Archive for the ‘News & Events’ Category

WORLD TALK RADIO INTERVIEW

Aug 15, 2005 – Dr. Murray was recently a guest on World Talk Radio to discuss Overcoming Anxiety in Sports. Anxiety is a very common theme in sports psychology. To find the interview, please access the archive section at World Talk Radio

REMEMBERING ROB RAGATZ (1950-2005)

A Tribute to the Late Rob Ragatz, PhD – Washington State University Psychology Internship Coordinator, by WSU Intern John F. Murray (1997-1998)

“Far more than our year-long stroll with him in those amber waves of grain, where he enlightened us with wisdom, kindness and tolerance, his influence now from the vantage point of stars will be greater”

Rob Ragatz was a rare great man. He was one of the finest mentors I had. He was incredibly insightful, tolerant and non-judgmental. In retrospect, he must have been the reason I traded one corner of America for another for a year of training.

More than a total professional, Rob was extremely decent. I was fortunate to receive one of his final emails, sent only hours before his fateful journey to the other side. He understood and taught to the end. I had not heard from him in over a year, and I think he wanted to share some final wisdom and generosity before leaving.

Rob always thought more about others than himself. His success was in his students. He cared. For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about Rob’s final email that evening, even though there was no reason to suspect anything unusual.

Rob reminded me of Abe Lincoln and even looked somewhat like him. Why didn’t we buy him a large black hat? The toughest Rob was with me during internship was after I criticized a graduate student for making repeated careless errors in her report. Rob, with his wisdom of tolerance, and “Unconditional Positive Regard,” emphasized that gentleness and care of the student in supervision is more important than accuracy and efficiency. It epitomized the way he treated us.

How could you not miss Rob? His work on earth must have been complete and he’s moved on to another challenge. Far more than our year-long stroll with him in those amber waves of grain, where he enlightened us with wisdom, kindness and tolerance, his influence now from the vantage point of stars will be greater.

Your impact on me, Rob, and on our internship class during those many group meetings when, at the end, you’d always check patiently to see if there was anything else (“more, different, other?â€?), or when you told us to “resist the frenzy to cure,” all of this and much more live with us forever. You were a friend.

———The Story Below Appeared in the Local Daily Evergreen———–

Robert Ragatz, associate director and director of training of WSU Counseling Services, died on Aug. 11 at the age of 55 due to complications during outpatient surgery. The family would not specify what kind of surgery.

Ragatz was a part of WSU for the past 26 years and during his time worked with students both through training and counseling. Recently, he was an active member of the WSU Student Conduct Board.

Ragatz was married to Beth Waddel, a local psychologist, for 21 years.

“It’s just a tragic situation,â€? Waddel said. “He was a wonderful father and a wonderful husband.â€?

The best tribute to Ragatz would be for students to practice what they learned from him, she said.

Barbara Hammond, director of WSU Counseling Services, worked with Ragatz for 22 years. She said he was integral to the development of psychology students and the evolution of Counseling Services throughout the years he was here.

“For the literally hundreds of students that went on [in psychology] he was the main person in their development,â€? Hammond said.

At Counseling Services, Ragatz would lead group therapy, train participants for the Crisis Line and help as many students and clients as possible, she said.

“He was a very sweet and gentle man,â€? Hammond said. “He is very well regarded by those who worked with him.â€?

Scott Case, the program coordinator of WSU stress management program and the senior staff psychologist, was hired two years ago by Ragatz. He was responsible for persuading Case to come and work in Pullman, Case said, something he will be eternally grateful for.

Case and Ragatz rode together for two and a half hours to the Counseling Service’s annual retreat the day before Ragatz died.

Case said the trip brought out a true side of Ragatz, a more personal one in that he was able to share his greatest interests with Case.

Ragatz had a strong love for automobiles, both modern fast cars and vintage machines, and also an interest in motors that he could talk extensively about. Case said he was a passionate, creative man with a sharp sense of humor that he would use extensively.

“I see it as a great gift to be one of the last people to spend time with Rob,â€? Case said. “He was very at rest and happy to be where he was in life, even geographically, with his family in Pullman.â€?

A ceremony was held on Aug. 17 for Ragatz. Counseling Services will have a flowering tree memorial in the garden outside of the Lighty Building. The memorial can be seen from Ragatz’s office.

“We thought it would be nice to have a living memorial,â€? Hammond said.

Hammond and Case said Ragatz was someone who dedicated many years to the university and its students.

“Counseling Services helps a lot of people,â€? Case said. “He worked with, helped and trained students. That is a pretty important position to be in life. He did it well.â€?

BEFORE UNM CAN TAKE THE NEXT STEP, IT NEEDS TO FIGURE ITSELF OUT

Albuquerque Journal – Aug 8, 2005 – Greg Archuleta – Rocky Long is not a good candidate for psychoanalysis. His University of New Mexico football program, however, just might be.

Long’s eighth season as UNM coach gets in full swing Monday as the team begins fall practice for the 2005 season.

Under Long, the one-time Lobos quarterback, the program is enjoying one of its most prosperous periods: three straight Mountain West Conference runner-up finishes, three straight bowl-game appearances for the first time in the school’s 106-year history.

Losses in each bowl game, however, have kept UNM from finishing on a positive note.

“I don’t agree with that,” Long says. “I think we’ve ended the last three seasons on a positive note. I don’t agree that losing a bowl game eliminates everything you’ve done during the season.”

No, but the fact is that UNM hasn’t felt good about itself at the end of December in 2002, ’03 or ’04.

This is supposed to be a feel-good story� namely, what can the Lobos do to feel good about themselves at the end of December 2005?

The Lobos are in full preseason-speak mode, saying the MWC title is the goal, they’ve learned from past mistakes, they’ve worked harder this offseason than they ever have. …

Yada, yada, yada. The bottom line is UNM hasn’t won a conference championship in 41 years or a bowl game in 44. Does taking the next step simply mean working harder?

Or does it go deeper? Do the Lobos have a psychological bridge to cross?

Depends on whom you ask.

The doctor is in

“I do believe there’s something there to be dealt with,” says Dr. John F. Murray, a noted sports performance and clinical psychologist based in Florida, referring to UNM’s three successive bowl losses.

“I would want to know more about the particulars about the program,” he said. “I don’t want to sound like I’m some wheeler-dealer that can come in and fix it all. It sounds like (UNM’s) done a good job, improving the program year to year.”

The Lobos went 7-5 in 2004, marking their third straight year the program won at least seven games.

UNM enjoyed breakthrough wins each of those seasons (at Brigham Young in ’02, at Utah in ’03 and at home against Texas Tech in ’04).

Yet, the Lobos have not won a nonconference game outside New Mexico in Long’s tenure. They’re 0-14.

Opponents have outscored UNM by a combined 116-46 in the three bowls.

“It just seems like certain teams have a collective confidenceâ€? do you truly expect to win or notâ€? that carries a team over,” Murray says. “Those teams just seem to have a knack for the big game.

He says confidence is the biggest asset a team can have in playing a “big game.” The greatest source of confidence is past success.

A team without a tradition of successâ€? like UNMâ€? has to “fake it until you make it,” Murray says.

“I don’t think the psychological factor in this case is the primary influence,” Murray says. “I think the primary influence is talent. But I believe there’s something to be said for momentum. Think of how many games come down to a few critical plays. Even if the psychological factor is 10 percent or 15 percent, does that give you a little more strutâ€? not thinking but just doingâ€? and a little more focus at critical times?”

That’s just crazy

“I don’t think it’s psychological at all,” Long says. “I just don’t think we’ve played to our physical ability in any of the bowl games.”

Long says the long layoff between the regular-season finale and the bowl game hurts UNM, which has been a strong regular-season closer. The Lobos are 8-2 in November games from 2002-2004.

“I think what a lot of people don’t realize is our talent level is very comparable to the people we play,” Long says. “If you go back through the league the last six years and see who has won the most close football games, it’s the University of New Mexico.

“That’s proof that our teams have played closer to their A-game than anybody else in this league has.”

Own worst enemy

The Lobos themselves seem to side with the good doctor.

“I think the biggest thing in keeping us from taking the next step is us,” junior offensive guard Robert Turner says. “We’ve been what’s held us back every year. I think for an inexperienced team, that’s the hardest thing to do, to not hold yourself backâ€? whether it’s emotions on the field that cause stupid penalties or a lack of knowledge of the game. Not to take anything away from our opponents, but I think our biggest competitor is going to be us.”

Adds senior running back Adrian Byrd, “It’s become psychological because we don’t want to finish second anymore. We don’t want to go to a bowl game and lose anymore.”

UNM’s 2005 hopes seem to hinge on both physical and mental aspects of the program.

The Lobos transformed their offense in the offseason from a power-based to a spread formation to improve a passing attack that ranked 114th of 117 Division I-A teams in ’04.

UNM is also anxious to find out how well senior tailback DonTrell Moore has recovered from offseason surgery after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Navy in the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 30.

Long says the offense is a strong point entering the seasonâ€â€? which is a mouthful, considering UNM’s defense is one of only three Division I-A teams to finish in the top 30 in the country the past five seasons (the other two: Oklahoma and Texas).

“Going into the season, we’ve got concerns about experience at safety, linebacker and kicker,” Long says. “That’s not a lot of positions.”

The starting experience junior quarterback Kole McKamey gained last season is invaluable, Long says.

Obviously, UNM must avoid injury� the Lobos were 1-4 last season when either McKamey or Moore missed parts of or all of games because of injury.

The team has experience on its side, with 11 fifth-year seniors as starters. The fifth-year seniors are vying to play in their fourth consecutive bowl game, an unheard of opportunity in Lobos football lore.

“We have a lot of players at key positions that have been here for five years,” fifth-year senior linebacker Mike Mohoric says. “That’s the leadership this team needs to push through those times of adversity.”

The tools definitely seem in place for UNM to take that next stepâ€? physically, mentally … whatever.

After three years of “therapy,” the Lobos say the time is now.

“We see it coming,” senior cornerback Gabriel Fulbright says. “We’ve been so close the last three years, like we’re at the edge of the cliff, about to jump. But we ain’t caught flight yet.

“We know exactly what to do now. We’re ready.”

A TRIBUTE TO DAN MARINO – SHARP MIND OVER QUICK RELEASE!

Congrats to Dan Marino – Hall of Fame – 2005 – Aug 7, 2005 –

You might wonder why Dan Marino is the first image that appears on this website. Here is my thinking: Dan Marino was the best sports psychologist to ever throw a football in the NFL. He had the killer instinct, total focus, ultimate confidence and that swagger and bold assertiveness that meant no turning back.

Here is what many people overlook, and you can quote me:

“DAN MARINO WON EVEN MORE WITH HIS SHARP MIND THAN WITH HIS QUICK RELEASE!”

Dan would look the opponent in the eye on 4th and 12 with 30 seconds left at midfield. Most would have attempted a 12 yard pass for a safe first down. Danny would find an open receiver after avoiding a sack, and right before he was tackeled he would heave it 50 yards to win the game. He was not only fearless, his confidence actually went into 4th gear in the 4th quarter. He seemed to need that extra pressure to shine. Do you remember? I do. It was unbelieveable.

I grew up in South Florida, admiring the likes of Griese and Csonka. Marino was the link from the greatness of the 70’s to the 80s and beyond. He influenced my love of sports in the 1980s after college, and my interest in all that was the mental side of sports and performance. He helped further ignite my passion for sports. He inspired all his fans and teammates.

Later I became a sports psychologist and was fortunate to work with NFL teams and quarterbacks. I met Dan Marino in the early 1990s at one of his functions, along with many others, and almost worked with him professionally. Dan and I were going to meet to talk sport psychology for the team a couple years back, as he had been hired in a management capacity. The meeting never took place because Dan soon retired from his new position.

He was smart to get out without a full commitment, and his legacy is intact. He can return to management any time he wants. While I was disappointed not to have the chance to work more with the team under his direction, my admiration for him has only grown. He made so many in South Florida happy and accomplished so much.

As I prepare to watch Dan Marino’s induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, a flood of memories and emotions come back to me about a unique kid from Pittsburgh who had no fear, who saved the Dolphins’ claim to the only undefeated season, who extended Coach Shula’s career another 15 years, who more importantly was completely respected by his peers, fans, family and opponents. He is a true leader, a quality person, and an inspiration. Long live Dan Marino, the Miami legend with the golden arm and exceptional mind!

Dan, I’m sorry we never got to work together. It would have been terrific. Please call any time I can be of service (561-596-9898)!

NFL – KAEDING GOOD AFTER MISS

The Press-Enterprise – Aug 6, 2005 – Jim Alexander – The last look Chargers fans got of Nate Kaeding was one of dejection. Of anguish. Of utter, “how-did-that-happen” shock.

Kaeding had an excellent rookie season as San Diego’s kicker. But it ended with a memorable miss — a 40-yard field goal try in overtime that would have beaten the New York Jets in the first round of the NFL playoffs, until it sailed wide right.

Will it be a blip, a minor blemish in a successful career? Or will it be a kick that haunts his psyche every time he lines up for a crucial field goal?

“It hurt for a week or two, just like it probably did for everybody else,” Kaeding said last week. “I felt like I probably let the team down, and that’s kind of hard to get over in two weeks.

“But there comes a point in time where you’ve got to realize: ‘Hey, one kick didn’t get me here, didn’t get me to the NFL. And certainly one kick isn’t going to ruin my career.’ That’s the mentality I have.”

The Chargers rallied around their young kicker after the miss, and former Chargers kickers Rolf Benirschke and John Carney called Kaeding to offer advice and support.

Still, some concern would be natural. Kaeding, 23, an All-America selection and Lou Groza Award winner at the University of Iowa, made 20 of 25 regular-season field goals as an NFL rookie. But an entire nation of football fans watched his biggest moment turn sour.

“It’s the nature of the business,” long snapper David Binn said. “Every great kicker has had a moment like that, and it’s just unfortunate that it happened to him in his rookie year … You can go down the list. Every Hall of Fame-level kicker has missed ones like that. It just happens. I think he’ll be fine.”

Added San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer: “Of all who might find themselves in that circumstance, Nate Kaeding would be the least likely to have it become a negative. He is solid. You don’t get elected by your teammates as captain of your college football team for two consecutive years unless you have some special qualities.”

Punter Mike Scifres, who doubles as the holder for field goal and extra point attempts, said he was confident Kaeding would bounce back.

“He showed during the season that misses didn’t affect him too much,” Scifres said. “He’s a mentally strong kid.”

The Kick

The Chargers had just rallied to send the Jan. 8 playoff game into overtime, and after an exchange of punts they moved methodically down the field. They had a first-and-10 at the Jets’ 22, and used three LaDainian Tomlinson running plays — which netted no yardage — to set up Kaeding’s try from the right hash mark, on a field that had been rained on earlier in the evening.

“It was a little wet,” Binn said. “It wasn’t perfect conditions, but it usually never is. It’s not an excuse.”

After his miss, the Chargers never got another opportunity. New York drove seven plays to the San Diego 10 to set up Doug Brien’s successful 28-yarder for the victory.

The second-guessers emerged in force, maintaining that the Chargers should have tried for at least one more first down — reasoning that quarterback Drew Brees disputed.

“Usually what Marty does in those situations is ask the kicker, ‘What yard-line, and what hash (mark) do you want the ball on?’ ” Brees said.

“I’m not sure what the percentage of made field goals is in the NFL at 40 yards, but it’s pretty high. The fact that it was the playoffs and a rookie kicker seems to be what everyone was talking about. But if you ask Nate Kaeding how many field goals he’ll make from 40 yards, he’ll probably say 95 percent.”

In fact, he was 5 for 6 between 40 and 49 yards during the regular season.

After the game, Kaeding was despondent, saying, “The hardest thing for me is not being able to walk through here and look people in the eye.”

Two days later, at the Chargers practice facility, he was seen sobbing.

“Initially you worry,” Brees said of Kaeding’s ability to rebound. “But I’ve seen Nate numerous times in the off-season and talked to him. He’s kicking with a ton of confidence, and I think he has the mentality to bounce back from something like that. I’m not worried about the guy one bit.”

The Aftermath

Benirschke, now an author and motivational speaker in the San Diego area, said he’d gotten to know Kaeding during the season, since he was one of several Chargers alumni who regularly attended practices.

He talked with Kaeding about dealing with the aftermath.

“The challenge Nate obviously faces is, that was the last game of the year and he had all off-season to think about it,” Benirschke said in a phone interview. “People bring it up. They say, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ or, ‘Forget about it,’ but every time they bring it up, you think about it … It’s one of those ghosts you don’t dispel until you get through it.”

John Murray, a sports psychologist from Palm Beach, Fla., suggested that Kaeding should look at it this way: Whatever happens from here, it can’t be any worse.

“I really truly believe the key to success is dealing with failure, and then you don’t have any fear,” Murray said by phone. “Forget about the outcome. The outcome will take care of itself. That has nothing to do with the actual nanosecond you’re performing in.

“True elite athletes are the ones who love that pressure, thriving on the adversity of the challenge. They say, ‘Let me try it again.’ If he’s of that makeup, he’ll have that approach the next time it comes up.”

Kaeding said that after the hurt subsided, he couldn’t wait to kick again. That would seem to be a good sign.

“I’m real impatient,” he said. “My biggest thing was just getting back out there and working on it.

“Down the road this fall, when I have a kick to win a game, hopefully I’ll look back on how hard I worked, and I’ll be able to come through for them.”

WHO CRIES AT WORK?

Aug 3, 2005 – Cox News Service – (note: this story has been published in the Palm Beach Post, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Orange County Register, Monterey County Herald, Indianapolis Star, Winston Salem Journal, The Day, Contra Costa Times, and Charlotte Observer) – By Tim O’Meilia – There is no crying in football. Not if you’re 21 years old, 6-feet-6 and weight 329 pounds. Not in a profession ruled by machismo, intimidation and stoicism. Not even if your coach hollers loudly and at length when you neglect to bring your helmet to the practice field, as Miami Dolphin head coach Nick Saban did to rookie defensive lineman Manny Wright last week.

Wright bawled, tears running down his cheeks, and left the field. Wright has been immortalized on ESPN SportsCenter. Again and again and again. To his credit, he returned to the practice later.

There’s no crying in the boardroom either. Or up in accounting. No blubbering out on the loading docks. Or in the vegetable fields. Not in professions ruled by machismo, intimidation and stoicism. In other words, every job.

“Crying in the workplace is taboo,” said Wallace Johnston, better known as workplace columnist Dr. Wally. “It’s seen as a sign of weakness.”

“Crybaby” is a tattoo that can’t be scraped off. “No one wants to feel out of control and that’s what that represents,” said West Palm Beach psychologist John F. Murray, who specializes in sports.

Women cry four times as often as men do. And when men cry, it’s more like their eyes well with tears rather than unmanly, lip-curling boo-hooing, according to a study by University of Minnesota medical school professor William H. Frey II, who wrote Crying: The Mystery of Tears.

It’s a cultural thing, of course.

“For boys, there’s no crying after Little League,” said Dr. Wally. Boys learn to keep it inside. Frustration is channeled to anger, an acceptable outlet, rather than crying.

Little girls, on the other hand, are comforted more often when they cry and are picked up more often when they are infants, said Dr. Susan Murphy, a California management consultant and co-author of In the Company of Women.

“God forbid if you’re a man. A woman can get away with it a little more,” said Dana Lightman, a Pennsylvania psychotherapist and author of Power Optimism. And the conventional wisdom that Americans can be more in touch with their feelings is merely lip service in the working world.

Serial weepers stunt their own careers. They’re viewed as unable to control their emotions. Managers and colleagues tend not to give them honest feedback on their performance, for fear of a crying jag, Murphy said.

Crying on the job can be a symptom of a deeper problem, such as depression, that needs treatment, Murray said. But for most stressed-out, mildly neurotic Americans, crying is a result of criticism or pressure and criers can learn to manage it.

“If my boss criticized me, I would think, ‘Omigod, I’m a terrible worker. Omigod, I’m going to get fired. Omigod, he doesn’t like me,’ ” said Lightman, who admits she was Miss Waterworks in her early career.

She had to learn to take 24 hours to consider the criticism and to tell herself she doesn’t have to be perfect.

Other tricks for criers: Take a breath, realize that criticism doesn’t mean you’re worthless, even warn others that you’re prone to tears and it means nothing.

There are times when a few strategically placed tears are appropriate: if a co-worker dies, but not if your dog does; you win the Nobel Prize, but not if you’re employee-of-the-month; your retirement party, but not when you go on vacation.

“But it’s rare,” Murphy said. “You’re better off taking the advice of the Four Seasons: Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

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

PERMANENT DIETING

Sunday Telegraph Magazine – July 31, 2005 – Rebecca Tyrrel – Praise for Dr. John F. Murray’s new diet program.

To read, just go to: Sunday Telegraph Magazine

GOOD TEAM SPIRIT PAYS INDIVIDUAL DIVIDENDS

The Times (London) – Jul 18, 2005 – Nick Wyke – Nick Wyke analyses the differing benefits of training and various fitness regimes. Three hours or more is a long time to spend on centre court all alone. Ask Andy Murray and Lindsay Davenport who both lost lengthy matches at Wimbledon this year.

Unlike some team sports -rugby and cricket, for example -professional tennis can be a lonely game. Many players start training as young children, trading in school and even their home life for a tennis academy abroad, and the tennis tour can mean long spells alone in foreign hotels.

“No athlete is an island,” says John Murray, a US-based sports psychologist specializing in tennis. “Although social support is needed by everyone, athletes in individual sports, including tennis, lack large social support resources found in team sports. This may leave them particularly vulnerable to stress when the going gets rough.”

There can be few contact sports more stressful than boxing. When Tony Sibson, the Leicester middleweight, left the ring after his defeat in a world title bout by Marvin Hagler in 1983 all he could say was “it just got lonely out there.”

From his extensive studies of boxers, Andy Lane, professor of sports psychology at the University of Wolverhampton, believes the extent to which they feel supported by a team to be very important. “Sportsmen stand a better chance of achieving their goals if they have developed a sense of cohesion and team spirit -it makes them more receptive to performance advice. But many individuals don’t consider that.”

A relay team, for example, has a great sense of cohesion that comes from having an identical shared goal of winning and not wanting to let each other down. Other sports, such as cricket and basketball, carry a similar degree of interdependence.

Winning coaches, such as Chelsea’s Jose Mourhino, intuitively recognise the importance of team dynamics in motivating and supporting their players to excel beyond the contributions of individual efforts.

For the past three years the US Olympic ski team has placed a strong emphasis on watching and providing positive feedback for each other despite significant personality clashes. The skiers reported a boost to self-esteem and confidence because of this supportive behaviour. The team’s performance markedly improved.

According to Lane, the character and disposition of athletes dictates how they train. The more gregarious ones will veer towards group-based training while the less social types will go it alone. “In groups they can be pushed by fellow athletes; in an exercise such as circuit training a natural competitiveness emerges which can be very rewarding.”

Team members, however, find individual training difficult. That is why team players often struggle through an injury because they are no longer able to train with their team mates. A good coach will make sure that the injured player is included in tactical and psychological sessions, so that he does not feel further marginalised.

Although competitive cycling is essentially a gruelling solo sport, there are many advantages to training with a local club. These include improving pack riding skills and speed, while group riding, motivation and camaraderie with your fellow cyclists, safety, learning to set up for a sprint finish, practising chasing and attacking -which is a bit tricky to do alone. There are times, though, when it is beneficial to train alone -working on specific cycling drills or attempting a true recovery ride, for example. A time trialist or triathlete will certainly need to develop the mental abilities required to ride alone.

The great long distance runner, the Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, overcomes the loneliness of his chosen sport through inspiration in nature and co-runners. “I love running in the mountains, but through a quiet forest is perfect.

“I run with a group, sometimes for three and a half hours, and a coach rides a bike ahead of us to set the pace. We cross many rivers and stop to drink the clear, fresh water. I use the gym just to strengthen my legs.”

Gebrselassie is not alone in keeping his visits to the gym to a minimum. Many casual exercisers sign up to gyms in January and June determined to get in shape for the new year and the beach respectively, only to stop attending a couple of months later. “People get bored exercising alone; that’s why there’s all the music and media experience at gyms to help people dissociate from the exercise itself,” Lane says.

“If people combine fitness training with one of the many social activities offered at gyms and foster a sense of supporting each other in the group, they are more likely to stay the course.”

Having a realistic programme supported by a personal trainer is helpful, too; otherwise the magnitude of the physical task can induce feelings of anger and depression. This is common with amateur marathon runners. If this starts to happen, you need a plan.

“This might be to focus on technique, or it might be to hum a song in your head to distract you,” says Lane. Who can forget the story of the climber Joe Simpson’s delirious rendition of Boney M’s Brown Girl in the Ring as he clung to life in a crevasse. Lane adds: “If you have a plan that is prepared and practised, you should be in a better position to cope when the real situation arises.”

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

KNOWING WHEN TO STOP KEY IN SPORTS

Orlando Sentinel – Jul 12, 2005 – George Diaz – Cyclist Lance Armstrong has a chance at a perfect ending to his career. Some other high-profile athletes haven’t been as fortunate.

It seems so much easier to walk away with your dignity unscathed, and your knees not screaming in pain when you get up every morning.

The ache in body and soul reflects the passion of many professional athletes who can’t face the consequences of deteriorating skills. They bury the rough edges in their mind, clinging to a revisionist history.

It gives us all the more reason to celebrate Lance Armstrong.

He churns through the mountains in France, each spin of the bicycle wheel moving him closer to the opportunity to script the perfect ending to a marvelous and poignant career.

Already a six-time winner, Armstrong quite possibly could capture an unprecedented seventh Tour de France title. The three-week odyssey concludes in Paris July 24 after 2,242 miles. Win or lose, Armstrong has said he will retire.

“I feel excited and obligated to win,” Armstrong said during the early stages of competition.

Despite surrendering the overall lead in the ninth stage Sunday, Armstrong is primed to regain his top-dog status in the Alps when the tour continues today after Monday’s brief break.

Assuming he snags another title, Armstrong won’t have much company in the historical sports archives.

John Elway walked away with a Super Bowl trophy to celebrate the 1998 season and didn’t bother messing up the perfect ending. Charlie Ward celebrated a Heisman Trophy and national championship in 1993 before shutting down his football career to make a living in the NBA. Heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano retired undefeated.

A few others have walked away in their prime: Marvin Hagler lost a controversial decision to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987, and moved to Italy, leaving million-dollar paydays behind. Barry Sanders could have become the NFL’s all-time rushing leader, but abruptly retired in 1999 after gaining 1,491 yards during the 1998 season.

Most often, the story swings the other way.

The memories are not pleasant.

We like to think of Muhammad Ali as a skillful, sharp-tongued artist in the ring, instead of an old man sucking for air between rounds of his last fight in 1981 in Jamaica. The image we have of Michael Jordan has him flying through the air in a Chicago Bulls uniform instead of his plodding along with a mediocre team in Washington. Johnny Unitas wearing a San Diego Chargers uniform? Please.

“Athletes are often times the last person to know,” said John Murray, a sports psychologist based in Florida. “They have the skills, that competitive drive that got them to the top. That is the same thing that clouds their thinking. But again, it’s an individual choice.”

The choices are often thought to be poor ones, although those assumptions are not necessarily fair. Athletes have a limited shelf life, are extremely competitive, and at times do not properly prepare for a life outside the lines.

This volatile mix clouds an athlete’s vision. He or she sees one more dramatic run at scripting a perfect ending. More often than not, reality crushes those aspirations. They are left scraping for relevant time on the playing field, or alone in a boxing ring with slowing reflexes that no longer can defend against a younger man’s power.

“In reality there are few walk-off home runs, and I think the passion for competition and that underdog euphoria that comes with overachieving is very hard to replicate,” said Reggie Williams, who played linebacker with the Cincinnati Bengals for 14 seasons. “That’s why a lot of us — myself included — maybe went a little longer than we should have. I played my 14th year when there was an opportunity after just missing a Super Bowl victory, but I just couldn’t go out that way. Being close to the mountaintop wasn’t enough. I needed to try again.”

Williams gave it one more run, and the Bengals fell short of the Super Bowl.

He is now vice president of Disney Sports Attractions.

Armstrong fits within the team sport concept only in loose parameters. The cadre of other cyclists on his Discovery Channel team are basically there to watch his back and defend against attacks. They didn’t help him during the eighth stage of the competition, which Armstrong lost because he had no tactical help.

His dominance in competitive cycling reflects the strength in fighting a greater battle — overcoming testicular cancer that had metastasized, spreading to his lungs and brain.

His bike is decorated by New York graffiti artist Lenny Futura and engraved with the numbers “10/2” — marking the day, Oct. 2, 1996 — when doctors informed him that he had a 50 percent chance of dying.

Armstrong did not compete in 1997 and 1998 while he was recovering from cancer. He chose invasive surgery to remove brain lesions, and a severe course of chemotherapy. Standard chemotherapy would have meant the end of his cycling career, because a known side effect was a dramatic reduction in lung function.

Armstrong made a triumphant return in 1999 to become only the second American after Greg LeMond (1986, 1989 and 1990) to win the event.

No racer had won more than four straight or five overall before Armstrong etched his dominance on the tour. His streak of six consecutive titles, coupled with his fight against cancer, has made him an international celebrity.

Just look at how many people are wearing “Livestrong” yellow wrist bracelets, commemorating the fight against cancer. Armstrong has since called the 10/2 anniversaries his “Carpe Diem Day.”

The Latin phrase means “seize the day,” reflective of Armstrong’s tenacious approach toward defending his titles six times.

“What it teaches is this: pain is temporary,” Armstrong said. “Quitting lasts forever.”

His miraculous comeback has not been without controversy. Armstrong has long been dogged by allegations of using performance-enhancing drugs, though he has never tested positive for any illegal substance. Armstrong did take one of the banned substances — EPO — to help in his recovery during his cancer treatment, but that was an approved medical use.

Citing family obligations, Armstrong announced his intentions to retire in April. He missed considerable time with his three children — a son (Luke) and twin daughters (Isabelle and Grace) — while training in Europe over the years.

“It’s time for me to not miss key moments in their lives,” he said then.

Assuming he retires on top, he will also share a few precious moments with a legion of fans cheering for him.

“I admire him because of consistent excellence,” Williams said. ” I used to do nothing but bicycle during the offseason because my knees were so bad. It pales in comparison to what he has risen to, but I know the pain I went through just to stay in shape.

“He’s the best in the world. Hopefully he will finish on top.”

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

NEW DIET PROMOTES MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Cox News Service – Jul 10, 2005 – New diet promotes mental toughness for weight loss – By Jane Daugherty – WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.â€? It dawned on me that if you could focus in a positive way on your health and weight to cultivate a healthy narcissism, it could lead to dietary and exercise choices that make you feel better about yourself.

One of those rude, middle-aged awakenings punched sports psychologist John F. Murray right in the solar plexus.

There he was on network television being interviewed as an expert who resurrects star athletes’ careers. But watching the replay, Murray realized he looked like, well, the Michelin tire man.

From the pain of that moment, the Palm Beach Narcissism Diet was born. Murray, 43, applied the same motivation he used on flagging tennis and football careers to reshaping his own body. He calls it “healthy narcissism,” a focus on loving yourself enough to make lifestyle changes and stick to them because you’ll look and feel better if you’re not fat.

Murray is not alone: An estimated two out of three adult Americans are overweight or obese. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April released figures attributing more than 100,000 deaths a year to obesity. Being overweight also is blamed for contributing to adult-onset diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and some forms of cancer.

But with Americans already spending $33 billion annually on weight loss foods, products and services, according to the American Dietetic Association, is another diet needed? Current popular plans include the Atkins Diet, Suzanne Somers’ Get Skinny on Fabulous Food, The Zone Diet, and, of course, the still hot South Beach Diet.

Murray decided none of those diets would work for him in the long run because they lack the mental focus that makes sports psychology successful for star athletes.

“It wasn’t just my food intake that was messed up . . . I was jetting to London to do a seminar, hopping out to California to give a speech, running down to Miami for a coaches meeting,” Murray recalled in his West Palm Beach office.

“I’d grab some ribs for dinner at a great restaurant, eat fast food for lunch in my car, consume way too many calories for breakfast, and the only exercise I got was walking to my car.”

Murray, almost Ken-doll handsome when he is trim at 175 pounds, went from looking like the ex-tennis pro he is to a middle-aged pudge who tipped the scales at 261 in January.

So he stewed, brooded and went through some self-loathing � none of which was productive, Murray says in retrospect.

Then he began to mentally convert some of the principles he included in his book, “Smart Tennis,” to winning his battle with the bulge.

Murray recalled his work with tennis pro Vince Spadea. In the middle of a huge slump, Spadea came to Murray for help. Ranked 19th in the world in 1999, Spadea had lost 21 matches in a row and, by 2001, his ranking had fallen to 229th.

“I had to convince him that as tough as things can get, the mind is tougher,” Murray said, “Spadea was ready to quit tennis. The thrill was gone. He lived for a year and a half in a cellar. He seriously needed to believe in himself again.”

Spadea, 30, won his first ATP tournament last season in Scottsdale, Ariz., beating Andy Roddick in the semifinals. Spadea ended last year ranked 18th in the world.

“In a way, my experience in confronting my weight was similar. I had to finally admit that I was the one who was doing this to myself,” Murray said, “And on some level it was, because I cared about everything else more. My work, my family, my travel arrangements, all were more important than what I was eating and drinking.”

His doctoral work at the University of Florida introduced him to various modern-day pathologies, including narcissistic personality disorder, in which normal development is arrested and a person comes to focus all their efforts on gratifying and aggrandizing their false sense of self.

“It dawned on me that if you could focus in a positive way on your health and weight to cultivate a healthy narcissism, it could lead to dietary and exercise choices that make you feel better about yourself,” Murray said.

He also decided that he had to cut off excuses and escape paths.

“I set a very ambitious goal to lose 2-2.5 pounds a week and posted it on my Web site and sent it to my newsletter audience of over 15,000 people,” he said. “That’s pretty much hanging it out there along with my ‘fat picture.’ If I fail to lose weight, it will be very public. A little fear of failure comes in handy. I post my weight on my Web site every Wednesday â€â€? that public exposure helps keep me motivated.”

Murray’s approach is dramatically different from the high-protein, low-carb Atkins diet, and has a much larger psychological component than the very successful South Beach Diet.

“Contrary to what most other diet programs say, I think you should weigh yourself daily at the same time in the morning,” he said, “By weighing each day you will know how hard to be on yourself each day, which is better than waiting for a whole week to weigh again.”

He advocates enlisting family and friends to support healthy eating and exercise and getting an informal coach who will check on your progress two or three times a week.

“Your family has to be on your side in this â€â€? and in the end they benefit, too,” he said.

Diet experts weigh in

The intellectual approach of the Palm Beach Narcissism Diet makes a lot of sense to Barbara J. Moore, Ph.D. and president and CEO of Shape Up America!. Moore heads the national nonprofit initiative designed to raise awareness of the importance of healthy eating and increased physical activity founded by former U.S. Surgeon C. Everett Koop in 1994.

Not much has been written about the psychological areas of successful weight management that Murray is talking about, Moore told The Palm Beach Post, “One, weight management requires the right mind set.

“Attitude is everything . . . Not nearly enough information is available about the right mind set. For example, consider the typical attitude that demands instant gratification: It took years to gain the 30 pounds you are carrying around, but you want to lose it all in 30 days? Accepting that slow weight loss will probably characterize your journey is part of the process of recovery that Murray seems to allude to.”

Moore, a former professor of nutrition at Rutgers University who headed program development for Weight Watchers International, worked at the National Institutes of Health on government weight-loss promotion efforts immediately before joining Shape Up, America!. She said one of the things she likes best about Murray’s approach is toughness.

“Discipline is not a dirty word,” she said, “It is essential for weight management.” Murray likely knows a great deal about that because discipline is essential in sports performance.

“Mental toughness is needed to stay focused and to say no to the distractions that will encourage you to make bad choices . . . Murray gets that.”

The food consumption recommended in Murray’s diet “seems fundamentally sound,” said Dr. Beth Reames, a professor of nutrition at Louisiana State University’s AGCenter. Reames has researched and written extensively on fad diets.

Asked about the key components of the Palm Beach Narcissism Diet, Reames said, “He’s not going for the quick fix, it includes regular exercise and healthy foods in reasonable portions.”

Reames said her research shows that most American adults need an hour of physical activity a day to maintain a healthy weight.

“There’s no easy solution,” she said, “It’s a lifetime commitment and diets that recognize that can be successful.”

The skinny

Specifically, Murray advocates eating three balanced meals a day with little or no snacking and little or no alcohol consumption. He doesn’t drink, but says for those who do can have an occasional glass of wine with dinner if their weight loss progress is good.

Like South Beach and Atkins diets, Murray regards refined sugar, potatoes and bleached white flour as enemy combatants which can be virtually eliminated from adult diets with no ill effects.

He favors fruit, especially melons, berries and tomatoes, as part of a healthy breakfast with egg white omelets or yogurt for protein. Lunch should usually include plenty of fresh greens in a salad topped with grilled chicken or shrimp. Broiled fish, lean beef or skinless chicken with ample portions of steamed vegetables, especially broccoli and carrots, are his usual dinner.

Use olive oil for cooking, he said, and avoid butter, cream and sauces with high sugar or salt content. Mustard, balsamic vinegar, lime or lemon juice and a little low-sodium soy sauce add flavor without significant calories or salt, he said.

Murray said he also discovered that his weight loss has been hastened by drinking lots of water and dramatically reducing consumption of coffee, tea and soft drinks, which contain caffeine that stimulates appetite.

Does the Palm Beach Narcissism Diet really work? So far, Murray is down to 215 pounds, a loss of more than 45 pounds in less than four months. The real test may come on Sept. 15 when he promises to tip the scales at 185. By Christmas, he wants to be back to his pro tennis-playing weight of 175â€? “that will be my Christmas present to myself,” he said with a narcissistic wink.

Jane Daugherty writes for The Palm Beach Post.

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