Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Motivation is a key part of Fisher’s job

The Tennessean – October 18, 2010 – Jim Wyatt – Sports psychology feature – Coach has used several methods over the years.  The night before their game in New York last month, the Titans got an emotional lift. They heard a speech by Will Jimeno, a Port Authority Police officer who survived being buried under World Trade Center rubble for 13 hours on 9/11.

A couple of days before their game against the Cowboys last week, the Titans got a kick in the pants. They heard an expletive-filled tirade by their usually mild mannered head coach, who questioned their readiness to play.

Over the years — 17, for those counting — Jeff Fisher has used a variety of methods to motivate the grown men who call him coach. He’s inspired them, challenged them, insulted them, and made them laugh.

Judging from his longevity, it’s working. Fisher has lasted longer in his job than any other active NFL head coach, and he ranks third among active coaches in career wins (144), trailing only Bill Belichick (166) and Mike Shanahan (157).

While X’s and O’s and developing players have a lot to do with a coach’s success, Fisher has shown an uncanny ability to keep other things fresh, from his teaching methods to his handling of players and what’s needed to stimulate their collective psyche.  And he knows how to pick his spots.

“Until you’ve sat in that head coach’s chair in the National Football League you really don’t understand what all it entails and how all encompassing it is,’’ said Titans linebackers coach Dave McGinnis, a 37-year coaching veteran who was Cardinals head coach from 2000-03. “All of the different things you have to be able to juggle, from the mental aspect of the game and the temperament of your football team and when to press a hot button and when to press a cold button, when to pull them together.

“That is the biggest thing that separates head coaches from guys who have head coachingpositions. To be honest, there are guys right now that have head coaching positions in this league that have no business being head coaches. But a real head coach gets it, and Jeff Fisher is at the top of that list.’’

The Titans head into tonight’s game against the Jaguars with a 3-2 record. A year ago they were 0-5, on the verge of crumbling as talk about Fisher’s job security rose well above a whisper. Then the Titans won eight of their last 11 games.

Fisher’s personality never changed during the trying start or the strong finish, his players said. Jaguars Coach Jack Del Rio once put an axe and a big block of wood in the locker room to enhance a “keep chopping woodâ€? theme, only to have his punter hurt himself with the axe.

Fisher’s motivational methods have been equally creative — no word if he’s placed calls to any Chilean miners recently — but from every indication he really hasn’t had one backfire.

“Jeff always had something new up his sleeve,’’ former Titans punter Craig Hentrich said. “And there’s a method to his madness every time he does something.’’ The night before the Sept. 26 game against the Giants, the Titans watched a clip from the 2006 film World Trade Center. Seconds later, Jimeno walked in and shared his story of perseverance.

Before a 2003 playoff game against the Steelers, the Titans watched a clip from Remember The Titans. Then the high school coach who was the inspiration for the film, Herman Boone, made a surprise appearance.
Fisher also likes week- and season-long themes. One was “212 Degrees, The Extra Degree,â€? that included posters tacked up around Baptist Sports Park and a movie. “At 211, water is just hot water,’’ safety Donnie Nickey said. “But that extra degree gets it boiling and changes the physics of it. The message was to get that extra degree, and see what we get. It was a challenge to us. It was unique.’’

Fisher once had all 53 players place a small stone into a pile in the LP Field locker room. The message: Here’s how big you can grow working together. Once he sensed that players needed a laugh the night before a game. He stunned them by having “Office Linebacker Terry Tateâ€? of TV commercial fame come out of nowhere to tackle strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson, whose cell phone had “accidentallyâ€? gone off during a team meeting — one of Fisher’s pet peeves. It broke the tension in a hurry.

In 2008, Fisher risked life and limb for the sake of motivation, jumping from a helicopter with the 101st Airborne Parachute team and landing on the practice field as astonished players looked on. “We were 10-0 and the pressure was mounting and we were getting tight, not wanting to lose,â€? linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. “That was his way of loosening things up.’’

The Titans lost the following Sunday, “but Coach Fisher is very clever with what he does and that is a credit to him and how long he has been around,â€? Tulloch said. “And players have a lot of respect for him.’’

Fisher, 52, is a big practical joker, but during last Friday’s practice he unleashed a darker side. The Titans looked lackadaisical. Two players began chirping at each other, which escalated into pushing and shoving as others joined the jawing. Fisher charged in with a rare show of anger and harsh language. “It was necessary,’’ defensive back Vincent Fuller said. “He knew that we couldn’t get what we got done in Dallas done if we weren’t together, if we weren’t as a team.’’ Immediately after practice, Fisher apologized to a female reporter who witnessed the tirade.

The flash of fury was not planned, Fisher said. The Titans entered the game as a seven-point underdog, but won 34-27. “There is no manual, that is probably the best answer,’’ Fisher said of his methods. “I reacted (that day) to an accumulation of things. But I am not one to circle a date and say, ‘This is the date you’re going to do it.’

“Every game is different and no game we play over the course of however so many years is similar. It’s a different set of circumstances each week and you adjust. What I try to do is get a sense from the players, from their preparation habits, commitment, and what is required going into a game.’’

John F. Murray, a sports psychologist from Palm Beach, Fla., said a coach has to keep his messages from getting stale if he’s going to survive with one team as long as Fisher has. Of course, Fisher also benefits from an ever-changing roster, a new batch of players to motivate each year. “By varying the presentation, no matter how you do it, people will pay attention,â€? Murray said.

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

With hearts heavy from death of player, Pokes prepare for No. 5 Texas

Casper Star Tribune – September 11, 2010 – Eric Schmoldt – After tragedy, Wyoming returns to field. Grieving continues to be a daily process. For the Wyoming Cowboys, it takes its next step today.

Just five days after the tragic death of freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse in an automobile accident, the Pokes must return to the field for a game at No. 5 Texas.

“Emotions are going to be running high,â€? UW senior wide receiver David Leonard said. “It’s a tough time right now, but when you have tough times, you come together as a team and a family. I don’t think we have a choice.â€?

Subhed: “There’s no way around griefâ€?

As with the grieving process throughout this week, the responses the players and coaches will have today are wide-ranging and somewhat unpredictable.

Likely, each player will feel a little differently about the experience.

“It does affect a tight-knit group that has been in camp for months and knows each other really well just like a family,â€? said Dr. John F. Murray, a renowned sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla. “You can’t really accelerate grief reactions or bereavement types of responses. They differ widely based on the relationship with that person and the individual that’s coping with it.

“[But] there’s no way around grief except through grief. You’re going to have to deal with it sometime.â€?

Few have dealt with a situation quite like this one.

Narcisse, a 19-year-old from Miami, Fla., was riding in a vehicle with three other teammates on their way back from Colorado early Monday morning.

The driver fell asleep and the vehicle drifted off the road, rolling down an embankment on Highway 287 in northern Colorado.

The three other passengers have been treated and released from hospitals, but Narcisse did not survive.

Now the Cowboys not only have to deal with the death of a teammate, but they must do so in the middle of the season while trying to play football.

“I would say that in that case you’ve got to put on your gameface quick and it might actually delay the response,â€? Murray said. “Some of the players might not deal with it until after the season or might not fully process it.

“[But] some kids won’t be affected at all. A lot has to do with their personal histories, what they’ve dealt with and what they’ve seen in terms of death.â€?

Subhed: “They grew up in life real quickâ€?

The Connecticut Huskies found themselves in a similar situation nearly a year ago.

Star cornerback Jasper Howard made 11 tackles and forced and recovered a fumble during a victory over Louisville last year. Hours later, he was stabbed to death on campus.

One week later, the Huskies were back on the field, honoring their fallen teammate.

“It was hard, but I also think it was good,â€? UConn coach Randy Edsall said. “It was therapy for us to get out there and really kind of get our mind off some of those things.

“We took his jersey with us to all the games. We still have his “JHâ€? on the back of our helmets this year because he would still be a senior and he’s an honorary captain for us.â€?

The Huskies lost a close game at West Virginia on the Saturday following Howard’s death.

The grieving process was far from over.

“The next task then was, on Monday after that Saturday, was to go to the funeral and to bury Jazz,â€? Edsall said. “That was something that was a difficult part to do and then you go back and play again the following Saturday. It’s very difficult, but our kids grew from it, they grew closer together and they grew up in life real quick.â€?

Subhed: “You’re still not over it todayâ€?

Jasper Howard’s face greets the Huskies every day.

A plaque in their facility’s lobby greets them with a smile from a fallen teammate.

Inside their locker room, the cornerback’s locker sits behind glass, untouched.

“It was just something we felt like we had to do,â€? Edsall said. “In life, things do happen, but you still have to move on and find ways to honor the young man. You never forget about it and you never will.â€?

The Cowboys are following a similar approach.

They’ll wear helmet decals with Narcisse’s initials during today’s game and a player will wear Narcisse’s No. 12 jersey, probably for at least the rest of this year.

Back in Laramie, the young linebacker’s locker will remain as it was for the next four seasons, when Narcisse would have graduated.

“It helps to memorialize that person’s meaning to the team,â€? Murray said. “It could also work to their benefit to help inspire the team with a little reminder that they’re playing for somebody who died.â€?

The constant reminders will keep the memory of Narcisse fresh on the mind for the next few seasons.

It will also mean a constant reminder that the grieving process may not end after one game, one week, one month or even one year.

“Every day was a healing process for us as we went forward from the day that he was murdered,â€? Edsall said. “You’re still not over it today. We’ve dealt with it, but it’s something that’s never going to leave us.â€?

The Cowboys take the next step in the healing process today.

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

Helping a child who doesn’t make the team

Chicago Tribune – Julia Edwards – September 1, 2010 – Every fall, the hopeful warriors of tryout season stampede gyms and fields across the country. Whether they’re upperclassmen hoping to make the leap to varsity or seventh-graders facing the selection process for the first time, each student faces the possibility of rejection.

“My coaches say that’s the hardest thing they do, having to cut kids,” said Terry Cooper, athletic director of Mountain Brook Schools in Birmingham, Ala.

Unlike grades that can be raised over the year, team cuts are quick, blunt and final. In today’s parenting climate of positive reinforcement, not making the team may be the first time a child is told he is not good enough. What to say, then, to the sullen, sweaty child who slumps into the car outside the gym?

“Allow the kid to talk and find out where they’re at emotionally,” said John Murray, a sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla. “If it’s a serious problem, find out from the coaches what to do next time.”

Murray cautions parents against lashing out at coaches too quickly. He likens trying out for sports to a job hunt. Rather than retaliate, ask what you would need to do to be considered next time.

Students might also want to consider the reasons they want to join the team.

“Sometimes I find it’s to be with friends, to please parents or to beat out others,” Murray said. “Parents should do their homework (because kids) may not be as exuberant about the sport as they think.”

From those conversations, create a backup plan. Whether it’s playing the sport on a team outside of school or finding a new sport, it’s important to stay in shape and not lose the athletic drive.

Cooper encourages those cut from selective teams to play “non-cut” sports such as cross-country. Mountain Brook Junior High can have as many as 200 students on cross-country, many of whom have been cut from other sports, but use running to train for next year’s team.

And remember, part of playing sports is learning how to lose, Murray says: “When you don’t succeed in reaching your objective, you learn more.”

ADVICE FOR PARENTS

Sports psychologist John Murray offers these tips for parents of students who may or may not make the team:

Be realistic: Before tryouts begin, make sure your child is going into it with a healthy perception of his or her skills and the possibility of not making the team.

Be a parent: Sports may teach toughness, but a child should still feel accepted at home. “Kids want to be loved for who they are, not what they do,” he said. Don’t add to the feeling of failure at home.

Keep a cool head: Before you call the coach, wait a few days and ask for objective feedback.

Keep it up: Encourage your child to use the season to build strength and skills with other teams or sports.

A backup plan: Talk about alternatives for physical activity outside school. I hope you enjoyed this article about sports psychology.

Granderson Decides to Visit the Swing Doctor

Wall Street Journal – August 13, 2010 – Brian Costa – KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Curtis Granderson was searching for answers.

More than four months into his first season with the Yankees, he arrived in Texas on Tuesday batting just .240 with 10 home runs, hardly resembling the All-Star he was just a year ago.

So when he approached Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long in the batting cage, he was ready to try just about anything.

“What would you suggest?” he said, according to Mr. Long. “I want to do something different.”

Slumping Curtis Granderson is working with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long to re-invent his swing.

That conversation is what sparked a series of hitting sessions over the last few days in which the two worked on what Mr. Long called “a total reformation of the swing.” Essentially, Mr. Granderson is trying to eliminate excess movement in every facet of his swing, from his hands to his hips.

It does not require an advanced degree in the science of hitting to see that something had to change. Mr. Granderson, acquired in a trade with the Detroit Tigers last winter, is having his worst season since he was a rookie in 2004.

Though his average is only slightly down from 2009, when he hit .249, he is on pace to finish well shy of the 30 home runs he hit last year. He entered Thursday with a .722 OPS, down from .780 last year and .858 two years ago.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is his struggle against left-handed pitchers, against whom he entered Thursday hitting just .206.

But making fundamental changes to a player’s swing this late in the season is a radical move. Even Mr. Long called it “a stretch” to change longstanding habits in a matter of days and weeks.

The question, then, is this: How quickly can a swing be overhauled?

Mr. Granderson downplayed the extent of the changes, saying, “It’s just trying to simplify everything.” But what he is working on with Mr. Long is clearly more than the routine adjustments that many hitters make during the course of a season.

Mr. Long compared it to the work he did with right fielder Nick Swisher after he hit just .128 in the playoffs last year. The difference, though, is that Mr. Swisher made the changes to his swing during the offseason. During the season, he likely could not have done what Mr. Granderson is attempting.

“I asked Swish, ‘Would this have worked with you?’ ” Mr. Long said. “He said, ‘I don’t know. It would have been very difficult.’ ”

Mr. Granderson was benched Tuesday and Wednesday, giving him extra time to work on his revamped swing. But mentally, there will likely be a longer adjustment period, according to John Murray, a sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla.

“What was previously automatic is now having to be re-learned,” Mr. Murray said. “It’s almost like you’re going back to a beginner’s state of mind.”

Mr. Granderson said he has made changes of similar magnitude in midseason twice before, first when he was in the minors in 2004 and again when he was in Detroit in 2006.

Even if it is too late to save Mr. Granderson’s season, Mr. Long said they have little to lose in trying.

“Like he said,” Mr. Long said, “how much worse could it get?”

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into just another aspect of sports psychology.

Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade building goodwill in 2 worlds

Miami Herald – Michael Wallace – August 1, 2010 – Dwyane Wade’s work in the community includes the Summer Groove, which he leads along with Alonzo Mourning. It was only weeks ago that Irene Brodie sat on her living room sofa in suburban Chicago, leaned over a coffee table and sorted through photos and articles chronicling one of her town’s favorite sons.

Her mind was focused on the task — putting together a collage commemorating what was going to be Dwyane Wade’s triumphant return to Chicago to follow in the legendary, Nike-sneakered footsteps of Michael Jordan and restore the Bulls to elite-level status.

It was set to be a full-circle celebration for Brodie, who was mayor of the Chicago suburb of Robbins, Ill., when Wade left to attend college at Marquette in 2000 and is marking two decades in office this year.

Wade had other plans, opting early in July to join free agent stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh for a championship quest with the Miami Heat.

“This will always be home for him, and he’ll tell you he’s from Robbins,” Brodie said. “But I guess if I want to see him play, I better get down there to Miami.”

Wade is scheduled to return to Chicago later this month to host his annual Wade’s World Foundation weekend of charity events. It will be Wade’s first public appearance in the city he spurned after visiting the Bulls twice and indicating serious interest.

Wade has said a big part of his heart — and family — will always be in Chicago, but there’s no doubt now where his loyalties reside.

After committing to the Heat for another six seasons — and recruiting James and Bosh to join him in Miami — Wade is as entrenched in South Florida as sunshine, sand and salsa.

AN ICON

Wade, 28, was already approaching the regional iconic status of Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino after leading the Heat to an NBA title in 2006. But his role in helping the Heat execute the most controversial free agency coup in NBA history may have established him as the No. 1 figure in South Florida sports.

“Across all sports, in terms of his impact, [Wade] was top five down here already,” said Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach County-based sports psychologist who has worked with professional athletes and teams. “As great as Marino was, he never won a championship. If Wade is able to do it again, with what they’ve got in place, he would solidify himself at the top.”

MAN ABOUT TOWN

During a recent appearance on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, Wade said the buzz around Miami is even greater now than after the Heat won its lone title four seasons ago.

Wade also said his decision to take less money — he will earn $107 million over six years compared with the $110 million Bosh and James will get — has been appreciated around town.

With all three players agreeing to take $15 million to $20 million less than the maximum they could have received under league rules, the Heat retained money to fill out a solid supporting cast.

“Everywhere you go, everyone is excited about the opportunity,” Wade told Kimmel, marveling at how often his dinner tab is picked up all around town. “I haven’t paid for anything. That loss [in contract], the city is going to help me get it back. It’s going to be fun.”

Even with the Heat still months from its late October season opener, its three stars have already taken a national victory lap of sorts. There have been talk-show appearances and red-carpet treatment in Los Angeles, star-studded parties in Las Vegas and even an instant declaration by Sports Illustrated that the Heat are one of the top 25 most reviled teams ever.

Wade welcomes the challenge.

“Bring it on,” Wade said during the July 9 news conference at which James and Bosh also signed their new contracts. “We play this game to have that competitive nature, competitive juices. We don’t expect [teams] to say, `OK, Miami’s won it. We don’t want that. I expect people are going to say [negative] stuff. And we accept it with open arms.”

Miami returned the love in a public embrace that capped months of waiting for Wade, who a year ago was in the midst of a public spat with team president Pat Riley about a lack of roster upgrades going into the 2009-10 season.

Wade also dealt with lawsuits over failed business ventures, including a doomed restaurant chain. Even more serious were bitter divorce proceedings and custody issues over his two young sons that dragged on for nearly two years.

“It’s been a lot of stuff I had to deal with, grow through and realize what I was about and what people around me were about,” Wade said. “But I had to go through it for a reason. Everything I went through made me a better person, and I think people see that.”

The down times gave way to better ones. In January, Wade embedded himself deeper in the South Florida community when he joined with former Heat center Alonzo Mourning to raise more than $1 million for victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

A month later, Wade was named Most Valuable Player of the NBA All-Star Game, playing before a record crowd of 108,713 at Cowboys Stadium near Dallas.

THE UNITY

It was during those All-Star weekend festivities that Wade, Bosh and James practiced and played on the Eastern Conference team, and also further entertained the idea of uniting as free agents if the chance arrived.

“His leadership ability certainly came to the forefront in this whole thing,” said Chicago-based agent Henry Thomas, who has represented Wade and Bosh since they decided to enter the 2003 NBA Draft. “He’s shown himself throughout the league to be the player and person Chris and LeBron wanted to play with.”

Thomas said the way Wade handled himself through his legal matters and family issues also showed a humility that resonated with Miami fans.

“He’s been through some things off the court human beings go through,” Thomas said. “He’s not perfect. He’s made mistakes. He’s been classy the way he handled that adversity. And I’ve got to believe folks in Miami see that and recognize that beyond what he does on the court, he’s a human being that’s pretty special.”

Hope you enjoyed this story with a touch of sports psychology.

Ericsson Open Winners Emphasize Mental Game

Florida Tennis Magazine – By John F. Murray, PhD – www.JohnFMurray.com – As a contributing editor to Florida Tennis magazine for over 10 years, you’ve heard from me countless times about the mental game and mental training for top junior tennis players hoping to earn a college scholarship, or perhaps ATP or WTA Tour success. What about players who have already made it? Does the mental game still matter for them? Let’s glance back at the men’s side of the 2010 Ericsson Open – from quarterfinals to Andy Roddick’s impressive win – and listen closely as the pros describe their mental keys to their success. We’ll cover the women exclusively in a future article.

This Key Biscayne Masters series gem continues to rank as the 5th most important tournament on the tour. Mark it official and just call it a grand slam, on par with Wimbledon and Roland Garros. Why not? It’s the biggest and baddest tennis in Florida, the Caribbean and South America, and my prediction is that it will eventually become the second US Open in some future decade as the Latin population of American and South Florida continues to grow beyond expectations. I love it because it is so close and I get to meet with players I am working with and see them play too.

By the quarterfinals of the 2010 event, 8 of the current top 20 ranked players in the world were still standing, so you had the cream of the crop for sure! In parentheses after their names are their current ATP Tour rankings: Rafael Nadal of Spain (1), Robin Sonderling of Sweden (5), Thomas Berdych of Czechoslovakia (8), Andy Roddick of USA (9), Fernando Verdasco of Spain (10), Jo Wilfried Tsonga of France (11), Mikhail Youzny of Russia (14), and Nicolas Almagro (20) of Spain. With Spain just winning the World Cup too, you wonder what they are drinking over there!

Let’s listen to the winner’s post-match comments from the mental perspective, with the key mental principle(s) underlined as a header:

QUARTERFINALS

CONFIDENCE
Berdych d. Verdasco 4-6, 7-6, 6-4: Berdych after the match stated: “I brought many positive things even though I was tired.â€? He explained in the press conference how beating Roger Federer in the previous round gave him confidence. He showed just that in saving 7 of 9 break points. Rather than getting defeated in adversity or reacting to a difficult situation in a negative way, Berdych hung in there, knew that he could do it, and did it.

QUICKNESS
Sonderling d. Youzny 6-1, 6-4: Robin Sonderling explained in the interview how taking the initiative and dictating play with his flat groundstrokes worked like a charm. He also talked about how he won with quickness, and we know from research how important mental processes are in anticipatory quickness. It’s actually equally about physical movement as it is about getting a jump mentally and reading cues properly. Sonderling beat his rival to the punch with better anticipation skills, by taking the ball earlier, and through lightning fast shot-making, and these all begin in the brain.

AUTOMATICITY
Roddick d. Almagro 6-3, 6-3: Roddick, off to one of his fastest career starts, described this match in a way that shows he was in a state of pure focus and automatic play or automaticity. He already had played and won a lot in 2010, and described in this match how “things slowed down and muscle memory took over.â€? This is classic in higher stages of learning where auto-pilot predominates. It defines simplicity and perfect focus. Andy found it in this match and he felt like he could do no wrong.

CROWD SUPPORT AND PASSION
Nadal d. Tsonga 6-3, 6-2: Never neglect the influence of the environment in performance, and social facilitation is a psychological state caused by crowd support. Nadal credited the crowd when he said after the match “I was inspired by the full and passionate crowd.â€? He added, “the crowd is always very emotional here.â€? There is no doubt that despite Nadal’s fatigue, he got a second and third wind from this special social element.

SEMIFINALS

GOALS
Berdych d. Sonderling 6-2, 6-2: Thomas Berdych knew that he was in trouble if he tried to out-steady the Swede. It’s actually a somewhat absurd concept to try to out-steady a Swede ever since Bjorn Borg hit the scene. Berdych used his noggin to set a couple clear goals: (1) play more aggressively, and (2) reduce mistakes. This combination proved lethal to Robin when packed his bags and went back to the ice bar in Stockholm (I went there a couple years ago and can only imagine that is where Swedes go after they lose a match to cool). Humor aside, Berdych used his frontal lobe well in this match by setting goals to perfection. He had 17 winners and only 15 unforced errors compared with Sonderlings 10 winners and 31 unforced errors.

RISK-TAKING MINDSET
Roddick d. Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3: Mindsets are crucial in sports. They reflect how you view a problem and solution. I often help players get ready for matches with particular sentences that capture a needed mindset. In this case, Andy knew he was in trouble against Nadal if he played it safe. Playing consistently against Nadal is like trying to beat a wall. So he changed his mindset to high risk/high reward and it drastically changed the course of the match mid way through the second set. Andy showed high intelligence in making this needed risky change and going on the attack. He went on to win 15 of 25 net approaches, found his flat risky forehand, and Nadal went home wondering what had happened.

FINAL
CRATIVITY AND PRESSURE MANAGEMENT
Roddick d. Berdych 7-5, 6-4: Andy used two important mental skills to take his 2nd career Ericsson title. He won by being creative and stated after the match, “I was smart in chipping and mixing paces which kept him guessing.â€? He also said, “I had a lot of pressure to win this one because I had a pretty good opportunity at Indian Wells.â€? In reflecting on the entire tournament, Roddick said “I haven’t had an off day mentally in this tournament.â€? The end result was the he held serve perfectly and did not even face a break point in this match. By combining smart creative play with urgency on every point (rather than negativity as often happens in pressure) Andy Roddick, the lone American in a draw with 3 fierce Spaniards and all top 20 players by the quarterfinals, showed that he was the mental champion of the week.

I hope you enjoyed this article on sports psychology.

Sports Psychologist Dr. John F Murray Appearing on Tennis Channel Next Two Weeks

DR JOHN IS ON THE TENNIS CHANNEL OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS (PREVIOUSLY RECORDED): Dr. John F. Murray to appear on the Tennis Channel in episodes 3 and 4 of “Fit to Hit” with host Danielle Dotzenrod. Episode 3 starts July 26.

FROM THE TENNIS CHANNEL ABOUT DR. JOHN F MURRAY
—>BEFORE EPISODE 3 OF “FIT TO HIT” (begins July 26, 2010) – Sports Psychologist, John F. Murray will show us why setting goals can do wonders for our game.
—>BEFORE EPISODE 4 OF “FIT TO HIT” (begins August 2, 2010) – If you’ve ever found yourself on a losing streak, you’ll want to watch…we will talk to the sports psychologist, John F Murray, that helped Vincent Spadea come back from the longest losing streak in history!

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.

Psychology of sport: how a red dot swung it for Open champion

London Independent – Steve Connor – July 20, 2010 – The strategy employed by golfer Louis Oosthuizen demonstrates the growing importance of mental techniques in the field of competitive sport

A small red spot on the glove of golfer Louis Oosthuizen is credited with playing a critical role in his winning of The Open Championship at St Andrews last Sunday. The coloured spot was a visible manifestation of the growing influence of psychology in sport – it was designed to help the 27-year-old South African concentrate on his swing in the crucial moments leading up to a shot.

Sporting professionals are increasingly turning to similar mind-training tricks to improve their performance on the field. It may involve mental imagery that allows them to rehearse a game in their heads, or psychological blocking techniques that stop them from dwelling on past mistakes. In the case of Oosthuizen, an outsider who was widely expected to collapse under the pressure on the final day, it was a simple dot on his glove to make him focus on his swing.

The idea came from a sports psychologist who was asked to help Oosthuizen improve his concentration before starting his swing after a string of disappointing results in previous golfing events.

The idea came from Karl Morris, a Manchester sports psychologist who was asked to help Oosthuizen improve his concentration before starting his swing after a string of disappointing results in previous golfing events.

“His pre-shot routine was all over the place. I suggested he changed his whole game plan after he told me that when he played in the US Open last month he was making split decisions instead of thinking about what he should have been doing. One of the tips I gave him was to put a red spot on his glove and to focus on it during his swing.”

The ability to focus on the task in hand is one of they key techniques that sports psychologists try to refine when dealing with professional sports people. “There is a lot of evidence that the best sportsmen and women have a lot of psychological skills that allow them to concentrate and to control anxiety,” said Tim Rees, a qualified psychologist who specialises in sport at Exeter University.

Psychological skills may be more important in some sports than others. Endurance sports such as rowing, for instance, require a very different psychological approach from less physical sports like golf where the actual playing of shots constitutes a tiny fraction of the time it takes to complete the course. Rowing and other endurance sports involve intense activity for prolonged periods, whereas there is so much more time for psychology in sports like golf. There is a lot of evidence to show that once someone gets to a certain level of skill, it is the differences in their psychological approach that differentiates people at the very top,” Dr Rees said.

The red spot on Oosthuizen’s glove was one way of focussing his mind on the process of playing a shot, rather than thinking of the consequences. It is a classic example of what it known as “process goals” in sports psychology, when the athlete is asked to focus on something, however minor, to stop them thinking of what happens if the shot goes wrong – it brings them back to the here and now before the shot is actually played, Dr Rees explained.

Other mental tricks may focus on “thought stopping”. Instead of dwelling on a missed shot, whether it is a failed penalty or disastrous return on the tennis court, the athlete is trained to put such negative thoughts into a mental “black box” that can be dealt with after the match.

A simple trick is to get the athlete to think of a stop sign immediately after they make a mistake. “It allows them to park the problem so they can deal with it later. It takes a lot of practice to get it to work but it allows them to focus on what they have to do next rather than what they have just done,” Dr Rees said.

Almost all sports involve what psychologists call imagery. Athletes often describe how the day or night before a crucial game they mentally rehearse what they intend to do – even to the point of walking up to the winner’s podium. (According to Rees this is why so many first-time winners often look relatively relaxed and at home on a podium because they have rehearsed the moment so many times in their heads).

David Beckham, for instance, is said to have stored and replayed mental “video clips” of how the ball will bend when he takes a free kick at goal. Skiers at the top of a run often close their eyes briefly and sway from side to side just before they take off down a slope, as if they are rehearsing the difficult movements they are about to make.

“Imagery is most effective when it is used in conjunction with actual practice,” Dr Rees said.

Physical perfection, skill and technique are obviously critical to athletic performance, but the whole point about sports psychology is that the mind can so often be employed to overrule matter. This is never more true when it comes to the sort of psychological support that can decide whether a player wins or loses.

Several studies have shown that the emotional support given to an athlete from family, friends and even professional managers can make a significant difference to sporting performance. Olympic gold medallists Dame Kelly Holmes and Sir Chris Hoy, for instance, have both cited the support of their loved ones as a major factor in their success, and this is supported by empirical research.

In one study of 197 male amateur golfers, for example, Dr Rees found that the social support they received before a game affected how well they did. “While training, tactics and luck all play a part, the encouraging words or kind gestures of a partner or friend can make the difference between a footballer scoring that winning goal, or a sprinter achieving a record time,” he said.

Even the emotional support of a relative stranger can boost performance, according to another study by Exeter colleague Paul Freeman. Just listening to an athlete’s problems and offering simple advice and encouragement can make a significant difference to an athlete’s success, Dr Freeman said.

“It is significant that the support I offered, as a relative stranger, had such a marked influence on their results. The findings suggest that amateur and professional athletes would benefit from seeking social support, whether this is from a friend or family member or even from a professional,” he said.

This is why even a manager can make a psychological impact that makes the difference between winning and losing. Tell that to Fabio Capello.

Mind games

Howard Webb

Only 19 men have refereed a World Cup final and with each one the pressure has grown greater and greater as the global audience has expanded . Howard Webb cut a remarkably calm figure in Johannesburg despite issuing a record number of 14 yellow cards as the time he spent ahead of the game with a sports psychologist paid off. “We understand the stakes and how important it is to everyone involved but we also try to put it into some perspective,” said Webb.

Chelsea’s “mind room”

It’s top secret, but somewhere hidden in Chelsea’s Cobham training ground in Surrey is the Mind Room – it exists, but exactly what’s in it and what it does is jealously guarded. It was set up by Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea’s manager, who had used something similar during his time in charge of Milan in Serie A. It is overseen by his assistant Bruno Demichelis, who is also a sports psychologist. The Italian version was designed to relax players and then encourage them to stay calm as they watched their performances, good or bad. “It allows players to improve their resilience through mental training,” said Demichelis.

Lindsey Vonn

The American skier was earmarked as the pin-up girl of the 2010 Winter Olympics before a ski had even touched the slopes. The pressure as she took the lift to the top of Whistler was immense and not helped by injury problems that had dogged her build-up. She used a technique taught to her by Sean McCann, the senior sports psychologist with the US team, visualising how she felt the race would pan out. It worked for Vonn; she swept downhill to a gold.

Victoria Pendleton

Britain’s Olympic cyclists are regarded as one of the best prepared teams in any sport and have a record of spectacular success at the last three Games. They won seven of the 10 events in Beijing, and it is Steve Peters, the team’s psychologist, who is credited with a key role in putting the riders on the mental road to gold. Dave Brailsford, the performance director, describes him as a “genius”. Pendleton was a particular triumph. She has been overwhelmed by the Olympic experience in Athens and spent some intensive time with Peters in the build up to the 2008 Games. “I was a mess, I was really down,” said Pendleton of Athens. “It took me about a year of working with Peter to get my head working in the right direction.” That direction was straight to the top of the podium.

And when it doesn’t work…

“Own the podium” was the decree issued to Canada’s Olympians ahead of this year’s Winter Games. The team was equipped with 14 “mental performance consultants”. Kristi Richards, already a world champion freestyle skier, was told to write all her negative thoughts on a piece of toilet paper and flush them away. She qualified fourth for the finals, but on the big night ended up in a heap after her second jump. She finished 20th, and last.

Hope you enjoyed this article about sports psychology.

Television: Former #3 on ATP Tour Talks Psychology with Dr. John F Murray

Sports psychology on television: The following television show with Dr. John F. Murray aired on the Pan American Sports Network (shown throughout the Spanish speaking world) in the early 2000s on the show Tenis American latina (Latin American Tennis) hosted by Jose Luis Clerc, former #3 ranked tennis player in the world.

In this episode of the show, shot from Dr. Murray’s former office in Boca Raton, Florida, Clerc interviews Dr. Murray about the mental game of tennis and is later presented a copy of Murray’s new book “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game” (Jossey-Bass/John Wiley & Sons).

I hope you enjoy this video on the topic of sports psychology.