Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Dimension V: Why Coaches Often Avoid Sports Psychology

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

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

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

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

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

Dimension IV: A New Finding in Sports Science and Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Dimension I: Training a Football Team Mentally

Is winning important to you? If so, read on, as I recently wrote a book to help teams win called “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.”

Anyone seriously interested in football wants to win. This applies to the head coach of an NFL team just as much as it does to the high school player trying to make his varsity team for the first time and to fans in every major city. It applies also to what I do, and it is the main reason why I developed the Mental Performance Index statistic. I want to help teams win.

If football and other sports did not have this innate competitiveness, I would find a more worthwhile way to spend my time. Human beings reach their highest states when striving for great achievements. I honestly developed the MPI so that I could one day stand on the sidelines with an NFL team as the head coach was receiving the Lombardi Trophy and know that my contribution played some small role in that team’s achievement.

My fascination with the ultimate accomplishment applies to other sports too. I’d also love to someday do my part to help teams win Stanley Cups, World Series titles, NBA championships and why stop there? But football holds a special place in my heart and mind, so I developed the MPI for football first. There will be future extensions of the MPI to other sports, but let’s do football first.

To learn more about how to help your team win with the MPI and sports psychology, how to view the relationship between the sports psychologist and head coach, how the knowledge of the MPI gives a football coaching staff more power and increases player confidence, and how to use the MPI to set and achieve better goals for the team, you will want to read my new book “The Mental Performance Index.”

The Many Dimensions of a Book

Sports Psychology Commentary – A Warm Palm Beach Evening in Late July, 2011 – By John F Murray – In writing “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” I really feel that I hit on multiple dimensions of the athletic experience and the role of mental skills, mental training, sports psychology, and its overall relationship with football coaches, teams, and fans. The book probably doesn’t fit neatly into any one category, so I will be blogging over the coming weeks about the various areas it covers and questions it answers. It is an autobiography of sorts in the first 90 or 100 pages, and I would like to think that it is a book of inspiration, discovery, and social change too.

Ordinarily, a book like this might appear to be biting off more than it can chew and not deep enough. I do not believe this is the case here. It’s just that the topics lend themselves to many applications and there has been negligence in this area for so long that a lot had to be said. Everyone so far who has given feedback on amazon.com or told me directly has expressed great admiration for this book, saying that it flows well, is practical as well as deep, and that it is long overdue. Of course there will be critics, and that is fine, but the consensus so far is uplifting!

The coming blogs will be titled “Dimension I,” Dimension II etc… to separate the topics. There will be a total of 24 separate blogs after this one, each covering a different aspect of what this book is all about. I hope you enjoy this 25 part series of blogs from the world of sports psychology.

This Book Description Says it Well

Sports Psychology book description of: “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” by John F. Murray, Ph.D., Published by World Audience, 2011.

In “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” clinical and sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray shares his fascinating personal journey and many interesting people and situations inspiring him to love American football and later become a sports psychologist.

Growing up in South Florida in the early 1970s, it was impossible for him to ignore the influence of the “perfect season” of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, or Don Shula’s constant insights. Later as a sports psychologist, he explains how he wanted to help athletes by measuring how they had performed in a more comprehensive way that accurately included their “mental performance” too. Murray reasoned that since he was constantly telling his athletes to stay focused on “performance” and “process” rather than on “outcome” or “scores,” he needed a way to measure how well his clients had complied, and also to verify quantatatively that what he was saying was true!

From the earliest caveman days when the first spear thrower attempted to kill a Buffalo so that his village could eat and survive, that person’s performance under pressure, or the quality of his mental skills, had been a matter of deep discussion and evaluation. Some, like our modern-day Joe Montana or Tom Brady, handled pressure well and thrived, while others choked, but that quality of “smart play” was never doubted to be important.

Despite this universal understanding, Murray jumps out of his shoes when he realizes that nobody in history had taken the time to measure or quantify this “smartness” of play or “mental performance!” He quotes Hegel in Chapter 1, as Hegel once said “Because it’s familiar, a thing remains unknown.” So the author created a new statistic over eight years to correct this historical oversight and called it “The Mental Performance Index.” Indeed, what had been missing since the early cavemen is now finally corrected in this book as we have a way of quantifying mental performance that enhances our understanding of team performance, and it will launch a paradigm shift in sports.

With this new statistic, and a way to capture performance that includes mental aspects (seen in “smart play” or its opposite in carelessness, choking etc.), the author reviews every play in Super Bowl history. His results reveal this statistic to be the best predictor of success in the Super Bowl by far when compared with all the other more traditional team performance stats! The MPI even predicts success better than points scored or given up, further highlighting that what had been ignored in team sports can no longer be ignored, and confirming the truth that it is smart to place “performance” over “outcome” when training a team or an athlete.

The mental game is no longer some murky, intangible or complicated factor after this book. When it is measured along with overall performance it is the key to success. Knowledge is power, and with a new and more accurate way to rate and understand team performance, coaches and teams have the potential for vast improvement using this system. This book shares a passionate and important discovery in sports and the thrust of this book is what led forward writer and 4-time Super Bowl champion Tom Flores to write: “Dr. Murray’s Mental Performance Index can be and will be the next part of sports evolution in the 21st century.” Epilogue writer Lesley Visser, the only female inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame, explores the genius of Bill Walsh and his San Francisco 49ers teams. Finally, Murray ranks all teams based on MPI statistics as well as more traditional measures, tells us which teams were the best ever, and provides key lessons of success that anyone can apply from each Super Bowl played between 1967 and 2011.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the realm of books on sports psychology.

NFL Trivia: Colt’s President Bill Polian and Sports Psychologist John F. Murray are 3rd Cousins

Sports Psychology Special Feature to JohnFMurray.com – July 26, 2011 – By John F. Murray, PhD – Every now and then I insert a fun article, music video or photo album to the site at JohnFMurray.com, and this one fits the bill precisely, especially since the NFL lockout is over and our sport is back. The effort is usually well received as a refreshing break from more usual mental coaching angles designed to help NFL teams or other athletes win, or the more serious commentary on news or mental illness that is often sought by major media outlets. So here I go again, throwing caution to the wind, and sharing what I consider a fascinating personal story given my passion for and involvement with NFL players. It’s just one more example of how small the world really is and how we are all so closely connected and we might not even know it. Since I also love time travel and learning about the past, this sort of fits into that genre too!

We Americans usually prefer to look forward rather than back into the past. After all, our country is only 235 years young, and most of our ancestors left horrible circumstances in hopes of finding a better life. Rarely were these early years as an immigrant filled with prominence and comfort, and more often our arriving great-grandparents struggled to exist in a world of minimum wage sweat shops, dangerous coal mines, and noisy factories. Yet as inquisitive, determined and proud people, we often rose quickly in this land of opportunity, and more quickly than others at the bottom rung of society in so many other countries. In fact, it is not at all surprising for the son or grandson of a peasant coal miner in this American system to go on to own a multi-billion dollar company, gain international acclaim in the arts or sciences, or in the case of Bill Polian to become the most successful and respected executive in NFL history from a history of Irish immigrants in NY City. Another fellow that Polian does not yet know (that fellow is me) went on to get the first PhD in his family’s recorded history of some 400 years, and works today as a sports psychologist to NFL players and others.

Bill Polian built three Super Bowl teams in Carolina, Buffalo and more recently Indianapolis. He apparently did it with remarkable insight and well oiled management skills, and he has received many NFL awards for his accomplishments. I first heard of Polian in the late 80s and early 90s as a wild Miami Dolphins fan because I was jealous of his ability to find great players like Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas to terrorize my beloved team. So I had heard of him, and knew about his skills, but to me he was like “my team’s nightmare come true” and never in my wildest imagination would I think that guy would end up being my cousin! He didn’t wear aqua and orange … so he couldn’t possibly be related …. but I am wrong, I found out recently that my enemy was all along my cousin! (Note: Polian is not really and never was really my enemy and I have not even met or talked with him yet).

Like Polian, I love the NFL and have consulted at the highest levels including to NFL quarterbacks and coaches as a licensed clinical and sports psychologist. Before all this, I conducted my doctoral dissertation on the Florida Gators football team that won the national title in 1996. I even wrote my second book this year on the Super Bowl and have probably contributed to over 300 stories on football in the general media in the past 10 years. So it truly amazed me when I discovered that this mega NFL influence and talent evaluator and I are third cousins! What is even more amazing is that Bill Polian does not even know this yet, or perhaps he doesn’t want to know it, but why? It’s great trivia! Maybe nature is indeed stronger than nurture and we share a rare football passion and football player evaluation gene or something!

Well into his 60s and having already achieved fame and fortune for his talent in finding the right players for his teams, what need would a guy like Polian have to give the time of day to a newly discovered cousin sports psychologist dubbed “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post who is the author of a book that quantifies mental performance in American football called “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.” Tom Flores wrote my forward and he told me that he plays golf with Polian and loves him. Lesley Visser wrote the epilogue of my book, and she knows everyone in football and is the only female in the pro football Hall of Fame. Still, I’ve never even talked with my cousin the NFL genius!

I’m actually pretty good with communication. I sent Mr. Polian a nice letter telling him of my interesting discovery and even spoke with his secretary at the Colts team headquarters on two occasions. I wished him well in a Christmas card to the team in December, 2009 when the Colts were getting ready to make a move in the playoffs (and would eventually play the Saints in the Super Bowl) and this year I sent him several signed copies of my new book when it came out. I am a little puzzled that I have not once heard back from Polian about whether he liked the book or not, and he has never once even commented on my fun family discovery even though I had sent him a chart of our ancestral connections.

I love sharing a good mystery, so I thought it was time to share this trivia. Maybe he’ll read this and realize that I was never some grovelling fan or ailing coach seeking employment with the Colts by trying to play the family connections game. For 12 years now I have been professionally satisfied and fully engaged in working with some of the best teams and athletes in the world, and while it would be phenomenal to help any team win a Super Bowl with my rare skills in an emerging profession, I considered this story more worth telling since we are both so obviously interested in elite football player evaluation and talent development. Maybe we’ll meet for coffee or lunch some day and laugh about this and how busy he has been with the Colts, or how his secretary never gave him the messages, but as I type away this article, that day has not come yet and I’m not sure it ever will.

How did I discover the connection between Murray and Polian? It started as a favor to my mother. My mother’s brother was about to celebrate his 80th birthday at a big party in New Jersey and my mother wanted to surprise him. For almost 100 years, my mother and her brother had no idea about the whereabouts of their maternal grandmother, my great-grandmother, Catherine Tiernan. It was as if she had simply disappeared while my grandmother was still a child, and they did not know if she had died in the Spanish Influenza of 1919, went missing, or had experienced something so shameful that family had covered it up. It was a major family mystery, but my mother knew I was good at research, having completed two masters degrees and a PhD, and she was confident that when I put my mental skills to work I usually get good results. I did.

I put my thinking cap on, subscribed to Ancestry.com, and posted a note about the whereabouts of my great-grandmother. A few days later I received an email from a law librarian and genealogy buff in California who had been searching in vain for my grandmother, Natalie (Catherine Tiernan’s daughter) and had all the information about Catherine! He told me that he was my third cousin. This led to a six hour phone conversation and some amazing sharing. We helped each other with each other’s mystery! When I told this librarian about my love of NFL football and NFL consultation work, and my upcoming NFL book, he told me that Bill Polian, the famous executive with the Indianapolis Colts, was my third cousin. I have since verified it to be 100% true from several other sources.

The following shows how I am related to Bill Polian, President of the Indianapolis Colts:

1. Bernard V. McLaughlin (1833-1892) married Julia Mullaly (1830-1895) and two of their children were Julia McLaughlin (1868-1899) and Bernard S. McLaughlin (1858-1905). Julia and Bernard S. were brother and sister.

2. Julia McLaughlin married Joseph Tiernan (1858-1886) and they had a daughter named Catherine Tiernan (1886-1916), and Catherine is my mother’s long sought after grandmother and my great grandmother!

3. Bernard S. McLaughlin married Johanna Stokes (1867-1895) and they had a son named Joseph J. McLaughlin (1891-1951) who married Cecilia A. Casbay (1895-1976). They had a daughter named Bernice Julian McLaughlin (1915-1997).

4. Bernice Julian McLaughlin married William Patrick Polian Sr. (1907-1995), and William is the father of Bill Polian of the Colts. Thus, Bill Polian and I are third cousins once removed!

Presidents Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt are often referred to in American history as cousins, yet they were distant 5th cousins. Third cousins are much much closer, and the fact that my grandmother was Bill Polian’s second cousin makes this even more compelling. The timing is a little asynchronous historically, as Bill is now in his late 60s and I am in my late 40s, but the facts remain true. I am not too far removed to the greatest talent evaluator the NFL has known. I discovered it by accident and with luck thanks to another third cousin who loves ancestry research and does it well.

I do not expect anything from Bill Polian, but it would be fun to meet him some day. I was the one who reached out, not he. I sent him a copy of my football psychology book, told him about the family connection, and wished him well in the Super Bowl. Whether he ever read my book or not is unknown. If not, he is missing a direct fun challenge that I gave him in the book. It is a a challenge that would help improve the landscape for all pro athletes by removing a ridiculous stigma about psychology in sports that keeps teams from getting better, and keeps players from getting help when they need it.

Anyone who is interested in my new NFL book, and the challenge I proposed to Mr. Polian, can find it at amazon.com at the following link.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this fun article from the world of sports psychology!

No. 2 Odesnik Wins Over Lexington Fans by Topping No. 1 Ward

Sports psychology and tennis news from the world of sports psychologist John F Murray at JohnFMurray.com:

Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships – July 24, 2011 – Jim Durham, Lexington Challenger Media Director, Lexington, KY – Second-seeded Wayne Odesnik showed many flashes Sunday of why he was ranked No. 77 in the world two years ago, clamping down on top-seeded James Ward 7-5, 6-4 for the 17th annual Lexington Challenger men’s title.

Odesnik was the man on a mission – trying to get back under that 200-ranking mark (he’s No. 206 currently) and then take aim at the sub-100 territory again. “I hope I’m on the way back…I’m trying. Starting with Futures (this year) and no ranking – from nothing to 160 is an exceptional run for me,” said Odesnik, referring to his expected new ranking Monday.

Ward had two break points at 4-4 in the first set, and three more (love-40) at 5-5, but couldn’t cash in. But, when Odesnik had Ward on three break points (love-40) at 5-6, he seized set point with a sharply flicked, high over-the-shoulder backhand.

“I was more solid on the big points…(in fact) in the big moments, I served well all week,” Odesnik said. A disappointed Ward, who had beaten Odesnik earlier this year, allowed, “This was still a positive week for me…a good first week in the States.”

Indeed, after looking like a man with a plane to catch while spotting Odesnik a 5-0 lead in the second set, Ward rediscovered his pride and ran off four straight games. But, the eventual winner again claimed a couple of those “big points” to close out this USTA Pro Circuit event.

Just as big for him, he said this week, was winning back the respect of tennis fans and fellow players that he lost in 2010 when he was charged with possession of HGH when entering Australia and then banned briefly from the tour. BIG for him has been the support of “my team” – including coaches Guillermo Canas, a former Davis Cupper for Argentina, and Juan Pablo Sangali (Canas Tennis Academy in Key Biscayne, FL) and sports psychologist John Murray.

Can he return to the Top 100 and climb back into the 70s or higher? “I’m not focusing on ranking…but on enjoying tennis.”
Ward (at No. 202) also appears to be a man who won’t be kept “down on the farm.” The British Davis Cupper said he’s striving for that next level, “working on things…because sometimes you have to take a step backward to go forward.”
And, yet Ward would not admit to any real holes in his game. “If there was one thing I was bad at,” he said, “I’d think Wawrinka (currently No. 16 in the world) and Querrey (now no. 50) would have picked up on it.”

Where to NEXT? Odesnik is headed for the qualies of the ATP in Washington, D.C. And, he and Ward both will play the Binghamton (NY) Challenger.

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

You can be mentally as tough as Pete Sampras, Steffi Graf, and Roger Federer

LA Tennis Examiner – July 8, 2011 – Rich Neher – Reviewing “Smart Tennis – How to play and win the mental game” by John F. Murray, Ph.D., 1999, 237 p.

Ever since I heard legendary tennis teacher and researcher Vic Braden (jokingly, I assume) say, “Tennis is 100% mental”, I became interested in tennis books written by experts in the mental aspects of the game. My reviews of books in that genre have allowed me great insights in the mysterious and often masochistic ways our own mind is trying to sabotage our tennis game.

The Inner Game of Tennis, written 1974 by Timothy Gallwey, ended up #5 on my Top 10 all time favorite list of tennis books and I have since realized that numerous serious coaching professionals are followers of many of Gallwey’s teachings. Dr. Allen Fox’s book Tennis: Winning the Mental Match (Overcome your emotions, fears and nerves and build confidence for success in life and on the courts) specifies 3 big problems in tennis: Anger, tanking, and choking. He discusses those problems and suggests ways to overcome them, in addition to a bunch of real helpful tips for winning the mental match.

More recently I came across a booklet written in 1999 by John F. Murray, Ph.D. that caught my attention because Vic Braden is quoted on the back cover as follows: “Smart Tennis is a must for players at all levels – from the beginners to Wimbledon champions! An outstanding book for understanding and improving your mental game.”

Dr. John F. Murray has an extensive background in playing and coaching tennis, writing and lecturing on sport psychology and tennis, and providing psychological services. A graduate of Loyola University (New Orleans), Murray is certified by both the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) and the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR). He taught tennis in Munich, Germany, before joining the Peter Burwash organization and teaching in Europe, Hawaii, North America, and the Middle East.

Dr. Murray’s accomplishments are numerous, like his contribution to the psychology of tennis, an award winning sport psychology column titled Mental Equipment. He is also a member of Division 47 (Exercise and Sport Sciences) of the American Psychology Association, and of the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology.

The author welcomes the reader to an “exciting personal journey… to help identify your own strengths and weaknesses to help you win the game against your toughest opponent – yourself!” He adds, “As a tennis player and coach I was often dismayed by the lack of high-quality materials on the mental aspects of the game.” Murray also discovered there were few qualified sport psychologists with an understanding and love of tennis to communicate this knowledge. “To my knowledge this is the first written by an author combining expertise in tennis, sport psychology, and clinical psychology. This book shares my enthusiasm in all three disciplines.”

The first chapter is all about understanding your personal needs. The author’s so-called Whole Person Approach is represented by the acronym ACES, four ways in which mind-body skills are expressed in tennis and other performance situations. ACES stands for Actions, Cognitions, Emotions, and (physical) Sensations.

Tennis Mind-Body Checklist (TMBC)

Designed to help the readers understand themselves better, the TMBC consists of 100 questions with simple True/False answer requirements. A point matrix helps create a Skills Profile and an ACES Profile, en route to finding a Need Type.

Example: If the lowest score on the ACES Profile is E (Emotions), and the lowest score on the Skills Profile is C (Confidence), the resulting Need Type is E-C. The abbreviated description of E-C amongst the 20 listed Need Types reads: You should examine your feelings on the court and how they affect your expectations for success. For example, after winning an important game, you might be elated and need to guard against overconfidence. If you lack confidence, you might re-create feelings you had during previous successes. You will find help for this in Chapter Four!

Subsequent chapters provide direction for improving identified areas and further enhancing areas of strength. Chapters 2-6 are discussing related issues, such as Staying Focused, Your Mind-Body Time Machine, Confidence, Energy Control, and Goal Setting. Example: Under Steps to Eliminate Fear, Dr. Murray writes: When struck by fear during a match, realize that your opponent probably feels the same way or worse. Focus concretely on what you are going to accomplish and then just do it. Practice beginning matches at 15-40, 4-5 in the final set. Learn to love this challenge. Maintain an aggressive style of play rather than becoming tentative. Your best tennis comes when you are relaxed, poised, and full of belief in your abilities. You cannot control the outcome and you cannot always win, but by confronting your fears head on you’ll develop greater confidence.

Competition Management Playing Smart Tennis

I enjoyed Chapter 7: Competition Management Playing Smart Tennis, because I am being assured as my self-understanding increases and mind-body techniques improve, playing smart tennis becomes more natural. I also learn that my automatic pilot takes over and allows me to perform naturally. In Tennis Nutrition 101 the author warns that too many carbohydrates (pasta, breads, fruit, veggies) can lead to a sugar crash and complete exhaustion. Fats provide a more long-term energy source. Balance is the key to healthy nutrition. Both food quantity and quality should be closely regulated.

At the end, after teaching how to cope with injuries, the writer expands on tips and tricks during and after the match, such as point and changeover routines, momentum management, challenging your eyesight, explaining a match outcome, and taking stock of your mind-body skills. One of Dr. Murray’s students sums it all up. I am more excited about tennis than ever before, not only because I made it to the semifinals but because I have finally found the key to mental toughness. Sport psychology teaches you to ignore the distractions and concentrate instead on becoming the best you can be!

One of Dr. Murray’s biggest supporters is retired touring pro and former Top 20 player Vince Spadea. Born in Chicago and now residing in Boca Raton, Florida, Spadea was under Murray’s coaching care for 10 years. He says: “Dr. Murray was great in helping me come back from the longest losing streak ever of 21 straight losses, and we worked for ten years together on a fairly regular basis. He traveled with me to the 2007 Australian Open, and as my appointed coach (filling in since I was not with my regular coach) I beat Igor Andreev – a top 10 player – in straight sets, and we had other big wins together as well. Many of the same mental coaching principles he used with me can be found in his book Smart Tennis, but it was more than knowledge that really helped me get back to 18 in the world and top 10 in the champions race, it was also the fun and passion of having a common mission and goals with my sports psychologist … of constantly coming back to the mental game, and practicing it with imagery and other techniques. Smart Tennis players are wise to take the mental game as seriously as they do technique and physical strength.

I like this book because it gives me so much more than any book on stroke production or doubles strategy ever could. It focuses on my own abilities to make a change and cope with challenges on the tennis court. It is like a secret weapon in my arsenal of fighting tools on the tennis court. It is like the book I don’t ever want my opponents to read.

Dr. Murray’s web site is located at www.JohnFMurray.com and you can send an email to Dr. Murray at: johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

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