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SPADEA STOPS LJUBICIC IN LYON

Tennis Week -Oct 26, 2005 – Last month, Vince Spadea boldly guaranteed he will crack the top 10 and reach his highest career ranking in the coming year. Today, the 66th-ranked Spadea commenced his climb back up the rankings with one of his biggest wins of the season. Spadea defeated fourth-seeded Ivan Ljubicic, 7-6, 7-5, to advance to the second round of the Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon.

Drained by his grueling duel with second-ranked Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s Madrid final in which the top-seeded Spaniard rallied from a two-set deficit to earn a 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) triumph that spanned three hours, 51 minutes, Ljubicic was understandably weary playing his 16th match in the last 22 days.

The 11th-ranked Croatian, who captured consecutive championships in Metz and Vienna prior to reaching the Madrid final, had won 16 of his last 17 matches (including two Davis Cup singles victories in Croatia’s semifinal conquest of Russia) but encountered a stubborn Spadea who stood up to Ljubicic’s power-based baseline game and put returns back in play.

“I haven’t had enough time to recover from my week in Madrid. I lacked energy,” Ljubicic said. “I gave everything I had but it was not enough. I was not very optimistic after the draw here. I knew that Spadea was one of the few players on the circuit capable of returning my serves well. He confirmed it today.”

Since falling to Greg Rusedski in the Newport final in July, Spadea stumbled to 3-9 record and exited in the opening round in six of his last nine tournaments. But the strong-willed Spadea took the court carrying the confidence of a man who had won two of his three career meetings with Ljubicic, including a 6-4, 7-6 victory in the 2004 Lyon round of 16 en route to the tournament semifinals. Ljubicic’s lethal one-handed backhand is his best ground stroke, but Spadea used his two-handed backhand to repeatedly repel Ljubicic in the cross court backhand exchanges.

The 31-year-old Spadea will face French wild card Michael Llodra for a place in the quarterfinals. Llodra was a 7-6, 6-3 victor over Xavier Malisse. Spadea has won two of three matches with Llodra, but the left-handed Llodra won their last meeting in the 2004 Adelaide quarterfinals.

Spadea, top-seeded Andy Roddick and eighth-seeded Robby Ginepri are the lone Americans left in the Lyon draw.

In other opening-round results: France’s Fabrice Santoro defeated American Taylor Dent, 6-3, 7-5.

Spadea, who recently completed a book with Tennis Week contributing writer Dan Markowitz that is a behind-the-scenes look at life on the ATP Tour, told Tennis Week last month he will reach his highest career ranking in 2006.

“Comebacks are never easy, but they are a part of sports, and I’m quite ready and excited about this new challenge,” said Spadea, who has resumed working with sport psychologist Dr. John Murray in an effort to aid his comeback. “I will return to my highest ranking ever. I guarantee it!”

Related Story: Spadea Issues Top 10 Guarantee

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

NY YANKEES SUPPORT SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY

Jun 12, 2005 – The NY Yankees have sent a brief supportive letter in favor of Dr. John F. Murray’s mission to tear down the stigma associated with sport psychology and mental health.

Thanks Yankees! Growing up, I was an avid Yankees fan in the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida area in the 1970s where they held Spring Training.

Alex Rodriguez, George Steinbrenner, and the NY Yankees organization should be commended for their support of sport psychology!

A-Rod is the best baseball player in history and the Yankees are the most successful sports franchise ever. It’s interesting how the best usually speak up first on important issues of needed change!

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

ON FITNESS: TUNED IN

Seattle Times – Oct 22, 2006 – Richard Seven – Missy Boone listens to music on her iPod during her running workouts. Studies suggest that listening to music while exercising improves the results.

Dance with a Box: Tricia Gomez, designs and markets “Hip Hop in a Box,” a way to teach movement to children. It comes with DVDs, CDs, a workbook and flash cards. Gomez, a former Laker Girl, has been a dancer for 28 years and opened her first studio at 17. Her product is aimed mainly at children younger than 10. She says it is about giving kids direction without squashing their creativity. (www.danceinabox.com).

MY FIRST INSTINCT was to make fun of “Drums Alive” when I saw it at a fitness conference in Las Vegas. The inventor, Carrie Ekins, was flanked by two slim women in matching black Spandex and wristbands. They were using drumsticks to pound anchored fitness balls. The ballroom was packed and all the participants were mimicking every move, slapping the orbs, stepping here, twirling there, pounding balls with rhythmic precision.

A marching band with nowhere to go, I thought.

But as I sat back and watched, I recalled what powerful things drumming and music are. The focus was dead-on. The louder Ekins shouted over her headset the louder the crowd responded.

I’ve always appreciated the power of music as a motivator and leader, but “Drums Alive” led me to look a bit closer and realize it is more than a distraction, which is how I tend to use it.

Stacey Richards, fitness product manager for Power Music, estimates the U.S. and Canadian group-exercise market at about $15 million a year.

“There were 40 million club members in the U.S. as of 2004 and 50 million iPods sold by Apple,” Richards says. “Put the two together and you have a very large potential market for personal exercise music.”

Power Music is one of the largest and more established vendors. But there are many. At the same convention, I saw six music companies showing their wares, exhibiting titles like: “Feel My Energy #1” (145 bpm), “Ticket To Ride” (134 bpm) and “La Cumbianchera” (136 bpm). BPM is a measure of musical tempo or speed of a song. A song at 120 BPM contains two beats each second. The BPM is tailored to a specific activity. For example, a step workout is safest and most effective in the 120-to-130 bpm range, and a cardio floor workout can be anywhere between 130 and 160 bpm. A bpm in the 122-to-140 range is great for mid- to fast-paced workouts, such as walking, elliptical and cardio machines.

“It’s about body mechanics and matching tempo to the movement,” says Richards. “The effectiveness of the music in the workout will depend on the energy of the individual song choices, the flow and energy of the song order and the ideal beats per minute related to the intended use or workout.”

Seattle’s Karen Moyer uses Power Music (www.powermusic.com) tapes to power the spinning classes she teaches at her Magnolia studio, Go Legs (www.golegs.net).

“My classes are all about the music,” she says. “It gets me and everyone else excited and into it. It makes all the difference.”
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Does it really make a difference? Some studies suggest so. One by Farleigh Dickinson University, tracking 41 overweight or obese women, found that women who used portable CD players on their walking workouts lost more weight and body fat than those who didn’t use the devices over a six-month period.

“Walking to music seemed to really motivate the women in our study to get out there and stick with the commitment they made,” wrote researcher Christopher Capuano.

Another study looked at the effect of different music tempos on athletic intensity and performance. Subjects pedaled a stationary bicycle for an hour while listening to music of varying tempo. The subjects were free to ride as hard or easily as they felt. Predictably, speed and power output increased as the tempos did.

The music companies emphasize the optimal fitness music beat, but many of us tend to be more informal. I always listen to an iPod when I walk or jog. It distracts me. I forget about the chore and drift off. I also subtly ramp up with faster songs and chill on the slower. You could call it my own informal and unscientific bit of interval training.

Sports performance psychologist John F. Murray uses music with his athletes. It inspires, soothes and provides focus. But too often, he said, we use it strictly to tune out, which is not always a good thing. Sometimes, you need focus. You also need to be in touch with your limits on each particular day or outing. You can’t let Bob Dylan, of all people, to push you too far. Also, turn the sound down a smidge and save your eardrums. Also, don’t get so taken with the music that you forget your surroundings. Cars and creeps are out there.

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

ATHLETES PLAY DESPITE MAJOR HEALTH RISKS

Palm Beach Post – Oct 22, 2005 – Carlos Frías – Merril Hoge’s fears were fading. He was working out again, running, lifting weights. Concussions had ended his NFL career and put his future health in jeopardy. But a year after the hit that finally put him out of football, he was having doubts about his retirement.

He looked in the mirror, saw his 30-year-old face and physiqueâ€? the body of a former running back for the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelersâ€? and thought, “I can still play.”

He had not forgotten his doctors’ warnings. After suffering four concussions in five weeks in 1994 with the Bears, he was left with permanent damage. Bright lights caused pounding headaches. The bruises on his brain caused anxiety and paranoia for weeks. For a time, he couldn’t remember his wife’s and daughter’s names, much less his home telephone number.

“The next hit could leave me…” He paused.

In a vegetative state?

“If I was lucky,” he continued. “It could be fatal. Not even in a game. In practice.”

Bruschi’s decision

But Hoge wanted to play again. He needed to play again.

He understands what’s driving Tedy Bruschi, the New England Patriots linebacker who made a surprising return to the practice field this week nine months after suffering a stroke.

Bruschi temporarily lost his vision and was numb along the left side of his body when he was stricken just 10 days after the Patriots’ Super Bowl win against Philadelphia. Health, Bruschi said, was his first priority, but he never truly accepted the possibility of not playing again.

“There were times, in my mind, I thought I was done,” he told The Associated Press. “If I could express to you what this means to me (to return), I would, but I don’t know if I really can.”

Doctors have cleared Bruschi, telling him the condition should not keep him from playing.

Doctors big part of decisions

Hoge wasn’t as fortunate. He called Dr. Joe Maroon, the neurosurgeon who had denied him a medical clearance, to ask if there was a chance he could return to the field.

“It was sinking in, the reality of not being able to play again. I needed confirmation,” said Hoge, now an NFL analyst for ESPN. “You get better, you get healthy, and you tend to forget how long the season is, how physical it is.”

Maroon, who still works with the Steelers, put it simply:

” ‘Merril, I’m sure. I’m positive,’ ” Hoge remembers the doctor saying. “It was not easy for him, either, because I was at the top of my career.

“But he said, ‘I could not lay my head down at night knowing I let you go back and play.’ ”

Bruschi and the Patriots are confident that he is healthy enough to return.

Doctors found the problem and fixed it: a tiny hole in his heart that caused poor blood flow to his brain.

Some stroke victims are always at risk for a relapse, but Bruschi should not be one of them, said Dr. James Goldenberg, a neurologist at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis and a spokesman for the American Stroke Association.

“This is an example of something that can be fixed,” Goldenberg said. “Playing football, despite that very physical contact, shouldn’t put him at risk in the future.”

Still, when it comes to risk, elite athletes often have a difficult time walking away from their game.

Most will exhaust all medical opinions, undergo all possible surgeries, endure chronic pain, and sometimes even take risks to continue playing the sport that, in many ways, made them who they are.

“They see themselves as athletes and only athletes,” said Dr. John Murray, a Palm Beach Gardens-based sports psychologist.

Bruschi isn’t the only athlete who recently has returned to a sport despite a health issue.

Mourning understands

Eddie Curry, a 22-year-old NBA center, missed most of last season with the Chicago Bulls after doctors found he had an irregular heartbeat from a potentially fatal heart defect.

Before this season’s training camp opened, Curry refused to submit to a test the Bulls required that could have revealed a condition that killed Boston Celtics guard Reggie Lewis and collegiate star Hank Gathers.

The league eventually approved a trade to the New York Knicks, whose doctors cleared Curry to play.

Alonzo Mourning’s return from a kidney transplant has been well-chronicled. The Heat center said he can empathize with Bruschi about the moment the linebacker was told that he had a severe condition.

“What’s going through his mind is, ‘Am I healthy enough to play football?’ ” Mourning said. “For me, it was, ‘Am I healthy enough to play basketball and am I putting my life in jeopardy?’

“There’s a whole lot of things you feel: Uncertain. Impatient. Scared. Anxious.”

Mourning accepts his risks.

The kidney he received was added to his two and placed just below his abdomen. He wears a special pad to protect it when he plays.

He said he would walk away from the game if the condition meant his life was at imminent risk. But he never stopped trying to return to the court, even when he had to miss two seasons because of the illness. His family tried to encourage him to retire.

Mourning had already become rich in the sport, but he said only one message from doctors would have kept him away: “That playing ball would put my life in jeopardy. Plain and simple.”

“Every athlete has a clock to his career, and it’s up to each athlete to decide when it’s time to walk away from it,” he said.

Pain, risks seen as worthwhile

Orlando Magic forward Grant Hill was faced with retirement after missing the better part of four seasons with an ankle injury that never seemed to heal properly.

Hill endured four surgeries and a staph infection, but returned to be named an All-Star last season.

“This is what you do. This is who you are,” Hill said. “It’s something you always feel you can do.”

Constant pain isn’t enough to keep athletes from competing, Murray said, because they are conditioned to accept it and play through it.

Unlike a weekend warrior, who might hurt an ankle and take a week off, a professional athlete stops seeing pain as an indicator of something wrong.

“To them, pain can sometimes signal feeling alive,” said Murray, who studied the subject with the University of Florida football team during its 1996 national championship season. “Getting in touch with the physical pain can be therapeutic. The emotional pain of retirement can be more devastating than the temporary physical nature of pain.

“The pain of retirement means loss.”

Hoge said football players do realize that pain could signal the risk of serious injury, but they choose not to dwell on the danger.

“We understand that’s part of the game, but you just can’t function under that thought process,” Hoge said.

“If you consume yourself in thinking about that, you’re just not going to be a very good player.”

Though he was mentally and physically conditioned over years to play a dangerous sport, Hoge finally realized it was over for a good reason.

“It was hard to curb that appetite,” said Hoge, who rushed for more than 3,000 yards in an eight-year career.

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

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