Archive for the ‘Sports Psychology Tips’ Category

What is a Real Sports Psychologist?

Before you choose a sports psychologist it is important to understand what the difference is between someone who has completed a sports psychology/sports science education and a licensed psychologist. There are many people in the world who are perceived as sports psychologists but they lack the actual credentials to practice psychology in their state.

Most states require anyone who is practicing clinical psychology to be licensed by the state that they are practicing in. This helps to set a minimum standard of care and protect the general public. It would be against the law in most states to use the title “Psychologist” if you were not properly licensed.

A student who has successfully completed a sports psychology education will not be fully qualified to practice as a psychologist and will not be able to obtain a license from the state to do so. Their knowledge may be significant and they may be best known as a sports psychologist, however there is still a clear distinction between this type of sports psychologist and a licensed psychologist who is also a sports psychologist.

The most significant difference is that a clinical psychologist has been educated and trained in general psychology. This means that they have been trained to deal with general mental disorders and conditions like depression and anxiety. These are important fundamentals for all psychologists regardless of whether or not they focus on sports and athletes.

A real sports psychologist is someone who has been trained and educated in general psychology in addition to sports psychology.

I received a Master’s Degree from one of the best sports psychology programs in the country and I recall that in that process I learned very little about how to assess, counsel, or diagnose an athlete who had a general problem. Clinical psychology programs suffer from a similar fault in that the students here will learn very little about how to increase performance through mental skills training. There are numerous areas of study that a psychologist needs to become familiar with before they are truly qualified to practice as a sports psychologist.

So what is the most important element of training for a sports psychologist? While the initial education and classroom time is important to laying down the ground work for your knowledge base, the most valuable part of a psychologist’s education is the time spent doing on-the-job training.

This is where psychologists learn about how to interact with their patients and how to actually counsel them. This element is not part of most sports psychology programs and this is what I consider to be the most valuable part of the education phase. Psychology programs are set up to offer and require this while sports science programs are not.

In order to provide the best counseling and the most help for patients, a psychologist needs to understand their patients both as “people” and as “performers”.

So is it really necessary for someone to make sure that a potential sports psychologist is a licensed psychologist? Yes, the majority of the time that I spend counseling (even when working with athletes) is usually spent diagnosing, discussing, and resolving general issues that are not directly related to the sports field. In some cases this might be much as 70% of what we discuss.

While this article will likely provide a little bit of insight for my readers here, this is not any kind of revelation to the psychology world. Other publications like Sports Illustrated and the New York Times have published similar articles to this one that have made exactly the same point.

5 Performance Goals to Crush Ohio State

Sports Psychology in Canesport Magazine – September 15, 2011 – John F Murray – Publisher’s Note: “Mind Games” is a column written for CaneSport each week by John Murray, a noted sports psychologist and author who has developed an index for evaluating the mental performance of players and coaches in games. We think it will provide all of us with a unique viewpoint as the Hurricanes navigate through the season.

Call me a team strategist this week, not a clinical and sports psychologist. Nobody is sick around here. Miami is a team with a great coach and a talented bunch of players. How can you not get excited about a game against Ohio State? If the Hurricanes all come together and perform as well as I know they are capable of, then it should be a very happy weekend.

To make this all easier, I have outlined my five performance goals for the team. If they achieve these goals, I am convinced they will also win the game. I set the goals moderately high and certainly at an attainable level in terms of performance.

In my last column (CLICK HERE for the archived story) I gave a fairly thorough explanation of the 14 new statistics included in my patented Mental Performance Index (or MPI) and explained how I also look at traditional stats and the bell curve in giving meaning to all data. Keep in mind that the MPI is a team performance rating system including every meaningful play, and it includes mental performance as well as execution and physical performance. The key is that it measures performance (how the team did relative to their opponent) and not outcome (how many points or scores they made. Since it scores every meaningful play, it is also a good measure of execution and consistency at any point in the game. As a rule of thumb, an MPI score of .500 is roughly average, .400 is terrible and .600 (or 60% of perfection) is superb, and about 98% of games will have a total team score (MPI-T) that ranges between .400 and .600.

While the cast of characters often changes from week to week based on who is doing well and who is healthy, there is far more than cosmetic improvement in Miami’s lineup, as senior quarterback Jacory Harris, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, defensive end Adewale Ojomo, linebacker Sean Spence and receiver Travis Benjamin all make their returns following suspension. I’m excited to see them return and they’ll hopefully contribute to a better team performance against Ohio State.

I’ll remind you below of Miami’s performance numbers last week, point out areas that need most improvement, and then give the team five solid performance goals in order to have a good chance to defeat Ohio State.:

PERFORMANCE GOAL ONE: RAISE TOTAL TEAM PERFORMANCE 2.5%, FROM .475 TO AT LEAST .500 ON THE MPI-T

The first number to look at is the MPI-T, or total team performance statistic, as this is the best single estimate of how the team as a whole performed. As a reader you will get more familiar with the numbers and what they represent as the season unfolds. Miami’s MPI-T score of .475 was not impressive and it was definitely below average last week. Teams can win games at 47.5% of perfection, but it is rare, and to do so the opponent usually has to perform below average too. This was not the case last week as Maryland was slightly above average on total team performance (MPI-T=.508) and the scoreboard showed this too.

For Miami to beat Ohio State, I would like to see Miami’s total performance rise at least 2.5% to an MPI-T score of .500, and even higher would be better. To do this, the team needs to cut down on penalties and turnovers and execute better overall.

PERFORMANCE GOAL TWO: REDUCE TURNOVERS AND PENALTIES FROM 14 TO 6, BUT WITH NO MORE THAN ONE TURNOVER (T + P < 6; T < 2)

The sad part about last week is that Miami shot itself in the foot. Maryland was a good team (.508), but no world beater, and all you have to do is look at the careless mental mistakes Miami made with four turnovers and 10 penalties (T + P = 14) and you will understand why Miami’s total performance was well below average. As far as I know Coach Golden is not using the MPI statistics yet, but he is emphasizing this truth with the team. The mistakes were by far the weakest link last week against Maryland and that needs to change. The Buckeyes are usually very disciplined, so for Miami to have a chance, I would like to see this T + P statistic kept to 6 or less, but with no more than one turnover max. A second goal here would be to have an equal takeaways minus giveaways (T-G) score. Against Maryland, Miami was a minus 3 on T-G, as Miami had four turnovers to Maryland’s 1. This needs to happen with effort and great focus, and there is no better time to start than this Saturday night.

PERFORMANCDE GOAL THREE: IMPROVE DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE 6.4% FROM .424 TO .490 OVERALL, AND 8.1% IN PRESSURE MOMENTS FROM .469 TO .550

The Miami defense should be better with the returning players, but remember that they are playing a formidable foe in Ohio State, so that probably makes that a wash. This is a hard game to win.

Last week the single worst unit on the field was Miami’s defense, which performed at only .424 against Maryland’s offense (.544). Contributing to that, Miami gave up 348 yards through the air which put Maryland over the 90th percentile in passing. With better coverage, improved tackling, more dogged pursuit, increased hitting, and a couple of forced turnovers, defensive performance can rise a lot. It would be hard for this unit not to improve from .424. But since this was the lowest area, all eyes will be on defense and I would recommend that Miami target at least a .490 performance on defense, but a .550 performance in pressure moments of the game. They can do this by rising to the occasion as needed to make big plays. Last week performance under pressure for the defense was .469, better than overall performance, but still nothing to cheer about. So at least a .550 performance in these moments is called for.

PERFORMANCE GOAL FOUR: MAINTAIN GREAT SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY BY PERFORMING AT LEAST AT .650

Special teams play was phenomenal last week for Miami (.717) and it would be nice obviously for this to continue. But this is a high performance standard that will be hard to maintain. The coverage was especially good on punts and kickoffs. A Miami performance at the .650 mark or higher would be superb against Ohio State.

PERFORMANCE GOAL FIVE: IMPROVE OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE 4.1% FROM .479 TO .520 AND OUTPERFORM THE OHIO STATE DEFENSE BY AT LEAST 2% (FOR EXAMPLE: .520 TO .500)

Quarterback Jacory Harris needs to have a good game, the offensive line needs to protect him and open holes for the running backs. The receivers need to do a better job than last year against Ohio State. It is a great redemption game for Travis Benjamin as he was criticized harshly for erratic play last year in the loss to OSU.

Last week the Miami offense was slightly better than Maryland’s defense (.479 to .467), but it was hampered by mistakes including those two very costly interceptions. I expect Harris to be more experienced and poised than Morris was due to his experience. But remember that Ohio State is known for their exceptional defense, ranked 14th in the nation. For Miami to win this game I would like to see the offense improve about 4.1% to .520 and I would like the Miami offense to dominate the Ohio State defense by at least 2%.

These projections don’t provide all of the answers. But, as I have noted before, in developing the MPI over eight years, and using it for my new book that was released this year (“The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History“), I have developed a good idea of what it takes to win a football game. I believe these goals give the Canes a no-nonsense, hard-nosed, and objective perspective that will only help this team get better.

Dr. John F. Murray, described as “The Freud of Football” by the Washington
Post, is a South Florida native and licensed clinical and sports psychologist in
Palm Beach. He provides mental coaching and sports psychology services,
counseling, speeches and seminars. He recently authored his second book, “The
Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,”
destroying stigmas about the mental game in sports and showing football teams
how to perform better and win more games by enhancing team performance
assessments and training. For further information call Dr. Murray at
561-596-9898, visit johnfmurray.com or
email johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

I hope you enjoyed this journey into the world of 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.

London Smart Tennis Sports Psychology Workshops Coming June 17 & 18

UPCOMING: DR JOHN F MURRAY’S 9TH ANNUAL SMART TENNIS SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY WORKSHOPS IN LONDON, ENGLAND. CHOOSE TO ATTEND EITHER JUNE 17 OR 18 FOR A FULL DAY OF ON-COURT AND OFF-COURT LEARNING AND FUN. SEE DETAILS BY CLICKING THIS LINK.

Please call Dr. John F Murray at 561-596-9898 to reserve your place. I hope you can attend this exciting event from the world of 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!

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.

Sports Psychologist Dr. John F Murray Launches New Podcast Tips on Mental Skills

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hear All the Podcasts Here. They are Posted One Week After Appearing on Kiki Vale’s Radio Show Site in Chicago.

Palm Beach, Florida – July 21, 2009 – Athletes, business executives, sales associates, and performing artists just gained a new source of information and inspiration for their performances at work and play. Dr. John F Murray, clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida, today launched a new podcast program consisting of brief two minute sports psychology segments. The first show on confidence was posted today on Chicago radio show host Kiki Vale’s website.

“Kiki has had me as a guest on her popular Chicago radio show about six or seven times over the years we’ve developed a great rapport and friendship as we share the same passion for helping others with cutting edge advice. She loves sports psychology and I’m thrilled to be able to share my tips with her listeners,” said Murray.

Dr. Murray is the author of the best-selling book “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game.” He has written hundreds of columns in popular magazines and appears on national television and radio to discuss the psychology of sport. Murray has been pegged “the most quoted psychologist in America” with almost daily contributions to thousands of newspapers including USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. The Washington Post called Murray the “Freud of Football” and Tennis Week magazine called him the “Roger Federer of Sports Psychologists.”

Video on Mental Benefits of Stretching

Sports Psychology Tip #3 – John F. Murray, Ph.D. – Stretching before any athletic competition is very smart. The physical benefits are obvious, but what you might not realize is that this helps remarkably to relax the athlete and get them ready mentally too.

While on a coaching trip with my client Vince Spadea who was playing a tournament in Chicago in July, 2009, I spoke with him about how stretching helps him with his performance.

Enjoy this video at:

The Power of Goal Setting with Spadea

Sports Psychology Tip #2 – John F. Murray, Ph.D. – Setting goals is incredibly important in any achievement situation. I use goal setting with all my clients, but the goals and strategies differ markedly depending on the athlete, the sport and the circumstance. Still you need to be away of some principles. I refer you to an article on goal setting that I wrote as a two page centerfold for Tennis Magazine in 2007.

Below is a video of my client, Vince Spadea, talking about how goals have helped him in his career:

Dr. John and Vince Spadea on Social Facilitation

Sports Psychology Tip #1 – John F. Murray, Ph.D. – If you are a serious athlete it is extremely important to get the crowd behind you. The benefit from an audience is called the “audience effect” or “social facilitation.” It works best with advanced performers in many fields. The opposite effect, social obstruction, can reduce performance with a large crowd when the skills are not well refined. See the article on social obstruction with mention of social facilitation here

In the video below, Dr. John F. Murray and his client Vince Spadea, whom he was coaching in Chicago in 2009, talk about how Vince has benefited from a supportive crowd in Key Biscayne and Delray Beach in his career. He is from South Florida, so he talks about how well he has done in these tournaments and attributes it to sports psychology and social facilitation.