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SPORTS PSYCHOLOGISTS PROVIDE NEEDED EDGE

Special to FOXSports.com – Oct 22, 2005 – Dan Weil – As sports have turned into big business, the use of sport psychologists has mushroomed. Teams and athletes are looking for any kind of edge they can get, and experts are quick to point out that the mental game is key to athletic performance.

Roland Carlstedt, chairman of the American Board of Sports Psychology and a sport psychologist himself, estimates that up to two-thirds of professional teams have hired practitioners to help give their players a mental edge. “It’s a very glamorous field,” he noted.

John Murray, a 43-year-old psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida is one of the major psychologists in sports. He played tennis tournaments as a youngster and began his career as a teaching tennis pro after graduating from Loyola University in New Orleans.

The more he learned about tennis, the more he got excited about the mental aspects of the game. “I started to realize just how important it was to performance,” Murray said. So he went back to school at the University of Florida to earn a Master’s and PhD degree in psychology. He wrote his dissertation about a national championship Gators team during the 1990s and in ’99 opened a private practice.

Murray has counseled the Miami Dolphins, Olympic diver Michelle Davison and numerous golf and tennis players. “My philosophy is very simple,” he said. “I’m helping athletes improve their mental skills.” He breaks those skills down into eight categories, including resiliency. “How do you recover from the loss of a point, a game or a match?” Murray said. “You have to be vigilant to keep your passion and joy.”

Part of Murray’s work is helping athletes reduce distractions â€â€?”anything that gets in the way of pure performance,” as he put it. “It could be a personal issue. It could be that you’re wasting too much time in social situations or doing too much media. I help you dump some of that stuff to free up your mind and body to perform.”

While some sports psychologists are either pure sports science teachers with no training in treatment of personal problems or pure psychologists with no training in sports, Murray offers experience in both areas.

One of the techniques common to sports psychologists is getting athletes to think in terms of taking small steps rather than solving all their problems in one fell swoop. “I had an NFL quarterback who was struggling,” Murray said.

“He was taking it all on himself, not realizing he had a whole team around him. I came in and gave him a lot of work on imagery and relaxation â€â€? small steps without trying to do it all at once.” The result: “He relaxed and broke his slump after we intervened,” Murray said.

Among the imagery he had the quarterback go through was to lie on his back for five to 10 minutes visualizing situations where he dropped back to pass, faced pressure, found his primary receiver covered, checked off and completed short passes to his secondary receivers.

“Like Napoleon said, battles are won before soldiers go to the field,” Murray said. “There are a lot of things you can do.”

Pro tennis player Vince Spadea is certainly happy with what Murray did for him. After reaching his top world ranking of 19 in 1999, Spadea fell on hard times. He endured a record 21-match losing streak that lasted until mid-2000 before he decided to seek help.

A sports psychologist helped Vince Spadea reverse career free-fall that included a 21-match losing streak. (Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

Several businessmen mentioned to him that they utilized performance therapists. “And these people are looking for the best team money can buy,” Spadea said. So he realized maybe there was something to it. “I’d heard about golfers using psychologists and with tennis being similar, I just said to myself, I need to go about this more professionally.”

So he decided to consult Murray. “I had to start from the drawing board,” Spadea said. “I’d fallen to No. 250 in the world. John’s technique involved taking little steps.” During weekly sessions, Murray helped Spadea focus on an agenda of what he wanted to accomplish. They put together a plan for every day.

“I didn’t like traveling on a plane, so John taught me relaxation breathing techniques,” Spadea said. “You work your mind up so much that sometimes you don’t feel great or hit well. We started with these small remedies and got to the point where we figured out what we wanted out of each element of practice and what was my intention for a ranking. We made all of these objectives and put them on paper.”

It obviously worked because Spadea won his first ATP tournament last year and reached a career-high ranking of 18 earlier this year. But after a recent slump pushed him down to a ranking of 55, he felt he needed another jump start. So earlier this month, Spadea, with Murray’s encouragement, issued a guarantee that he will break into the top 10 next year.

“I want to get passionate in doing something I’ve never done before,” Spadea said. “I want to challenge people who don’t think it’s possible and to challenge myself.”

One of the country’s most prominent sport psychologists is Fran Pirozzolo. He worked with the New York Yankees from 1996-2002 and also consulted with boxer Evander Holyfield. Now, he is the psychologist for the Houston Texans and serves more than a dozen men and women golfers.

“I start by listening,” Pirozzolo said in an E-mail interview. “The act of listening isn’t as simple as it sounds. This is why it takes years of training to be a psychoanalyst.” After listening to his clients’ needs, Pirozzolo works with them to set up a training model. Sometimes he puts together a guided visual imagery CD to boost mental toughness. “We set goals. We communicate on the phone. I watch them play. I go to the range with them in the case of golfers, or I caddy for them.”

While Murray and Pirozzolo make a good living from their work, many sport psychologists don’t. And Carlstedt, chairman of the American Board of Sport Psychology, seeks to make the field more professional. He is developing a code of protocol for sport psychologists.

“The establishment is still not convinced about the worth of sport psychology; so it isn’t paying what it should,” Carlstedt said. “Million-dollar decisions about players are being based on rudimentary information, and teams are letting people who talk their way into the job get access to players.”

Dan Weil is a frequent FOXSports.com contributor.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

PURPLE THERAPY (PSYCHOLOGY OF MINNESOTA VIKINGS)

Pioneer Press, Grand Forks Herald – Oct 9, 2005 – Sean Jensen – MIKE TICE – The reeling Vikings sought professional help this week, recruiting consultants Jerry Rhome and Foge Fazio to help address their misfiring offense and inconsistent defense.

Because the team is on the couch today, enjoying its bye, the Pioneer Press decided it was a good time for a football intervention.

We put together a panel that includes a Hall of Fame coach, a pair of psychologists, a local sports analyst and a leadership consultant to gain insight into what ails the Purple. Our panel will use word association to dissect what prompted the Vikings’ 1-3 start and how the team can rebound to win the wacky NFC North.

Our group of therapists includes:

Marv Levy â€? NFL coach for 17 seasons. Helped the Buffalo Bills to an unprecedented four straight Super Bowl appearances (all losses) and some of the NFL’s most impressive comebacks.

Jeff Janssen � Provides leadership advice to college programs such as Arizona, North Carolina, Stanford and Duke.

Dr. Charlie Maher � Has been involved with the NFL as a sports psychologist for 15 years. Currently works with the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Dr. John F. Murray � A sports performance psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla.

Greg Cylkowski � The St. Paul native is a sports analyst for Athletic Achievements based in Little Canada.

Now, let our session begin Levy said the difference between NFL clubs is minute, which is why he
empathizes with Tice.

“Every coach has been in that situation,” Levy said of the Vikings’ disappointing start. “Honestly, there were times in Buffalo where we went on a bad stretch, and fans wonder, ‘Is he over the hill? Has the game passed him by?’ Then you win a couple, and everyone forgets and it’s wonderful again.”

Levy said the solution is simple.

“Just persist. Don’t start shaking up the Coca-Cola bottle,” he said. “Then, you really are going to foul things up.”

Levy offered a template for turning the team around: Mourn. Own up to mistakes. Recognize the good. Make a plan. Then go to work.

Levy said finger pointing can’t occur and that the head coach should privately meet with any players or coaches who are problematic.

During rough stretches, Levy said he and his assistant coaches would identify “one thing” that he wanted the players to hone in on.

“Identify one factor that really impacts the outcome, and convince them that’s true, and really go after that,” Levy said. “Then when you first succeed in that area, drive home the point.”

Janssen said Tice made a poor decision, albeit an understandable one, when he told the players during a meeting Monday that he contemplated resigning hours after a 30-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

“Where he might have been coming from is, leaders have to be human too and admit that they’re frustrated,” Janssen said. “But they have to be careful how they show that to the rest of the team because the players take their cues from their leader.”

Cylkowski said this year’s team was doomed to fail because a championship drive cannot be orchestrated by a coach “who is on the job training.”

“He’s breaking all the leadership rules,” Cylkowski said. “The holes in the dam are coming apart. When guys don’t buy into what you’re doing, that’s the first step to failure.”

Murray said Tice must convince his players and coaches not to get ahead of themselves and sell them on the team’s direction.

“Having one voice, which comes from the head coach, is essential to establishing the mindset of the team,” Murray said. “It’s like a company. What are you as a company? What do you represent?”

MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Levy said the NFL has an equitable scheduling system in place.

“You play eight games at home and eight on the road, just like every other team,” Levy said. “If you lose eight and win eight, you’re not going anywhere. Part of the fun is overcoming the odds.”

That’s not the attitude the Vikings embrace when they leave the Twin Cities.

Under Tice, they are a woeful 8-18 away from the Metrodome.

Levy said the discomfort and the inconveniences of traveling are disconcerting, and the noise at opposing stadiums lessens the visiting team’s chances of winning.

“Nevertheless, if you’re going to be a champion, you’d better win on the road,” Levy said.

In Levy’s first season with the Bills, the team’s road losing streak grew to 22 games. Before the team’s first road game that year, Levy told his players a story about World War II.

” ‘You know why Hitler lost the war?’ ” Levy asked his players. ” ‘He couldn’t win on the road.’ ”

Cylkowski said the Vikings’ issues are mental.

“It’s their belief system,” Cylkowski said. “They do not struggle at Lambeau, because they really believe they can win there. The rest of the time, you never hear that (same confidence).

“You’ve got to enjoy being there (on the road),” Cylkowski said. “You’ve got to want to be in that situation and be prepared to be in that situation. When I see them at Lambeau, they have that type of mentality. You don’t hear them talk that way heading into any other stadium.”

This season’s Vikings have been road worriers. They have compounded errors with more errors after falling behind quickly in Cincinnati and Atlanta.

In Buffalo, Levy coached some of the greatest comebacks, although two of them were at Rich Stadium. But the Bills also pulled out an overtime victory in Miami after falling behind 21-0.

“First of all, you’re not going to do it often,” Levy said, “but it can be done. It has been done. You take some risks, and you have to have players of character who make plays.”

Cylkowski said the Vikings, present and past, lack playmakers.

“The team has been plagued with a lot of great athletes and a lot of wins but no championships because we haven’t had a go-to player or a real championship performer,” Cylkowski said. “We haven’t had those clutch guys.”

Cylkowski said former receiver Randy Moss is emblematic of the Vikings, failing to step up in the key games.

“Against Chicago (on Dec. 14, 2003), he makes a little fade catch in the end zone, and we make the playoffs,” Cylkowski said of Moss, who failed to make the catch. “That play epitomizes his career. In a situation where he has to make a catch, he didn’t.”

In addition to players, though, Maher said the head coaches must instill confidence throughout the team to overcome deficits in games and funks during a season.

“That comes from the top on down,” said Maher, who has worked with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. “Take it play to play, series to series, game to game. The players have to believe in that. The only way they believe in that is if they believe in the coach.”

DAUNTE CULPEPPER

Last season, Culpepper was an NFL most valuable player candidate with 39 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Through four games this season, Culpepper is one interception short of last year’s total, with just four TD passes. He is the 29th-rated passer in the NFL heading into today’s games.

Before next Sunday’s game in Chicago, Maher suggested the coaching staff have Culpepper watch game tape of his dominant play last season.

“It’s always important to get the player back to the time he was doing well, to recapture that feeling,” Maher said.

Added Janssen, “Let him know that the same talented player is still inside.”

Then, Maher said, the coaches must stress to Culpepper the importance of focusing on the process rather than the outcome. In other words, Culpepper cannot press when the Vikings fall behind or the offense makes a mistake.

Levy downplayed Culpepper’s struggles, noting the quarterback played well against the New Orleans Saints.

“No one is just going to be just absolutely dominant all the time,” Levy said. “The competition is too good. There are going to be some bad days. But you have to fight through the discouragement that comes.”

When one of his key players was struggling, Levy said he would watch film with him and review pros and cons.

“Teaching rather than ranting,” Levy said.

Cylkowski, though, is not convinced Culpepper will ever lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl.

“The minute you get him into a tight situation, he folds like an accordion,” Cylkowski said. “He will not be the reason the Vikings go to the Super Bowl. He’ll be a complementing reason a team goes to the Super Bowl.”

Cylkowski pointed out that Culpepper has only led the Vikings to nine fourth-quarter comebacks in his five NFL seasons. Although he’s played 11 fewer games, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has led his team to 18 fourth-quarter comebacks.

“Is Daunte a great human being? Is he a great athlete? Yes,” Cylkowski said.

“But where does he show that he’s a bona fide leader? Where is the example that he’s a bona fide playmaker? It’s not there. Daunte has all the tools. But I like Tom Brady because he’s a proven commodity.”

With 12 games remaining, Levy said the Vikings have plenty of time and opportunities to bounce back this season. But he offered another thought if more adversity comes their way.

“When you’re going through hell, keep on going,” Levy said. “Don’t wither up, and don’t lie in the fetal position.”

Time to get off the couch.

Sean Jensen covers the Vikings and the NFL. He can be reached at sjensen@pioneerpress.com.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

MEASURING NFL FOOTBALL GAMES MORE ACCURATELY

Oct 7, 2005 – Bloomberg Radio, CNN Radio (derived from 2003, 2004, and 2005 on-air interviews of John F. Murray by Bob Goldsholl, host of Bloomberg on the Ball, and others) – The Mental Performance Index or “MPI” is the first ever measure of mental performance used in sport, in this case American Football.

The index was developed by Dr. John F. Murray, a licensed clinical and sport performance psychologist in 2002 to demonstrate the importance of mental factors in football such as “pressure management,” “focused execution,” and “reduction of mental errors.”

In three major public tests of the accuracy of the MPI on radio and television stations worldwide, the MPI has accurately estimated the performance of the teams in the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXXVII 2003, Super Bowl XXXVIII 2004, and Super Bowl XXXIX 2005), beating the spread each time, going counter to public opinion, and correctly estimating the ultimate course of the games.

In 2003 the Oakland Raiders were favored to win easily over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The MPI showed that Tampa Bay, by contrast, was much better.

In 2004 and 2005, the MPI analysis showed the teams to be relatively equal with a very close contest even though the New England Patriots were predicted to win by at least 7 points in each game.

The 2004 game was tied with 4 seconds remaining (3 point New England win) and the 2005 game was the first game in Super Bowl history to be tied entering the final quarter of play. New England won by 3.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

FANS FINALLY GET A FIX OF THEIR NHL HOCKEY

National Post of Canada – Oct 6, 2005 – Mark Spector – EDMONTON – The National Hockey League’s lockout lasted 301 days, with the two factions finally settling in July. As such, last night’s games marked the most anticipated slate on Opening Night since players with names like Newsy, Hap and Punch wore striped sleeves and handlebar moustaches.

In Canada, at least, the curtain raising for the 2005-06 season made more noise coming down the tracks than the time CP Rail showed up in the west. Yesterday morning at Rexall Place in Edmonton, there was the staff during the morning skate, scurrying about the building like army ants. Entire walls were prepped and waiting to be painted. Back-lit advertising signs were being assembled and ratcheted on to walls. Scissor lifts were drowning out media scrums with their “Beep! Beep Beep!” as they were being backed up right outside the Oilers dressing room.

It was like walking in the door at 5 p.m. on Christmas Day and having your hostess lean over to her husband and say, “Honey? Can you run down and get the turkey out of the freezer?”

“Didn’t have enough time to get it done?” laughed retired goalie Bill Ranford sarcastically, well out of earshot of one of the painters. Ranford was scheduled to work as an analyst on the Colorado-Edmonton game last night and was expecting to do a decent job of it. Though he had never actually done a real, live, televised NHL game before being pressed into service with TSN’s talent wearing thin yesterday, as they televised four games on opening night.

But if the building manager clearly wasn’t prepared for the big night, and the colourman was only quasi-ready, then they fit perfectly with a league that put out the welcome mat last night on 15 fronts without a clue to what was going to happen next.

Small players hoping that the new rules would help them prosper; big players hoping those same rules wouldn’t drive them out of the game; coaches and general managers praying that they had properly read the tea leaves, and stocked their lineups with kind of player who will succeed in The New NHL; officials praying they will be given time to deliver on all of the promises this time around, before coaches and managers bullied them back into the Andy VanHellemond era.

And above all the concern, a handful of U.S. markets were praying for a healthy walk-up crowd, knowing that whatever opening night brought, the next 10 home games would deliver about 20% less — if they were lucky.

“I don’t think you’ll see such dramatic changes,” Hamilton native Steve Staios said of The New NHL. “There will be some advantages for guys, and some disadvantages for others. Not being a 225-pound defenceman, I think that’s going to be an advantage for me personally.”

Out in the hallway, Staios’s coach was standing amid the construction, levelling off optimism against a realistic view.

“It will be a work in progress,” Craig MacTavish said. “We like to think, as everybody would at this stage, that we’re progressing and we have our teams prepared. But there will be things that crop up. Every coach is saying we don’t want to struggle with the learning curve early on. But some will.”

Because as we know, the more things the NHL tries to change, the more things have tended to stay the same. Not unlike the media, for that matter.

The first glove had not dropped on the 2005-06 season when the first anti-fighting rant moved on the Bloomberg News wire, courtesy of one Scott Soshnick. “Fighting in hockey is idiotic,” said Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach, Fla., sports psychologist whose clients range from football and tennis players to golfers. “Hockey is playing with the dinosaurs if they continue endorsing fist fights and responding with mere slaps on the wrists.”

The average Canadian may have trouble sticking with the piece however, past the point where the author felt a need to qualify a mention of Slap Shot as a movie “which centres on a minor-league hockey team.”

No kidding? Might have to rent that one.

Finally, our author pondered of the Bros. Hansen: “Exaggeration? Or is it art imitating life?”

Thank God hockey is back, so that people in hotbeds like Palm Beach, Fla., can air views intended for the consumption of others who also could not care less about the game.

Take solace, America. Many of you who seem bothered by seeing a couple Canadians bash each others heads in as you channel surf between college basketball games this winter will be spared by the fact that 26 million fewer homes in the United States were able to watch last night’s openers than two years ago, when ESPN and ESPN2 were league partners.

After ESPN dropped the NHL the Outdoor Life Network came forward, wedging the NHL into a spot in their schedule between fishing and hunting. That downgrade marks a trend that can not be swept under the red carpet even on opening night.

Back in 1993-94, Walt Disney Corp. and Wayne Huizenga’s Blockbuster Videos bought into the NHL, bringing a large dose of legitimacy to the league as owners in Anaheim and Florida respectively. A decade later, Disney having has cut its losses, and Huizenga has brought in a slew of partners to lighten his load. In St. Louis, Wal-Mart heir Bill Laurie can’t wait for the new economy to take effect — he has the Blues on the block.

They have all learned, in sunny climes in the U.S. South, the Southwest and even the Midwest, what actor and comedian Chris Rock explained to Sports illustrated last month:

“Hockey is like heroin,” Rock said. “Only drug addicts do heroin. It’s not like a recreational drug … Hockey is kind of the same way. Only hockey fans watch hockey.”

There will be plenty of talk in the coming weeks if there are enough in places like Anaheim and Florida and Carolina, and if the ones that were there two years ago have made their way back.

But we were spared all of that for a few, precious hours last night, as our game fired up again after its blackest era. As if we weren’t going to be watching.

We’re Canadian. What else were we going to be doing?
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

FIGHTING IN HOCKEY IDIOTIC

Bloomberg Wire Service – Oct 5, 2005 – Scott Soshnick – Hockey Missed Chance to End Fighting – National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, whose league hits the ice tonight after a labor dispute wiped out last season, contends that fighting is a necessary part of his sport. Absolutely, positively gotta have it, he says.

The commissioner’s rationale goes something like this: With stick-wielding players skating — and hitting — at 30 mph, beating the bejesus out of each other provides a cathartic release that’s impossible to achieve with a body check. Translation: The Neanderthal players can’t control the impulse to trade haymakers.

“In the heat of the moment things happen,” Bettman says.

Hogwash! Players fight because no one says they can’t.

Fighters receive a five-minute penalty, the sporting equivalent of a time out for a misbehaving kindergartener. The other leagues, by comparison, eject, suspend and fine players for throwing punches.

National Football League officials are so intent on maintaining order that two players were ejected from a recent Atlanta Falcons-Philadelphia Eagles game for their overzealous pushing and shoving before the game even started. According to Bettman, football players rarely fight because the game is played in short spurts, affording them time to regain their composure before the next play.

`Playing With the Dinosaurs’

“Fighting in hockey is idiotic,” says Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach, Florida, sports psychologist who has worked with a host of athletes, including football and tennis players as well as golfers. “Hockey is playing with the dinosaurs if they continue endorsing fistfights and responding with mere slaps on the wrists.”

The NHL’s stance on fighting is so comical that it’s fodder for one-liners. Did you hear the one about the guys who went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out? In the 1977 movie “Slap Shot,” which centers on a minor-league hockey team, the brawl-happy Hanson brothers wrap their knuckles with tin foil in order to inflict more damage. Exaggeration or is it art imitating life? Back then, after all, the Philadelphia Flyers were dubbed the Broad Street Bullies. The only thing enforcer Dave “The Hammer” Schultz lacked more than finesse was teeth.

Steve Moore isn’t laughing.

Moore played for the Colorado Avalanche until he was sucker-punched by Vancouver Canucks All-Star Todd Bertuzzi last year. Moore is recovering from a broken neck. He may never play again.

There’s a Connection

Bertuzzi is at least the eighth NHL player charged by police with assault in an on-ice incident. Who would argue against a correlation between those kinds of attacks and the league’s laissez-faire attitude toward fisticuffs?

“It’s an indictment of how pervasive the attitude is that welcomes this violence,” said Tim Danson, Moore’s attorney and a season-ticket holder with the Toronto Maple Leafs. “I’m convinced that the NHL has used violence to disguise poor hockey.”

There’s an adage in the television business that says, when desperate, achieve higher ratings by showing a living creature being eaten or eating something else. Think Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. That’s fighting in the NHL.

As for the on-ice product, the NHL during the lockout adopted a series of rules changes aimed at making the game more aesthetically pleasing. The alterations are meant to favor skilled players over goons, for example, by allowing a pass from the defensive zone to cross two lines on the rink. If the NHL can change this old rule, why not banish fighting? There was a time when players didn’t have to wear helmets, either. Things change.

No Statistics

Even without legislation, fighting is on the decline, Bettman says. We’ll have to take his word for it because Benny Ercolani, the league’s chief statistician, said he didn’t have the numbers to back up his boss’s assertion.

NHL does have its limits. The league yesterday handed New York Rangers defenseman Dale Purinton a 10-games suspension for gouging an opponent’s eye. The league cited Purinton’s record — he’d been suspended three previous times for deliberate attempts to injure — for the severity of the punishment.

In terms of TV success, the NHL not only lags major sports like football, basketball, baseball and Nascar auto racing, but golf and tennis, too. Hockey’s television ratings are akin to niche sports like the Arena Football League.

The NHL won’t outlaw fighting because a segment of its fans tune in or show up solely to whoop it up over bloody noses and black eyes. Some auto-racing fans like multicar pileups, but Nascar doesn’t allow drivers to intentionally cause wrecks.

The NHL panders to its violence-addicted fans with its new TV advertising campaign, which begins with a quote from “The Art of War” by Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu. The 30-second promo depicts an athlete preparing not for a game but a life-or-death battle.

Martha Burk, the former chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, blasted the league for selling violence in a society already awash with it.

Pleading Guilty

“By no means do we want to be a bad example,” says Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis, the league’s point- scoring leader in 2003-04.

Tell that to Bertuzzi, who pleaded guilty to assault in exchange for staying out of jail. Tell that to Electronic Arts Inc., which allows kids armed with joysticks to simulate NHL fights. Most importantly, tell that to Bettman. If he won’t listen, start a fight. Don’t worry about the punishment. The commissioner knows better than anyone that hockey players can’t control their emotions.
sports, john f murray

SMART TENNIS BOOK RECEIVES TOP RATING

Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game – Oct 4, 2005 – John F. Murray – ISBN 0787943800 – Reviewed by David Williams – Have you ever had a form slump on the tennis court? Did you wonder why you had seemingly forgotten how to hit the ball properly – apparently lost all that hard earned skill overnight?

Well, John Murray’s Smart Tennis may provide the answer. It’s likely that your sudden loss of form has more to do with your mind than your body. His book assists in determining your mental strengths and weaknesses and provides practical remedies for ailments like a loss of confidence, poor concentration, anger, nervousness and a general fear of losing. He also provides ways of harnessing appropriate amounts of energy, and improving performance by having well developed breathing techniques.

All sounding a bit hard? A bit too serious? Well, it’s not really. Smart Tennis presents simple descriptions of on-court and off-court problems, and practical tips that are equally relevant for the weekend player as the professional.

In saying that, the book is not a quick and breezy read. Keen tennis players are likely to find themselves constantly drifting off, thinking about the specifics of their tennis game and how the book applies to them. But that’s the idea isn’t it?

If you have spent countless hours trying to hone that backhand volley or a less than consistent second serve, perhaps it’s worthwhile considering that tennis is a game that is thought to be 75% mental. And if you think that your game could be improved by devoting a little more time to the mental aspects, then Smart Tennis is the book for you!

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

Rating: Highest – 4 Stars

TOP 10 OR BUST: BOCA’S SPADEA VOWS TO GO OUT WITH BANG

Miami Herald, San Jose Mercury News – Sep 29, 2005 – Michelle Kaufman – OK, so he’s not Joe Namath, and his bold guarantee is not making national headlines, but Vince Spadea’s public vow to rise from No. 56 to the top 10 is making some ripples in the insular world of tennis.

Spadea, the 31-year-old Boca Raton resident, on Sept. 19 signed a contract with his sports psychologist, John Murray, that ”guarantees” he will reach the top 10 — barring injuries — for the first time in his career. He sent out a press release, complete with photos of his contract.

”I’m sticking my head out there,” Spadea said by phone. “I like to say what I think, and I really believe this is within reason. I know there are skeptics out there who think I’m out of my mind, who think I’m being obnoxious and arrogant, and just using this as a publicity stunt. But I’ve always liked being the underdog and proving people wrong. That’s how I’ve made it this far even though I’m 5-10 ½ with no huge weapons.”

This is, after all, the guy who made one of the greatest comebacks in recent tennis history, soaring to No. 18 from No. 229 early last year and winning the first title of his career at Scottsdale.

”I’m in the last quarter of my career, and I want to go out with a bang,” Spadea said. “I want to make my last effort my greatest effort. I’ve beaten virtually every top 10 player in recent years, and shown small signs of greatness, but I need to commit every cell in my body to this and, hopefully, find another gear that I’ve never found before.”

Spadea said he doesn’t care how long he stays in the top 10. The point, he said, is to get there.

Spadea is 19-21 this year and has been hampered by injuries. He said he will train harder than ever now, and take tennis more seriously.

”This will help inspire me,” Spadea said. “I know it’s in me. I see other guys who have risen to the top 10 who haven’t won majors — [ Nikolay] Davydenko, [ Guillermo] Canas, [ Richard] Gasquet. I know on paper it’s improbable, but it’s not impossible. I’m jumping on this fast and furious. My career window is nearly closed, and I don’t want to end it knowing I didn’t give it everything.”

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

SPADEA’S GUARANTEE IN TENNIS CELEBS

Tennis Celebs – Sept 23, 2005 – Pro Tennis Player Vince Spadea Guarantees Top 10 Ranking with Help from Sport Psychologist – Vince Spadea promises that the best is still to come. This is a promise from a player best known for his determination as a tenacious scrambler on the court. To prove his new commitment, Vince recently began working again with his sport performance psychologist. He now guarantees that mental coaching will help him achieve his highest career ranking ever, top 10 in the world.

Spadea, rarely a stranger to adversity, recovered from the longest losing streak ever (21 straight) before winning his first ATP Tour title in Scottsdale last year. He beat James Blake and Andy Roddick en route to victory. In his comeback, Spadea rose from 229 to a career-best 18 in the world.

Injuries and adversity returned this year as Spadea dropped to 49 this week even after reaching the finals in Newport, RI a couple months ago.

“Rather than get discouraged or depressed, it’s a gift that I’m as high as 50 compared to where I was when I began the previous comeback,” Spadea declared.

“My rise will again be accomplished with help from my sport performance psychologist, John F. Murray, who formerly helped me back from my longest losing streak.”

Spadea got the idea of daring to make a public guarantee after thinking about great accomplishments and history. “Joe Namath guaranteed a Super Bowl victory when no-one believed in him; the 1980 USA Hockey Team truly believed; nobody thought David would slay Goliath. Even my performance psychologist stuck his neck on the line and lost 64 pounds after he made a public guarantee.”

Spadea claims that his public guarantee will help strengthen his resolve and commitment. “Comebacks are never easy, but they are a part of sports, and I’m quite ready and excited about this new challenge. I will achieve Top 10 in the world. I guarantee it!”

Spadea was known as the “giant-killer” a few years back after compiling the best record in the world against top-10 ranked players. He has beaten many legends of the game including Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. His backhand is regarded as one of the best in the game.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

DIVA RECEIVERS FLOURISH IN NFL

Palm Beach Post – Sep 21, 2005 – Hal Habib – Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman entered the Dallas Cowboys’ Ring of Honor on Monday night, rekindling memories of glory days for the big, blue star.

Honor and glory aren’t what you would associate with what happened five years ago, when Smith rang up Irvin, his former teammate, seeking moral support, if not to give Irvin an earful about his receiving brethren.

One day earlier, then-San Francisco receiver Terrell Owens had Smith and all of Texas Stadium aghast by dancing all over the Cowboys’ star at midfield. Certainly, we have better perspective now. We expect more ingenuity Sunday when Owens and the Eagles face Randy Moss and the Raiders in Philadelphia. But in 2000, trampling all over a star qualified as hot stuff for wide receivers.

“What about… ?” was as far as Smith got before Irvin cut him off at the pass.

“If you had a problem with what he did, why didn’t you win the game, and it would have fixed all that?” Irvin barked. “Then it would have made him look like a fool. So don’t come calling me because he stepped on your star. You should have stepped on his head after he stepped on your star. It was early in the game. You guys went on and let them beat you anyway.

“Shut up. Goodbye. Get off the phone, man.”

Today, Irvin, the former University of Miami star and current ESPN analyst, slips into a droopy, wistful tone â€â€? if you can imagine thatâ€? as he recounts Smith’s reaction:

“Yeah…. I guess you’re right.”

Didn’t Smith know whom he was calling?

“I am the original,” Irvin says. “Those are my disciples.”

The original what?

“The original diva.”

For sheer entertainment value, you have to give props to today’s wide receivers. They’ll also be happy to supply their own. Sharpies, cellphones and Pepto-Bismol have become essential accessories for the men whose ability to grab footballs is matched only by their ability to grab headlines.

With Diva Bowl I around the corner, Irvin, the former first down-signaling, fur coat-wearing “Playmaker,” figures he deserves credit and blame for what receivers have become.

“I get phone calls from receivers in the league now, the guys who we would call divas: ‘Hey, man, we’re just trying to continue this thing you started,’ ” Irvin says. “I’m saying, ‘Ooooh, don’t take it too far.’ ”

Now what would make Irvin think these wide guys would do that?

The player who once asked teammates to cut him slack in practice because he just had his nipple pierced? That would be David Boston, now of the Dolphins but then with Arizona. A receiver.

The player who quit football the night before a game, immediately was cut, but still figured he could show up for work the following Monday? Eddie Kennison. Denver. Receiver.

The player who dropped a touchdown pass, then reportedly pouted when his quarterback threw a TD pass on the next play to someone else? Moss.

At the height of Owens’ contract squabble with the Eagles this off-season, Moss, of all people, was asked if T.O. (Owens) needed a T.O. (timeout).

“Who am I to tell him anything?” Moss said. “I’m Mr. Distraction myself.”

Sheesh. A distraction, and a diva.

“Man, that’s a damn women’s term,” says former Dolphins receiver Mark Clayton.” I don’t know who came up with bull like that.”

Clayton has a point. Webster’s defines a diva as, a leading woman singer, esp. in grand opera.” How about “flamboyant”?

“They’re all competitors,” Clayton says. “Them complaining about not getting enough balls or wanting to catch ballsâ€? that makes them divas?”

Them writing books about iâ€? Keyshawn Johnson’s Just Give Me the Damn Ball!â€? that doesn’t make them divas?

“I don’t know anything about the diva thing,” Dolphins receiver Marty Booker says. “To play receiver in this league, sometimes you have to be demanding and selfish.”

Across the room, Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers is asked about all those times he wanted to pull a Sharpie out of his sock to autograph a touchdown ball, like Owens.

“Never,” Chambers says. “Never, never, never, never. I wouldn’t even think to do anything like that. I wouldn’t even want that much attention. It’s unnecessary and sometimes it can backfire on you. I just feel like being a professional.”

Chris Chambers: good receiver, lousy diva. Right?

“You know what’s so crazy about it?” Chambers says. “In high school, I played basketball and I was a trash-talker. Basketball is such a one-on-one sport and if I know I’ve got the ability to beat the guy, I can talk trash.”

Chambers says he doesn’t lack confidence in football, just opportunities like Owens and the Bengals’ Chad Johnson, who see enough passes to stack up 1,000-yard seasons.

“I think once I’m at that level, I don’t know how I’ll be acting,” Chambers says.

Johnson also is the guy who sent cornerbacks Pepto-Bismol to cure the nausea he planned to inflict on them.

“My mom loves Chad Johnson,” Chambers says.

Chris Chambers: diva-in-training?

“I haven’t heard that term, but it’s definitely the position to be,” Chambers says of receiving, not diva-ing. “You go back to when you’re growing up, man. Everybody wanted to be a receiver. Everybody wanted to score touchdowns.”

John Murray, a Palm Beach sports psychologist, says Chambers has latched onto something.

“He’s the big playmaker,” Murray says of a star receiver. “He’s the guy who has to make it happen, and he’s got to get the attention of the quarterback. He’s got to be fearless because people are trying to take his head off going over the middle. They have to be agile yet durable and certainly expressive in a very showmanlike way.”

Irvin, whose 12-year career was shortened by a neck injury, knows about risks and rewards. If a lineman misses a block, Irvin says, it could go unnoticed.

“If you drop that ball out there, everybody knows: ‘Man, Michael blew the game,’ ” Irvin says. “Jackie Smith. Tight end. Dropped the ball. That’s the only thing I know of him, because he had it right here in his hands. Now, you make the play… The Catch. Everybody remembers it.”

It’s what separates Cowboys tight end Jackie Smith, who dropped a touchdown pass in a loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIII but otherwise had a Hall of Fame career, and 49ers receiver Dwight Clark, whose last-minute TD beat Dallas in the 1982 NFC championship game.

Clayton caught 79 touchdown passes from Dan Marino, yet says he never felt more pressure than when Marino threw one encore ball to him to end his Hall of Fame induction speech last month. Still, Clayton celebrated that catch with a few simple high-fives.

“These cats now, these are a different breed of receiver than we were,” Clayton says. “They’re way more flamboyant … I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.”

Jets coach Herm Edwards, a former defensive back, wonders if perception has changed more than receivers.

“You go back to the days I played in the late ’70s and early ’80s, you had guys like that, but the TV coverage wasn’t so immense,” Edwards says.

Perception plays a role. Joe Horn’s image was as the showboat who pulled a hidden cellphone from a goalpost, but that might be changing as he poignantly speaks of the Saints trying to give fans “some kind of hope” after Hurricane Katrina.

Even Owens has a flip side. He’s auctioning his NFC championship ring from last season on eBay to raise money for Katrina victims.

Isn’t this what divas do, keep you guessing? Maybe it just takes a diva to know a diva.

“Everybody’s got a little bit of diva deep down inside,” diva Kristen Bentley says. “We all want to be that star.”

Bentley is president of Chrome Divas Inc., a 1,000-member group of motorcycle-riding women (although by day she’s a 32-year-old court reporter in Tallahassee).

Bentley says Owens chalks up diva points for the Sharpie, but what clinches his position as leader of the pack is the “Chocolate Room,” his chocolate-colored VIP lounge that requires an electronic pass code for entry.

The Chocolate Room is in his house in Atlanta. Owens is single.

“I wonder what kind of chocolate he has in there,” Bentley says. “If he has Godiva chocolate, now, he’s a diva.”

If it’s Russell Stover?

“You don’t need an entry code for that,” Bentley says.

Former All-Pro receiver Cris Collinsworth welcomes women into this equation. Collinsworth cringes at the soap opera between Owens and his quarterback, Donovan McNabb.

“Probably more than anything else, he needs a wife, honestly,” Collinsworth said last week on HBO’s Costas Now. “If he had a wife, the minute he takes after Donovan McNabb, his wife would have said, ‘What are you doing? Pick up the telephone and call him and apologize. You’re so out of line.’ ”

To which fellow panelist Tim Russert said, “Of course, if he had a wife he would say, ‘Honey, you’re lucky to have me.’ ”

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

SPADEA ISSUES TOP 10 GUARANTEE

Tennis Week – Sep 20, 2005 – Vince Spadea has a message for Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Marat Safin and other members of the top 10 â€? make room for me. The 49th-ranked Spadea has guaranteed he will attain his highest career ranking ever ” top 10 in the world. Click for Photo of Vince Spadea and John Murray as Vince Makes the Guarantee in Boca Raton September 15

The 31-year-old Spadea, who has registered a 19-21 record on the season, recently began working again with his sport performance psychologist. He now guarantees that mental coaching will help him achieve his highest career ranking ever, top 10 in the world.

“Comebacks are never easy, but they are a part of sports, and Im quite ready and excited about this new challenge,” said Spadea, who owns career wins over Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. “I will return to my highest ranking ever. I guarantee it!”

Spadea, rarely a stranger to adversity, recovered from the longest losing streak in ATP Tour history, suffering 21 straight losses before resurrecting his career. Spadea claimed his first ATP Tour title in Scottsdale last year. He beat James Blake and Andy Roddick en route to victory. In his comeback, Spadea rose from No. 229 to a career-best No. 18 in the world.

Injuries and adversity returned this year as Spadea dropped to 49 this week even after reaching the final in Newport in July.

“Rather than get discouraged or depressed, its a gift that Im as high as 50 compared to where I was when I began the previous comeback,” Spadea declared. “My rise will again be accomplished with help from my sport performance psychologist, John F. Murray, who formerly helped me back from my longest losing streak.”

Spadea got the idea of daring to make a public guarantee after thinking about great accomplishments and history.

“Joe Namath guaranteed a Super Bowl victory when no-one believed in him; the 1980 USA Hockey Team truly believed; nobody thought David would slay Goliath,” Spadea said. “Even my performance psychologist stuck his neck on the line and lost 64 pounds after he made a public guarantee.”

Spadea claims that his public guarantee will help strengthen his resolve and commitment.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.