Posts Tagged ‘canesport’

Damn The Torpedoes This Saturday!

MIND GAMES

Damn the Torpedoes this Saturday

By John F Murray, PhD

 It was a decisive and welcome victory, but far from pretty any way you looked at it last Saturday. Brad Kaaya’s four touchdown passes and Phillip Dorsett’s stellar 201 receiving yards and two touchdowns led the charge in defeating an Arkansas State team that deserved to be beaten. What I liked most about this game was the way Kaaya handled himself and progressed. It’s never easy starting out and he is growing up fast. UM took care of business, made big plays, and did well enough in big moments to get to 2-1.

Despite the smiles and accolades, if you think I am happy, you are wrong. There were plenty of frowns to go around as well. I am not going to sugar coat anything in saying that this was actually a bland performance from UM standards. It was a below average showing that will succeed against the Arkansas State programs of the universe, but fail miserably against true talent.  With Nebraska looming in a few days, the grit and core of UM players, coaches, and faithful fans will tested like never before.  As a columnist and sports psychologist who loves the Canes and thinks big, I say “bring ‘em on” because we have a proud history on our side and anything can happen in this massively emotional sport where teamwork, momentum and turnovers often convert raw straw into pure gold.

Yet before we charge blindly ahead with the fervor and optimism of “nothing to lose” faith against a national powerhouse, let’s look at what this Hurricanes team actually accomplished last week and do so by staring straight into the truth serum of MPI statistics.  When you look at the numbers below showing “actual performance” throughout the entire game, you’ll wake quickly from your delusions of grandeur, tighten your belt, move to the edge of your seat, and prepare for nothing short of Armageddon against the Cornhuskers.

Here are the numbers:

Miami            Ark State

Total MPI                   .497               .459

Offense                       .482               .478

Defense                       .523               .446

Special Teams           .400               .397

Pressure Offense       .450               .479

Pressure Defense       .531               .550

Total Pressure            .507               .459

 

The final score was again meaningless in allowing us to understand the actual performance in this game.  The statistics above tell a story of relative mediocrity rather than strength. Sure there were exciting touchdown passes and catches, Duke Johnson runs, jarring tackles, and more, but if I wanted fancy artistry, sleight of hand, or fireworks I’d attend a Chris Angel show in Las Vegas or space mountain at Disney. I’m more interested in winning games and this team’s overall performance was below average at .497.  The nitty gritty play-by-play analysis revealed a sloppy achievement at best and one that will not go over well against big corn fed boys from the Midwest.

Miami’s win last week was also in large part a result of the opponent’s own inept play. While Miami was horrible on special teams (.400), Arkansas State stooped even lower (.397).  While Miami’s defense was better than the offense and should be given credit, the defense in pressure moments was slightly better than last week and miserably short of the goal of .650 set in this column last week. Good luck with that against a Nebraska team that knows how to score.

The Hurricanes need to protect the ball better Saturday, force turnovers, and avoid penalties and other mental errors. Two turnovers and 11 penalties will rarely get the job done against better opponents. Miami controlled the line of scrimmage better in amassing 488 yards and yielding only 329, but the runs and throws were achieved in spurts. I would like to see more consistent and dominating play throughout the game.

Folks, we have our hands, feet, teeth, bodies, and minds full facing the 9th ranked rushing attack in the nation. Players need to dig deep and find a fiery source of toughness and resilience that can transform a 2-1 average team into the talk of the college football nation. Come on!

This is a huge opportunity and I am excited but will remain objective in calling it the way it is. That is the only path to success. The honesty inherent in MPI numbers will simply expose our  reasons for celebration or despair. There is no easy way in sport. If you want to savor the rich spoils of a hard fought battle you must first risk the pain and utter horror of an agonizing defeat.

Good Luck UM! And yes coach, you can use this as your speech to the team before the game!

John F Murray

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.

Mind Games: Reviewing VT, Setting UNC Goals

Sports psychology in Canesport Magazine – October 11, 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.

I’d like to begin by saying congrats to this young team and congrats to coach Al Golden for never quitting in Blacksburg. Being completely dominated 21-7 at the half, the crowd noise almost unbearable, this team could have quit.

The national television audience added pressure, and a string of past defeats to V-Tech hung like thick smog in the air. And still, still this team fought, still this team grinded and came back.

If it had not been for that final stop at the end (or a few other factors you’ll discover), this Hurricanes team really could have won. It was one of the most exciting college football games I’ve ever seen, and definitely the most exciting college game I’ve ever rated with the MPI.

Football is a team sport, and the MPI ratings focus on team and not individual accomplishments. As a team, Virginia Tech outperformed Miami overall .515 to .473 on MPI-T. They were also better on 13 of 14 MPI statistics. For these reasons, it is not surprising that Virginia Tech won. They should have won, and if they had not won with that kind of dominance it would have been strange indeed.

Despite the team nature of football, there are times when it is also appropriate to give individual credit where it is due. In this case, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas was the player with the single greatest influence on the outcome. He went 23 for 25 for 310 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. No matter how much we hate these facts, Miami fans should give Thomas credit for such a masterful display of quarterbacking.

Given the quarterback play, it was hardly surprising that the single best unit on the field that day was the V-Tech offense (MPI-O=.609, 93rd percentile) and that Virginia Tech amassed 482 total yards, placing them at the 96th percentile on this traditional value.

Miami was excellent on offense too in this epic shootout (MPI-O=.540, 67th percentile) and had even more total net yards (519, 98th percentile). We must also credit emerging superstar Lamar Miller for his 166 yards rushing performance.

While net yards gained is one measure of offensive firepower, the MPI-O statistic correlates much higher with winning than net yards. This makes sense, since MPI-O is a cumulative rating of every meaningful play on offense on a scale of .000 to 1.000, whereas net yards can be quite misleading, as just one big run or pass will throw off the accuracy and inflate the number disproportionately.

Clearly, Virginia Tech had a much better offensive performance (about 61% of perfection compared with Miami’s 54%), but both offenses dominated (V-Tech’s MPI-OD=84th percentile, Miami’s MPI-OD=72nd percentile), and again, this is a credit to the amazing play of that explosive Tech passing game.

However, it should also be noted that Miami’s rushing performance (236 yards) was very rare – at the 98th percentile – and this is a great sign of progress along with better passing.

I was very honest about the defense in my Mind Games column before this game, not in an attempt to bash any player or coach (I want this team to win!), but simply because the numbers after four games clearly indicated a major discrepancy between offense and defense.

I wanted the team to know precisely how really different those two units were. Sadly, the pattern continued in this game and Miami’s defense did not play well (MPI-D=.415, 13th percentile).

What you might not realize, however, is that Virginia Tech’s defense played even worse (MPI-D=.386, 5th percentile!). While it is true that Miami’s defense played 3% better than Virginia Tech’s defense, that is the same as saying that Custer defended himself effectively at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Dead is dead, and both defenses were bad.

One possible underappreciated factor in this quarterback derby was the matchup of special teams units. While Miami was superb in the first four games, they stumbled mightily in Blacksburg (MPI-ST=.423, 12th percentile) and were much worse than Virginia Tech’s special teams (MPI-ST=.607, 87th percentile).

Had Miami’s special teams performed like in previous games, UM might have won. As it stood they were dominated by V-Tech’s special teams by about 19 percentage points (MPI-STD=88th percentile).

What about pressure play? V-Tech was better overall, but neither team really shined in the clutch. Penalties and other mistakes in pressure situations for both teams offset great plays under pressure (MPI-TP=.481 for V-Tech, 41st percentile, MPI-TP=.427 for Miami, 22nd percentile).

Miami had the penalty bug again – (9) compared with 5 for V-Tech – but the Hurricanes had zero turnovers to Virginia Tech’s one. Overall, this slightly favors Miami since turnovers are much more costly. But nine penalties are always too many. The crowd noise probably had a major role in a few on the offensive line in the first half.

In summary, Virginia Tech performed better than average overall and beat a Miami team that performed below average overall. In this epic offensive shootout, the 1,001 total yards gained by both teams occurs roughly in less than 1 of 100 games played. Virginia Tech was almost perfect passing the ball as Logan Thomas made Stanford’s Andrew Luck almost seem to be human. The Virginia Tech special teams dominated Miami’s special teams.

At this point, let’s glimpse at a big picture of the entire season.

After five games, Miami is averaging .506 overall on the MPI-T, which is slightly above average and at the 56th percentile. On offense, Miami is averaging .538 (66th percentile), and on special teams Miami is averaging .599 (85th percentile).

Miami’s defense is still the weakest link (MPI-D=.458, 33rd percentile) and Miami is averaging better in pressure situations on offense (53rd percentile) than on defense (31st percentile).

There is likely major growth here as the Canes withstood pressure and crowd noise, a major deficit, and history, and they almost did the improbable by winning.

The huge heart and no-quit attitude of this UM team tells me that they have stepped it up a notch and will have even more pride and confidence going forward. I think Coach Golden is smart and doing a good job that is not easy.

What can we expect with upcoming opponent North Carolina at their house? This is no doubt another tough challenge, but it will make Miami better from the experience. A win, of course, would do wonders for this team’s confidence. To grab a win against UNC, I have outlined 5 performance related goals below:

Goal 1: Improve Defensive Performance to at least .480: This is a very reasonable goal set only 2% above the season average of .458. It is very attainable, but the players need to dig deep and execute the fundamentals, while coaches have to come up with a smart plan to slow or stop the 43rd best rushing team in the nation.

Goal 2: Improve Special Teams to at least .600: The V Tech game was an off week for special teams, but I expect for them to get it back this week with better kickoffs and tackling on coverage, better blocking and runbacks, and solid field goal kicking, punting and punt coverage.

Goal 3: Improve Offensive Firepower to at Least .550: The running and passing game really exploded last game and this balance is awesome. Performing above the overall season average for offense (.538) would be a sign of continued progress. Jacory Harris is getting better and better and this is exciting to watch.

Goal 4: Reduce Penalties from 9 to 5: It will be loud again this Saturday, but UM now has a week of experience to pull from as they go into foreign territory. Five penalties is average for a team, and that is a reasonable goal to ask for and it should help immensely.

Goal 5: Win the Turnover Battle Again: The Canes were +1 in the important Takeaway minus Giveaway category. If they do it once again or even better at +2, their chances for a win on the road are exponentially increased.

Final Comments

Thanks to many who emailed your support for what I am writing about in this column with the MPI and the team performance statistics. Many of you now understand the importance and benefits of this new way of rating games that includes mental performance in the rating, and also in giving percentiles that show how average or extreme a particular performance is. For those who still do not understand, please keep reading.

We all know that the offense has been better than the defense this year, yet it’s still important to know precisely how much better a particular unit has been to set goals, anticipate the future, know where we are heading and so much more.

If there were no speedometer in your car, would you be able to regulate your speed and avoid tickets? Probably so, but speedometers make it easier. If I had no watch or clock, how would I know when my client’s hour of mental coaching was up?

Lack of precise measurement causes error, confusion and chaos. Measurement is the key to documenting and understanding performance, but the usual football statistics rarely if ever offer percentiles, do not include mental performance in the ratings, and do not provide standardized numbers to allow game comparisons.

If you have not read my new book yet where I explain all this, I would encourage you to do so soon. It also aims to remove many stigmas about the mental game in sports in general, and the book is titled: “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.”

Thanks and Go Canes!

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.

Mind Games: Canes Failed in Pressure Situations

Sports psychology in Canesport Magazine – September 28, 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.

The loss to KSU really had to hurt. We all envisioned a little boost of momentum going into the extremely tough part of the schedule starting with Virginia Tech on October 8. Miami had just overcome that huge obstacle in destroying Ohio State, and maybe, just maybe, there was a little too much post-OSU euphoria, or that it lasted a little too long for the team to be completely ready for KSU.

I don’t think Al Golden is to blame. He has been a student of Bill Snyder’s coaching, respects his abilities greatly, and made the strong point that KSU could not be overlooked. Still, one wonders if all the players really bought in to this 100%. Even the fans seemed just a little too comfortable going into the cross hairs of a Snyder attack. Maybe we should have focused a little more on just this one game, called it a huge impending battle, and stopped worrying so much about individual traits such as Jacory Harris’ maturity level or game managing capabilities.

Before the game, I received emails from KSU faithful saying that Miami was in for a huge challenge and probably a long day. I tried my small part by posting a warning in a Canesport forum. “Bill Snyder is genius,” these Kansas people asserted, yet the team wasn’t even in Kansas anymore as they strolled along South Beach and into a hostile Miami stadium with history on its side. It didn’t matter. Naive Kansas lads who didn’t even know the meaning of the word “fear” hid behind wheat fields, unleashed a surprise Snyder attack, and made candy canes of this bunch.

Now that the damage is done, I’m sure we all wish we had yelled louder about the threat of Snyder-trained Wildcats. That KSU team deserved their success, yet UM still had a chance to win at the end. Hats off to KSU. Congratulations to Bill Snyder for another fine football clinic. Lose with dignity when you lose, but please never forget how painful this one was. The “U” will take it and come back stronger in the future because of it. The lesson is as old as time. Always respect your opponent. You are never as good as you think you are, and your opponent is never as bad as you think they are. Painful, hard, and agonizing? Yes. Required reading? Absolutely!

Now that tears are dry and gaping holes in sports bar bathroom walls are repaired, let’s move on. I’ve always loved the phrase: “while mopping up your past you wipe out your future,” and it applies here. No more dwelling on defeat. We have a chance to get to .500 against Bethune Cookman this Saturday, and we will. Nobody will come close to making Bethune Cookman a favorite, but Miami still needs to go out and make it happen in a big way. They need to unleash a major attack with all three units and get a big win against somebody — anybody. They need this game for confidence. Lose this, and I’ll suggest that the U transfer to a flag football conference. Win big and get ready for war on October 8. Then beat Virginia Tech and the whole season has new meaning. Never say never!

Knowledge is power and you learn more when you lose, so let’s take a quick look at what actually happened against KSU. In a game played at a quality level slightly below average, KSU very barely outperformed Miami on the MPI-T by a score of .496 to .494.

If you look at the above chart, however, you will realize that while Miami started slow, by the end of the third quarter they were dominating the game on this overall performance rating .512 to .480! Give KSU credit for their 4th quarter touchdown drive and for keeping Miami out of the end zone on multiple pressure plays at the end. They really rose to the occasion and put a whipping on UM in the fourth quarter. Overall performance only slightly favored KSU and they also won the game 28-24.

Where KSU really excelled and Miami faltered was in pressure moments. KSU destroyed Miami in all three categories of pressure play by approximately 30%! Their total pressure score (MPI-TP=.643) was at 64.3 percent (95th percentile)! Simply stated, KSU came up big when they had to and Miami folded when the chips were on the line (MPI-TP=.336, 5th percentile).

Part of this I credit to a good coaching scheme by Snyder, and part of this falls on the players. KSU executed in the clutch and Miami did not. It was best exemplified when Miami could not get into the end zone after having a first and goal on the two.

Both offenses had their way in the game compared with the defenses. Whereas Miami’s offense dominated the KSU defense by 6.4%, KSU overwhelmed the Miami defense by 9.9%, and this latter statistic is at the 89th percentile for domination.

It was notable that Miami only performed at .439 on defense overall, far below average, whereas KSU performed better at .469. For the third week in a row, Miami’s special teams unit was the best one on the field even though their .550 performance was less than in the first two weeks.

In my last column, I laid out 5 goals going into the KSU game. Let’s see how Miami did on the goals established:

Goal 1: No more than 1 turnover and a T + P < 8 Results: Goals achieved! The Miami Hurricanes had one turnover and 4 penalties (T + P = 5). This is great progress. Jacory Harris does need to perform more effectively, but this is not the game to talk about turnovers and penalties! Goal 2: Better balance with 240 yards rushing, 250 yards passing, 0 interceptions, and an MPI-T > .565

Results: Only 1 of 4 sub-goals achieved. On the positive side, Jacory and the Hurricanes threw for 272 yards. Rushing, however, was reduced to 139 yards despite Lamar Miller’s good performance. There was one interception, and the MPI-T score was nowhere near the .565 target set (MPI-T=.494).

Goal 3: Continued great special teams play with MPI-ST > .630

Results: Not achieved. However, the special teams unit has been the best on the field for Miami. Their score in this game of .550 is well above average even if it did not hit the .630 mark targeted.

Goal 4: Offensive dominance of at least 12%

Results: Not achieved. The Hurricanes offense did dominate the Wildcat’s defense, but by a more modest 6.4% (MPI-O Hurricanes = .533, MPI-D Wildcats = .469).

Goal 5: Dominate in pressure situations by 25%

Results: Are you kidding? Not even close! Not only did Miami fail to achieve this goal, but KSU actually dominated the Hurricanes in pressure situations by 30.7%! Great performance in pressure moments of the game belonged to KSU and this is the single greatest factor in a KSU victory. Overall pressure play for KSU, as stated, was at the 95th percentile.

I hope you enjoy the new graphic this week (you need to read the article at canesport.com to see the graph) in which I showed the cumulative MPI scores for each team every quarter. I will not do that every week, but wanted you to see how the game progressed, and how KSU really turned it up at the end whereas Miami faltered, and especially in the red zone at the end.

Let’s keep this painful loss as a lesson. Never underestimate your opponent, and realize that without smart play and execution in pressure moments, a win that seems easily in reach with first and goal at the 2 yard line can easily become a loss.

But how do you train the mental skills and get players to perform better in pressure situations? Aha, you had to ask a sports psychologist. This is what I do. We specialize in training athletes to prepare for the most difficult pressure moments imaginable so that when game time comes it should be a breeze. It works most of the time and I love what I do.

Let’s take a break for a week on setting goals. The talent levels between Miami and Bethune-Cookman are so different that I will not waste my time. If Miami loses, I will help them vigorously in their new flag football league. Sorry Canes world! I have to find a way to use humor to cope in a difficult time. I love this team and will continue doing whatever I can to help in this column. It all begins with brutal honesty in what the MPI numbers and percentiles reveal.

Win this game big, and we’ll get set for a tremendous week of excitement as we prepare to beat Virginia Tech! Don’t give up hope. This program is growing and will continue to get better even after such a painful lesson as the Snyder attack from behind the Kansas wheat fields last Saturday in Miami.

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.

Mind Games: Making Sense of the Maryland Game

Sports Psychology Mind Games Column at Canesport.com – John F Murray – September 8, 2011 – 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.

September 5, 2011 – Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium – College Park, Maryland

Maryland Terrapins 32 (.508) Miami Hurricanes 24 (.475)

Hello Miami fans, football lovers, and perhaps some football haters after this first disappointing loss to Maryland to start the Golden era. I am disappointed, you are upset, and the rest of the football world is wildly celebrating UM’s stumble out of the gate feeling that Miami got just what it deserved after the NCAA violations.

Let’s not try to sugar coat this loss. It hurts a lot. But this is what sports is all about, taking the bad with the good and making it better. True winners never sulk. After a loss, they first try to deeply understand what happened, and then they suck it up, spit it out, and make positive changes and corrections based on their mistakes.

There is always another game, and with a talented group of starters returning for the Ohio State game in two weeks, there is huge opportunity for growth. Maybe even a big upset is on the horizon.

This column will help keep us focused on what is important and what we control, and that is simply the “process” and the “performance” on every single play rather than the “outcome,” whether the team won or lost, or whether Nevin Shapiro is smiling in his jail cell or some reporter is taking another shot at the Canes.

In my work with teams and athletes, I’ve found that the greatest progress often occurs right after a loss or a disappointing low period. Nothing gets an athlete’s or team’s attention more than losing. The good news is that you are never really as bad as you think you are … or as good as you think you are too, so the trick in sports is to be able to continually bring the passion and fire week in, week out to the present moment, and somehow learn to forget about results while practicing and competing. Pushing the envelope to get better in the most challenging of times pays off later in the season and also in upcoming years, too.

In this, my first post-game review using the Mental Performance Index on the Hurricanes’ team, you are introduced to a whole new way to analyze a football game with a new tool that is very effective in summarizing the truth of what actually happened – play-by-play in the physical and mental trenches of a football game.

I developed the Mental Performance Index (MPI for short) over eight years and it has proven incredibly powerful in teasing out the keys to victory or defeat in a football game.

The Index consists of 14 new statistics summarizing relative football performance for each team that played in a game against one another. The numbers always range from .000 to 1.000, so it is like a baseball batting average, but for a football team where .500 is a roughly average performance of a team.

In some ways the MPI scores are like an index of perfection, as a perfect team would score 1.000 theoretically (100% of perfection) and a team that did nothing at all good in a game would score .000. As Herman Edwards once said, “on every play somebody screws up” and it is has proven to be the case with MPI ratings. The range of the MPI total score in a game is almost always between .400 and .600. That means that as a whole most teams perform between 40% and 60% of perfection in a game, supporting Edwards’ claim.

There are about 150 plays in a football game multiplied times 11 players per team, or 1,650 chances per game for each team to mess up.

In my new book, the best performing Super Bowl team on Super Sunday scored at.591 as a team overall, so only at 59.1 percent of perfection. This sounds horrible, but playing a game at 60% of perfection is amazing and almost guarantees victory. The .591 mark would be well over the 95th percentile in terms of team performance.

On Monday night, for example, Miami scored a .475 while Maryland came in at .508 and won the game.

With a live view of the game supplemented often by a video of the game afterwards, and a written play-by-play account of every single play to check my work, I sit with my computer and meticulously rate the performance of each team on every play of the game. It usually takes about three hours. My computer automatically converts my ratings into a .000 to 1.000 metric. When I rate a play, I do so in a way that is extremely simple, football smart, statistically balanced, and consistent over the years. It is simple for me to capture the essence of how the teams did on the play, and I adjust for many factors such as pressure situations, clear mental mistakes, or clearly superior smart play.

It is a rating of how the teams did in the moment by moment analysis of every play. By rating every meaningful play in a game, I have obtained more data than any traditional statistic, and this provides me another advantage. The huge number of observations increases my statistical power and sensitivity to discover subtle differences.

In rating the games, I essentially reinforce precisely what I teach my athletes and teams as a sports psychologist, namely to stay focused and execute in every moment. They are encouraged to focus on process and performance in every instance, and not on outcome, and I score execution and performance in every instance, and not outcome or points.

There is no wiggle room for being careless or sloppy. The MPI is an index of perfection, and players’ mental mistakes, carelessness, and great focus will influence the scoring accordingly. There are no excuses for penalties and turnovers on the MPI and that is how it should be.

But many teams and players get distracted by all the fluff in this ADD culture that many athletes find themselves in. There are so many off-field distractions that a no-nonsense, hard-nosed emphasis on process and performance goals actually reduces pressure or fear for players, leading to reduced mistakes and better execution.

Some teams win a game after being outperformed by their opponents, and this can easily lead to overconfidence or lackadaisical preparation for the upcoming game. With MPI data, players would know how they actually played despite the fortunate win, and it would keep them hungrier in their fear of a letdown. Other teams win the battle in the trenches of moment by moment performance, but might lose a heartbreaker due to one or two rare plays or poor referee calls. These teams need to stay the course and be encouraged that they were doing everything right, but that the ball did not bounce their way.

After studying thousands of games, I have found that better performance usually wins the game, and it appears to be the case about nine out of 10 times. In my study of every Super Bowl for my recent book, “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” only four of the 45 winning teams were outperformed on the MPI. So this supports this rough 10% estimate of anomaly.

Since we do control performance, but not outcome, I am measuring only what is controllable and only what I tell my athletes to focus on. Any good sports psychologist will tell you that placing performance over outcome is a huge key to winning.

It is ironic that, by not focusing on winning, we actually win more … but it makes sense. This makes their lives a lot easier and it makes sense to know how you actually did despite the final score which is often inaccurate. The final score is an arbitrary number, not a scientifically verified indicator of how well a team played. Sure you need it to win the game, but you need to focus on doing well in the moment to score points, not focus on scoring points which is a distraction.

The 14 main MPI statistics that I created include:

(1) MPI Total (MPI-T) for overall team performance; (2) MPI Offense (MPI-O) for offensive performance alone; (3) MPI Defense (MPI-D) for defensive performance alone; (4) MPI Special Teams (MPI-ST) for special teams performance alone; (5) MPI Total Pressure (MPI-TP) for team performance in pressure situations; (6) MPI Offense Pressure (MPI-OP) for offensive performance in pressure situations; (7) MPI Defense Pressure (MPI-DP) for defensive performance in pressure situations.

The first 7 MPI statistics are expressed in terms of how a team performed in a game on a scale of .000 to 1.000 with .500 being roughly average performance. In addition to these seven statistics that describe the performance of just one team, as much as possible a relatively pure measure of team performance, I also created MPI difference statistics by calculating the scores on these seven MPI statistics of one team minus the opponent’s corresponding MPI statistic.

For example, the MPI Total Difference score is calculated by taking the MPI Total score of a team and subtracting the opponent’s MPI Total score resulting in a statistic that shows “dominance,” or how much better one team performed that day compared with their opponent.

These additional seven MPI statistics are as follows:

(8) MPI Total Difference (MPI-TD) for dominance of one team over another overall; (9) MPI Offense Difference (MPI-OD) for offensive dominance over an opponent’s defense; (10) MPI Defense Difference (MPI-DD) for defensive dominance over an opponent’s offense; (11) MPI Special Teams Difference (MPI-STD) for special teams dominance; (12) MPI Total Pressure Difference (MPI-TPD) = Total dominance in pressure; (13) MPI Offense Pressure Difference (MPI-OPD) = Offensive dominance in pressure; (14) MPI Defense Pressure Difference (MPI-DPD) for defensive dominance in pressure.

To do a complete analysis of a game, I do not stop with the MPI. I also look at the 14 most traditional statistics (e.g., net yards, turnovers, penalties…) to see if there are any notable results using an extensive set of norms I’ve developed. I can look at any one of the 14 MPI statistics or 14 traditional statistics and see where it fits along the normal distribution known as the normal or bell curve in statistics.

In fact, I will often report the statistic in percentiles as well as in a raw score so that you will understand more clearly what the score means and how extreme it is. For instance, you will see in the upcoming post-game report that Maryland gained 499 yards against Miami. This places them roughly in the 95th percentile on this factor, a quite impressive performance. Just so you understand percentiles, if there were 100 random teams selected for net yards gained, Maryland would have performed better than 95 of these teams when they reach the 95th percentile.

Pressure Offense and Defense on the MPI means those offensive plays and defensive plays that I define as pressure situations in a game. While there are exceptions based on play meaningfulness, it typically refers to plays that have a greater amount weighing on them … good examples are third and fourth down plays that are meaningful. In these instances, it has to happen for the teams on that one play. The offense needs a first down or they are forced to give up the ball. The defense has to stop the offense or they risk giving up more field position and possibly a score. So these “pressure” situations, as I define them and as I think anyone smart in football would define them, raise the stakes considerably.

It is analogous to a poker game where a double bet is made. More is riding on the play. Psychologically that means that the teams need to be able to cope with the potential pressure by playing well in these clutch situations. And doing so is evidence of high mental performance. So I have a way to reward teams a little more when they do well in pressure, and punish them a little more on the MPI when they do poorly in these critical moments where it “has to happen or else.” I isolate out just those pressure offense plays and pressure defense plays and the scores for pressure offense and pressure defense will show just that … how the offense did in just those pressure situations and how the defense did in just those pressure situations, and I also have a total pressure score which is how the entire team did in pressure.

It will not be a simple average of offense and defense because there are usually an uneven number of plays a team might run on offense and defense. The bottom line is that part of my madness (and it is quite simple) is to make sure that I measure those pressure situations too … because the greatest teams mentally seem to find a way to do better in critical moments. Make sense?

Sometimes my analysis will match exactly what the mainstream reporters are saying, but often I’ll add a slight twist or new insight that was not revealed. I only observe what happened on the field of play, and back it up by written play by play summaries, but I have a huge advantage in having taught statistics at the college and graduate school levels, in knowing mental performance and how to incorporate that in the scoring, and in knowing football too.

How shall we analyze this Maryland vs. Miami game? You might wonder if the game was played at a high quality level or not. To start, this was a game of overall below average quality performance as the combined MPI-T scores for each team (.475 + .508 = .983) fell below the 1.0 mark (an indicator of overall average performance).

Taking a broad look at the data, Maryland outperformed Miami on 5 of the 7 main MPI scores, and they did better in all the traditional statistics except for net yards rushing in which Miami was slightly better (172 to 151). No wonder they won the game too.

We next look at total performance of the teams (Total MPI Score) and it is clear that Maryland decisively outperformed the Hurricanes by a margin of .508 to .475. While Maryland’s overall performance was only slightly above average, the .475 posted by Miami is definitely below average. It is fair to say that this was a winnable game for Miami, or stated another way, Miami also beat themselves.

How did this happen? The most extreme statistics that jump out (residing on an extreme end of the bell curve distribution in statistics) are the combined negative impact of turnovers (4) and penalties (10) for Miami. This T + P = 14, a combined value that is horrendous, falls below the 5th percentile. I use T + P as one of the factors in my book on the Super Bowl and in my MPI game ratings because it is a great indication of sloppy, careless errors. But like others I also look at turnovers and penalties separately.

So if you had to isolate one factor as most responsible for this loss, it would have to be the mistakes Miami made in turnovers and penalties. Seeing this statistically and numerically at the 5th percentile or worse gives Coach Golden some real firepower in actual performance data and normative standards to encourage an improvement in protecting the ball and avoiding careless penalties before the Ohio State game.

Two turnovers for Miami resulted in Maryland scores, and these two straws broke the camel’s back, but there were a lot of other influences too as we shall see.

As previously stated, Maryland gained 499 yards in this game, and the Maryland offensive MPI score (.544) combined with Miami’s defensive MPI score (.424) illustrates this mismatch. Credit Danny O’Brien’s quarterback play and the 348 yards passing which was at the 90th percentile, but it had to hurt Miami to have so many starters on defense out of this game.

While Miami’s offense performed better than Maryland’s defense in this game (.479 to .467), it was a much smaller influence than Maryland’s offensive dominance over Miami’s defense. The mistakes on offense eliminate any need to celebrate, and since those scores were both below .500, we applaud even less. However, it does give Miami hope for the future once it learns to greatly reduce mistakes.

Interestingly, Miami’s special teams were the best unit on the field this day, and they destroyed Maryland’s special teams on the MPI .717 to .488. If this had not been the case, Maryland would have likely won this game in a much easier manner with better field position.

We should all credit Maryland for performing better in the clutch. The Terps outperformed Miami in total pressure situations .492 to .477, and their performance in offensive pressure situations (.574) shows that they earned a victory even if Miami also beat themselves with carelessness. My best guess is that inexperience was a major factor here.

In summary, Maryland clearly outperformed Miami in this game (and also won) largely due to their passing attack, especially in pressure situations, combined with Miami’s depleted defense. The most extreme and perhaps influential factor of all were the four turnovers and 10 penalties committed by Miami and the +3 Takeaway minus Giveaway statistic for Maryland, which had just one turnover.

I hope you have enjoyed this first game review after a more detailed explanation of the MPI and why it is so needed in football.

When I finished my most recent book, which is all about how I came up with the idea of the MPI, how society stigmatizes mental factors, and about how the Super Bowl teams would fare in a mythical competition pitting every one of the 90 teams against one another, a lot of top people in football stepped forward to help me with my mission.

When I ask you to drink the Kool Aid of the MPI, realize that it is mostly just hard-nosed and objective football with the benefits of science. Mental opportunities are everywhere if you open your eyes.

Eliminate those 14 huge mistakes or just reduce them to five and Miami would have won this game.

Imagine that.

Dr. John’s Maryland vs. Miami Game Lesson: “Don’t Beat Yourself”

The University of Miami had everything against them but still had a chance to win if they had just held onto the ball and reduced penalties. While Maryland earned this win, Miami fumbled the golden goose at the start of the Golden era.

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.

For Immediate Release

Miami Hurricanes Publication Adds Sports Psychology Column for 2011 Football Season that will Highlight Team’s Physical and Mental Performance Each Week

Miami, FL – August 9, 2011 – America’s foremost authority on Miami Hurricane Sports, the 20-year-old publication known as “Canesport,” recently brought Palm Beach sports psychologist Dr. John F Murray aboard to write a weekly column on Hurricane football throughout the 2011 season. For the first time in the history of a sports column, the “mental performance” of a team will be carefully evaluated and quantified throughout a season. The column will aim to be friendly, easy to read, and uniquely informative. However, Murray also explains that he wants Canesport readers to be the smartest and most well informed football fans in the country.

Murray’s new column will be derived from his own quantitative analysis of every meaningful play in every Hurricanes game, giving readers insight that is not available elsewhere. This is the same approach that Dr. Murray used in reporting on all 45 Super Bowls in his new book, “The Mental Performance Index, Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” (World Audience, Inc., www.JohnFMurray.com). The big finding in the book is that, the new MPI statistic correlates with winning and performance in the Super Bowl more than any other traditional team performance statistic. The message for coaches and teams is to begin measuring team mental performance, and also training players in these areas to stay ahead.

This book is the culmination of eight years of research and introduces a new statistic, the MPI, that captures team performance more accurately than before possible because it includes mental performance as well. “This new column that will appear after every football game in Canesport (www.canesport.com) is both cutting edge and groundbreaking,” said Murray. “It will appeal to the diehard fan who thirsts for more information about the Canes, and it will help inform everyone in football.”

Dr. Murray, once dubbed “the Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, works with elite athletes and teams in his private practice. Tom Flores, two-time Super Bowl winning head coach of the Oakland and LA Raiders, writes in the foreword: “Dr. Murray’s Mental Performance Index can be and will be the next part of sports evolution in the 21st Century.”

Pro football hall of fame sportscaster Lesley Visser also supports the MPI, and Visser writes the epilogue on the genius of Bill Walsh. Don Shula also provided a quote for the book from his coaching days.

For Further Information or interviews:

John F Murray, PhD
Telephone: 561-596-9898
Web: http://www.JohnFMurray.com

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