Archive for the ‘Other Sports’ Category

My Pseudo-Trainer and Client Wins Summa Cum Laude

Special to JohnFMurray.com – July 22, 2010 – Many of you follow my daily activities on Twitter, Facebook or this website. In a few of my past posts I alluded to one of my clients who I started counseling while walking in my unique brand of walk therapy written about in the National Post of Canada and the Wall Street Journal. Why be normal when you can be super-normal is my motto!

This client was fun to tweet about because he was somewhat odd in his sessions which started with walking and progressed to intense walking sessions. I soon realized that this client had no interest in wearing running shoes and instead opted to wear flip flops or sandals even when running long distances as many as 30 miles! Our sports psychology sessions would transpire in the car driving to our runs or on the walks before the runs, and we would then run long distances alone and meet up at a later time, at times running the University of Miami campus, the Palm Beach lake and ocean trails, or more lately from the west part of Las Olas Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale to AIA and then north to Oakland Park or Commercial Blvd. and back.

In short, we combined our sessions with healthy exercise but despite my many warnings to him he insisted in running in sandals. He soon outclassed even the fastest runners on AIA and one day even went 30 plus miles in sandals. He tried a pair of vibram running shoes that look like gloves, but they soon broke and he returned to wearing sandals.

This client was a married student with two children and attending a local university. On campus he dressed in casual clothing and got into his share of trouble with administration. He bucked the trend, spoke his mind, and at times complained to the university administration for unfair policies and restrictions of student freedom. We’ll spare the details, but let’s just say that he was more inclined to tell the truth than play the game and stay out of trouble. He despised red tape, university politics and outdated policies, and unfair treatment of students send him into a frenzy. His controversial nature got him in trouble more than once and the administration even tried to throw him out a couple times in ridiculous hearings that he always defended himself well at, leaving the administration looking confused and disoriented, but he always walked away from these conjured up hearings because there was nothing to them.

He didn’t talk much about his grades, so I assumed he was a B student or maybe B+ since he had a family to take care of, engaged in these marathon runs, and just didn’t fit the image of a pencil case carrying geek with academic perfectionism. I was wrong. He didn’t look like a geek, but he apparently is. My pseudo-trainer recently attended his graduation ceremonies and learned after completing his degree not in 4, but in 1.5 years, and was named the overall best student in the school with a GPA over 3.9 that earned him the top honors of Summa Cum Laude. To add insult to injury for the mean spirited adminsitration, last week he also get accepted into medical school program that awards a combined MD and PhD.

After medical school and residency, this pseudo-trainer wants to do nothing less than cure cancer, and he says he already knows exactly which part of the human genome he is going after once he sets up his lab and begins his practice. Is a Nobel Prize in the future for him. Probably not. It is probably not a big enough challenge for him.

I’ll keep pseudo-trainer annonnymous because he is still a client, and he also has a lot of schooling left and probably not the convenience of a sports psychologist bragging about him. Knowing his blunt and somewhat controversial nature he’ll probably rub someone wrong somewhere in the future and I would prefer that nobody with ill intent gain the benefit of reading this. Like art for art’s purpose alone, this article is an applause for the human spirit exemplified in pseudo-trainer. It is a celebration of our need to remain unique and think big throughts. All is within grasp with the proper mental attitude. I teach that daily to my clients and the flip flop running pseudo trainer has been a great student indeed. He has also been a great running coach for me and I am still learning. Let’s clap now for running dude in sandals who beat a corrupt university administration at their own game by being the school’s overall best student, for getting into a very fine MD/PhD program, and for his future Nobel Prize 🙂 Everyone can take a lesson from him to stand up for what is right rather than go along with corruption and politics, and to shine both academically and in sports.

I hope you all enjoyed this little glimpse into the world of sports psychology and the kind of clients that come my way. Go get em in med school now! This was an article about the human spirit and the benefits of sports psychology.

Contributing, but barely playing Two-sport star in high school adjusts to mostly watching soccer with Cavaliers

Washington Post – Steve Yanda – October 31, 2009 – Sports Psychology – CHARLOTTESVILLE — An all-state honoree who set her high school’s records for goals and assists doesn’t expect to be warming the bench midway through her third collegiate soccer season. A three-time state player of the year in basketball possesses plenty of options other than performing a role unnoticed by nearly everyone.

Katie Carr, a redshirt sophomore for the Virginia women’s soccer team, is all of the above. She does not start and barely plays for a Cavaliers team that has earned 15 consecutive NCAA tournament berths. Once the heartbeat of any team on which she played, Carr carries out a far diminished responsibility. Her value is tied to her performance in practice, where official stats aren’t kept and victories are mostly of the moral variety.

Virtually every roster of every college sports team includes athletes such as Carr: players who were stars in high school, active for nearly every consequential minute of every game, but who now spend more time watching rather than competing during matches.

“It’s hard because when you win a game, you’re ecstatic, you’re happy, you’re happy for the team, you’re happy that we’re doing well,” Carr said. “But then at the same time you’re like, ‘Well, how much did I really contribute to that?’ ”

For Carr and the constituency she represents, athletic validation comes in subtler forms, such as a dime-size scab crinkled on the bridge of her nose, lingering evidence of a slide tackle she executed in practice the day before. Carr hasn’t played in seven straight games, and she’s been on the field for 16.8 percent of the total minutes Virginia has played this season.

Carr’s primary task involves devoting countless hours and immeasurable amounts of energy and focus during practices to ensure that her teammates — some of whom stand between her and the prominence she used to own — have the best chance to succeed come game time. Her function on the Cavaliers, though far different than she ever imagined it would be, remains vital, her coach says. But for a long time, Carr struggled to come to that realization.

“The beauty of playing a team sport to me is you’re really sacrificing your service to the team,” Virginia women’s soccer Coach Steve Swanson said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. These guys are giving a lot of time and a lot of sweat and a lot of tears, and they’re sacrificing it for the team. The biggest thing you have to balance in a team sport is you have to decide at some point, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ”
Below the dunes

For six days during every preseason camp, Swanson takes his squad to Maple City, Mich., where the Cavaliers train and scrimmage against Notre Dame. In August 2007, Carr and the rest of the incoming freshman class learned the most daunting task of the trip was climbing nearby sand dunes, some of which rise as high as 450 feet.

When it came time for that exercise, though, Carr stood aside. She had torn her left anterior cruciate ligament and some of meniscus during the first soccer game of her senior season at the Walsingham Academy in Williamsburg and had to sit out her first college year for rehabilitation. No practices. No games. No bonding with teammates over the shared accomplishment of conquering a sand dune.

“They all could celebrate that because they did it together, and I kind of was just there cheering, you know?” Carr said. “It was hard from that aspect, just that I wasn’t going through the same things they were going through.”

She paused as the memory replayed in her mind. “Honestly, I think that’s what made me fall in love with Virginia even more was the fact that the coaches were always there for me,” she continued. “Never was it like I was overlooked. I would be running sprints around the field while they were practicing because I couldn’t play with a ball yet, and every time I came around someone would be like, ‘Yeah, here we go. Let’s go, Katie.’ That was one thing that really helped me out that made it, not okay, but better than it could have been.”

The frustration — and the questions that fueled it — did not intensify until the following spring, when Carr was back on the field trying to recapture the mobility and speed that once made her an elite two-sport talent. During a high school career in which Carr tallied the second-most points in the history of Virginia girls’ basketball, she was courted initially by such storied women’s college programs as Tennessee and Connecticut. But Carr had decided by her sophomore year of high school that soccer would be the sport she would pursue.

She said one of the main reasons why she chose to play at Virginia was the experience she had during a summer camp run by Swanson before her junior year at Walsingham.

“Honestly, up until the day that my parents dropped me off, I was crying,” Carr said. “I didn’t want to go. ‘This was so stupid. Why are you making me do this?’ And then I came to camp and I got seen.”

For most of the camp, Swanson had Carr compete with and against the pool of players from which Swanson was recruiting. By the end, one of the camp counselors approached Carr and told her Virginia was interested in her. She felt wanted and needed and more than a little flattered.

By the fall of 2008, the first season in which Carr physically was able to play for the Cavaliers, all of those emotions had faded. She appeared in five of the team’s 23 games, starting one. Carr said she second-guessed herself constantly during practices. Am I just a practice player? Is this what I’m here for?

During games, Carr said she would go through the motions during warmup drills, reconciled to the fact she almost certainly was not going to play that day. Virginia advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament, and Carr wasn’t completely sure how to feel.

“Just knowing that we’re getting results and we’re getting the wins, I’m excited about how the team’s doing, but you question what you really brought to the table,” Carr said. “We always talk about how it starts at practice. You push each other, you do all that, and yeah, I can do that. I’m fine with doing that, but at the same time, you’re like, ‘Did I really make a difference in winning this game?’ ”

John F. Murray, a sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla., said a college athlete dealing with such an internal debate must be able to expand his or her definition of what it means to be a member of the team. For those with prolific athletic backgrounds such as Carr, Murray said the process is more drawn out.

“Most of these guys are viewing it as whether they’re just fodder for the other players or someone to help out,” Murray said. “Everybody would like to play, but there has to be some level of acceptance of the reality of their role, sort of a resignation at some point, but also an extremely altruistic purpose.”

Following the 2008 season, several members of Virginia’s back line graduated. A starting spot at the center defender position — Carr’s position — became available, and her confidence sprouted from the opportunity in front of her. Finally, Carr thought, a chance to make what she considered a meaningful impact. She said she showed up to preseason camp in the best shape of her life.
‘You have to get over it’

Swanson could empathize with the player who was on her way into his office. He was a three-sport athlete in high school who played four years of varsity soccer before signing on at Michigan State. During his freshman season as a Spartan, though, Swanson said he didn’t play at all and that he took his predicament personally.

“You say, ‘Well, I must not be very good,’ and you get down on yourself,” Swanson said. “Psychologically, it doesn’t help you in terms of your development, and you start focusing on things that you have no control over, really. During my first year I really struggled, but I was fighting myself. And it wasn’t until I had a good conversation with my coach where he told me where I was and he made it out very honestly.”

In late August, Swanson had a similar talk with Carr, a player for whom the coach said he has the utmost respect. Carr had started the first game of the season — a 1-0 loss at Penn State — but played only the first half. Carr called earning a spot in the starting lineup “a breath of fresh air,” and for a few weeks, the questions — Do I really want to play soccer? What do I want to do? — died down.

Carr sat down in Swanson’s office, expecting to talk strategy or improvement, and heard her coach deliver the news: She would no longer start, and in fact, she would change positions entirely. An influx of talented first-year players had just entered the program and the coaching staff felt one of those players was a better fit at center defender. Carr would move to defensive center midfielder, a position she last played in high school.

Swanson said it was one of the most difficult meetings he has had with a player in 20 years as a head coach because “you want to reward people like Katie.”

Furious, Carr left the meeting but had to report immediately to practice. The questions returned. What is she doing that’s better than I can do? What did I do wrong?

“I was literally driving myself insane,” Carr said. “I started to realize that I couldn’t do that anymore. You have to get over it. I had spent the past two years in my own head.”

Carr returned to practice the following day determined to embrace the role laid out for her. She said she accepted that her performance in practice could impact the team’s play during games. Her minutes declined while her attitude improved.

Anne Carr, Katie’s mother, said she has noticed an evolution to the manner in which her daughter handles her frustrations on the soccer field, as well.

“She doesn’t want you feeling sorry for her,” Anne Carr said. “She doesn’t want you to say, ‘Oh Kate, I’m sorry.’ She’s like, ‘It’s fine.’ She doesn’t want that” sympathy.

On Sunday, Virginia will play its regular season finale against Miami, and whether or not Carr plays, she’ll at least be content in her newfound perspective. Soccer has made her more disciplined, responsible and humble. Those lessons, acknowledged in retrospect, are why she persists. She could have gone to another school and played as soon as she was healthy. She could have played another sport entirely.

“Or I could come here and have all these hardships and have all these, not letdowns, but things that you question about yourself and then you start to find answers,” Carr said. “I’ve realized a lot of things that I didn’t even think I could overcome. I think I’m a better, more mature, more understanding person because of it. Yeah, I’m really grateful to have come to this school.”

I hope you enjoyed this article on the topic of sports psychology

Simple formula fuels UFC’s appeal

Watch Video: Palm Beach to Las Vegas for UFC 100 (many more on the way)

Las Vegas Review Journal – July 9, 2009 – Adam Hill – Fighters’ physical, mental toughness stoke fan interest. Brandon Beals looks like every other Ultimate Fighting Championship fan walking around Mandalay Bay three days before the mixed martial arts outfit’s historic Saturday night card.

Beals and six friends are assembled near the doors where they expect some of the competitors in UFC 100 to exit on their way out of Wednesday’s media workouts, hoping to get a glimpse of some of the sport’s biggest stars.

The 38-year-old Beals said he has been a fan since UFC 1, nearly 16 years ago.

“I think it’s nonstop action. There’s lots of upsets. I think it’s also very fan-friendly,” Beals said. “There’s more action than boxing, and that’s cool.”

Yes, Beals might be like any other UFC fan — except he is the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church in Lynnwood, Wash., outside of Seattle.

He does not think the sport conflicts with the values he preaches at his church.

“If it was still no-holds barred, if it was underground or illegal, then yes,” he said. “But this is legal and sanctioned. It’s got rules. You’re talking about stellar athletes, so I don’t believe it does at all.”

Dr. John F. Murray, a sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla., said the adoption of rules went a long way to helping mixed martial arts gain acceptance among mainstream fans and that the sport will continue to grow.

“As far as the blood-and-guts aspect, some people will be turned off by that, and that’s understandable,” Murray said. “But if you look at it as a pure sport, and the rules are important to that, it’s not that way. If they continue to make it something that won’t turn off a large part of the population, it will just continue to get bigger and bigger.”

Murray has worked with MMA fighters in the past. He said he was not interested in the sport until he started learning about some of the athletes.

“It wasn’t something I would have naturally gotten into,” said Murray, who was a tennis player. “I’ve grown to appreciate how amazingly complex it is and how much the mental skills need to be a part of any training.”

Frank Mir, the interim heavyweight champion who will try to unify the belt against current heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar on Saturday, thinks much of that mental aspect is ingrained in the sport’s competitors.

“I think that we’re kind of genetically wired at birth to be a certain type of individual,” Mir said. “The same kind of guy that will jump out of an airplane or go bungee jumping. The same kind of guy that signs up to go into the military and doesn’t just sign up to go fix cars, but he wants to sign up to be a ranger and be the first guy into battle.”

Mir said a fighter’s mentality differs from that of other athletes.

“I mean, in a football game, you go and hit somebody. Everybody’s wearing helmets and pads. It’s not that personal level of seeing the guy in front of you and causing him discomfort,” he said. “Whereas in the competitive arts, such as boxing, wrestling and MMA, there is that closeness of combat. And so first and foremost, you have to have that mindset that you’re willing to overcome those fears and just, you know, a less PC term, you’re just kind of crazy, I guess, to begin with.”

Stephan Bonnar, who will fight Saturday against Mark Coleman, says the mental aspect is still a struggle, particularly during grueling training camps.

“It definitely takes a different kind of person. It’s not for everyone,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s still hard. Every day, you get pushed to your breaking point. It’s a constant struggle just trying to stay in the best shape possible. It’s not like baseball, where you can get your swing down and you’re just hitting dingers. It takes tons of work every day.”

As for what keeps drawing fans to the sport, Murray says the formula is pretty simple.

“It’s one person against another person, and they can bring whatever skills they have to the table, within reason,” he said. “It’s raw.”

That has helped the sport grow quickly with fans across all demographics.

In fact, while Beals attends his fourth live event Saturday, the pay-per-view broadcast of the card will be shown back home at his church.

Dr. Murray is in Las Vegas this weekend for UFC 100 and sports psychology.