Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

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

Imagery in Golf is as Important as Shot Selection

Golf Psychology – November 11, 2004 – Dr. John F. Murray – Golf is perhaps the most “mentalâ€? sport of all. What does this mean? In my opinion, it accents the types of demands placed upon the player.

For example, high priorities include having a well thought out pre-shot strategy, selecting the right club, recovering from an errant shot, and staying calm and focused in the most stress-inducing situations. It’s much like playing chess, but a whole lot more fun and better for the body! Mental factors are also essential in developing physical tools for the game (e.g., efficient swings, proper footwork, fitness), for without quality instruction and knowledge, progress can be very difficult. Unlike in some other sports, sheer athletic ability and brute strength play a less prominent role. What is really needed in golf is more advanced software. Enter imagery.

Imagery, also called visualization, was described by Vealey and Walter (1993) as a mental technique that programs the human mind to respond as programmed, by using all the senses to recreate or create an experience. Mahoney (1977) described imagery as one of four categories of cognitive skills important in athletic performance, and Suinn (1984) developed a popular version of imagery called visual motor behavior rehearsal (VMBR). Whenever we imagine ourselves performing an action in the absence of physical practice, we are said to be using imagery. Although research into the merits of imagery lags far behind the practice of the technique, many golfers find imagery helpful. It is used for rehearsing new skills, practicing and refining existing skills, preparing for particular situations and readying for an entire round. Studies have shown imagery to be helpful in a variety of ways such as reducing warm-up decrement, lowering anxiety, and increasing self-confidence.

How is this technique implemented? First, it should be recognized that, like any skill, practice is necessary. Most golfers spend enormous time and energy improving their swings and other physical skills, while neglecting mental practice. Ask yourself what percentage of your practice time is spent hitting balls versus developing essential mental skills through techniques such as imagery. You may discover that you are ignoring this crucial part of your game. Jack Nicklaus was a firm believer in imagery. Are you even spending 10% of your practice time using mental techniques?

One note of caution, imagery may hurt your game if your understanding of strategy and/or technique is deficient. In fact, you’ll just reinforce bad habits. Before getting started, make sure your knowledge and basic skills are intact. If you are a professional or advanced golfer, this should pose few difficulties. Beginners and intermediates should schedule regular lessons with their local professional to monitor their progress.

Imagery can be practiced by lying down in a quiet room, fully relaxed, with eyes closed. This longer version lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. It is often used prior to a match and helps prepare the player mentally. Here, the player rehearses a perfect performance, often visualizing a complete match point by point. A shorter version of imagery, lasting only a few seconds, can be used during match play. For example, prior to serving, the player visualizes a perfect serve to a strategical location. Imagery is also useful to familiarize the player with high percentage shot sequences, developing anticipation skills for a quicker and more effective response during the actual point.

Some individuals have a more natural ability to form visual images than others. Here are some tips for those with difficulty forming images:

(1) Try thinking in pictures rather than words

(2) Look at pictures or videos prior to using imagery

(3) Stay in a quiet, relaxed and calm environment to avoid distractions

Here are some general principles to enhance imagery:

(1) Make the imagery seem as realistic as possible by including all senses, in full color and detail, within a similar emotional context

(2) Practice imagery regularly as it may take months before seeing improvement

(3) Believe that imagery works, as your attitudes and expectations enhance the effect

(4) Keep a focused yet relaxed attention while using imagery

(5) Internal imagery is most effective. Picture yourself actually accomplishing the feat (from your minds eye), rather than viewing yourself from the outside looking in.

(6) Only imagine perfection. This will boost your self- confidence and reinforce good habits.

In closing, imagery is a potent mental technique that will raise the level of your game if your basic skills and understanding of golf are solid. Just don’t let your opponents know what you’re thinking!

I hope you enjoyed this golf article on sports psychology.

What’s Behind A-Rods Postseason Turnaround?

New York Baseball Digest – Mike Silva – October 13th, 2009 – I discussed this on Sunday and once again was criticized for saying that a “relaxed” A-Rod has as much to do with his success than anything. Dr. John F Murray, who appeared on my show back in June, had the following to say in Sunday’s New York Post.

“If he’s becoming a little more honest . . . he would have less anxiety, said Palm Beach sports psychologist Dr. John Murray. “He would sleep better at night and be more relaxed. More focused. That is key.

Dr. Murray was responding to a quote from a team insider who said A-Rod has “ditched his philandering ways and is making a big effort to inject honesty and openness into his relationship with the actress Kate Hudson.? If only he had met Hudson five years ago perhaps the Yankees would already have their 27th World Series. I am kidding of course, but you have to admit that there is a clear change in A-Rod at the plate. That is why anyone who cites “small sample size? is not looking at the big picture.

Ken Davidoff, who embraces all sorts of modern statistical theory, echoed much of what I have been saying on the show and the blog:

It’s never as simple as “Now A-Rod is relaxed, therefore, now he’s great.? Someone has to pitch the ball to him, after all, and that pitch might be sublime, horrible or somewhere in between. But my goodness, he’s playing the game with such a peace now, if you will. In previous postseasons, in tight spots or with runners on base, you could feel the tension oozing from his body. Yes, sometimes such tension can produce a flare, broken-bat single, and results are all that matter. But I can’t remember too many instances in the previous five years where the defense robbed A-Rod of a hit. He just didn’t square up the ball too often.

I have seen most every inning of Yankees postseason baseball the last 10 years. The pressure clearly got to A-Rod, along with many others on the Yankees, during the 2004 ALCS. Davidoff said it best when citing the lack of hard hit balls throughout the postseason. I wish I could get a copy of the ESPN interview before the 06 Detroit series. A-Rod was so tight during the conversation I thought he was going to snap like a rubber band. Obviously none of us are in A-Rod’s head, but it doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to recognize bad body language when you see it.

Finally, I think you have to point out how Rodriguez has made peace with Derek Jeter. The one black mark on Jeter’s captain legacy is how he handled A-Rod’s transition to New York and the Yankees. NYBD contributor Frank Russo mentioned in his Monday column that A-Rod, “stressed by the spotlight of both the Selena Roberts steroid story and his hip surgery, had a heartfelt talk with Jeter sometime during the season, where he “again apologized for the comments he made about him in the April 2001 issue of Esquire Magazine.? I think it was petty of Jeter, and showed that even the great one can fall to one of the seven deadly sins, but at least A-Rod finally owned up and helped put the situation behind the duo. Peer pressure and respect is a big thing in sports. Sometimes confidence can be something as simple as the support of your teammates. Of course, you can’t discount good pitching, fielding, and hitting, however the difference between playoff teams is so minuscule that the “intangibles? often can put a team over the top.

A-Rod is not out of the woods as Anaheim comes to town on Friday. Something tells me that his performance against the Twins was no accident and we will see more of this as the Yanks attempt to win title number 27.

Hope you enjoyed this article about sports psychology.

L.A. Angels keeping memory of late teammate Nick Adenhart close during march through playoffs

The Star Ledger – October 15, 2009 – Brian Costa – One hundred eighty-nine days have passed since the night that changed the Angels season. And not one has gone by without a reminder of Nick Adenhart.

His locker at Angel Stadium remains intact. His mural remains on the outfield wall. Patches bearing his name and uniform number, 34, remain stitched to their jerseys. And his own jersey hangs in the dugout during every game.

When the Angels begin the ALCS against the Yankees Friday night, they will be motivated by the memory of Adenhart, the 22-year-old pitcher killed by an alleged drunk driver on April 9.

He’s definitely been with us the whole way, the entire season and so far in the playoffs, reliever Kevin Jepsen said. And he’s going to continue to be with us every step of the way.

Some players were close to Adenhart. Some hardly knew him. But all have paid tribute to him.

When the Angels clinched the AL West last month, they ran out to touch Adenhart’s photo on the outfield wall at Angel Stadium and placed an unopened bottle of champagne by his locker. And as they have advanced through the playoffs, Adenhart has been a source of inspiration and even confidence.

I can go out there feeling like there’s no pressure on me, said catcher Bobby Wilson, who was one of Adenhart’s best friends. I’ve got my best buddy in my heart right now. If I can’t do it, I know he’s going to help me out.

Only a handful of teams in the history of professional sports have experienced what the Angels went through this year: the death of a teammate during the season.

Some of the most notable examples are the 1979 Yankees, who endured the death of captain Thurman Munson; the 2002 Cardinals, who lost pitcher Darryl Kile; and the 2007 Washington Redskins, who mourned the shooting death of safety Sean Taylor.

All were inspired to play on in memory of a fallen teammate. And while that motivation may not outweigh pitching, hitting and defense, a leading sports psychologist said it can have a powerful impact on a team’s play.

It can actually enhance the team’s performance if the meaningfulness of it is able to be synergized into a battle cry or a unifying theme to play for that player or to do what that player would want, said John F. Murray, a sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla. It almost adds a spiritual component to performance to have something like that.

That doesn’t make the loss of Adenhart any less devastating.

On April 8, he tossed six shutout innings against the Athletics at Angel Stadium to begin what appeared to be a promising season. It was only his fourth career major-league start, but already, Adenhart appeared to be a much-improved pitcher after giving up 12 runs in 12 innings in 2008. He earned a rotation spot in spring training, making him the youngest pitcher on a major-league roster, and the Angels had high hopes for him in 2009.

I said last year he had all the talent in the world and couldn’t figure it out, said Rangers reliever Darren O’Day, a close friend of Adenhart and former Angels prospect. Then he figures it out, and then six hours later, he’s gone.

Adenhart was killed along with two friends when their car was broadsided at an intersection near Angel Stadium. And the Angels have been playing with him in mind ever since.

Pitcher Scot Shields started the routine of bringing Adenhart’s jersey down to the dugout before each game and hanging it over the Angels’ bench. When Shields went down with a season-ending knee injury in May, Jepsen took over the responsibility.

He’s not necessarily on your mind while you’re playing, Jepsen said. But you never forget about him. There’s always times when in between the games and everything, at least for me, he’ll pop up in my mind.

As Jepsen spoke Thursday, sitting in front of his locker in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, Adenhart’s jersey hung in an otherwise empty locker a few feet away.

It will be there for the rest of the ALCS. If the Angels reach the World Series, they will continue to take it on the road with them. And if they win the World Series, they will give Adenhart’s family a full share of the bonus players receive, along with a championship ring.

It just shows you what kind of guy Nick is, Wilson said. A lot of guys, they love him and they only knew him a short amount of time. It just shows Nick’s character and his upbringing. This group of guys, we’re moving toward one common goal, and we have the inspiration of Nick within all of us.

I hope you enjoyed this article with content related to sports psychology.

A-Rod on Kate & narrow

New York Post – Angela Montfinise and Douglas Montero – It’s another Miracle on the Hudson.

Alex Rodriguez’s newfound playoff prowess after years of choking in the post-season is a product of his steamy — and surprisingly honest — romance with sexy screen siren Kate Hudson, a team source and a top sports shrink said yesterday.

A team insider said A-Rod has ditched his philandering ways and is making a big effort to inject honesty and openness into his relationship with the actress.

“He’s decided to be completely honest with her because what he was doing in the past didn’t work,” the source said, referring to his ugly 2008 divorce.

The healthy off-field relationship with Hudson is translating into October success on the baseball diamond, experts said.

“If he’s becoming a little more honest . . . he would have less anxiety,” said Palm Beach sports psychologist Dr. John Murray. “He would sleep better at night and be more relaxed. More focused. That is key.”

The steamy slugger has a long history of failing in the clutch — and in his personal relationships.

While racking up a paltry .212 lifetime batting average in the playoffs, he carried on “extramarital affairs and other marital misconduct,” according to papers filed by his ex-wife, Cynthia.

Cameras caught him with stripper Joslyn Morse in Toronto in 2007, and he was later linked to Madonna while still married.

In postseason play from 2005 to 2007, A-Rod had a grand total of one RBI. The Yankees were bounced in the first round in each of those years.

But this year, A-Rod has “looked really relaxed, really great,” Murray said.

He has hit .500 over two games and smacked five RBIs, and his game-tying, ninth-inning homer Friday night set up a Yankee win. A victory today in Minnesota would complete the sweep and put the Bombers in the American League Championship series.

Hudson — who has accompanied Rodriguez on road trips and often cheers him from his personal seats in The Bronx — was at both playoff games last week.

“If you get somebody like a gorgeous woman, someone who you admire, somebody who’s behind you, [athletes] know it,” Murray said.

Even when she isn’t cheering for A-Rod in person, Hudson has been rooting for him at bars. In June, she watched the Yankees take on the Indians at Bar 108 in SoHo.

“She was clapping, rooting for him and even hollering. She was very animated. She was pushing him hard, and I think she’s a good influence,” a bartender there said yesterday.

He added, “If I got a woman that pretty rooting for me, I’d do good, too.”

People are realizing more and more the benefits of a solid mental game and sports psychology.

Badri Narayanan Talks out about Sports Psychology

Sports psychology letter – unsolicited – from a Salt Lake City tennis pro to Dr. John F Murray, sports psychologist and author of the book “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game.”

Dear John:

It was wonderful talking with you yesterday on sports psychology. As promised, here is my article.

“I am Badri Narayanan, a Tennis coach/PM in Daybreak, Utah. During coaching, while my prime focus was on stroke analysis, technique and footwork/fitness etc, I was very much intrigued by the importance of mental toughness/sports pyschology etc. Quite often when students ask me “players in the tour say you either have confidence or you don’t, attitude is intrinsic etc.” and sometimes they got depressed because they thought that mental toughness was something intrinsic and not built through constant mental work.

I was looking for something concrete that would help my students treat mental toughness/skills as something as vital as technique and I ran into smart tennis by john murray. I was fascinated by how well written and clean it was in explaining the mental aspects of the game. I read through it cover to cover did the check lists for each mental skill. applied it in my club games, leagues etc and once I realized how much it had helped me on and off the tennis court, I decided that this is what I was looking for for my students.

If I could somehow translate the importance of working on mental skills to these students, not only it will help them become better tennis players but also champions in life. I made a conscious decision to incorporate it into my tennis sessions with the students. After my typical tennis sessions with the students, I gave them a check list of each mental skill like energy, attention control,confidence, concentration etc., and had them fill out where they were and honestly. This gave them a platform as to where their mental skills where and where they could be kinda like a goal for them to attain.

Every day we worked on each skill and at the end of the week we would revisit the mental checklist and see where they were. I would accompany these with videos of great tennis players to add to their enthusiasm. I have seen these students grow mentally in front of my own eyes and sometimes make me teary eyed with plenty of aha experiences.

This book is an absolute must for any student who wants to take his/her game to the highest level and reach their fullest potential in sports and life.

Thanks John for coming up with such an amazing book and it is bound to help millions to want to take their tennis to the highest level.

Badri Narayanan is a certified tennis coach in Salt Lake City , Utah. For private lessons and tennis sessions, zennis workshops and inner game tennis contact him at badri007@gmail .com or you can reach him at 435-764-0969.

Hope you enjoyed this little exploration into the world of sports psychology!

AGASSI’S ELITE MINDSET – SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY BY DR JOHN F MURRAY

Sports Psychology Column – May 1, 2003 – By Dr. John F. Murray – Andre Agassi just became the first man to repeat as champion of the NASDAQ-100 in Key Biscayne with his 6-3, 6-3 thrashing of Carlos Moya.

He left the tournament 18-1 on the ATP circuit this year, leading all players. What is it that makes this special individual so mentally strong? What kind of audacity does he possess to keep on pushing for greater and greater heights at age 33? By reviewing Agassi’s on-court performance, and then listening to his post-match comments, let’s shed light on the mindse of a very rare master who constantly finds ways to play smarter tennis. Enjoy the clinic!

Andre Agassi just became the first man to repeat as champion of the NASDAQ-100 in Key Biscayne with his 6-3, 6-3 thrashing of Carlos Moya. He left the tournament 18-1 on the ATP circuit this year, leading all players. What is it that makes this special individual so mentally strong? What kind of audacity does he possess to keep on pushing for greater and greater heights at age 33? By reviewing Agassi’s on-court performance, and then listening to his post-match comments, let’s shed light on the mindset of a very rare master who constantly finds ways to play smarter tennis. Enjoy the clinic!

Agassi found a way to dominate Moya in most phases of the game. Let’s start with the accuracy of his serve. His 69% first serve percentage, 8 Aces, and 1 double fault all reflect pure excellence and flawless execution on a very windy day. His service accuracy was his biggest weapon rather than dominating pace. Moya actually served much faster at 119 mph. Agassi only averaged 104, but he was deadly accurate.

Coaches are right on in saying that consistency is a huge weapon in tennis! Consistency in making the correct decision on where to hit the serve. Consistency in executing the shot. Consistency in hitting more winners than unforced errors. Agassi had 28 winners to only 13 unforced errors, whereas Moya had 14 winners to 20 unforced errors.

Agassi was also more aggressive on his groundstrokes, slightly more accurate on his approach shots, and dominant once he got to the net, winning on 93% of his approaches.

The bottom line is that Agassi played better tennis. But that is just what you see. What was going on in his mind? What kind of attitude did he take to this match long before he hit any balls? This is the unseen advantage that is often overlooked.

Let’s go to the post-match press conference and identify some sport psychology principles present in Agassi’s mindset:

Turning Adversity into Advantage

The wind was a beast. Agassi didn’t see it that way. He said “today was certainly a great day for me, serving-wise. I think specifically because it was breezy. Any time you can get a good percentage of first serves in, especially on key points, in windy conditions, it’s a big advantage. I did that well today.” What an amazing attitude. Something we can all learn from. Rather than making excuses, how about realizing there is a silver lining in that cloud!

Staying Hopeful and Confident

The way we frame things is often more important than the supposed actual reality. Agassi stays very positive in his thinking. Asked about the upcoming clay season, he said “I feel great about how I feel mentally a very positive going on to the clay season, hopeful that everything is going to stay together.” Henry Ford once said “whether you think you can or think you are right.” Agassi thinks like Ford did, and how you should too.

Not Over-thinking in a Match

Despite all the great mental tips and suggestions, once a match begins it auto-pilot time. Its much better to just play tennis and let habits take over than to over-think. Agassi said “I try not to assess how I’m playing until after the fact. And then after the fact, I can look at it and be objective.”

Focusing without Fear

Agassi knows what it means to stay focused without letting fear intrude. In discussing the number of matches he had to play in a row in close proximity he said, “there’s nothing really about it that you worry about getting through so many matches, so you just focus on executing opportunities that you do get and try to create as many as possible.” So many players worry. Keep it simple and keep the focus on what you are doing now.

Remaining Extremely Confident

Agassi assumes someone else is going to have to play well to beat him! Listen to this comment “I’m thinking about preparing myself properly to be at my best for Paris; to make somebody play a great match to beat me. It’s as simple as that.” Wow. Enough said.

Working Hard

Throw out all the mental tips in the world if you dont work! When asked if he had found the fountain of youth and was just not telling anyone, Agassi smirked and said “No, no, it’s hard work.”

Agassi blew away Moya with a precise combination of physical and mental superiority. If you look at his accuracy and consistency in executing shots, then review his attitudes and insights, you soon realize that the mental game is much more than a few clever suggestions to play smart tennis. The thoughts, feelings, habits and sensations actually control the actions. When it all works together brilliantly, you get Agassi, an ever improving legend in our midst.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into sports psychology.

SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY AT THE DELRAY BEACH INTERNATIONAL TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS IN 2003

Sports Psychology Column – Apr 1, 2003 – By Dr. John F. Murray – It’s been a while since I’ve posted an article! It’s great to be back this month to talk about sport psychology in Delray Beach, the closest tournament to my home, for the third straight year.

I recently attended the International Tennis Championships of Delray Beach. Writing about this event and working with players here the past few years, I think I’m starting to enjoy Delray Beach more than the US Open! The tennis is so up close and personal, players, coaches and fans intermingle freely, and the practice courts are as interesting to watch as center court on Sunday. Thanks again go to Co-Tournament directors Mark Baron and Fred Stolle for this gift of superior tennis, and to Lisa Franson for her wonderful efforts and for keeping us all in line in the media center.

Some of you may have noticed the increase in awareness among players and coaches about the essential role of sport psychology in player development and performance. Everyone is collaborating to offer the best in mental training to the players. Players benefit most from a team strategy where coaches, parents, sports psychologists, physical trainers, and others work more as a team for mutual success.

I’m always refining my understanding of what it means to perform well mentally. Much of this is acquired through talking with the best players and observing their play. Last year in Delray Beach, for instance, players shared their insights with me about how to close out a match, something I call the “killer instinct.” This year, I looked for action, watching for on-court examples of mental strength. I’ll share these in the article. Let’s take a look at how players in this year’s singles matches displayed or failed to display six of the important psychological skills. Whether you’re a coach, player, or parent, these examples will help you reach a higher level in all your pursuits.

Passion

Robert Kendrick displayed enormous heart and passion, winning six straight matches and reaching the semi-finals before falling to eventual champion Jan Michael Gambill. He truly seemed to be having fun out there with his winning personality and love of the game. His talents will only get better with than kind of attitude. Passion is a good starting place for many accomplishments.

Resiliency

Paul Goldstein, Michael Llorda, Ricardo Mello, and Robert Kendrick all showed amazing resiliency in bouncing back from the adversity of losing a set to qualify for the main draw. Goldstein earned his berth by roaring back from a first set loss to win strong 6-0, 6-1 against Frantisek Cermak. Kendrick overcame a first set loss to Michael Russell, Mello recovered from a second set loss to Jose De Armas, and Llorda came back after losing 1-6 in the first set to Alex Bogomolov. These players are all filled with an abundance of resiliency. The message is to never give up – no matter what the score – and see adversity as opportunity.

Emotional Control

It’s very important to keep the emotions in check – and anger is a common problem at all levels. In first round action, Nicolas Kiefer became visibly angry a few times on critical points against Jan Michael Gambill. Leading 2-1 in the second set, his obvious anger disrupted his play and lead to two careless errors on ensuing points. Later with the score tied 4-4 he again lost his cool, smacking flowers with his racket. End result, Gambill’s relative emotional control persevered, and Jan Michael went on to win his second Delray Beach title.

Focus

Marcello Rios made it to the semi-finals with a fine display of focus, taking out Morrison, Verkerk, and Lee before succumbing to the surprising Mardy Fish. One could see the focus in Rios’ eyes the moment he stepped onto the tournament site. He looked like a man possessed, on a mission to win! His focus continued well into the tournament as he resisted visual distractions left and right, he held off serving and returning until he was completely ready, and he controlled his eyes in between points be focusing on the strings. Proper focus needs to be practiced just like a forehand or backhand.

Confidence

Mardy Fish, for his part, gained a ton of confidence from the support of his friends, family and local buddies painted with the letters F-I-S-H-Y in a cheering section. He earned his first final of his career and gave Gambill a run for his money in the second set. In the press conference following the match, Fishy showed why he is a force to reckon with for many years to come. He was not only confident on court, but modest in describing his abilities afterward. This talent will continue to rise.

Killer Instinct

Flavio Saretta seemed to lack killer instinct after winning the first set in the quarters against Gambill. Many would later say that he tanked the final set which he lost 6-0. While I am not one to judge whether this is true or not, it was curious that Saretta’s head dropped, his intensity wavered and his sense of urgency in the third set appeared nonexistent. When you are up you have to know how to close out an opponent. When you are down, keep on fighting. Love challenges, especially when the going gets rough, and you’ll be in a great place mentally.

If you want a suntan and some great tennis in March, come down and to the International Tennis Championships. Delray Beach is a great resort town by the sea with cozy restaurants and a European downtown feel. The tennis is up-close and excellent. Keep pushing your mental skills to a higher level and I’ll see you again soon!

This was an article on sports psychology.

SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY AT THE DELRAY BEACH INTERNATIONAL TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS 2002

Sports Psychology Column – Apr 2, 2002 – By Dr. John F. Murray – South Florida was recently invaded by some of the top tennis players in the world in three consecutive tournaments. I had the privilege to work with players and cover the International Tennis Championships of Delray Beach for the Tennis Server. I also made it to the new $50,000 Challenger of North Miami Beach (won by Vince Spadea) and the NASDAQ 100 on Key Biscayne (won by Serena Williams and Andre Agassi) in which I interviewed four top players for a story in USTA Magazine. In this edition of Mental Equipment, I focus on the highlights of the Delray Beach event.

While I tend to view tennis from a somewhat nontraditional mental lens, more players are explaining that the mental game cannot be ignored. I interviewed many top 100 players again this year. I began by asking each player how important (in percentages) they felt their mental game is to success on the ATP or WTA Tour. The lowest response was 70% while the highest was 99%! While many players are working with a sport psychologist or practicing mental skills regularly, a surprising number still take a more casual and irregular approach to mental training even though they acknowledge the extreme importance.

Called the Citrix Tennis Championships the past couple years, and now seeking a new title sponsor, this tournament never ceases to thrill. Stephan Koubek captivated the crowd two years ago with his passionate three-set victory over Alex Calatrava, while Jan Michael Gambill fought off Xavier Malisse in the finals last year after surviving multiple match points. Would one of these two fighters prevail” or would there be a new champion in this beautiful town on the ocean?

Mark Baron and Fred Stolle co-directed another fine week of tennis for this growing International Series event. Another round of applause is due tireless media director Lisa Franson. Thanks go out to Cliff Kurtzman and the Tennis Server for media credentials, and I again appreciate all the players who spent time talking tennis. I also enjoyed discussing injuries with ATP trainer Bill Norris, and enjoyed meeting Director of Sales Ivan Baron, and Iggy Jovanovic from the ATP.

Marius Barnard is a solid doubles player who has been on the tour since 1988. We talked for 30 minutes about his career and the trials and tribulations of travel and competition. He is an impressive person who is beginning to ponder what life will be like after tennis. I enjoyed his views on the mental game and motivation, and how he sometimes performs better when he stops trying so hard. He expressed a possible interest in becoming a sport psychologist” and we need more of them. If you’re reading Marius, call me anytime. I will trade you sport psychology tips for an improved backhand topspin!

I really enjoyed talking with Michael Llorda, Stefan Koubek, Kristian Pless, Paul Goldstein, Scott Humphries, Andrei Stoliarov, Michael Russell, Mardy Fish, Jeff Morrison, Nicolas Massu, Leander Paes, Davide Sanguinetti, Jarkko Nieminen and Tom Vanhoudt. I enjoyed picking many of their brains for their keys to mental strength.

I focused this year on the topics of match preparation and closing out the opponent (the killer instinct).

Top seeds this year were (1) Roddick (2) Gambill (3) Koubek (4) Massu (5) Sanguinetti (6) Burgsmuller (7) Nieminen and (7) Hipfl.

Qualifying Rounds

The qualifying rounds are often more fun and competitive than main draw matches. The top four qualifiers, earning entry into the main draw, were American Chris Woodruff, Feliciano Lopez of Spain, Alexandre Simoni of Brazil and Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands.

A rising star among the youngest crop of players is Eric Nunez who lost in the first round of the qualifying tournament to Simoni. Nunez won the first set 6-1 and almost won the second, losing 7-6. In the third set he was ahead 4-3, seeming to dominate in many ways, before he had to retire due to muscle cramps. Watch out for this pesky American from Florida. He is coached by his father, Colon, who coached Andre Gomez to a French Open championship over Andre Agassi in 1990. In my humble opinon, this kid Eric has the raw tools to be great.

Feliciano Lopez is another rising Spaniard. After qualifying with wins over Scott Draper, George Bastl, and Filippo Volandri, Lopez went to the main draw and dispatched of Chris Woodruff and Michael Russell before falling at last to Anthony Dupuis 7-6, 7-6. What a great showing! Watch out for him too.

Main Draw

Local favorite Andy Roddicks star continues to rise. Seeded number one due to a tremendous 2001, Andy did not disappoint, rolling over Davydenko, Lee, Llorda, and Dupuis to reach the finals. His emotional maturity is improving and his serve and big forehand are getting better too. As he approached the finals he appeared extremely tired. He admitted that he was fighting a nasty cold (or something) and later would cancel his upcoming tournament appearance – stirring up a minor ATP controversy for not flying to the event to be examined by the tour physician. When I spoke with him briefly after his win over Dupuis, I can attest that he looked ready for a 13-week vacation totally exhausted hacking cough so I kept my distance. What more to say? Tennis and the travel can be brutal on the body?

Number two seed and defending champion Jan Michael Gambill looked very ready to win again. He thrilled the crowd in his first match against serve and volleying Wayne Arthurs. Amazingly, he fought off match point to prevail (as he did last year against Arthurs after being down 3 match points!) 6-7, 6-3, 7-6. It was guts and glory as usual. When I mentioned to his father and coach that many think Jan Michael likes to play from behind, Mr. Gambill replied” “anyone who thinks that does not know his game.” After his second annual Houdini Act, Gambill went on to win over rising American Mardy Fish and Andre Sa from Brazil.

What happened to Stefan Koubek? Two years ago he won the event and my story on him prompted my Smart Tennis Sport Psychology Tour 2000! He’s had a great year so far (see Australian Open), but he ran into the hard hitting American buzz-saw named Michael Russell. Koubek played well but Russell was incredible – pounding low forehands and backhands and matching Koubek shot to shot with powerful blasts from the baseline. In my opinon, Koubek has matured mentally since his breakdown in the finals two years ago, but no luck this time around.

The fifth seed was a friendly and soft-spoken veteran named Davide Sanguinetti from Italy. He made it to the finals of this event about 6 years ago. He began by winning a tough first round match over Christophe Rochus 0-6, 6-4, 6-1 then easily beat Kristian Pless 6-3, 6-2 before defeating Paradorn Srichaphan from Thailand in three sets. This led to the semi-final match against Gambill.

Semi-Final 1

Andy Roddick over Anthony Dupuis 7-6 (4) 6-4

Dupuis, ranked 82 in the world, was only able to break Roddick’s big serve once in the match, in the sixth game of the first set. The second set stayed on serve until the final game when Dupuis double faulted. Overall it was an impressive performance by both the Frenchman and the Boca Raton prodigy. Roddick has so much raw power. With improved strategy and refinement, this guy is unstoppable.

Semi-Final 2

Davide Sanguinetti over Jan Michael Gambill 7-6 (8) 6-3

This was a close match and a funny one too. Sanguinetti’s Lotto shoes fell apart (the rubber broke off the bottom) at 5-4, 15-0 in the first set and he was forced to borrow the the shoes worn by Iggy Jovanovic from the ATP Tour. I’ve never seen anythink like this in a professional tournament. Showing the calm and relaxed style of his boyhood hero Milslov Mechir, along with some pretty nasty low groundstrokes delievered with an old- fashioned eastern grip, Gambill had to work extra hard to avoid mistakes with that two-handed on both sides style. Davide took full advantage. As Gambill later said “I thought his game would break down with the pressure but it didn’t.” Flat and low shots are hard to combat when that is not the norm on the tour. Jimmy Connors retired a long time ago. In a showcase of talent, the relaxed Italian master with the slow and low shots overcame the pressure-loving American blaster.

Final

Davide Sanguinetti over Andy Roddick 6-4 4-6 6-4

You gotta love this match for the welfare of the game. Never count out a clever marksman and assume the young gun will win easily. Give Andy credit for the fight despite his illness. This was a fun match to watch. Roddick later would say “it’s hard to rip the ball against him because he keeps it so low.” He went on “I tried to get in a groove and bully him around, but this took a lot of energy and I could not keep bluffing it.” Sanguinetti wore out the young Roddick with his soft shots, control, and persistant passing shots and angles saying “I knew he was frustrated and I took the pace off the ball to see what would happen.” He attributed his great success not to talent, but to a grueling 6-week workout routine that improved his confidence. By winning, Sanguinetti was the first player on the tour with two championships in 2002.

Summary

If you want a suntan and some great tennis in March, come down and to the International Tennis Championships. Delray Beach is a great little resort town by the sea with cozy restaurants and a European downtown feel. The tennis is up-close and excellent. Keep pushing your mental skills to a higher level and I’ll see you again soon!

This article was on sports psychology.

SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY AND PERFORMANCE ADVICE FOR THE NEW YEAR BY DR JOHN F MURRAY

Sports Psychology Column – Jan 1, 2002 – By Dr. John F. Murray – I hope you had a healthy holiday season with friends, family and celebration! Are you excited about the challenges the New Year presents? If you read this column, you’re probably interested in improving your tennis, or perhaps sharpening mental skills in another important area of life. This month, I share some of your inquiries followed by brief performance solutions. Names are changed to preserve privacy, but these issues represent typical questions that are often asked. Keep your questions and comments flowing this year as it benefits everyone and helps determine future columns.

Dear Dr. John:

I have a young world ranked player who wants to find out all he can about putting it all together from the very beginning of the game. He has acquired a bit of a habit of falling behind in his matches and having to fight very hard to overcome a tardy start. I can’t fault his physical warm up, but mentally something is lacking in this area. Overall he is as mentally tough as they come and not prone to being over anxious. What should I do? Taylor

Dear Taylor:

If he is “not prone to being over-anxious” I wonder if his mental intensity is lacking from the outset. Perhaps helping him get into the match sooner with imagery of the final few games of a match will help. I would test the limits too – in other words, really get him pumped before his matches and then have him practice as if whomever wins the first two games will win the match. Good Luck. Get him a copy of Smart Tennis and have him review the Mental Equipment article on Arousal (Link there please)! Good Luck! Dr. John

Dear Dr. John:

This question is about paralysis by analysis. When I play against someone I know is better than me, many times I fall into paralysis by analysis. I start to tell to myself to move well, move the legs, the arms, and so on. It is a terrible sensation. I sometimes think I will not play anymore. Do you have a prescription for me? On the other side, when I play against someone is weaker than me, I’ll go completely on what you call “automatic pilot.” Could you believe that I am so foolish on the court? Thank you in advance. Pete

Dear Pete:

Thanks for writing. You are not foolish, but your description of “paralysis by analysis” is a good way to think of losing focus, or over-thinking. This appears to happen to you when you think the opponent is better than you. I would seriously ask yourself why the skill level of the opponent is changing the way you think about competition. What does it mean to you to possibly lose a match? Why do you play? To improve skills, win, have more fun etc…? Whatever is happening is making you over-conscious. In this instance, you lose the natural flow or the zone. I would encourage you to re-think what playing tennis means to you. If you embrace the challenge and forget about winning and losing, you will be less apt to go into ultra-think mode. You might also like to tell yourself, when you begin to go into this thinking mode, phases like: “just play” “just have fun,” take a deep breath, jog in place, and get your physical self back! You need to think in tennis – but not too much during the point! Better to just play. Go for it! Dr. John

Dear Dr John:

I love tennis but whenever I play a match and I start to miss easy balls I get angry. It feels out of control because I know I shouldn’t be doing it but I still do it. It’s dragged on for years and I don’t know how to control my anger when I get on the court. It’s like I am a different person when I am on the court. Could you please give an exercise to work with which will allow me to think of the match and not how bad that last shot or game was. Lisa

Dear Lisa:

The key is to re-focus quickly following anger, not to eliminate anger. We all get angry and it has its purpose to motivate, but not to destroy, the present and future. You really need a consistent pre-shot routine, disciplined, key words, eye control etc… to give yourself other things to think about. The “zone” is really nothing more than being totally in the moment. You might also do imagery in which you practice getting angry and then releasing anger for the next point, and re-direct the energy into proper focus and awareness on the present. I wish this were easy, but it is not – and there could be deeper issues still … but it is usually just a problem for your game. I’ll talk with you later! Dr. John

Now that you’ve glimpsed some of Taylor, Pete and Lisa’s concerns, what about your own situation? If there is any way I can help, please drop me a line using this form, call me at: 561-596-9898.

From Sports Psychologist Dr John F. Murray