Archive for the ‘News & Events’ Category

KICK TO THE PSYCHE

Palm Beach Post – Sept 8, 2004 – Tom D’Angelo – TALLAHASSEE â€? Fate cannot be that cruel. It can’t happen again. Five failures in 13 seasons. Three times since the turn of the century.

If Florida State’s hopes of beating Miami on Friday in the Orange Bowl come down to a field goal, Xavier Beitia will be reminded of the Seminoles’ inglorious past â€? by his own memories as well as the roar and taunts of the Hurricanes’ fans.

And if Beitia is asked to end Florida State’s five-game losing streak against UM with his foot, one professional hopes the senior kicker has done something in private that he has not done publicly in the past eight months.

Talk about his failures.

“I feel sorry for him if he didn’t get significant help,” said John F. Murray, a licensed sport performance psychologist from West Palm Beach. “When a person does this twice they have a traumatic memory, a stimulus response. When he gets in that situation again, he’s going to have that same response.”

Beitia is a member of Florida State’s infamous “Wide Right Club,” one that includes three other kickers, all of whom have missed a potential game-winning or game-tying field goal wide right (Beitia also is the charter and sole member of the “Wide Left Club) against Miami.

The most recent was the 2004 Orange Bowl Classic, in which Beitia pushed right a 39-yard attempt with 5:30 remaining that would have given Florida State a one-point lead. Miami hung on for a 16-14 victory.

Two seasons ago, Beitia missed a 43-yard attempt wide left as time expired, preserving Miami’s 28-27 victory.

“I’d hate for my son to go through that,” Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. “To walk off that field, man, it’s tough. But it happens all the time. It’s the nature of the job. And it happens in pro ball for millions and millions of dollars. If the kid ain’t tough, he can’t make it. Thank goodness, Xavier has got a little toughness about him.”

Is a “little toughness” all it will take? Most psychologists say no. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Art of Failure, believes that once an athlete “chokes,” the odds of a repeat improve the next time the situation presents itself.

His example is Jana Novotna in the deciding set of the 1993 Wimbledon final against Steffi Graf. Leading 4-1 and serving at 40-30, Novotna lost five consecutive games. Two years later, in the third round of the French Open, Novotna lost to Chanda Rubin after leading 5-0 in the third set.

“It seems little doubt that part of the reason for her collapse against Rubin was her collapse against Graf â€â€? that the second failure built on the first, making it possible for her to be up 5-0 in the third set and yet entertain the thought ‘I can still lose,’ ” Gladwell wrote.

Before the Orange Bowl, Beitia said his confidence was high and that the 2002 miss � after which Beitia was inconsolable� was erased.

Former Florida State kicker Bill Capece has mentored Beitia since he arrived from Tampa’s Jesuit High in 2001. Capece, a Leon County sheriff’s deputy and a former NFL kicker, holds several school records. He talked to Beitia last season about forgetting his first miss. This off-season, the talks became more serious.

“He’s talking to somebody who’s been through it, not just with somebody who has 20 college degrees,” Capece said. “He is able to let it go with somebody who can say, ‘I’ve felt the same thing and this is what I heard and this is what I did.’ ”

Capece and Beitia spoke about concentrating from the time he walks on the field for pre-game practice.

“He knows when he comes out of that tunnel in Miami, he’s going to hear it,” Capece said. “I said, ‘If you can stay in the game and just worry about kicking the ball, then that stuff will bounce off you.’ ”

Beitia has the failed-kick triple crown. No only has he missed right and left against Miami, but last season his game-winning attempt against North Carolina was so low that it was blocked. Florida State won the game in overtime.

When asked if Beitia’s failures in the clutch are mental, Capece first said, “I really don’t believe that.” Then, he added. “That’s hard to say because I’m not in his head.”

Murray knows the answer.

“A skill that is automatic in practice, you start blowing the situation out of proportion,” Murray said. “The problem with this guy is he’s going to have the possibility of choking much higher.”

Beitia spent more time in Tallahassee this summer, mainly to work with a new snapper (Myles Hodish) and a new holder (punter Chris Hall). With the signing of Gary Cismesia of Bradenton, he was pushed during practice more than any time since he arrived.

“It has helped in a lot of aspects,” Beitia said of the competition. “The fact I’ve got to be on my game every time I come to practice. The fact that I don’t have to kick 100 balls in practice, because I had other guys to help out and save my legs.”

But has it helped Beitia’s psyche? That is a question that will be answered only if the outcome of Friday’s game rests on his foot.

“Napoleon said the battle is often won in the mind, or the mind is more powerful than the sword,” Murray said. “If it’s not, patterns have tendencies to repeat themselves. You have to figure out a way to break the pattern.”

UBEROI QUALIFIES

Sun Sentinel – Aug 28, 2004 – Charles Bricker – With her father, Mahesh, frequently calling out from behind the sideline fence, “Come on, Tiger,” Shikha Uberoi, 21, of Boca Raton, qualified for her first Grand Slam by defeating Vilmarie Castellvi 6-4, 6-2.

It’s the first time since 1996 that a woman of Indian heritage (Laxmi Poruri) has been in the main draw of the Open and no Indian woman has won a round here since Poruri in 1989.

Shikha and her 18-year-old sister, Neha, both were in qualifying, but Neha lost in the first round.

GO SHIKHA AND CONGRATUALATIONS! You are the best! Dr. John F Murray After she qualified she wrote to Dr. John F MurrayDR. MURRAY!!!

How are you? I believe you are in London now. I wanted to tell you that I won two 10k events back to back. It was great!!! I was in complete control of my mind and completely relaxed. I wanted to thank you for your support and belief in me. Thanks for everything.

Shikha Uberoi – WTA Tour Tennis Professiona

OTHER EARLY RETIREES UNDERSTAND WILLIAMS’ EXIT

Newark Star Ledger – Aug 12, 2004 – Pete Iorizzo – To the fans, teammates, former players (yes, even you, Barry Sanders) and media members who have been haranguing Ricky Williams, Robert Smith has a message:

Back off. Smith, who abruptly walked away from the Minnesota Vikings after the 2000 season, said he understands why Williams quit the Miami Dolphins last week, less than a week before the start of training camp. He said Williams, a running back like Smith, made the right decision — even if Williams was in his playing prime and the peak earning years.

“For his mental and physical health, it was best,” Smith said. “Playing football is not something you can do 80 percent mentally. It didn’t make sense to keep going.”

Williams became the latest in a string of athletes who caught their sport, their team, their fans by surprise. They are rebels and nonconformists willing to walk away from adulation and millions of dollars to do something else — or nothing else.

Slugger Ken Harrelson left major league baseball in 1971 to take a shot at the PGA Tour. He failed. Superstar Michael Jordan walked away from the NBA to try to play baseball. He struck out. Safety Pat Tillman shunned a multimillion-dollar contract from the Arizona Cardinals to join the special forces. He died in an Afghanistan firefight. Defensive tackle Mike Reid left the Bengals in 1974 at 26 to play the piano. He has since written 10 No. 1 country music hits and has two Grammy Awards.

Smith quit an NFL career and has been laying low since.

Some share a different world view than most, one that clashes with America’s sports-crazed culture. Others simply burn out. But fans, who live vicariously through their sports heroes, feel betrayed.

Smith said his perspective changed when he was a freshman at Ohio State. Before a game against the University of Michigan, Bill Miles, then the OSU offensive line coach, caught him looking nervous. He pulled him aside and said, “Robert, this game is important. But there are a billion people in China who don’t even know this game is going on.”

Said Smith: “That changed things. If you just turn on your TV and listen, there are lots of important things happening in the world. Don’t always put on SportsCenter.”

As a running back with the Vikings, Smith, on Tuesdays, visited children suffering from cancer. He heard their stories, met with their parents and followed their struggles. Then, on Wednesdays, he would answer questions about the upcoming game’s importance. The contrast disturbed him, he said.

When Smith retired, he faced much of the same criticism as Williams. Although Smith had talked about nobler pursuits throughout his career, few suspected he would quit at age 29 after rushing for 1,521 yards in 2000, his best season.

“For someone like me or Ricky, there are just more important things in life,” Smith said. “Everyone was talking to me like, ‘This is a do-or-die game this week.’ Well, I had just spent the day before with a 6-year-old dying of cancer. It just didn’t jive.”

Williams and Smith spoke in June while working together at a camp. Smith talked to Williams about his upcoming book, “The Rest of the Iceberg,” which will articulate Smith’s position on sports in American society and the life of a professional athlete. During their conversation, Williams — painfully shy and suffering from social anxiety disorder, hinted he was considering retirement.

Smith said Williams had mulled the decision for months. He told the Dolphins a couple of days before camp opened because that’s when he arrived at his decision, Smith said. But with their offense built around Williams, a powerful runner, the Dolphins were left with few options for replacing him.

“There’s no question he could have picked a better time,” Smith said. “But it wasn’t like this was an overnight decision, and he decided a week before training camp just to (hurt) them.”

Williams left reportedly facing a drug suspension, and he told the Miami Herald his desire to continue smoking marijuana contributed to his decision to quit. He also may owe the Dolphins $8 million because of his early exit.

All that aside, Smith said if teammates and fans stop and consider Williams’ decision, they will understand it.

“For the fans, look, he has real issues more important than entertaining you,” Smith said. “He doesn’t live to entertain you and make your ticket worthwhile.”

Williams and Smith are not the only NFL running backs to have bailed in the prime of their careers. In 1965, Jim Brown left the Cleveland Browns to pursue an acting career. And in 1999, with Walter Payton’s rushing record within reach, Sanders walked away from the Detroit Lions. But Sanders said he had trouble making sense of Williams’ decision.

“I’m as surprised as anyone,” Sanders told The Associated Press. “Even for me, it seems very strange.”

John Riggins, a running back who turned a holdout into a short retirement, refused to criticize Williams, too.

“He was satisfied with what he got out of it,” Riggins told the Miami Herald. “He’s walking away from the game, running away from the game, which a lot of us can’t do because we played longer than we were supposed to. I’m not overly religious, but the Bible says, ‘To thine own self be true.'”

Williams’ decision was less surprising to psychologists. Athletes burn out, they say, when they feel like they have lost control. Certain personality types, particularly free spirits like Williams, are more prone.

“Burnout often results from feeling trapped in a position,” said Dr. David Feigley, a sports psychologist at Rutgers University. “Sometimes we think of it as overwork. But if it’s overwork and you still feel in control, you’re less likely to burn out.

“Why do you go to practice? If the answer is, ‘I have to,’ as oppose to, ‘I chose to,’ you’re more prone. Burnout tends to happen when you’re working in area you once enjoyed, but now there are all these external constraints.”

That seems to apply to Williams, who said he felt “free” after announcing his retirement.

“My heart tells me, ‘Don’t be controlled,'” Williams told the Miami Herald. “Everyone wants freedom. Humans aren’t supposed to be controlled and told what to do. They’re supposed to be given direction and a path. Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do. Please.”

Dr. John F. Murray, a sports psychologist based in West Palm Beach, Fla., said teams need to be more proactive in tapping into with players’ psyches. Having a full-time sport psychologist as part of the coaching staff would be a good start, he said.

Murray said he worked with two high-profile athletes on the verge of quitting. One, he said, went on to win the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots. The other was tennis player Vince Spadea, who wanted to quit after enduring a 21-match ATP losing streak.

“There are many ways to keep people fresh and keep their desire to play sports alive,” Murray said. “We have maxed out on physical training, but we haven’t come close to realizing our potential when it comes to dealing with the mental side.

“It’s time for coaches to wake up and realize you can’t address these issues in old-fashioned, antiquated ways. It’s time to wake up and get real and help these athletes.”

In some cases, psychologists say, a break will help an athlete recover and prod him toward returning, as was the case with Jordan.

Smith admitted to missing football. But he believes there are more important things.

“Just because you can do something,” Smith said, “doesn’t mean you should.”

LEAVING SO SOON?

A look at pro athletes who retired early for reasons other than injury or illness:

Bjorn Borg: He won 11 majors, including five consecutive Wimbledons and four straight French Opens before quitting in 1981 at age 25. His comeback at 34 was short-lived.

Jim Brown: Considered the greatest running back in NFL history, he left the game at 30 to become an action-film star and civil rights leader.

Jennifer Capriati: Burnout and drug issues led her to quit at age 17 in 1993. She returned to win three Grand Slam titles, and she became the top-ranked player in the world for parts of 2001 and ’02. Now 28, she is still a top-10 player.

Dave Cowens: At 28, he quit after his friend Paul Silas was traded after the Celtics’ 1976 championship season. Cowens returned after 30 games, retired again after the 1980 season, returned in 1982, then quit again. He has coached Boston, Charlotte and Golden State.

Ken Harrelson: After hitting 65 home runs in his two previous seasons, Harrelson left the game at 30 to try to make the PGA Tour. He fell short but built a career as a baseball analyst.

Michael Jordan: He retired three times, once to play baseball. He returned to lead the Bulls to their second three-peat from 1996-98. He finished his career with two so-so seasons on the Wizards and is now looking for an NBA franchise to own.

Rocky Marciano: After going 49-0 as a pro, the heavyweight champion retired in 1956 at age 31. Unlike other champs, he never returned, and died at 45 in a plane crash.

John Riggins: He was 31 when he turned a holdout into a one-year retirement. He returned in 1981 and was the Super Bowl XVII MVP before retiring in 1986.

Barry Sanders: The Lions’ running back was within 1,500 yards of breaking Walter Payton’s career rushing record when he suddenly retired before training camp in 1999.

Robert Smith: The former Vikings running back led the NFC with 1,521 yards rushing in 2000 and walked away from a potential $40 million free-agent contract.

Pat Tillman: Driven by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Cardinals safety turned down a $3.6 million contract to retire before the 2002 season and join the Army Rangers at age 25. He was killed in a fire-fight in Afghanistan on April 22.

Sports Psychology in Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated – Dr. John F. Murray Profile – Sports Psychologist – October 14, 2003 – Work in Sports Feature by Mike McNulty – What started as a routine sideline interview after a typical preseason NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons, quickly turned into a serious, heart-felt discussion of mental illness. There Ricky Williams stood talking about the social anxiety disorder he recently overcame. It was unusual — but incredibly positive — to see a tough-as-nails, muscular football star admit to something so personal. And Ricky Williams isn’t the only one.

All across the country, the stigma of mental illness is slowly disappearing. As a result, more and more athletes are willing to discuss their feelings with a professional.

One of those well-respected confidants is Dr. John Murray, PhD, who treats NFL players, professional golfers and professional tennis players.

Interestingly, Murray didn’t set out to be a sports psychologist when he started his career. “I traveled the world coaching tennis,” he says. But he saw something glaring while on the road watching matches.

Seeing how critically important the mental game was to success, and how few athletes trained their minds properly, I felt this was the perfect “next step” in my career,he says. “I wanted to do what I was doing in coaching but expand it to a much broader application for all people and athletes in all sports. Sport psychology was a small but growing specialty within psychology and the sport sciences.”

Along with a BA in psychology from Loyola University, Murray went south to Florida and began piling up degrees along with invaluable experience.

“I completed all my graduate work at the University of Florida in the 1990s. Got two masters degrees (Sport Psychology and Clinical Psychology) and a PhD (Clinical Psychology). The 1997 national champion Florida Gators football team was the subject of my doctoral dissertation.”

Now he needed an internship to apply his skills and gain some real world experience.

“I did my clinical and sport psychology internship at Washington State University and a post doctoral fellowship at Florida International University prior to opening my private practice.”

That practice, which is based in Florida and also includes non-athletes, has blossomed in recent years. Through his professional commitment, Murray’s schedule keeps getting more and more busy.

“My day typically involves seeing clients in my office and talking with them on the phone,”he says. “For many athletes this is the main way I work with them–using phone and email follow-up–as they travel throughout the world.”

“I always start with a new client by doing a full evaluation to see where their mental skills are, what they are like as a person, what they are dealing with. Then I devise a plan to help them reach their goals more effectively.”

Because of his success, Murray has slowly become one of the better-known voices in the sports psychology community.

“Other things I do are write articles for magazines, conduct workshops, and speak at various engagements,”he says. “I also do a fair number of interviews for newspapers, magazines, and TV occasionally. Most recently, I was called to do interviews for BBC radio, CBS national radio, NPR, Bloomberg Radio, ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated.”

Another big element of his job is attending sporting events.

“I get out to the athletic site quite often. I spend time on the sidelines, on the court and on the course to see the athlete in their natural environment.”

Murray says one of the drawbacks (or at least issue to keep in mind when considering the field) is the constant hours.

“I am available 24/7 to my clients so it is definitely not a 9 to 5 job!”

Yet the benefits, according to Murray, are endless.

“It’s exciting work helping people achieve more success,” he says. “And the great thing about working with high performers such as athletes is that you can actually see the performance. Just turn on the TV on Sunday.”

How many people can see such direct results? Hey, there goes my client rushing for 467 yards today. Looks like the sessions are working!

Of course, there’s also travel.

Along with visiting clients and athletic sites, Murray says, “I went to London twice this year to do workshops. The cell phone gets a lot of use.”

Perhaps one of the most intriguing things about sports psychology is that it’s still emerging. There’s plenty of room for newcomers to join and enrich the profession.

Murray’s overall advice to those considering a career is this: “To be a sport psychologist you have to wear many hats and credentials are extremely important. I believe the only way to do it is to become a licensed psychologist first, as the bare minimum level of training. You need to know what makes people tick, how they break down, all of the assessment and treatment training.

But a license in psychology is not enough. You also have to have studied the sport sciences–the physical bases of sport–the movement sciences, the biology, the physiology etc. Then, and perhaps the hardest part to acquire, is the hands-on training by another qualified sport psychologist. I was fortunate to train under a current Olympic sport psychologist when I did my internship. It’s a long road with little gratification and a lot of hard work. But now I’m professionally satisfied and challenged, invigorated by what I do, and constantly learning. You never know enough. Performance and competition is always changing so you have to be able to go with the flow, make adjustments with athletes on the fly, and treat clinical problems too when they come up.”

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

STRESS RELIEF IN TENNIS

Mental Equipment Syndicated Column – Jul 1, 1997 – Dr. John F. Murray – Although tennis and other physical activities are usually considered excellent forms of stress relief, the serious competitive athlete often experiences stress similar to an ambitious corporate executive or overworked waitress. Too much stress can wreak havok on your mind and body. The bottom line is a less pleasant experience, impaired performance, or even potential health problems. This month, the spotlight is on learning to cope with stress through relaxation.

Players who shine in practice often crumble in tournaments because they manage stress poorly. Although an optimal arousal level must be maintained for peak performance (See my September 1995 article on Optimizing Arousal in Tennis), prolonged and excessive arousal is rarely positive. Failing to prepare for stress is as unacceptable as forgetting to bring spare rackets to the match! Still, many players never invest in stress busting tools.

There are as many relaxation programs on the market as there are diets. Most involve some combination of deep breathing, pleasant imagery, and muscular movements. I’ll touch briefly on Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), the “gold standard” of relaxation techniques, developed in the 1930’s and aptly used to defeat a variety of physical and psychological ailments. PMR, and its many varients, is used to help athletes prepare for competition as well as to relax during play.

PMR trains the individual to identify the relative contrast between muscular tension and the opposite sensation of complete calmness. By progressively tensing various muscles and muscle groups for several seconds and completely releasing and relaxing, the individual gradually learns to induce relaxation on demand in periods of high stress. Recognition of the contrast between tension and calmness is fundamental to the success of PMR.

There are two basic spinoffs of PMR that I’ll recommend for tennis players. The first involves a pre-match relaxation routine whereas the second helps in coping with stress in the heat of battle. A warning … these methods will only work if regularly practiced and perfected. I’ll outline them briefly, but remember there is no substitute for the guidance of a qualified sport psychologist in helping meet your individual needs.

10 Minute Pre-Match Routine

Minute 1

O.K., the big match is upon you. Before the warm-up, find a quiet place and comfortable sitting position. Relax totally with eyes slightly closed.

Minute 2

Inhale for about 6 seconds deeply and slowly, then exhale for about 10 seconds. Continue this breathing pattern throughout the routine.

Minutes 3-8

While inhaling, tense a muscle group and hold it tight for the duration of the inhalation. Totally relase all tension upon exhalation. Study, interpret, and examine the contrast between these two sensations (tension and relaxation). Spend about two minutes for muscle groups in each major region of the body (upper, middle, and lower). Vary the exact muscles used as you see fit … but focus on the difference between unpleasant and tight tension, and its opposite, total calmness.

Minutes 8-10

Now that your awareness of relaxing sensations is heightened, visualize yourself performing to perfection (For help with this, see my August 1995 article on The Essence of Imagery in Tennis). After you are finished, stretch out and fire yourself up for a great perfomance.

On Court Routine

Now you are deep in the heat of a match and feel that stress is intruding:

Accept that you are “stressed” but re-interpret the sensations as normal and exciting consequences of caring.

In between points, breath deeply and slowly while tensing those muscles that have been most affected by the stress (often shoulder muscles). As before, release the tension immediately upon slow exhalation.

Recall your pre-match routine (the pleasant sensations elicited by the procedure) and image your next point to perfection.
Now your mental equipment includes two very simple means of coping with stress in tennis (and other situations as well). Remember to practice these techniques often for them to work. There are countless programs for managing stress … are you using only one?

FOUNDATIONS OF TENNIS QUICKNESS

Mental Equipment Syndicated Column – Aug 1, 1995 – Dr. John F. Murray – Would you like to improve your overall quickness on the tennis court? If so, some physical means are available through improved conditioning, agility and footwork. After that, you may need to choose faster parents to gain a sizeable physical advantage, since genetic factors (e.g., muscle characteristics) place an upper limit on your movement ability.

What may surprise you is that quickness in tennis has less to do with the ability to move, or even run as fast as Forest Gump, than mental skills! Although physical proficiency is desirable, and necessary at the higher levels of play, mental superiority in the form of anticipatory skills is far more meaningful in achieving quickness in tennis.

Visual scanning research in racquet sports has shown that experts differ from novices in eye fixation patterns and perceptual strategies. For example, whereas experts focus consistently on proximal cues (e.g., angle of racket prior to contact, position of server’s shoulder), novices display less controlled fixations and focus on more distal cues (e.g., position of ball after contact). The ability to attend to relevant proximal cues and interpret them accurately is the hallmark of superior anticipation … and quickness.

In short, tennis quickness involves being prepared, knowing what kind of shot to expect from early visual cues, and acting accordingly on that knowledge. If you have poor anticipatory skills and are constantly late in reacting to your opponent, your world class speed will be useless.

Can anticipatory skills in tennis be taught? The exciting news is that a pioneer study here at the University of Florida shows that the answer is yes! In this study, novice and intermediate tennis players learned to make faster and more accurate decisions regarding the type and direction of shots following a mental quickness training program. Further research is certainly needed, but these results are encouraging.

In my opinion, there are two areas of knowledge where improvements will lead to enhanced anticipatory skills and greater tennis quickness. The first, already discussed, involves helping players recognize the meaning of appropriate proximal cues, and implementing this knowledge in game situations. The second area is more traditional and involves reviewing the fine points of timing and court positioning as they relate to the type of shot hit, position of the player, and position of the opponent. Very few club players have mastered these skills. While watching the US Open, it appeared that some professionals would benefit from refinement in this area as well.

I hope this brief review has helped you realize that quickness in tennis involves far more than swift movements or a new pair of Nikes. Quickness may not be directly observable, since the processes contributing to it (e.g., scanning, recognizing, interpreting) are mental operations. Don’t worry though, the difference will be clearly evident in the score!

Using the Weapons of Sport Psychology in Tennis

Mental Equipment Syndicated Column – July 1, 1995 – Dr. John F. Murray – Let’s talk optimal performance. Whether you play or coach tennis professionally, or just slug it out on the weekends, there is a wealth of exciting news available for you from the world of sport psychology. Are you keeping up-to-date on the fascinating developments in this field? If not, you are depriving yourself of key tools that would raise your tennis expertise to the next level.

Sport psychology was defined by Singer in 1978 as “the science of psychology applied to sport.” Sport psychologists provide two major types of services: (1) performance enhancement strategies, and (2) counseling for a variety of issues affecting the athlete. Although not all tennis players have access to a qualified sport psychologist, much can be learned from the available research.

Psychology as a scientific discipline began in 1879, making it one of the youngest of all sciences. Sport psychology is younger still, with only 30 years of extensive research. In fact, it wasn’t until 1985 that the Division of Exercise and Sport Psychology was recognized as a subspecialty of the American Psychological Association. Although still in its infancy, this field already has much to offer. Many research findings have still not been communicated to the player and coach in an easily available format. Much knowledge is just waiting to be tapped! It is my opinion that the complete tennis player and coach of the 21st century will require all the benefits sport psychology has to offer to stay on top.

In this introductory article, I have briefly outlined several areas involved and services provided by the sport psychologist. Look for future articles to explore specific techniques to optimize your performance on the tennis court.

Let’s look at a few domains where sport psychology plays an active role:

(1) Touring professionals and coaches
(2) National team programs
(3) Sport organizations
(4) Youth development programs
(5) Student players and coaches
(6) Families of athletes
(7) Players coping with injuries
(8) Recreational programs

Here are some typical services provided by the sport psychologist:

(1) Imagery training
(2) Arousal management/attentional focus
(3) Substance abuse management
(4) Eating disorders/weight management
(5) Relaxation training
(6) Motivational strategies
(7) Competitive pressure management
(8) Programs to cope with retirement from sport

In closing, sport psychology has much to offer tennis players and coaches at all levels. If you are looking for a competitive edge, or trying to help your players achieve at their maximum level, turn to the science of sport psychology!

WHO’S THE BEST COACH FOR YOU?

Miami Herald – Jan 31, 2005 – Cindy Krischer Goodman – There can be valuable lessons learned from pro football as coaches strive to balance players’ lives and work.

As we head into Super Bowl Sunday this much is clear: Bill Belichick is the NFL coach players most admire. Yet in a recent survey, only 10 percent of NFL players said they would want to be on his New England Patriots team.

Belichick recruits players who are passionate about football and teamwork. He doesn’t sleep much and doesn’t expect his players too, either.

Instead of Belichick, most of the NFL players surveyed said they would like to play for Tony Dungy, who is successful with the Indianapolis Colts but who also believes there’s a wide world out there beyond the stadium.

Survey South Florida’s workforce and you just might find the same reaction. Some people thrive in an intensively competitive environment where 12-hour days are the norm. Others work to earn a living and wouldn’t or can’t put aside outside responsibilities or interests. The goal is to find the right environment for you.

”It’s important for employees when looking for a job to take the corporate culture into consideration,” says James Lavin, author of Management Secrets of the New England Patriots. “They should look at themselves to see what they value in life. People want to be the best employees they can and should work for an organization that makes them feel better about themselves.”

Here in South Florida, Stephen McGill runs his credit union much like an NFL coach. He holds daily huddles and communicates the play of the day.

”We talk about the wins and the losses of the day before and the opportunities for improvement,” say McGill, chief executive of Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union in Miramar. ‘We have a very distinct culture. We exist to improve our members’ financial well being. We are laser focused on that and everyone here knows what we are trying to accomplish.”

McGill doesn’t tolerate egos. His 600 employees are rewarded for teamwork, communicating with colleagues, and giving outstanding service. That may mean opening the doors early or staying 10 minutes past closing. McGill expects employees to give work their all, then go home to their outside lives.

The wide range of leadership styles prove there are many ways to bring a team to victory or a business to success. Clearly, Belichick’s style works in New England. He’s won two Super Bowls in the last three seasons and twice eliminated Dungy’s highly touted teams from the playoffs. Most of us want to be on a winning team, but finding the right workplace to fit your values can be difficult.

Miami Heat president Pat Riley says the most important criteria for anyone is to work for someone they trust.

”We live in society where people are highly ambitious,” Riley says. “People put in a lot of work hours. People who give a lot expect a lot. People who are successful want to be in organizations that are respected and admired. They have to feel they can trust the leader.”

A coach or leader’s job, Riley says, is to create an environment where everyone flourishes.

”Giving people a sense of balance is important,” he says. “But never at the expense of what you have to do to be successful as a team.”

West Palm Beach sport psychologist John Murray gets called in when an athlete needs improvement working with teammates.

”Whether it’s a team sport or a corporation, you have to have everyone on same page,” Murray says. “That is stressful for some personalities. Everyone must work hard and be team oriented or the team is going to not do as well. It’s a subtle art, the tweaking of individuals.”

H. Wayne Huizenga, owner of the Miami Dolphins and the man who built several large public companies knows that the best coaches put their best players in the best positions to win. That means admitting when someone is in the wrong position.

”That’s the toughest thing to do . . . to say it didn’t work out,” Huizenga told the fledging Leaders of Tomorrow group in Fort Lauderdale last week. “You tell them you’ve got two choices: We can move you over here to another spot in the company where your strengths are, or you can go find something else. Sometimes they stay, sometimes they leave.

“The worst mistake you can make is keep a person in a spot because he’s been loyal. You’re not being fair to that person. I think he’s better off going somewhere else and rising to the occasion in an area where he’s more comfortable.”

Lavin, who culled his insights from what has been said by and about the Patriots, says Belichick’s genius is in his recruiting.

”Most players don’t want to train 365 days. Belichick finds guys that do,” Lavin says.

“When he is recruiting he will intentionally downplay the glitz and the salary issue. He’ll sit them down and say here’s why we brought you here, how we’re going to use you and why you can help us win games. He ends up with players who expect a lot of themselves and want to be around other perfectionists.”

Herald business writer Patrick Danner contributed to this report.

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