Posts Tagged ‘John F Murray’

Simple formula fuels UFC’s appeal

Watch Video: Palm Beach to Las Vegas for UFC 100 (many more on the way)

Las Vegas Review Journal – July 9, 2009 – Adam Hill – Fighters’ physical, mental toughness stoke fan interest. Brandon Beals looks like every other Ultimate Fighting Championship fan walking around Mandalay Bay three days before the mixed martial arts outfit’s historic Saturday night card.

Beals and six friends are assembled near the doors where they expect some of the competitors in UFC 100 to exit on their way out of Wednesday’s media workouts, hoping to get a glimpse of some of the sport’s biggest stars.

The 38-year-old Beals said he has been a fan since UFC 1, nearly 16 years ago.

“I think it’s nonstop action. There’s lots of upsets. I think it’s also very fan-friendly,” Beals said. “There’s more action than boxing, and that’s cool.”

Yes, Beals might be like any other UFC fan — except he is the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church in Lynnwood, Wash., outside of Seattle.

He does not think the sport conflicts with the values he preaches at his church.

“If it was still no-holds barred, if it was underground or illegal, then yes,” he said. “But this is legal and sanctioned. It’s got rules. You’re talking about stellar athletes, so I don’t believe it does at all.”

Dr. John F. Murray, a sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla., said the adoption of rules went a long way to helping mixed martial arts gain acceptance among mainstream fans and that the sport will continue to grow.

“As far as the blood-and-guts aspect, some people will be turned off by that, and that’s understandable,” Murray said. “But if you look at it as a pure sport, and the rules are important to that, it’s not that way. If they continue to make it something that won’t turn off a large part of the population, it will just continue to get bigger and bigger.”

Murray has worked with MMA fighters in the past. He said he was not interested in the sport until he started learning about some of the athletes.

“It wasn’t something I would have naturally gotten into,” said Murray, who was a tennis player. “I’ve grown to appreciate how amazingly complex it is and how much the mental skills need to be a part of any training.”

Frank Mir, the interim heavyweight champion who will try to unify the belt against current heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar on Saturday, thinks much of that mental aspect is ingrained in the sport’s competitors.

“I think that we’re kind of genetically wired at birth to be a certain type of individual,” Mir said. “The same kind of guy that will jump out of an airplane or go bungee jumping. The same kind of guy that signs up to go into the military and doesn’t just sign up to go fix cars, but he wants to sign up to be a ranger and be the first guy into battle.”

Mir said a fighter’s mentality differs from that of other athletes.

“I mean, in a football game, you go and hit somebody. Everybody’s wearing helmets and pads. It’s not that personal level of seeing the guy in front of you and causing him discomfort,” he said. “Whereas in the competitive arts, such as boxing, wrestling and MMA, there is that closeness of combat. And so first and foremost, you have to have that mindset that you’re willing to overcome those fears and just, you know, a less PC term, you’re just kind of crazy, I guess, to begin with.”

Stephan Bonnar, who will fight Saturday against Mark Coleman, says the mental aspect is still a struggle, particularly during grueling training camps.

“It definitely takes a different kind of person. It’s not for everyone,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s still hard. Every day, you get pushed to your breaking point. It’s a constant struggle just trying to stay in the best shape possible. It’s not like baseball, where you can get your swing down and you’re just hitting dingers. It takes tons of work every day.”

As for what keeps drawing fans to the sport, Murray says the formula is pretty simple.

“It’s one person against another person, and they can bring whatever skills they have to the table, within reason,” he said. “It’s raw.”

That has helped the sport grow quickly with fans across all demographics.

In fact, while Beals attends his fourth live event Saturday, the pay-per-view broadcast of the card will be shown back home at his church.

Dr. Murray is in Las Vegas this weekend for UFC 100 and sports psychology.

That was Best Match in Tennis History

Special to JohnFMurray.com – John F. Murray, Ph.D. – The match is not even over, and Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach sports psychologist has already declared that Roddick/Federer in the Wimbledon Final of 2009 is the best match in tennis history. “It is not even close,” said Murray. This was a battle for the ages, and both players went beyond human in this epic struggle to see who would crack first.

Murray posted frequent tweets on the website at Twitter.com and at one point declared that if the match went another 30 minutes it would be the best ever. Well it did … and the declaration came well before 1 PM New York time … this was the best.

“This will be a match we will watch forever, said Murray, and the pressure play will be studied carefully and help help raise the mental performance of competitors in all sports.”

There is not doubt that this match was a case of the player who had performed best in the area of sports psychology!

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.

Indians’ Snell deals with depression

Sports Psychology Commentary in the Indianapolis Star – July 2, 2009 – Phillip B. Wilson – He feared he would hurt himself while struggling with Pirates.

Ian Snell’s return to Indianapolis couldn’t have been more unusual. It’s not often a major league pitcher asks to be demoted.

Then he comes down to Triple-A and strikes out nearly everybody. His fastball clocked consistently between 94-96 mph, Snell struck out 17, including 13 in a row, Sunday at Victory Field. This was the same pitcher who threw the stadium’s only no-hitter on May 15, 2005.

But after his outing Sunday, Snell told WTHR-13 he has been battling depression and considered drastic measures about a month ago due to the growing negativity surrounding his struggles in Pittsburgh. He was 2-8 with a 5.36 ERA in 15 starts with the Pirates this year.

“Sometimes people do stupid stuff and I had to fight it, not to do something stupid and take my life for myself and from my family and my parents,” Snell told the station.

The demons, Snell called them, can be common in the high-pressure, big business world of professional sports. But they have earned more publicity recently in baseball. In the past two weeks, major leaguers Khalil Greene, Dontrelle Willis and Joey Votto have been on or off the disabled list with what have been described as anxiety-related issues.

One of the game’s best pitchers, Kansas City’s Zack Greinke, left the team for a while three years ago with a social anxiety disorder. Now he’s 10-3 with a 1.95 ERA.

Snell, 27, decided he needed to get out of Pittsburgh to get his mind right. He lashed out then at the media and fans.

“I just made a decision for myself, for my career and better for my life, so why not do it now than wait for later, until everything really blows up?” Snell said last week after a game in Pittsburgh.

The Indians said Snell is finished discussing the issue. Pirates director of player development Kyle Stark wrote in an e-mail the team does not want to do interviews on a private matter, but added “(we) have taken the appropriate steps to get the appropriate people involved. We are here to support Ian.”

That Snell seeks help is most important, said John Murray, a prominent sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla.

“They’ll say they have a dislocated throwing shoulder, but they won’t say they have a social phobia,” Murray said of the most common problem with clinical depression and anxiety disorders. “Many people are suffering in society because they don’t seek help.

“The more we avoid problems, the more they have a hold on us.”

Snell had an impressive Triple-A season with the Indians in 2005. He went 11-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 18 starts, including that no-hitter. He overpowered Triple-A hitters with 104 strikeouts in 112 innings and had just 23 walks.

He stuck with the Pirates coming out of spring training in 2006 and went 14-11 with a 4.74 ERA, then went 9-12 with a 3.76 ERA the next year.

Last year’s ERA ballooned to 5.42, when he went 7-12. He walked a career-high 89 batters in 1641/3 innings.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington acknowledged in a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Snell has struggled with the backlash from bad outings.

“Sometimes, a player can be his own worst enemy,” Huntington said. “In this case, we have to find the right buttons to push to help Ian reach his potential.

“The most successful players block it out. The ones that aren’t able to, it wears on them. In Ian’s case, for the better part of a year and a half now, he hasn’t felt like he’s been supported by the fans because he has struggled, and he has not been able to block that out. I think it will be a big step for Ian to make that jump.”

Snell’s next scheduled start is Saturday. The July 4 fireworks crowd at Victory Field is again expected to be a sellout, in excess of 15,000 fans.

“Seek God and positive people around you and look for your true friends, and they’ll come out and support you,” Snell told the station. “A lot of people support me right now. I’m just grateful, because if I didn’t have them, I probably wouldn’t be standing here right now.”

Hope you enjoyed the commentary on sports psychology

Michael Jackson Fame is Dangerous

Special to JohnFMurray.com – By John F. Murray – The recent loss of Michael Jackson is another tragic episode in the history of stardom, and perhaps our biggest loss to date. That Jackson was a musical genius is obvious. His fame as a performer is on par with or superior to Elvis, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. His influence on music and pop culture is immense and will continue to grow. While I never had the honor to meet him, I admired his music and was really amazed by his “Thriller” album in the 80s.

As a psychologist, I am aware that both negative and positive stress will kill if it is not managed effectively. We all know the game by now. We build up stars so that they rise in our eyes to an almost God-like status only to let them drop in a grotesque manner to the lowest point possible. Why do we enjoy promoting this tragic fall from grace in our culture? What does it say about our culture to desire these strange extremes?

The stress on the exhalted and then depreciated celebrity is usually unbearable. This is why they often turn to drugs or other dangerous escapes, and we all know countless stories of other musical geniuses cut short in their youth. Jackson making it to age 50 from this view is probably a long life, but since 50 is the new 30, Jackson still died way before he should have.

I have worked with incredibly wealthy and famous individuals who have no peace at all, and who ultimately succumb to their personal stress through any number of unhealthy activities. These super stars usually need psychological care even more than the rest of us mortals in society. Jackson liked children because he found that they were the only ones who told him the truth rather than what he wanted to hear. I have no way to know whether allegations of child abuse were true, but I choose to think they were false as he was not convicted, and because I would see the positive in people first before rushing to judgment. My friend in London, Uri Geller, was a close friend of Jackson for many years and served as his Best Man. Geller believes very strongly that Jackson was innocent. Here is a YouTube of Geller talking about Michael after shortly after his death.

In addition to being sad about this loss, I think we all need to learn from his death and maybe rush to judgment much less often when we are dealing with celebrities and stars who we assume are bulletproof. Being rich or famous does not mean you need less support, and often you need a lot more. My sense is that Jackson had a very sensitive personality and was ultra-vulnerable to stress.

Being a star rarely correlates with being “happy,” and it might even correlate negatively. Sorry, I am currently teaching a graduate psychology class that introduced statistics. It would be interesting to hear from some researchers who have looked into the personal cost of fame and may have reviewed the literature in this area. Extremes in either direction of total fame/celebrity or total poverty/loss are probably both equally stressful. So rejoice if you are just a normal member of society without those burdens.

The take home message today is that megastars need help too, and probably even more than the rest of us. Jackson appeared to have a wonderful heart, but that heart may have failed from the accumulated stress of what he had been through and what he was about to embark on with his new tour. Maybe that stress led to some kind of drug use or other self-injurious behavior that we will find out about after the autopsy reports.

In closing, I wouldn’t wish Michael Jackson-like celebrity on anyone close to me. Stars, if you are listening, take care of yourself and seek proper psychological care to survive in this crazy world. Normal people, take it a little easier on our gifted ones. Media, be a little more careful in who you raise up, only to drop down later. While I cannot speak of extreme fame or celebrity from personal experience, being around some of the rich and famous tells me that it is not all it is cracked up to be. It usually cracks a person. Long live Michael Jackson’s legacy. When it’s all said and done, he was a shining star whose light will continue brightly for another 100 years and probably more.

Sports Psychology Workshop Videos and Spadea

Wimbledon, England – Special to JohnFMurray.com – It was a long time since Vince Spadea had won at Wimbledon, not to mention that he had not won anywhere in a while. “It was good to see the scrappy veteran prove that when the going gets tough, the rapper gets going in a decisive 3 set victory over Paul Capdeville 6-0, 6-4, 7-5,” said sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray. “It was especially rewarding for me that his success came right on the heels of the 2009 Smart Tennis Sports Psychology Workshops held two days prior, and not too far from the All England Lawn Tennis Club.” Videos of this workshop in several parts are now available on YouTube.

“The British tennis fan and serious amateur competitive tennis player love Vince Spadea,” said Murray. “They tell me that they enjoy his personality and outspoken nature the way they loved John McEnroe, even if their reviews of his musical abilities are mixed.” “He’s eccentric, and the British people are too conservative, so he helps keep us balanced,” said one tennis player who recently attended Murray’s sports psychology workshop.

Murray has been working with and supporting Spadea since his record losing streak and subsequent comeback, and officially coached Spadea to a win over his next Wimbledon opponent, Igor Andreev, at the 2007 Australian Open. “I’ve not traveled with him this year as a fill-in coach. I stick to sports psychology most of the time from my office and usually meet with him when he is in town. Australia was a fun trip in ’07 and I got several coaching wins with him on the Aussie Open tour, but it’s almost unheard of for a sports psychologist to assume the coaching role, even if temporarily, but I had been a tennis coach in the past. What works best for most players, and is really lacking, is solid training in sports psychology”.”

Facebook Attracting Stars Before Sports Psychology Workshop

Sarasota, Florida – June 13, 2009 – As Dr. John F. Murray goes into the homestretch telling people about his upcoming two sports psychology workshops next weekend in London (Friday and Saturday June 19 and 20), he is finding that Facebook, the popular social networking site, is a great place to mingle with the stars of sports and learn about their activities.

“In the past few days I’ve received nice emails from tennis icons Martina Navratilova and Pat Cash, famed NFL field goal kicker Nick Lowery of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Super Bowl broadcaster Lesley Visser, a personal friend and tennis partner. I also had the pleasure of meeting and writing about 1972 Miami Dolphins quarterback Earl Morrall in the past few days, and then tweeting about it on twitter. There is no question that Facebook and Twitter are becoming as important as email, the telephone, and the ancient idea of snail mail to communicate a good message and catch up with friends!”

Murray is preparing to present his 8th annual Smart Tennis Sports Psychology workshops at the Sutton Tennis Academy in London, England on the eve of The Championships at Wimbledon. “I think with Wimbledon excitement in the air, all the greats from the past in any sport tune in and get excited too,” said Murray.

For more information, go to Dr. John F Murray’s website at http://www.JohnFMurray.com or search his name on Facebook and take part in the fun there too.

See the Sports Psychology Archive of Dr. John F. Murray

Sports psychology benefits many. Enjoy this archive page of past newsletters and updates from the world of sports psychology from Dr. John F. Murray.

In this one link you will see the major recent activities including articles, updates, videos, radio and tv interviews and more … all dedicated to the pursuit of well being and high performance sports psychology.