Archive for the ‘News & Events’ Category

Dimension VIII: Why Bill Walsh was so Great as 49ers Head Coach

When I wrote “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” I knew that Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers were good, but I did not know how good until I crunched all the data and ranked the teams from 1-90. It would turn out that the 49ers teams own 3 of the top 6 spots of all time in terms of performance on Super Sunday. Much of this was the doing of the late great coach Bill Walsh.

I met and befriended Lesley Visser as I was getting ready to go over to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympic games. We shared a common interest in tennis and football, and she was very excited about my upcoming book and offered to write the epilogue. She wanted to write it about Bill Walsh, whom she had known from her many NFL broadcasts, and I was thrilled. She did a terrific job and you can now read about what made this man so enormously successful as a coach.

For example, you will read that while Walsh projected an image as the intellectual professor, and did not like to yell at his players, he was anything but soft. In fact, he was an amateur boxer and he liked to study the intricate moves of Mohammed Ali, and he used the principles he learned from boxing (like coaching his team’s offensive and defensive lines to always explode off the ball faster than the opponent) to make his team better.

Lesley Visser is the only female in the pro football Hall of Fame, and she has a resume as a broadcaster that is too long for this page. I know you will love her epilogue and learn more about the genius and ferocity of Walsh when you read “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.”

I hope you enjoyed learning more about this book focused on sports psychology.

Dimension VII: Daily Lessons Learned from Super Bowls

I am the author of ““The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History”“and you might be surprised to learn that this book is not only about football and sports psychology.

When I wrote this book, I wanted to do something similar to what I did in my first book “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game,” and that is to give the reader something to take home and use to better their life.

The NFL Super Bowl is perhaps the most competitive game played every year and it is played on the biggest stage of all with billions of viewers from all over the world. Talk about pressure! I figured that if I could dissect what the keys to success in each one of these games were, I would then be able to provide people all over the world my findings so that they could improve their lives by reading the book and learning from the success principle that was taught on the natural stage of Super Bowl Sunday.

In this new book you will see these 45 lessons for success appear in the text and then again all together in a useful list for the reader at the end of the book. Learn from the biggest competitive arenas the world has known and apply these 45 lessons to your own self improvement.

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

Dimension VI: The Best Super Bowl Teams Ever

I am the author of ““The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History”” which, like the title implies, uses a systematic approach to determine which teams were best.

It was only after standardizing performance ratings in a football game with the Mental Performance Index statistic (MPI for short) that we were able to compare how teams had performed even when they were over 40 years apart. Using a play rating system that is fair and balanced, the MPI total score indicates how closely a given team came to perfection in a game in a similar manner that a baseball batting average shows how close a batter came to perfection on a scale of .000 to 1.000. In the case of football team performance, however, .500 is roughly average performance.

There were a total of 14 MPI statistics created and 14 more traditional statistics were analyzed in the book, so we looked at a total of 28 ways of determining how good a team was, and team rankings for all 28 statistics are presented in this book. Of course everyone wants to know which team was best overall, and that is shown in the MPI Total score (MPI-T) rankings in which the top 32 performing teams on Super Bowl Sunday are listed.

Read this book and let the debates begin over which team was best!

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

The “Tough Guys Talk” Initiative

Sports Psychology Excerpts – from pages 54-55 of the book “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” by John F Murray (World Audience, 2011):

Stephan and I had often discussed the misconception about talking to a psychologist or counselor that seemed to exist in our society, and especially in some of the more powerful quarters. It needed to change. The supposedly tough types that we often saw in business and pro sports, like the CEOs, NBA stars, or head NFL coaches had somehow learned to associate “toughness” with grueling schedules, physical pain tolerance and the hesitancy to open up about problems or seek counseling. But once they did open up it was clear that this repression had exacted a toll and they were filled with more needs than most. Examined closer, it just jumps out at you that what is really going on when an athletic or business culture fails to encourage help seeking, or when anyone avoids dealing with a serious issue, it is anything but “tough” and more accurately quite “weak!” Not meeting issues head on is actually rooted in deep fear and insecurity.

One example that was recently brought to my attention was when NFL hall of fame quarterback Warren Moon wrote a book in which he admitted that he was seeing a therapist for many years and sneaking in the back door of his therapist’s office at night so that nobody would notice he was seeking help. Pro football hall of famer, Lesley Visser, who writes a beautiful epilogue in this book, called to tell me the news of Warren Moon’s admission. I thanked her and told her that I would make sure to convey the message in this book that the toughest among us are those who when faced with problems and are not afraid to seek help, and I called it “tough guys talk.” Warren Moon should be proud that he faced his issues, but societal pressure made it harder for him to share the benefits he was receiving with others until now.

I have a solution, and it starts with every top executive in major sports as a campaign to encourage star athletes to face problems head-on and talk with a counselor or sport psychologist when needed. Every senior executive and coach or manager in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL should institute a program and call it: “Tough Guys Talk” with a poster and just these words on top in bright bold lettering. It should be posted in every locker room listing some of the great players who won national championships while talking with a sports psychologist or counselor. The list would be most impressive because some great athletes do seek help but then don’t talk about it because of the stigma that they will appear weak. Hogwash! These leaders would in one fell swoop begin to eradicate idiocy and allow more players to access care and be tough by talking rather than running like little children in fear of being ostracized.

The program I propose would start with just one team’s GM. And since I am related to one of the greatest ever and feel that he can have an enormous impact like none other, I personally and cheerfully challenge Cousin Bill Polian to institute a “Tough Guys Talk” program with the Colts. When Mr. Polian or another top executive in sports does this he will establish himself even more as a visionary who cared enough for his people to allow them to develop and improve.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Sports Psychology.

Brandon Marshall Admits he has Personality Disorder

Sports Psychology Update – John F Murray – Great Job Brandon Marshall of the Miami Dolphins! More people need to see mental illness for what it is. It is real, and it is more difficult than a broken leg.

Here is the story in ESPN

Hope you enjoyed that little message form the world of sports psychology.

What it Took to Become a Sports Psychologist

Sports Psychology Commentary – John F. Murray – July 31, 2011 – Hello everyone. I get a lot of students contacting me every year about the profession and science of sports psychology, and I try to get back to them all. Often they will ask me what school to go to or what the requirements are to become a sports psychologist, and it is this latter question that I will try to answer as briefly as possible here. I also recently posted this kind of message in an amazon.com discussion forum on the topic as I was promoting my two sports psychology books “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game” and “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.”

Back in the 1980s I was a tennis pro and was coaching the sport worldwide. In around the mid-1980s we started putting on mental training sessions for our tennis clientele, and sports psychology to me then was what was contained in books such as the Inner Game of Tennis, Flow, and books for specific mental training in particular sports. I was fascinated by the subject, and with a bachelors degree in psychology I decided to go back to graduate school and become a sports psychologist. I left a great career in tennis when I returned to America in 1990 and enrolled at the University of Florida Department of Exercise and Sports Sciences in the Spring of 1991 to become a sports psychologist.

As I got into their great program there, and played tennis almost daily with the department chair Bob Singer, I quickly learned that if I was going to realize my dreams of becoming a practicing sports psychologist, I would need to also first become a licensed psychologist. The exercise science folks were great academically, but there was simply no training model in place to train sports psychologists within academic sports science programs. By contrast, psychology had been doing it for 50 plus years.

So after a masters degree specializing in sports psychology, I enrolled in the Fall of 1992 at the University of Florida’s Department of Clinical and Health Psychology. They were also excellent and they were able to provide me not only the overall background I needed in psychology to understand, assess, and treat problems clinically, but the only way you are going to become any kind of practicing psychologist (I wanted to do it rather than research it) then and today is by getting a state license, and that requires graduation from a psychology doctoral program. Thankfully, they allowed me to continue to pursue my passion for sports psychology, and I conducted my PhD dissertation on the football team that won the national title in 1996.

The following year I went on internship, and was able to secure the only APA approved internship in the country that had a full year rotation in applied sports psychology at Washington State University. I came back after that year, defended my dissertation, and then realized that in order to become a sports psychologist (or any kind of psychologist) there was still a requirement to complete 2000 hours of supervised clinical work after the PhD. So I secured a postdoctoral fellowship at Florida International University and after 14 months had the required hours, sat for the licensing exam and passed it, and became an officially licensed psychologist (and sports psychologist too since my academic and practical training was also in that area).

If you are exhausted having read all that, imagine how I felt in this pursuit from 1991 to 1999! The clear reality is that there is a way to become a legitimate sports psychologist. I have done it. But it takes almost forever. Why should this be surprising? To be able to best understand human beings, it makes sense to study human beings (and not just athletes). To know athletes it also makes sense to study athletes, sports sciences, and all those good things. Elite athletes have worked their entire lives to be able to play a sport, so it makes sense that we sports psychologists have to grind too … at least our athlete clients will respect us better as we know the value of sacrifice and dedication the way they do to get to the top.

While there is room for everyone to help athletes in some way or another, the truth is that becoming a sports psychologist is a daunting proposition that requires years of hard work, financial delays, luck, and creativity. I stayed with it because I was extremely passionate, and I am glad I did. But if you miss either the sports science side of the equation or the psychology side, you are missing too much, and you are not really going to be fully qualified as a sports psychologist.

It is true that the bare minimum to use the title in most every state is a psychology license to practice, and that is the hardest part to acquire because you have to go through a formal psychology program which takes 5 years overall at a minimum and requires a very high score on the GRE to get into the program in the first place. I was low, as I only scored 1300 which was around the 95th percentile then from what I can recall. Some say that doctoral programs in psychology are harder to get into than medical school. But even with the psychology training and license, you cannot open shop independently and hold yourself out to the public as a sports psychologist without the course work and other academics in the sports psychology/sports sciences realm as well as a ton of supervision by another qualified and licensed sports psychologist! To do so otherwise would violate the ethical requirement to practice within your established area of competence and training.

In any event, my book Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game (Smart Sport Series) aims at helping tennis players and all athletes really to play the game better mentally, whereas my book just released this year The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History is a much more comprehensive book that is part auto-biography, part new discovery, part social change agent, part football lover’s guide to the Super Bowl, and part coaches manual for success with a team. I think you will love this latest book and you will also like Smart Tennis if you want to improve performance in a specific sport.

I know that was a long one, and I am sorry if some of you had to go take a bathroom break before finishing 🙂 … but I wanted to share my story – and I go into great depth about all this in The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History … the bottom line is anyone who is ambitious and bright enough can become a sports psychologist, but your really need almost 10 years to do it right. There are very few practicing sports psychologists like myself out there, so it’s hard to gain the supervision … but it is a great profession and I am daily stimulated by a variety of challenges.

Thanks for listening!

John F Murray, PhD
Clinical & Sports Psychologist &
Author of The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History
Author of Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game (Smart Sport Series)

I hope you enjoyed that little trip into the world of education and sports psychology.

Dimension V: Why Coaches Often Avoid Sports Psychology

I am the author of ““The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History”” which gets into the topic of why coaches and teams often avoid sports psychology to their own detriment.

The truth is that there are deep historical roots behind this stance, so this book makes an effort to understand the biases and remove wrong assumptions so that sports psychology is more accepted and user friendly as simply the science of success.

The book also introduces a paradigm shift in sports by showing how essential mental coaching and mental performance is to winning. Extensive data to back up the assertions is cited, and this data was produced only after carefully analyzing every play in Super Bowl history. In this way, the book is quite useful to the mental health care provider or sports scientist who is trying to help, and also useful to the coach in order to provide another perspective that will help his or her team. The author did his graduate work at University of Florida’s Department of Clinical and Health Psychology as well as their Department of Health and Human Performance, so he offers a rare view that covers both the sports sciences that emerged from academic departments of physical education, and the more traditional psychology with roots way back to the 19th century.

There are many reasons why for centuries the mental part of daily life took a back seat to the physical, but when you examine it more closely from a neuropsychological perspective you come to realize that “mental” is very much physical and real, and in fact more real than the more limited actions or body movements that are an invention of the brain, mind, and mental activity. The practical coach and athlete as well as the deep thinker and academician will appreciate “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” and see the world in a slightly different way after taking the time to invest in the discoveries made.

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

Dimension IV: A New Finding in Sports Science and Football

I am the author of ““The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History”” which discusses a shocking realization and an important scientific discovery in team sports. It is something that should over the years (as this book becomes more and more distributed and understood) really support sports psychology and the mission of sports psychologists, and help coaches and teams win much more too if they adopt the learning! Can you tell that I am excited?

While “The Mental Performance Index” is the title of a book, it is also the name of a new statistic that I invented for football. Before this book, football team mental performance, and in fact all team mental performance, was simply never measured professionally, accurately or at all. By measuring this in all 45 Super Bowls played from 1967 to 2011, I made the incredible discovery that this measure of performance (which includes mental performance in a total measure of performance) is what separates winning teams from losing teams. The factor appears to be even more important than points scored or given up.

The shocking realization is that we had overlooked something so critical to success forever, but when we looked at it professionally it correlated with winning more than any other statistic! It was better than all the other traditional stats for football team performance. That is what I mean by a scientific discovery in team sports. After this book finally gets around, the world should never really be exactly the same in sports or sports psychology.

Dimension III: 4-Time Super Bowl Winning Tom Flores’ Take on the MPI

I am the author of ““The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History”” which is supported by 4-Time Super Bowl winning coach and player Tom Flores, who wrote the forward to the book. He has an interesting view about the MPI and sports psychology and I wanted you to know it.

I chose Tom Flores for my forward (and was thrilled when he accepted) because I wanted to find the most successful people in Super Bowl history to get behind the book and concepts. Tom Flores fit the bill well. Flores has a perfect 4-0 record in Super Bowls, making him unquestionably one of a handful of the most successful persons in NFL history. He is the only one to win a Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach, and two times as a head coach with the Oakland & Los Angeles Raiders.

Flores has been around football for over 50 years, so it should be very interesting to hear his views. In my book “The Mental Performance Index,” Flores writes the following in his forward: “Dr. Murray has developed a system that is part of the evolution of football: The ability to identify, quantify and utilize a grading system that will aid coaches and players. It is a method of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of every aspect of a team and or individual. It is a system that can point out the direction needed for improvement. Sports have come a long way in the past century. The future, compared to the past, is vast. Innovation was frowned upon for years but not any longer. Teams, coaches and players are always looking for an edge and a way to stay ahead of the field. Dr. Murray’s Mental Performance Index can be and will be the next part of sports evolution in the 21st Century.”

For more information about this book and what Tom Flores has to say, please scroll back up and click on the link to the book. And by the way, if Tom Flores is not in the Hall of Fame soon, there is something terribly wrong with that picture. Enjoy the book!

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

Dimension II: The Role of the Sports Psychologist on a Team

I am the author of “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” which addresses the role of the sports psychologist in football. It occasionally occurs that there are fears that some coaches have about mental coaching and sports psychology.

While I cannot speak for other sports psychologists, I always start with the assumption that the coach is the captain of the ship and I am there to provide a needed service just the same way any professional would, all the way from the team physician to the dentist, trainer, assistant coach, and massage therapist. I am not and have no desire to be the head coach. He brings me in to help with his own philosophy of football. I am there to adapt to his needs to help him and help the team achieve worthy goals.

If you would like to read more about this coach/sports psychologist relationship and how to ensure that everything goes smoothly to best help the team, how coaches are respected as the boss, how problems are prevented before they occur, and much more, you will want to read “The Mental Performance Index.”