional and passing was far below average. KSU is a division one team, but has not been one of the top 25 teams at the end of the year in quite a while. Miami needs to continue blocking well and run the ball for at least 240 yards again, but take care of the ball better in the passing game and have no interceptions while throwing for at least 250 yards. In addition, total team performance needs to remain high, and since Miami is not playing a team as strong as OSU, I would like to see MPI-T rise to above .565.

3) Special teams play has been the story of the year, so why stop now. I would like them once again to be the top performing unit, and achieve at least at .630 mark on MPI-ST. Offense and defense should strive to outperform special teams on their MPI scores.

4) Despite Miami’s impressive rushing attack against OSU, offensive dominance was still at only an improved garden variety level at 7 percent (39th percentile). I would like to see the offense of Miami dominate the defense of KSU by at least 12 percent in the upcoming game.

5) Finally, Miami excelled in pressure situations overall against OSU (MPI-TP=.679, 96th percentile) with a nice balance between offensive pressure play (MPI-OP=.672) and defensive pressure play (MPI-DP=.688). I would like to see this overall pressure play dominance (MPI-TPD=.268) continue to be strong and for MPI-TPD to be at least at a level of .250 or 25%.

That’s enough for now Canes. If you are listening football team, keep up the good work, and maintain the swag, but also be on guard. I know of a team with the letters KSU that would like nothing more than to make their season with a K S on U! Don’t let it happen. Continue to represent!

Dr. John F. Murray, described as “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, is a South Florida native and licensed clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach. He provides mental coaching and sports psychology services, counseling, speeches and seminars. He recently authored his second book, “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” destroying stigmas about the mental game in sports and showing football teams how to perform better and win more games by enhancing team performance assessments and training. For further information call Dr. Murray at 561-596-9898, visit johnfmurray.com or email johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

5 Performance Goals to Crush Ohio State

Sports Psychology in Canesport Magazine – September 15, 2011 – John F Murray – Publisher’s Note: “Mind Games” is a column written for CaneSport each week by John Murray, a noted sports psychologist and author who has developed an index for evaluating the mental performance of players and coaches in games. We think it will provide all of us with a unique viewpoint as the Hurricanes navigate through the season.

Call me a team strategist this week, not a clinical and sports psychologist. Nobody is sick around here. Miami is a team with a great coach and a talented bunch of players. How can you not get excited about a game against Ohio State? If the Hurricanes all come together and perform as well as I know they are capable of, then it should be a very happy weekend.

To make this all easier, I have outlined my five performance goals for the team. If they achieve these goals, I am convinced they will also win the game. I set the goals moderately high and certainly at an attainable level in terms of performance.

In my last column (CLICK HERE for the archived story) I gave a fairly thorough explanation of the 14 new statistics included in my patented Mental Performance Index (or MPI) and explained how I also look at traditional stats and the bell curve in giving meaning to all data. Keep in mind that the MPI is a team performance rating system including every meaningful play, and it includes mental performance as well as execution and physical performance. The key is that it measures performance (how the team did relative to their opponent) and not outcome (how many points or scores they made. Since it scores every meaningful play, it is also a good measure of execution and consistency at any point in the game. As a rule of thumb, an MPI score of .500 is roughly average, .400 is terrible and .600 (or 60% of perfection) is superb, and about 98% of games will have a total team score (MPI-T) that ranges between .400 and .600.

While the cast of characters often changes from week to week based on who is doing well and who is healthy, there is far more than cosmetic improvement in Miami’s lineup, as senior quarterback Jacory Harris, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, defensive end Adewale Ojomo, linebacker Sean Spence and receiver Travis Benjamin all make their returns following suspension. I’m excited to see them return and they’ll hopefully contribute to a better team performance against Ohio State.

I’ll remind you below of Miami’s performance numbers last week, point out areas that need most improvement, and then give the team five solid performance goals in order to have a good chance to defeat Ohio State.:

PERFORMANCE GOAL ONE: RAISE TOTAL TEAM PERFORMANCE 2.5%, FROM .475 TO AT LEAST .500 ON THE MPI-T

The first number to look at is the MPI-T, or total team performance statistic, as this is the best single estimate of how the team as a whole performed. As a reader you will get more familiar with the numbers and what they represent as the season unfolds. Miami’s MPI-T score of .475 was not impressive and it was definitely below average last week. Teams can win games at 47.5% of perfection, but it is rare, and to do so the opponent usually has to perform below average too. This was not the case last week as Maryland was slightly above average on total team performance (MPI-T=.508) and the scoreboard showed this too.

For Miami to beat Ohio State, I would like to see Miami’s total performance rise at least 2.5% to an MPI-T score of .500, and even higher would be better. To do this, the team needs to cut down on penalties and turnovers and execute better overall.

PERFORMANCE GOAL TWO: REDUCE TURNOVERS AND PENALTIES FROM 14 TO 6, BUT WITH NO MORE THAN ONE TURNOVER (T + P < 6; T < 2)
The sad part about last week is that Miami shot itself in the foot. Maryland was a good team (.508), but no world beater, and all you have to do is look at the careless mental mistakes Miami made with four turnovers and 10 penalties (T + P = 14) and you will understand why Miami’s total performance was well below average. As far as I know Coach Golden is not using the MPI statistics yet, but he is emphasizing this truth with the team. The mistakes were by far the weakest link last week against Maryland and that needs to change. The Buckeyes are usually very disciplined, so for Miami to have a chance, I would like to see this T + P statistic kept to 6 or less, but with no more than one turnover max. A second goal here would be to have an equal takeaways minus giveaways (T-G) score. Against Maryland, Miami was a minus 3 on T-G, as Miami had four turnovers to Maryland’s 1. This needs to happen with effort and great focus, and there is no better time to start than this Saturday night.

PERFORMANCDE GOAL THREE: IMPROVE DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE 6.4% FROM .424 TO .490 OVERALL, AND 8.1% IN PRESSURE MOMENTS FROM .469 TO .550

The Miami defense should be better with the returning players, but remember that they are playing a formidable foe in Ohio State, so that probably makes that a wash. This is a hard game to win.

Last week the single worst unit on the field was Miami’s defense, which performed at only .424 against Maryland’s offense (.544). Contributing to that, Miami gave up 348 yards through the air which put Maryland over the 90th percentile in passing. With better coverage, improved tackling, more dogged pursuit, increased hitting, and a couple of forced turnovers, defensive performance can rise a lot. It would be hard for this unit not to improve from .424. But since this was the lowest area, all eyes will be on defense and I would recommend that Miami target at least a .490 performance on defense, but a .550 performance in pressure moments of the game. They can do this by rising to the occasion as needed to make big plays. Last week performance under pressure for the defense was .469, better than overall performance, but still nothing to cheer about. So at least a .550 performance in these moments is called for.

PERFORMANCE GOAL FOUR: MAINTAIN GREAT SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY BY PERFORMING AT LEAST AT .650

Special teams play was phenomenal last week for Miami (.717) and it would be nice obviously for this to continue. But this is a high performance standard that will be hard to maintain. The coverage was especially good on punts and kickoffs. A Miami performance at the .650 mark or higher would be superb against Ohio State.

PERFORMANCE GOAL FIVE: IMPROVE OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE 4.1% FROM .479 TO .520 AND OUTPERFORM THE OHIO STATE DEFENSE BY AT LEAST 2% (FOR EXAMPLE: .520 TO .500)

Quarterback Jacory Harris needs to have a good game, the offensive line needs to protect him and open holes for the running backs. The receivers need to do a better job than last year against Ohio State. It is a great redemption game for Travis Benjamin as he was criticized harshly for erratic play last year in the loss to OSU.

Last week the Miami offense was slightly better than Maryland’s defense (.479 to .467), but it was hampered by mistakes including those two very costly interceptions. I expect Harris to be more experienced and poised than Morris was due to his experience. But remember that Ohio State is known for their exceptional defense, ranked 14th in the nation. For Miami to win this game I would like to see the offense improve about 4.1% to .520 and I would like the Miami offense to dominate the Ohio State defense by at least 2%.

These projections don’t provide all of the answers. But, as I have noted before, in developing the MPI over eight years, and using it for my new book that was released this year (“The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History“), I have developed a good idea of what it takes to win a football game. I believe these goals give the Canes a no-nonsense, hard-nosed, and objective perspective that will only help this team get better.

Dr. John F. Murray, described as “The Freud of Football” by the Washington
Post, is a South Florida native and licensed clinical and sports psychologist in
Palm Beach. He provides mental coaching and sports psychology services,
counseling, speeches and seminars. He recently authored his second book, “The
Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,”
destroying stigmas about the mental game in sports and showing football teams
how to perform better and win more games by enhancing team performance
assessments and training. For further information call Dr. Murray at
561-596-9898, visit johnfmurray.com or
email johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

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

Mind Games: Making Sense of the Maryland Game

Sports Psychology Mind Games Column at Canesport.com – John F Murray – September 8, 2011 – Publisher’s Note: “Mind Games” is a column written for CaneSport each week by John Murray, a noted sports psychologist and author who has developed an index for evaluating the mental performance of players and coaches in games. We think it will provide all of us with a unique viewpoint as the Hurricanes navigate through the season.

September 5, 2011 – Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium – College Park, Maryland

Maryland Terrapins 32 (.508) Miami Hurricanes 24 (.475)

Hello Miami fans, football lovers, and perhaps some football haters after this first disappointing loss to Maryland to start the Golden era. I am disappointed, you are upset, and the rest of the football world is wildly celebrating UM’s stumble out of the gate feeling that Miami got just what it deserved after the NCAA violations.

Let’s not try to sugar coat this loss. It hurts a lot. But this is what sports is all about, taking the bad with the good and making it better. True winners never sulk. After a loss, they first try to deeply understand what happened, and then they suck it up, spit it out, and make positive changes and corrections based on their mistakes.

There is always another game, and with a talented group of starters returning for the Ohio State game in two weeks, there is huge opportunity for growth. Maybe even a big upset is on the horizon.

This column will help keep us focused on what is important and what we control, and that is simply the “process” and the “performance” on every single play rather than the “outcome,” whether the team won or lost, or whether Nevin Shapiro is smiling in his jail cell or some reporter is taking another shot at the Canes.

In my work with teams and athletes, I’ve found that the greatest progress often occurs right after a loss or a disappointing low period. Nothing gets an athlete’s or team’s attention more than losing. The good news is that you are never really as bad as you think you are … or as good as you think you are too, so the trick in sports is to be able to continually bring the passion and fire week in, week out to the present moment, and somehow learn to forget about results while practicing and competing. Pushing the envelope to get better in the most challenging of times pays off later in the season and also in upcoming years, too.

In this, my first post-game review using the Mental Performance Index on the Hurricanes’ team, you are introduced to a whole new way to analyze a football game with a new tool that is very effective in summarizing the truth of what actually happened – play-by-play in the physical and mental trenches of a football game.

I developed the Mental Performance Index (MPI for short) over eight years and it has proven incredibly powerful in teasing out the keys to victory or defeat in a football game.

The Index consists of 14 new statistics summarizing relative football performance for each team that played in a game against one another. The numbers always range from .000 to 1.000, so it is like a baseball batting average, but for a football team where .500 is a roughly average performance of a team.

In some ways the MPI scores are like an index of perfection, as a perfect team would score 1.000 theoretically (100% of perfection) and a team that did nothing at all good in a game would score .000. As Herman Edwards once said, “on every play somebody screws up” and it is has proven to be the case with MPI ratings. The range of the MPI total score in a game is almost always between .400 and .600. That means that as a whole most teams perform between 40% and 60% of perfection in a game, supporting Edwards’ claim.

There are about 150 plays in a football game multiplied times 11 players per team, or 1,650 chances per game for each team to mess up.

In my new book, the best performing Super Bowl team on Super Sunday scored at.591 as a team overall, so only at 59.1 percent of perfection. This sounds horrible, but playing a game at 60% of perfection is amazing and almost guarantees victory. The .591 mark would be well over the 95th percentile in terms of team performance.

On Monday night, for example, Miami scored a .475 while Maryland came in at .508 and won the game.

With a live view of the game supplemented often by a video of the game afterwards, and a written play-by-play account of every single play to check my work, I sit with my computer and meticulously rate the performance of each team on every play of the game. It usually takes about three hours. My computer automatically converts my ratings into a .000 to 1.000 metric. When I rate a play, I do so in a way that is extremely simple, football smart, statistically balanced, and consistent over the years. It is simple for me to capture the essence of how the teams did on the play, and I adjust for many factors such as pressure situations, clear mental mistakes, or clearly superior smart play.

It is a rating of how the teams did in the moment by moment analysis of every play. By rating every meaningful play in a game, I have obtained more data than any traditional statistic, and this provides me another advantage. The huge number of observations increases my statistical power and sensitivity to discover subtle differences.

In rating the games, I essentially reinforce precisely what I teach my athletes and teams as a sports psychologist, namely to stay focused and execute in every moment. They are encouraged to focus on process and performance in every instance, and not on outcome, and I score execution and performance in every instance, and not outcome or points.

There is no wiggle room for being careless or sloppy. The MPI is an index of perfection, and players’ mental mistakes, carelessness, and great focus will influence the scoring accordingly. There are no excuses for penalties and turnovers on the MPI and that is how it should be.

But many teams and players get distracted by all the fluff in this ADD culture that many athletes find themselves in. There are so many off-field distractions that a no-nonsense, hard-nosed emphasis on process and performance goals actually reduces pressure or fear for players, leading to reduced mistakes and better execution.

Some teams win a game after being outperformed by their opponents, and this can easily lead to overconfidence or lackadaisical preparation for the upcoming game. With MPI data, players would know how they actually played despite the fortunate win, and it would keep them hungrier in their fear of a letdown. Other teams win the battle in the trenches of moment by moment performance, but might lose a heartbreaker due to one or two rare plays or poor referee calls. These teams need to stay the course and be encouraged that they were doing everything right, but that the ball did not bounce their way.

After studying thousands of games, I have found that better performance usually wins the game, and it appears to be the case about nine out of 10 times. In my study of every Super Bowl for my recent book, “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” only four of the 45 winning teams were outperformed on the MPI. So this supports this rough 10% estimate of anomaly.

Since we do control performance, but not outcome, I am measuring only what is controllable and only what I tell my athletes to focus on. Any good sports psychologist will tell you that placing performance over outcome is a huge key to winning.

It is ironic that, by not focusing on winning, we actually win more … but it makes sense. This makes their lives a lot easier and it makes sense to know how you actually did despite the final score which is often inaccurate. The final score is an arbitrary number, not a scientifically verified indicator of how well a team played. Sure you need it to win the game, but you need to focus on doing well in the moment to score points, not focus on scoring points which is a distraction.

The 14 main MPI statistics that I created include:

(1) MPI Total (MPI-T) for overall team performance; (2) MPI Offense (MPI-O) for offensive performance alone; (3) MPI Defense (MPI-D) for defensive performance alone; (4) MPI Special Teams (MPI-ST) for special teams performance alone; (5) MPI Total Pressure (MPI-TP) for team performance in pressure situations; (6) MPI Offense Pressure (MPI-OP) for offensive performance in pressure situations; (7) MPI Defense Pressure (MPI-DP) for defensive performance in pressure situations.

The first 7 MPI statistics are expressed in terms of how a team performed in a game on a scale of .000 to 1.000 with .500 being roughly average performance. In addition to these seven statistics that describe the performance of just one team, as much as possible a relatively pure measure of team performance, I also created MPI difference statistics by calculating the scores on these seven MPI statistics of one team minus the opponent’s corresponding MPI statistic.

For example, the MPI Total Difference score is calculated by taking the MPI Total score of a team and subtracting the opponent’s MPI Total score resulting in a statistic that shows “dominance,” or how much better one team performed that day compared with their opponent.

These additional seven MPI statistics are as follows:

(8) MPI Total Difference (MPI-TD) for dominance of one team over another overall; (9) MPI Offense Difference (MPI-OD) for offensive dominance over an opponent’s defense; (10) MPI Defense Difference (MPI-DD) for defensive dominance over an opponent’s offense; (11) MPI Special Teams Difference (MPI-STD) for special teams dominance; (12) MPI Total Pressure Difference (MPI-TPD) = Total dominance in pressure; (13) MPI Offense Pressure Difference (MPI-OPD) = Offensive dominance in pressure; (14) MPI Defense Pressure Difference (MPI-DPD) for defensive dominance in pressure.

To do a complete analysis of a game, I do not stop with the MPI. I also look at the 14 most traditional statistics (e.g., net yards, turnovers, penalties…) to see if there are any notable results using an extensive set of norms I’ve developed. I can look at any one of the 14 MPI statistics or 14 traditional statistics and see where it fits along the normal distribution known as the normal or bell curve in statistics.

In fact, I will often report the statistic in percentiles as well as in a raw score so that you will understand more clearly what the score means and how extreme it is. For instance, you will see in the upcoming post-game report that Maryland gained 499 yards against Miami. This places them roughly in the 95th percentile on this factor, a quite impressive performance. Just so you understand percentiles, if there were 100 random teams selected for net yards gained, Maryland would have performed better than 95 of these teams when they reach the 95th percentile.

Pressure Offense and Defense on the MPI means those offensive plays and defensive plays that I define as pressure situations in a game. While there are exceptions based on play meaningfulness, it typically refers to plays that have a greater amount weighing on them … good examples are third and fourth down plays that are meaningful. In these instances, it has to happen for the teams on that one play. The offense needs a first down or they are forced to give up the ball. The defense has to stop the offense or they risk giving up more field position and possibly a score. So these “pressure” situations, as I define them and as I think anyone smart in football would define them, raise the stakes considerably.

It is analogous to a poker game where a double bet is made. More is riding on the play. Psychologically that means that the teams need to be able to cope with the potential pressure by playing well in these clutch situations. And doing so is evidence of high mental performance. So I have a way to reward teams a little more when they do well in pressure, and punish them a little more on the MPI when they do poorly in these critical moments where it “has to happen or else.” I isolate out just those pressure offense plays and pressure defense plays and the scores for pressure offense and pressure defense will show just that … how the offense did in just those pressure situations and how the defense did in just those pressure situations, and I also have a total pressure score which is how the entire team did in pressure.

It will not be a simple average of offense and defense because there are usually an uneven number of plays a team might run on offense and defense. The bottom line is that part of my madness (and it is quite simple) is to make sure that I measure those pressure situations too … because the greatest teams mentally seem to find a way to do better in critical moments. Make sense?

Sometimes my analysis will match exactly what the mainstream reporters are saying, but often I’ll add a slight twist or new insight that was not revealed. I only observe what happened on the field of play, and back it up by written play by play summaries, but I have a huge advantage in having taught statistics at the college and graduate school levels, in knowing mental performance and how to incorporate that in the scoring, and in knowing football too.

How shall we analyze this Maryland vs. Miami game? You might wonder if the game was played at a high quality level or not. To start, this was a game of overall below average quality performance as the combined MPI-T scores for each team (.475 + .508 = .983) fell below the 1.0 mark (an indicator of overall average performance).

Taking a broad look at the data, Maryland outperformed Miami on 5 of the 7 main MPI scores, and they did better in all the traditional statistics except for net yards rushing in which Miami was slightly better (172 to 151). No wonder they won the game too.

We next look at total performance of the teams (Total MPI Score) and it is clear that Maryland decisively outperformed the Hurricanes by a margin of .508 to .475. While Maryland’s overall performance was only slightly above average, the .475 posted by Miami is definitely below average. It is fair to say that this was a winnable game for Miami, or stated another way, Miami also beat themselves.

How did this happen? The most extreme statistics that jump out (residing on an extreme end of the bell curve distribution in statistics) are the combined negative impact of turnovers (4) and penalties (10) for Miami. This T + P = 14, a combined value that is horrendous, falls below the 5th percentile. I use T + P as one of the factors in my book on the Super Bowl and in my MPI game ratings because it is a great indication of sloppy, careless errors. But like others I also look at turnovers and penalties separately.

So if you had to isolate one factor as most responsible for this loss, it would have to be the mistakes Miami made in turnovers and penalties. Seeing this statistically and numerically at the 5th percentile or worse gives Coach Golden some real firepower in actual performance data and normative standards to encourage an improvement in protecting the ball and avoiding careless penalties before the Ohio State game.

Two turnovers for Miami resulted in Maryland scores, and these two straws broke the camel’s back, but there were a lot of other influences too as we shall see.

As previously stated, Maryland gained 499 yards in this game, and the Maryland offensive MPI score (.544) combined with Miami’s defensive MPI score (.424) illustrates this mismatch. Credit Danny O’Brien’s quarterback play and the 348 yards passing which was at the 90th percentile, but it had to hurt Miami to have so many starters on defense out of this game.

While Miami’s offense performed better than Maryland’s defense in this game (.479 to .467), it was a much smaller influence than Maryland’s offensive dominance over Miami’s defense. The mistakes on offense eliminate any need to celebrate, and since those scores were both below .500, we applaud even less. However, it does give Miami hope for the future once it learns to greatly reduce mistakes.

Interestingly, Miami’s special teams were the best unit on the field this day, and they destroyed Maryland’s special teams on the MPI .717 to .488. If this had not been the case, Maryland would have likely won this game in a much easier manner with better field position.

We should all credit Maryland for performing better in the clutch. The Terps outperformed Miami in total pressure situations .492 to .477, and their performance in offensive pressure situations (.574) shows that they earned a victory even if Miami also beat themselves with carelessness. My best guess is that inexperience was a major factor here.

In summary, Maryland clearly outperformed Miami in this game (and also won) largely due to their passing attack, especially in pressure situations, combined with Miami’s depleted defense. The most extreme and perhaps influential factor of all were the four turnovers and 10 penalties committed by Miami and the +3 Takeaway minus Giveaway statistic for Maryland, which had just one turnover.

I hope you have enjoyed this first game review after a more detailed explanation of the MPI and why it is so needed in football.

When I finished my most recent book, which is all about how I came up with the idea of the MPI, how society stigmatizes mental factors, and about how the Super Bowl teams would fare in a mythical competition pitting every one of the 90 teams against one another, a lot of top people in football stepped forward to help me with my mission.

When I ask you to drink the Kool Aid of the MPI, realize that it is mostly just hard-nosed and objective football with the benefits of science. Mental opportunities are everywhere if you open your eyes.

Eliminate those 14 huge mistakes or just reduce them to five and Miami would have won this game.

Imagine that.

Dr. John’s Maryland vs. Miami Game Lesson: “Don’t Beat Yourself”

The University of Miami had everything against them but still had a chance to win if they had just held onto the ball and reduced penalties. While Maryland earned this win, Miami fumbled the golden goose at the start of the Golden era.

Dr. John F. Murray, described as “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, is a South Florida native and licensed clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach. He provides mental coaching and sports psychology services, counseling, speeches and seminars. He recently authored his second book, “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” destroying stigmas about the mental game in sports and showing football teams how to perform better and win more games by enhancing team performance assessments and training. For further information call Dr. Murray at 561-596-9898, visit johnfmurray.com or email johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

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

One thing matters in college sports: winning

Sports psychology commentary in the Sarasota Herald Tribune – Doug Fernandes – September 3, 2011 – Today at the University of Florida, all eyes will be on first-year head coach Will Muschamp.

At Florida State and South Florida, Jimbo Fisher and Skip Holtz begin their sophomore campaigns leading their respective teams.

And at Miami, Al Golden starts his first season at a program rocked by a scandal that could have repercussions for years to come.

For the NCAA, its member schools, coaches, players and administrators, the kickoff to the 2011 college football season could not have arrived at a more favorable time.

Frankly, there has never been an offseason during which the sport’s lower lip was more bloodied. Revelations of free cars, sex parties, nightclub visits, yacht trips and players trading memorabilia for tattoos dominated headlines, blogs and radio airwaves.

It forced the resignation of Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, revealed, yet again, the lengths programs will go to court success, and how those in positions of authority often turn their heads to transgressions happening right before their eyes.

All in the name of winning and securing its ancillary benefits. For quite some time now, fans of all sports have been bludgeoned into semi-consciousness with stories of athletes and institutions engaging in myriad nefarious acts.

Whether it’s cyclists and track athletes who dope, baseball players who take steroids, or student-athletes who choose College A over College B for reasons other than — wink, wink — academics, the American sporting public had grown tired.

Tired and apathetic.

Just give them their games.

Just give them their teams.

Provide that three- or four-hour window when nothing else matters except the school emblazoned on their shirt coming out on top.

“Even more than entertained, they want to win,” said John F Murray, a Palm Beach clinical and sports psychologist. “That’s the thing we attach ourselves to, because, for whatever reason, we’re not able to enjoy our jobs or whatever it might be.

“I think we attach success to our team’s success. They are our team. We’re willing to overlook what they do to get that success.

“Most fans probably, deep down in their psyche, would rather have their teams win on steroids than lose without steroids.”

In psychology, it’s called “basking in reflected glory,” the belief that one experiences personal success through their association with successful people or institutions.

It helps explain the reason a Florida Gator fan feels a sense of satisfaction after a victory over Georgia, or, conversely, depression following a loss.

He or she has no material connection to the Gators’ winning or losing. But anyone who has rooted for a team is familiar with the phenomenon.

On Monday, the Miami Hurricanes play at the University of Maryland. The scandal should have embarrassed anyone connected to the school’s program.

Yet they’ll be there, Hurricane fans, wearing their school’s colors, oblivious to anything except what transpires on the 100-yard-by-53-yard plot of ground before them.

“What you’re suggesting,” said Murray, “is that we’re more corrupt than ever and that the fans don’t care.”

Well, they do care. Care deeply. Care passionately.

Over anything else, about one thing.

Just win, baby.

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

Mind Games: Coping with NCAA Investigation

Canesport Publisher’s Note: Today we introduce a new feature to CaneSport.com and CaneSport Magazine called “Mind Games.” The column will be written each week by John Murray, a noted sports psychologist and author who has developed an index for evaluating the mental performance of players and coaches in games. We think it will provide all of us with a unique viewpoint each week as the Hurricanes navigate through a new season. In this introductory column, Murray tells us a little bit about himself and the index and comments on the Hurricanes’ mental rebound from the distractions of the Nevin Shapiro controversy.

I am quite excited to write my first column for CaneSport. Growing up in South Florida I cheered for Hurricanes football in the dreary 60s and 70s right on through the exciting mid-80s. After traveling worldwide for six years in tennis, I returned to the USA to become a clinical and sports psychologist and I’m proud to write a sports psychology column for CaneSport and hope you’ll enjoy it.

This forum will allow me the opportunity to discuss the psychology of the team, and also serve as the launching pad for new insights into the Canes football performance each week. I will be unleashing a powerful and exciting tool that I developed over the past eight years and wrote about in my recently published book “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.”

This Mental Performance Index (or “MPI” for short) captures how well a football team performs with just one standardized statistic on a scale of .000 to 1.000 (like a team batting average), and for the first time including a “mental performance” component.

So the MPI adds enormous precision and comparisons never before possible. I’ll be sharing details of this more in my second column after the Maryland game when I use the MPI to quantify how the team actually performed. For now, just realize how excited I am to be absorbing everything related to Miami Hurricanes football. I hope that offering this unique service to CaneSport readers will make you the most informed fans in the country.

Getting back to the present day, I’d like to discuss in this first column how the Hurricanes football team is coping psychologically with the dark clouds of uncertainty caused by the assault by convicted swindler and traitor Nevin Shapiro.

Shapiro obviously had an axe to grind and showed his true team colors to be hatred and chaos for a program he supposedly loved. The university is reacting appropriately and cooperating fully with the investigation. I applaud UM for this, and for holding all students and coaches accountable for their actions. The U needs to first help the NCAA bring the truth to light.

Well needed integrity and leadership have been shown in comments by President Donna Shalala and coach Al Golden, and these two experienced leaders are a huge asset to UM during this period of pain and uncertainty. While the spotlight and scrutiny on the program could lead to some understandable distractions which reduce team performance, Miami is far from going under as a result of this, and I believe this team will only emerge stronger in the long-term.

This is a new era for Hurricane football, so it is ironic that the investigation comes when it does, but it might as well run its course so that the team can once and for all deal with it and begin with a fresh approach. It appears that some Miami players and coaches may have made some mistakes, but the idea of the death penalty is absurd and feelings of guilt amongst current players over the past are inane.

Booster violations are wrong, but Nevin was a master manipulator and Miami does not hold the monopoly on transgressions despite the impressions. Other programs have flaws too, and college players ought to be paid anyway in my opinion, but the history and tremendous success of UM football and the amazing allure of South Beach makes this a perfect storm for Miami haters.

What else is new? Everyone knocks a winner. It comes with the territory.

The way in which this team is coping so far is difficult to assess without being in on every team meeting or as a fly on the wall in the locker room, but what I’ve gathered from players and coaches indicates that this team is doing as well as any team possibly could in coping. The Hurricanes have had a huge target on their backs ever since they started winning … and even when they have not been winning in recent years. To many they are an evil empire on par with the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Steelers, Manchester United or Real Madrid.

Regardless of the legacy of the U, this is a totally new start with the Golden era, and the investigation poses a greater threat to reputation of a dynasty than the current reality. Sorry. You cannot rewrite a history of greatness, and possibly paying inappropriately for yacht outings, wild parties, or an abortion offers little advantage on the gridiron. If anything it could lead to laziness and distractions. Football is a sport won in the trenches play by play through the sweat and grit, pain and dedication of warriors devoted to a cause. Say what you want about the transgressions of past players or teams, but the Hurricanes earned their titles and respect the old-fashioned way, not through trickery and mirrors.

Back to the present, I’m quite impressed with the way Al Golden appears to be managing the mess. Golden was a huge success at Temple and he is doing and saying all the right things by setting a great example for this team in encouraging them to focus on details. He is known as having extensive plans for every aspect of the team, and he seems positive and optimistic. He encourages an almost tunnel vision focus and was preaching distraction management months before Nevingate popped up its head out of the slime.

Practices have been cut-throat for the many open positions and there appears to be an intensity and teamwork approach that has only grown as a result of the US versus THEM reality. I agree with Gary Ferman’s assessment that it’s really just about the “us” rather than the “them” and players appear to understand that there is no need for worry about things they cannot control.

Time will tell if Golden is the answer to what this team needs, but the comments out of camp are so far exemplary. The investigation will yield whatever it yields, and there is nothing current players or coaches can do about it. Even more, I believe this investigation will bring the team closer together than it would have been without it!

The psychology of how a team copes with the ongoing stress and scrutiny of an NCAA investigation is an interesting reality. It probably has the potential to distract those players being investigated the most, but minimizing the carnage depends on the leadership of coaches and administrators.

What I keep hearing tells me that this team is far from devastated, and maybe even more inspired. In my work with athletes, the best competitive results rarely occur by making practices and imagery easy. Rather, encouraging an athlete or team to cope with remarkable stress is often the ticket to success.

By promoting a unified message of teamwork and by helping the team bond even more because the whole world is against them, Golden is cleverly building a stronger team. You see this in history in the way new governments often shake off the distractions of the past or overcome old enemies with a new battle cry, and the result is that the group or team comes to a new level of independence and self-reliance.

Al Golden encourages his team to “execute the process” according to an earlier CaneSport article. He is right on track, in my view as a sports psychologist, in helping his players perform at their very best. In fact, I will be assessing how well the team “executes the process” in my next column, because that is precisely what the Mental Performance Index measures.

In early 2000 when I kept telling my athletes to focus on performance and process and not on outcome or winning, I realized that I would need a way to measure how well they were doing that, and the MPI was eventually born. No matter how many players are deemed ineligible, Miami will find 11 players to line up against Maryland on both offense and defense, and I will be there analyzing every play to see how well those players on the field perform. We’ll then know if the players are really buying into Al Golden’s message.

Ideals thrown around by the UM football team include tunnel vision, focus on football, honesty, goals, leadership, discipline, optimism and teamwork. Many of these qualities were absent in recent years on the field, but this is a new season, a new start, and no matter how badly anyone wants to destroy this program, resiliency appears to be prevailing.

There is a new hope despite all the allegations and investigations, and I hope my column and the MPI ratings each week help this team to further focus on doing the right things both on and off the field.

Dr. John F. Murray, described as “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, is a South Florida native and licensed clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach. He provides mental coaching and sports psychology services, counseling, speeches and seminars. He recently authored his second book, “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” destroying stigmas about the mental game in sports and showing football teams how to perform better and win more games by enhancing team performance assessments and training. For further information call Dr. Murray at 561-596-9898, visit johnfmurray.com or email johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

For Immediate Release

Miami Hurricanes Publication Adds Sports Psychology Column for 2011 Football Season that will Highlight Team’s Physical and Mental Performance Each Week

Miami, FL – August 9, 2011 – America’s foremost authority on Miami Hurricane Sports, the 20-year-old publication known as “Canesport,” recently brought Palm Beach sports psychologist Dr. John F Murray aboard to write a weekly column on Hurricane football throughout the 2011 season. For the first time in the history of a sports column, the “mental performance” of a team will be carefully evaluated and quantified throughout a season. The column will aim to be friendly, easy to read, and uniquely informative. However, Murray also explains that he wants Canesport readers to be the smartest and most well informed football fans in the country.

Murray’s new column will be derived from his own quantitative analysis of every meaningful play in every Hurricanes game, giving readers insight that is not available elsewhere. This is the same approach that Dr. Murray used in reporting on all 45 Super Bowls in his new book, “The Mental Performance Index, Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” (World Audience, Inc., www.JohnFMurray.com). The big finding in the book is that, the new MPI statistic correlates with winning and performance in the Super Bowl more than any other traditional team performance statistic. The message for coaches and teams is to begin measuring team mental performance, and also training players in these areas to stay ahead.

This book is the culmination of eight years of research and introduces a new statistic, the MPI, that captures team performance more accurately than before possible because it includes mental performance as well. “This new column that will appear after every football game in Canesport (www.canesport.com) is both cutting edge and groundbreaking,” said Murray. “It will appeal to the diehard fan who thirsts for more information about the Canes, and it will help inform everyone in football.”

Dr. Murray, once dubbed “the Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, works with elite athletes and teams in his private practice. Tom Flores, two-time Super Bowl winning head coach of the Oakland and LA Raiders, writes in the foreword: “Dr. Murray’s Mental Performance Index can be and will be the next part of sports evolution in the 21st Century.”

Pro football hall of fame sportscaster Lesley Visser also supports the MPI, and Visser writes the epilogue on the genius of Bill Walsh. Don Shula also provided a quote for the book from his coaching days.

For Further Information or interviews:

John F Murray, PhD
Telephone: 561-596-9898
Web: http://www.JohnFMurray.com

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Dimension XI: How NFL Films Helped “The Mental Performance Index”

When I wrote “The Mental Performance Index” I thought about which were the most influential media outlets covering football and the NFL. Naturally NFL Films and all their great work came to mind.

In fact, NFL Films and Steve Sabol’s show “NFL Films Present” had come to my office a year before and featured me in an episode on “Love, Hate & Grief in the NFL” that aired 7 times on the NFL Network and ESPN2 in November of 2009. As a kid, I also used to enjoy their programming when Ed Sabol was at the helm, and the show only had gotten better with Steve Sabol, his son, in charge as President of NFL Films.

Since they had been in my office not too many months before the book was to be released, I contacted Steve Sabol and he graciously agreed to provide me the following quote for the book cover:

“This is a fascinating work of remarkable scope and scholarship. Dr. Murray has devised a valid new way to measure and predict greatness in the game of football.” STEVE SABOL, PRESIDENT, NFL FILMS

I can only assume that Mr. Sabol liked the manuscript by his very nice comments, but it probably also did not hurt that he knew me from the episode I shot for NFL Films Presents. Remember, the next time you are asked to do an interview and you agree, your actions now will possibly help you in the future!

Today I proudly display the quote from NFL Films on my new book “The Mental Performance Index.” I am so excited that an award winning production company has gotten behind my efforts and supported me on this book. Thanks Steve Sabol and the entire staff at NFL Films!

I know you will enjoy reading “The Mental Performance Index.” Thanks for your interest in Sports Psychology

Dimension X: Don Shula’s Role in “The Mental Performance Index”

When I wrote “The Mental Performance Index” I wanted the reader to know a little about how I came up with the idea of an index of perfection, or one single number that represented how well a football team had performed in a game. While I had never personally met Don Shula, his influence, as I explain in the book, was immense. As a 9 year old kid, I became a student of his comments in press conferences, radio and television, and his “perfect season” gave me the idea of measuring how closely a team had come to reaching perfection.

Fast forward to the year 2011. The book was about to be published and I had already secured a great forward writer in Tom Flores. I also considered Don Shula for this honor, but he was away on vacation and the book was due out. Flores kindly accepted before I ever heard back from Shula, and I immediately accepted his generosity. Flores is such a Super Bowl success (4-0 in the big game) and he is a fine gentleman too.

However, being in South Florida and having written so much about Don Shula and his wisdom, I still wanted to get a quote from him for the book. Through the assistance of ex-Dolphin star Jim Jensen, who had already endorsed the book, Don Shula graciously allowed me to use an actual quote taken from Jensen’s days as a player. Jensen had allowed me to borrow his Dolphins notebooks for a week, and Shula put his stamp of approval on the following for “The Mental Performance Index.”

“You’ve got to continually eliminate errors and take pride in not making mental and physical mistakes. It takes extra work, extra thoughts, and extra practice to get it all done. It just doesn’t happen on Sunday. You have to make up your minds to get it done and make up your minds to win.” DON SHULA

I am thrilled that Shula respects what am doing enough in “The Mental Performance Index” to put his own stamp of approval and name on it with a terrific quote that mirrors what I write about and tell athletes to do in my work. Why is that surprising? I learned a lot of it from Shula! Since Shula and Flores were involved in about 1/3 of all Super Bowls played, and epilogue writer Lesley Visser worked in broadcasting many more of them, we’ve about got the entire history of Super Bowls represented between my support team of Flores, Shula and Visser, not to mention the great quotes from Jim Jensen, Steve Sabol of NFL Films, placekicker Nick Lowery, coach Doug Blevins, receiver Dan Johnson and publisher Jim Martz! I could not be more thrilled with the good and highly intelligent and Super Bowl savvy people behind the new book “The Mental Performance Index” and I know you will love reading it!

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

Dimension IX: Inspiration to Become a Sports Psychologist

When I wrote “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” I wanted to make it much more than a “self-help” or “how to” book for football coaches and teams. It can serve that purpose, but it is far more than that too, and the first 100 pages or so are very much like an auto-biography in which I tell my own story.

I write about my upbringing in South Florida in the 60s and 70s, and about my exposure to greatness as a fan through the excitement of the Miami Dolphins Perfect Season in 1972 and then later as a coach and sports psychologist. Good things just kept happening all around me and I became extremely interested in learning more about what makes a team a champion.

As a tennis coach traveling all around the world from Hawaii to Florida, Germany to the Middle East, Austria to Texas, I became fascinated by how critically important the mental game was in sports, yet how few resources existed to help others in this area. It was not surprising that the book Inner Game of Tennis was a worldwide hit in 1974 … we were starving internally and have only in recent years begun to really adopt an inner approach to training and preparation for high level competition.

You will enjoy the many anecdotes in this book “The Mental Performance Index,” such as the time I coached the current King of Saudi Arabia tennis lessons in Riyadh, relied on the advice of a legless and dying man to help an NFL quarterback bounce back from his struggles, and studied the loneliness of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria during a trip to Neuschwanstein Castle to crystalize my understanding of some NFL coaches and leaders in major corporations.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down the avenue of sports psychology.