Posts Tagged ‘John F Murray’

BYU’s’ Quest for Perfection’ questioned by some, praised by others

The Salt Lake Tribune – Jay Drew – November 20, 2008 – PROVO – Along with winning 31 of his last 34 football games, Brigham Young University’s straight-laced, youthful-looking football coach, Bronco Mendenhall, has become rather adept at picking slogans.

You know, those catchy phrases that are often associated with political campaigns, words such as “Raise the Bar” and “Fully Invested.” The McCain campaign could have used this guy.

The success he has had with those notwithstanding, when Mendenhall, after back-to-back 11-2 seasons, rolled out his latest motto for Cougar players and their fans to rally around – “Quest for Perfection” – before the season it was met with more than a few raised eyebrows.

And those astonished looks didn’t just come from rival Utah fans, who enjoy mocking anything that comes out of Provo, almost to the point of obsession. They gleefully proclaimed it couldn’t be done, then gloated far and wide when the Cougars were pummeled by TCU a month ago while their own team continued to cruise along perfectly.

Many BYU fans also questioned the bold approach, even after being told by Mendenhall dozens of times that it was meant to signify a two-pronged quest – the part about living right off the field even more important than going undefeated on the field.

Which brings us to the here and now.

The Utes are perfect (11-0) and the Cougars are close (10-1) heading into Saturday’s

And Mendenhall isn’t apologizing.

“I don’t have any regrets,” he said Monday, while acknowledging that the slogan brought some unintended attention and scorn, in some quarters.

“The intent was to just simply move our program forward.. . . But possibly I could have been wiser to assume where the world is, and where our intent is, because it [has] a dual meaning, and we were [eager] to be great on the field. But as I have said so many times, this is really about who we are trying to become. But to say it didn’t add pressure would be wrong. I think it probably did.”

For their part, BYU’s players have said all season they haven’t minded the approach, and at one point quarterback Max Hall wondered if “Quest for Mediocrity” T-shirts would have been more palatable, but 10 times less provocative.

“Doesn’t every team want to go undefeated?” he said. “Isn’t that everyone’s goal? What’s wrong with just saying it?”

Well, because it is almost impossible to attain – both on the field and off, says John F. Murray Read more »

Landmark Victory for Psychology and Sports Psychology

Florida Tennis Magazine – December 2008 Issue – by John F. Murray, Ph.D. – I have been talking forever about how mental ailments and difficulties are often ten times worse than a broken leg. Unfortunately we still live in a society where talking about mental problems or admitting that you are going to a sports psychologist to improve your game is something to hide from others or feel embarrassed about.

Well … times have officially – and I mean officially – changed! A new mental health parity law in America dramatically expands coverage of mental health treatment. As a licensed psychologist and sports psychologist in the state of Florida, this means that my services will be even more available to struggling tennis players who might also have a minor or significant psychological ailment like anxiety or depression, and who want to obtain my clinical services and reimbursement from their insurance company.

In a massive triumph for mental health care in America, Congress passed and President George Bush signed in a new law that requires insurance companies to cover mental health services at the same level they do for physical services. The bill is the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, and it passed Oct. 3 of this year as part of a measure that included the $700 billion financial bailout plan. It was approved by a vote of 263 to 171 in the House and 74 to 25 in the Senate. The parity law takes effect Jan. 1, 2010.

This is wonderful news for consumers of all psychological services including legitimate sports psychology. Psychologists have been fighting for mental health parity for almost 20 years and they finally won, and won decisively. The 2008 bill closes several loopholes left by the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act by barring insurance companies from arbitrarily limiting all aspects of mental health coverage, including the number of outpatient treatment sessions, or assigning higher co-payments or deductibles for those who need psychological services. The law also ensures mental health and substance use coverage for both in-network and out-of-network services when a plan provides this for physical health services. I operate as an out-of-network provider, and provide needed information to my clients should they wish to bill their insurance companies in the proper circumstances where I can establish a legitimate diagnosis.

Proponents of the law say that ending insurance discrimination for mental health and substance use disorders will encourage more patients to seek psychological care. In the APA Monitor it was reported,”We are ushering in a new era of health care for those with mental illnesses, said one of the bill’s main sponsors in the Senate, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.). No longer will we allow mental health to be treated as a stepchild in the health-care system.”

Research has long established that physical health is directly connected to mental and emotional health. So if you are a person that is struggling with mental health issues, you do not even have to be in extreme distress to get help and bill insurance. Many people struggle with adjustment disorders, anxiety or depression and do not even know it. In the new world we live in, you will be able to afford a legitimate and licensed psychologist who also happens to practice sports psychology. So you can improve your mental health at a lower cost to you, and come on top with a better serve and volley too.

Afterall, you go to the dentist twice a year. What is more important to you, your teeth, or your whole entire well being?

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

Miami Dolphins Lift Spirits

Miami Herald – November 11, 2008 – Greg Cote -Have you found yourself awakening Mondays with a bit less dread for the work week? Have you rediscovered the lost bounce in your step or noticed that people seem to be smiling more easily lately?It isn’t just Democrats; it’s Dolphins fans. It isn’t just Dolfans; it’s local sports fans in general. And because that includes so many of us across a complete cross-section, it is South Florida at large feeling its mood and self-esteem lifted.

Sports can do that. Success is a powerful drug.

So many of us suffer and dream vicariously through the teams we love that the line between franchises and fans can get blurred.

The Dolphins are winning? It feels like we are, too.

”It’s absolutely human nature, a very real phenomena,” Palm Beach-based sports psychologist John F. Murray told us Monday.

‘There’s a certain pride of ownership that a fan feels over his or her favorite team. When things are going well, in social psychology it’s called `basking in reflected glory.’ When our team does well, we feel empowered that maybe things could go better in our lives, too. It’s like having ownership in a company when the stock is going up and up and up.”


The feeling is magnified in Dolphins fans because of the extremes that have been experienced.

This is the franchise of back-to-back Super Bowl triumphs, of the 1972 Perfect Season, of Don Shula and Dan Marino. But then it became the franchise of six consecutive years out of the playoffs and last year’s depressing, embarrassing nadir.

Nobody knows what 1-15 feels like more keenly than someone who has celebrated 17-0. Unprecedented high became humiliating low.

Community self-esteem reflected in a championship parade — such as we last experienced with the Heat in the summer of 2006 — sees its opposite in the collective gloom we feel if our teams are doing poorly — or, worse, being embarrassingly bad.

Now it’s as if our deep, dark cloud is dissipating by degrees and beams of sunlight are poking through, spreading warmth. Optimism: What an elixir!

Our flagship Dolphins have their first winning record in three years and a real chance to end that six-year playoff drought — an immediate and potentially historic turnaround from last season’s embarrassment.

But it isn’t just one team, albeit our biggest.

The Heat, with Dwyane Wade back healthy and the excitement of rookie Michael Beasley, shows early signs of similarly being a playoff team after a franchise-worst 15-67 mark last season.

The Marlins far exceeded expectations and were playoff challengers until late into the season, and they have a new ballpark and bigger payrolls on the way.

The young, ascending Miami Hurricanes have won four football games in a row to become bowl eligible, and in men’s basketball UM is ranked 16th nationally, best ever, in the preseason polls.


Don’t forget FIU football, with its new stadium and enough improvement to not yet be out of the picture for a small bowl game.

In hockey, the Panthers haven’t quite kept pace yet, but otherwise all of our biggest sports teams, pro and college, are enjoying a decided rebound from a collective recent downturn.

(The overall feel-good vibe might even include recent indications that Major League Soccer is poised to expand back into town).

Of course, the Dolphins are King Sport down here, with the biggest following and the most emotional grip, so it is this club’s seismic, sudden resurgence that buoys our collective mood most of all.

I asked Dolphins coach Tony Sparano on Monday how winning and losing affects his mood away from the job. He joked that the question would be better for his wife but admitted his mood is affected to a degree that, “I’m probably not as good a guy after we lose.”

Sparano’s livelihood depends on winning and losing. Ours doesn’t — and yet, in some ways, our quality of life does.

”Our purpose-driven nature is engaged,” Murray said. “When our teams win, it makes us feel like Miami’s on the map again. It’s a feeling of collective pride, like if your governor becomes the president. We all want to bask in success.”

In Alabama this week, a Crimson Tide fan, Michael Williams, is charged with killing two LSU fans ensuing from an argument related to those teams’ Saturday game. That obviously is the most extreme example possible of how seriously we take our sports, but anybody who has painted his face, cried with joy over a win or been cursing mad over a loss knows the power games can have over everyday lives.

A 2006 study in the journal of the Association of Psychological Science found that many fans feel similarly about their favorite teams as they do about their nationality or ethnicity — and that fans “can become so passionate about their team that it becomes a part of their identity and affects their well-being.”

It is why, all across South Florida, people are rediscovering that aqua goes with just about everything. T-shirts and jerseys kept hidden in drawers the past couple of years, perhaps subconsciously, are being pulled out again — and not so much worn as flown like flags.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

News & Events

This News and Events Section is by far the Most Popular Part of this Website because it has a chronological listing of articles and updates! Search below this header for hundreds of articles on a variety of topics. At the bottom of each page you will also find “previous entries.” You can also look up a topic with the search function and find almost anything related to sports psychology, clinical psychology, executive coaching and more. Enjoy surfing and call Dr. Murray any time at 561-596-9898!

9 Top Domain Names up for Auction

Special Offer from – Palm Beach, FL – November 6, 2008 – Domain name bargain hunters should be quite excited by this one. Dr. John F. Murray, clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida, who has been collecting some of the best domain names for years, has decided to reduce his inventory of domain names in a series of auctions being held at the auction house listed at

Starting today, 9 domain names were listed. They include:,,,,,,, and

“I have so many domain names that I found that it was time to reduce those that I am not using currently, but I am sure that many people will see the value in these names,” said Murray from his office in Palm Beach. When asked which of the first 9 were most valuable, Murray stated, “I really like,, and the best overall, but some might find the others more useful given their needs. has a recent certified appraisal by GoDaddy for $451.00 – $1,270.00.,, and are probably worth even more, and and have certified appraisals pending which should be completed by Monday morning. All domains are being listed for $10 starting bid.”

Anyone who would like to bid on any of these first 9 names need only open an account at for about $5 a year, or contact Dr. Murray directly with an offer at 561-596-9898 or send an email to

Whether You Like McCain or Obama, Get Out and Vote Tuesday

Special to – November 3, 2008 – Since opening my clinical and sports psychology practice in 1999 I’ve purposely avoided talking politics. Not that I don’t have a view or perspective. It just doesn’t feel right to pick sides publicly. My work involves trying to help people of all shapes and sizes, and of all political, ethnic, and other backgrounds. In other words, while I might not agree with the views of all my clients, I at least want to present a neutral face to them to allow them to feel comfortable and share. I’m asking them to be open and to reveal highly confidential information to me, so it makes no sense to create immediate barriers or sudden alliances which might jeopardize the clinical process.

That being said, I am standing tall on my soapbox today strongly advising everyone to vote (but only once!) on Tuesday. We’ve hopefully evolved as a strong nation built on a solid constitution and laws. Our continued survival as a nation depends on our active involvement in the political process rather than apathy. We actually elect our leaders in this country, even if there is also corruption, shady advertising, or heaps of money clouding objectivity. Whoever said it was a perfect system? Life is never so simple, but I would like to think that it is an advanced means of change better than in other countries where violence, intimidation, or far greater corruption is the norm. We as the people who are the government need our vote to count in transferring power to one person. Each and every one of our votes is critical to making the process survive another 200+ years.

So I ask everyone to vote, but to vote with information and your own thoughts, rather than tuning to groupthink or drinking either party’s fruit punch. Study the issues thoroughly, and be careful about what you hear in the media. Depending on what channel you turn on you will be slammed hard in one direction or another. While the process is not perfect, the people still greatly influence the electoral tally which in turn decides the outcome. Abdicating your responsibility by not voting, not matter how lukewarm you may feel about the candidates, is a vote itself. It is a vote for giving up your rights, and since you are part of this nation, the country gains fewer rights as a result.

Many people died on far away shores in many conflicts over the years for our right to vote. We won the Cold War and we defeated the Nazis. The last thing we want to do is to defeat ourselves through negligence. More than ever before we are facing threats both economically and in the ever present fear of more terrorism on our shores. We desperately need leaders who are smart and wise, and who help make us better. We need to exercise our right to vote, and to act as precisely as a surgeon uses a scalpel.

After all the votes are counted and our leader is chosen, we need to exercise even more vigilance in holding that leader to his campaign promises. He is not our dictator and he needs to be accountable to us and held responsible for his actions. Study the issues closely before voting. You will be in a better position to rate how well your new president is doing in the future. If this person violates our trust, a trust that we bestowed upon him, then we need to act decisively to find someone new in four years with another vote.

One thing good about crisis is that it makes us all think. This is a difficult period for America, but we can overcome these problems as we have many others in our past. But it is all based on one word VOTE!

Let’s vote Tuesday in greater numbers than ever before in history. Good luck new president. We’ve chosen you and your legacy and the fate of our nation will be very much in your hands. Do your job well and we’ll keep it in your hands for 4 more years.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

NFL Hall of Famer Lesley Visser Interviews Dr. John F Murray

Special to – October 31, 2008 – Fox Sports Radio South Florida – Dr. John F. Murray was interviewed this morning by Lesley Visser and Jeff De Forrest of WFTL Fox Sports Radio in South Florida – about the upcoming Florida/Georgia game in Jacksonville, and you can hear the interview here. Visser is the only female ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first female member of the Monday Night Football broadcast team and the first female to ever present a Super Bowl trophy, in 1992.

Hear the interview at this link. After clicking here you will see a list of interviews. Select it from the October 31 list.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

Games People Play

TENNIS WEEK MAGAZINE – Richard Pagliaro – October 22, 2008 – Gulping deep gasps of air between points, a drained Novak Djokovic seemed to suffer from an assortment of ailments: an upset stomach, hip pain, breathing issues, a sore ankle and the suffocating play from Tommy Robredo who dragged the third-seeded Serbian into a fifth-set duel at last month’s US Open.

The man with the Broadway build spent the 2007 Flushing Meadows fortnight taking the USTA’s “Showtime” tag line to heart in producing the most crowd-pleasing performances of the tournament while relishing his roles as a mid-point improviser and post-match impersonator. But as he prepared to play the fifth set, Djokovic looked like a man in dire need of a stunt double.

Instead, he took a bathroom break, received treatment from the trainer then dug in to subdue the 15th-seeded Spaniard, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, and advance to his seventh major quarterfinal in a performance of a player persevering through the pain to prevail in a gritty win.

Or was it?

Scratching beneath the surface of the score line immediately after the match, Robredo raised an interesting question: was Djokovic’s comeback inspired by competitive will or a con man’s skill? Did the master of showmanship resort to gamesmanship to pull out the match?

“Novak was doing the show that he couldn’t run,” Robredo said. “It’s not that I don’t believe him, but I have pain as well. I was running like hell and my feet were burning, but I say nothing. I think if you’re not fit enough, then don’t play. But after every time he was asking for a trainer, he was running like hell and he was making the shot, but he does what he does a lot of times. Did I trust him? No. I think he took his time because he was a little bit more tired and that’s part of his game. It helped him a lot.”
Djokovic, who survived a grueling four-hour battle with Marin Cilic, 6-7(7), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(7), in a demanding third-round night match that took a toll on his body, countered he was merely doing what was necessary to survive.

“I know that what I’m doing is right, that I have all the rights to take the medical time out, that I’m doing it just for the purpose to make my physical condition better,” Djokovic said. “I never made medical timeout because I wanted to distract the opponent or make the result look worse. I just took the medicals to help me out.”

It’s not the first time Djokovic has resorted to injury timeouts in major matches. At the 2005 Open, Djokovic beat Gael Monfils, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(5), 0-6, 7-5 in a match that spanned four hours and two minutes and featured four stoppages of play from Djokovic, who requested the trainer to treat his respiratory and cramping issues. At 4-4 in the fifth set of that match, the seemingly spent Serbian climbed off the court and took an injury timeout that spanned nearly 13 minutes then won three of the final four games.

Confronted with questions of whether he resorted to gamesmanship to pull out that victory, Djokovic said he could not have completed the match without receiving treatment.

“I cannot describe how I was feeling; you just have to be on court feeling it,” Djokovic said. “I’m not used to hard five-set matches. I know for people watching it (taking the breaks) is really irritating, but this is the only way I could win and continue. I am not thinking this would be nice for the people watching, I am thinking and trying to win.”

Monfils did not accuse Djokovic of gamesmanship, but said the frequent stops stalled his momentum.
“The first time, it was OK,” Monfils said. “In the fifth set, I was so close to breaking him; it was very difficult at 40-all then he stopped. If he can beat me without stopping like this it would be very fair, but he won this match.”

In his latest use of the injury timeout, Djokovic won the battle with Robredo and conquered Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals, but lost the public relations war in process. Roddick, jokingly questioned Djokovic’s “16 injuriesâ€? in an on-court interview prior to their quarterfinal match, but the comment clearly touched a nerve.

Djokovic was jeered by some members of the crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium after beating Roddick then defiantly dug himself a deeper hole in the process by disputing Roddick’s remarks and suggesting the American was resorting to verbal gamesmanship in an effort to incite the crowd against him.
“That’s not nice, anyhow, to say in front of this crowd that I have 16 injuries and I am faking it,” Djokovic said. “I have nothing against anybody. Andy was saying that I have 16 injuries in the last match, so obviously I don’t, right? Like it or not, it’s like that. They (the crowd) are already against me because they think I am faking everything, so sorry.”

The apology was as effective as attempting to patch a blown tire with a Band-Aid: in the semifinals the New York crowd overwhelmingly supported Roger Federer against Djokovic, who played timid tennis at times as if apprehensive about rousing the crowd.

John McEnroe, who has first-hand experience in inciting crowds, said Djokovic may still be feeling the impact of his US Open experience.

“He doesn’t want to dig in on these points against the best guys. He can get away with it against most guys any way but when it really got to the nitty gritty against Federer   — he had a chance at a set-all 5-all against Federer — but it seemed like he was still bothered by what happened a few days earlier (against Roddick),” McEnroe said. “Mentally, what happened in that match is probably going to affect him for a little bit. Well see how he can shrug it off because he sort of dug himself this huge hole. I knew exactly what he was doing — I’ve been there myself — talk about putting your foot in your mouth and just digging it in deeper and deeper and watching him do that it was part of why I think he’s not so happy go lucky anymore. He’s not having a lot of fun out there at the moment.”
Gamesmanship is not always fun and games even for those who appear to benefit from it.

The most common forms of gamesmanship occur when players manipulate injury timeouts and bathroom breaks for rest, recovery or merely to stall an opponent’s momentum — and several coaches and players believe such acts are premeditated by the players who subvert the rules as an escape clause from on-court predicaments.

“The habits and behaviors that we ultimately see on the battle ground of match play is, in my view, usually well practiced and honed long before the match even begins,” sports psychologist and coach Dr. John F. Murray said. “It makes up the temperament and personality of a particular player. It is not always pretty when a player seems to engage in gamesmanship, but the player quite easily can justify this by thinking of times when that player was wronged through gamesmanship. If the player feels that it adds an advantage and is still within the strict bounds of the rules or cannot be detected than it opens the door to these shenanigans. I believe it usually is premeditated but it can also fall into that grey area where the behavior is rare for a player, but is triggered by huge amounts of stress or distress.”

Djokovic, whose ball-bouncing antics before serving are often cited as another source of gamesmanship, may be the highest-profile player accused of gamesmanship, but he’s hardly alone. Some players engage in mind games during big games.

Former World No. 1 Martina Hingis’ mind was one of her biggest weapons, but her bladder became a useful tennis tool as the five-time Grand Slam champ was notorious for taking well-timed bathroom breaks to disrupt the rhythm and momentum of an opponent prior to an important game.
Mary Pierce took a controversial — and legal — 12-minute injury timeout to receive treatment for her lower back and strained right thigh in the 2005 US Open semifinal against Elena Dementieva.
Commencing the time out by applying eye drops, Pierce placed a towel on the court and stretched out on her stomach. As the trainer worked on her lower back, Piece looked like she was engaged in a Pilates class stretching and turning to loosen her back.

While play resumed, a rejuvenated Pierce recovered. Dementieva did not. Playing with purpose and running faster than she had prior to the injury time-out, Pierce reeled off 12 of the final 15 games to score a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over the sixth-seeded Dementieva and surge into the U.S. Open final for the first time in her career.

Dementieva did not accuse Pierce of gamesmanship in her post-match press conference, but said the extended break stretched beyond the boundaries of sportsmanship in declaring the delay was not fair.
“I think you can change the game around by winning an unbelievable point or by changing the rhythm,” Dementieva said. “I mean, that’s the fair point. But by taking like a 12-minutes time out, I don’t think it was fair play. She could do it, I mean by the rules. And she did it. If that’s the only way she can beat me, I mean it’s up to her.”

In a contentious clash at Charleston in 2004, Patty Schnyder retaliated for what she believed was Conchita Martinez’s deliberate effort to frustrate her in controlling the pace of play when she snatched the Spaniard’s preferred ball and smacked it into the stands.

“With all other players you can have really good sportsmanship, and with her it’s nasty play, and I don’t think it should be on the court,” said Schnyder, who finished the match with a Swiss diss in offering her hand to Martinez then withdrawing it to turn the post-match hand shake into a hand fake.
In the 2007 L.A. final, Radek Stepanek took timeout for treatment on his back after the first set. By the end of the match, Stepanek’s back was strong enough to not only win the match but withstand the rigors of his trademark worm dance he performed in celebration.

About a month later, Fabrice Santoro faced Blake in the US Open and appeared to be cramping. The Frenchman tugged at the bottom of his shorts at one point to show his quads tightening and began deliberately taking more time between points in a ploy McEnroe pointed out was an effort to incur a stall warning from the chair umpire against himself.

“It’s brilliant in a way — he was actually baiting the chair umpire to hit him for stalling because he knows that would get some of the crowd sympathy on his side,” McEnroe said.

There are no time-outs in tennis, but players have long used the injury timeout the way some soccer players flop to the field in the apparent agony as if subject to a spinal tap without anesthetic — as a means to slow an opponent’s momentum or to stop the action and provide a chance for rest and recovery.

The issue raised by Robredo raises a larger question: has gamesmanship become a legitimate part of the game?

Ideally, tennis subscribes to core values of sportsmanship. But when you’re fighting for a Grand Slam championship, a $1 million pay day and a rise in the rankings does the ends justify the means?
“Let’s be honest: it’s a dog-eat-dog world at this level,” said Nick Bollettieri, who has coached 10 World No. 1 players. “When you’re playing for major titles, hundreds of thousands of dollars and ranking points there’s a lot on the line. This isn’t Sunday afternoon tennis at the country club; this is the pro game and some guys are going to do whatever it takes to win and sometimes that means testing you physically, psychologically, emotionally and mentally. As a player, especially younger players, you’ve got to be tough enough to stand up to it. And as a coach, you’ve got to prepare your player for these things because the veterans will try to chew them up anyway they can to get an edge.”

At the peak of his powers, John McEnroe was to gamesmanship was Marlon Brando was to method acting: an emotive, explosive tour de force of talent, will and skill. While many players play the ball, McEnroe operated on multiple levels: playing the ball, the opponent, the officials, and the crowd.
In a moment Bill Scanlon says “still blows my mind,” he recalls McEnroe summoning him to the net during a 1981 quarterfinal in San Francisco and very calmly explaining why Scanlon had no business beating him. It was, according to Scanlon, trash talk as a persuasive tutorial.

“Think about it: this is a one-on-one sport so when you win it’s because you ended up better than the other guy. If you have a certain level you can try to bring your level above his or bring his level down to yours,” Scanlon said. “It’s like the old joke when two kids are being chased by a bear through the woods and one kid says: ‘How are we going to outrun the bear?’ and the other kid replies: ‘I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.’ Part of what John could do was to make me worse and trying to get inside my head and do whatever worked to accomplish that goal was a way to do it. And I always thought it was fair game, so you won’t ever find me complaining about his tactics.”

Those tactics can sometimes carry over into multiple matches, prompting some players to fight gamesmanship with gamesmanship.

“It reminds me of playing Becker and he used to cough incessantly and virtually every time when he had a break point or big point or just annoying time and it seemed to be deliberate and I remember deciding before a match every time he would cough I would cough back,” McEnroe recalled. “And I started to do that playing Boris before a big crowd of about 12,000 in Paris and he coughed and I coughed and he coughed and I coughed and it became comical. I was trying to point out how ridiculous the entire thing was. Boris said to me ‘Hey John give me a break, I’ve got a cold.’ I said ‘You’ve had a cold for years now!’ And the guy still does it so it’s a tick on some level. The irony is everyone booed me when I did that to Becker and he was the guy doing it in the first place yet I get booed. I suppose people thought I was being the bad guy whereas they didn’t understand he had been doing this for years.” 

While McEnroe does not advocate faking injury, he does argue that some forms of gamesmanship are an inherent part of sports: baseball players trying to steal signs from the catcher, offensive lineman taping their hands in an effort to camouflage holding and players at the bottom of a scramble for a fumble actually punching and biting each other in an effort to get the ball, hockey players hooking opponents with the tip of their sticks while a referee’s back is turned or basketball players yanking at the jersey of an opponent to pull him out of position and grab a rebound.

One of the greatest upsets in heavyweight history came when Muhammad Ali pulled the rope-a-dope, reclining on the ropes and absorbing George Foreman’s blows on his arms, bluffing the heavy hitter into believing he was absorbing a beating until Ali spun off the ropes and knocked out Foreman.

Do you view those acts as gamesmanship or simply athletes trying to gain an edge? Is there a fine line between being a gamer and resorting to gamesmanship?

Tennis is a turf war and players are territorial. US Open champions Serena Williams and Andy Roddick are both willing to administer body blows to opponents who dare infringe on their turf. Roddick, who has been known to hit serves and overheads directly at opponents, seemed to try to hit Santoro with a body serve during the US Open.

“I don’t know if it’s intimidation,” said Roddick during last December’s Davis Cup final. “If there’s 12,000 fans behind you and you feel like you can use them to help win a tennis match, you’d be stupid not to, right? With the exception of cheating, I’ll do what I can to win a tennis match.” 

Williams tried to drill Dinara Safina in the head with a shot during the Open semifinals that buzzed her blond braid then later succeeded in driving the ball right into her bulls-eye: Safina’s chest. 

In a single shot, Williams smacked a clear message to Safina that nearly struck her right between the eyes: crowd the net and I may be tempted to tattoo the word “Wilson” on your forehead. It was a purpose pitch: the tennis equivalent of a pitcher brushing back a batter leaning too close to the plate, a linebacker pounding a stretched-out wide receiver running a route over the middle or a center delivering a hard foul to a guard who dares to drive the lane.

But both Roddick and Williams’ efforts to brand opponents with the ball are legal, aggressive plays and not acts of gamesmanship.

“Serena’s play against Safina is not something I consider to be gamesmanship — in fact the Williams sisters play more fairly than any two competitors I know,” tennis television analyst Mary Carillo said. “They don’t stall, they don’t whine over calls, they don’t get illegally coached, they don’t cheat when using the challenge system by looking to their box. Hitting at an opponent is an intimidating play, but also a legitimate one. I find no fault with that. Nor do I find fault with standing tight to the service box when returning — it is an act of intimidation, and a perfectly legal one as well.”

McEnroe points to Robin Soderling angering Rafael Nadal during their 2007 Wimbledon third round by complaining about the Mallorcan’s methodical pace of play and mocking his pre-serve ritual of tugging at the seat of his shorts as an example of real, raw friction between players ratcheting up the intensity and dramatic tension tennis can offer.

“Obviously, I maybe had a shorter fuse, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with Soderling and Nadal getting into it at Wimbledon,” McEnroe says. “In a no-contact sport like tennis where you’re not hitting each other like setting a pick in basketball or a check in hockey then you need some sort of release on some level. So remember last year at Wimbledon when they had all the rain and players started melting down mentally? From a fan’s point of view, I enjoyed what happened when all that rain happened and players were getting annoyed: basically it got to them and it would have got to me too. It made for some memorable events and I think that’s interesting for tennis.”

Grand Slam finalist Todd Martin, widely respected as one of the best sportsmen of his generation, suggests a rule change may be the only way to deter rampant gamesmanship.

“Rafael Nadal frequently takes longer than the allotted time between points. That is against the ‘rule’ (that is rarely enforced), but a VERY far cry from gamesmanship,” Martin said. “Rafael is obviously idiosyncratic and is the best at not playing a point until he is ready to play. However, the trainer visit rules and such can be abused ad nauseum. As much as I like to advocate professional and personal responsibility there might be no other recourse than to create stiffer rules and punishments for bending or breaking of those rules. Despite the blurring of the etiquette, decency, honor lines over these many decades of open tennis, I will always contend that each player has the responsibility to call ‘touches’ and ‘not-ups’ on themselves. Frankly, these are not calls that umpires can make easily rather they are instances when most often the player knows what the correct call is.”

The advent of the Hawk-Eye replay system has greatly reduced on-court arguments over line calls. Has tennis has been transformed from grand theater featuring a compelling cast of characters — Connors, McEnroe, Nastase, Becker — into bland, big business with commerce supplanting creativity in players and a tennis Renaissance replaced with a paint-by-numbers product ruled by agents and administrators, who admonish players for straying slightly outside the lines? Does gamesmaship add an additional element to the game and should the players be left to police it themselves?
Carillo, who grew up with McEnroe partnered him to win the 1977 French Open mixed doubles championship and debated the topic of gamesmanship with him in the CBS broadcast booth during the Open, emphatically rejects the notion that gamesmanship adds entertainment value and drama to tennis and argues all the fake injuries turns tennis into theater of the absurd.

Carillo asserts that stall tactics can not only disrupt a match for players and fans such actions can also undermine the core values the game aspires to embrace.

“Gamesmanship in the form of stalling is rampant, whether for phony bathroom breaks, phony injury time-outs, excessive time between points,” Carillo said. “There is not one bit of good in any of that, and the rally cry years ago — that there was too little real action in tennis, too much time in between points to sustain the viewer — all that has just gotten worse with the bending, twisting and breaking of rules meant to keep a match moving along. If playing tennis is supposed to teach independence of thought, problem solving, confidence, self awareness and self reliance, what goes on in the pro game is also teaching — and, from many voices in the game, endorsing — deception, obfuscation, blame shifting and both winning and losing without honor.”

In an effort to flush the bathroom break as a gamesmanship tool, the WTA Tour will permit players whose opponents take breaks to consult with their coach during those timeouts.

“There’s obviously a fine line to balance between medical timeouts and toilet breaks and fair competition and avoiding gamesmanship,” WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott said. “What we’ve actually found and we’re quite hopeful about is with on-court coaching for any player that does take a medical break, the other player is going to be allowed access to their coach during that period of time. What we’ve found is that’s sort of a disincentive and keeping players a little more honest about their toilet breaks.”

But with Grand Slam titles at stake and massive pay days on the line it seems inevitable that the games some players play will not be confined to action between the lines.

“There will always be people who feel that rules weren’t made to be followed; they were made to be broken,” Carillo said. “It’s up to us as caretakers of the game to come out on the right side of this issue. I hope people do that.”

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.


Sacramento Bee – Dec 4, 2004 – Nick Peters – There are more questions than answers
Recent revelations regarding sluggers Barry Bonds’ and Jason Giambi’s use of steroids squarely placed the responsibility on Major League Baseball to adopt a tougher drug-testing policy, doctors and ethicists said Friday.

Giambi told a grand jury that he used steroids provided by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Bonds said he used substances from BALCO but did not know they contained steroids.

Despite his insistence he used steroids unknowingly, Bonds’ reputation has been tainted as he chases Hank Aaron’s all-time home-run record. And Giambi is facing the possibility of having all or part of the remainder of his $120 million contract with the Yankees voided.

The revelations come at a bad time for baseball, which saw record attendance last season and was riding the wave of positive reaction to the Boston Red Sox winning their first World Series title since 1918.

The escalating BALCO scandal is creating a cloud of uncertainty over the integrity of the game.

“As I have repeatedly stated, I am fully committed to the goal of immediately ridding our great game of illegal performance-enhancing substances,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a prepared statement Friday.

“The use of these substances continues to raise issues regarding the game’s integrity and raises serious concerns about the health and well-being of our players. … I urge the players and their association to … join me in adopting a new, stronger drug-testing policy modeled after our minor-league program that will once and for all rid the game of the scourge of illegal drugs.”

Giants players and management would not comment on Bonds’ alleged involvement with steroids. A club spokesman said, “We can’t comment. It’s a legal matter, and we’ve been asked to direct questions to the Commissioner’s office.”

BALCO founder Victor Conte went on ABC’s “20/20” Friday night and declared that more than 50 percent of the athletes are taking some form of anabolic steroids.

He also said he saw track star Marion Jones inject herself with steroids that he provided.

Asked specifically about baseball’s dealing with drugs, Conte replied: “I think they still believe there’s a Santa Claus. … They’re not in contact with reality. … The program they have put together is a joke.”

Selig told reporters Thursday in Washington that he hoped to have the minor-league program instituted at the major-league level by spring training. Minor-leaguers are tested in and out of season four times for illegal substances and face increased punishment for each positive test. A fifth positive test brings a lifetime ban.

Under an agreement between MLB and the players’ union, there was increased testing in the majors last season, but it was infrequent.

Here’s how the current system works:

* The first positive test results in treatment and continued testing.

* Any subsequent positive testing means a fine and suspension, beginning with 15 days and up to $10,000. By the fifth violation, the penalty is a one-year suspension and up to $100,000 fine.

* The suspensions would be without pay, and the reason for the player’s absence would be disclosed.

Why would athletes take the risk of using illegal substances?

“It’s a combination of extremism and perfectionism, and a lack of education (on the dangers),” said sports performance psychologist Dr. John F. Murray, who works with the Miami Dolphins and golfers in Florida.

“I don’t buy the argument athletes don’t know what’s in their bodies. They’re aware of what they’re doing. In some ways, it’s good this is coming out. How many more are doing it? It’s just the tip of the iceberg. … We need to be more strict and have better measures in place.”

Dr. William O. Roberts, a team physician in St. Paul, Minn., and president of the American College of Sports Medicine, commented in an e-mail Friday on the unresolved issue of steroid use by professional athletes and the need of reform.

“Too much of the focus this week has been on competition and performance issues such as records and cheating,” Roberts wrote. “Not enough attention is being paid to the messages being sent to impressionable young athletes.

“… Without an appropriate level of focus on the negative health implications of steroid use, young athletes may be led to believe that steroids can help them achieve greatness on the playing field, and that the only danger is getting caught.”

He pointed his finger squarely at baseball.

“No other entity in American culture is in a better position to address this than Major League Baseball,” he wrote. “Baseball and its players union simply cannot shun their ethical responsibility to society by failing to eradicate steroid use by its players.”

Baseball’s relatively soft stance on drug testing at the major-league level has been under scrutiny for some time. While Selig gets much of the blame, the biggest culprit could be the strength of the Players Association.

“It is stronger than what the other sports have in place, and they hide under the guise of privacy issues,” said a former player who spoke on condition of anonymity. “(Union head) Donald Fehr and (legal counsel) Gene Orza are unwilling to compromise.”

The union’s stance also explains why players are reluctant to condemn teammates who cheat. There was an uproar two years ago when former MVPs Jose Canseco and the late Ken Caminiti admitted to steroid use. Canseco estimated 85 percent of major-leaguers took the illegal substances; Caminiti put the figure at around 50 percent.

Sacramento’s Pat Gomez, a former major-league pitcher and now an assistant coach at Del Campo High School, recalled baseball’s lax attitude toward drugs when he pitched for the Padres and the Giants from 1993 to 1995.

“Basically, if they said they suspected you (of drug use), that was it, and you didn’t have to do anything,” he said. “You had to darn well be caught with a needle in your arm.

“The temptation is very real and the money is very large when you move into that category of player.”

Gomez said baseball needs a strict policy for the players’ health and the integrity of the game.

“If a guy who spends $18 on a ticket realizes if he loaded himself up, too, he could be out there, that’s not good for the game,” Gomez said.

Despite Selig’s recent get-tough stance, he came to the defense of Mark McGwire last spring when reminded that the former A’s and Cardinals slugger used a since-banned supplement while hitting a record 70 home runs in 1998. Selig said he’d never put an asterisk by McGwire’s records.

By comparison, the NFL and the NBA have their share of off-field problems, yet steroid use is not one of them. The NFL’s drug policy is regarded as the most stringent of all major sports.

It was established through a collective-bargaining agreement between the league and the Players Association in 1993. It has been updated to address concerns about whether the NFL is doing all it can to eliminate its biggest concern: steroid use as a means of a competitive advantage.

Each year, the league routinely tests all players for recreational drugs. They are given a specified date and advanced warning, usually at the start of training camp. If a player fails a test for recreational drugs, it is kept confidential.

The league considers recreational-drug use a medical issue and wants to treat instead of punish the player.

It is not until he fails a second test that he receives a four-game suspension. A third positive test can be a year’s suspension.

Steroid use, which can be detected through weekly random testing of six players per team, is a more serious matter. The first positive test means a four-game suspension. A second is six games, and a third will result in at least a one-year suspension.

In addition, the league also tests for masking agents.

If a player tries to pass a test by using a masking agent, that also means a suspension, even if a steroid isn’t detected.

In the NBA, where drug issues have been a familiar dark headline for decades, there has never been a perception problem with steroids that comes close with marijuana, alcohol or even cocaine.

Steroids were added to the list of banned substances in March 2000, and without fanfare. Officials don’t recall anything close to heated negotiations between the NBA and the Players Association after the union conceded key points to end the 1999 lockout.

Eight types of steroids later became an addendum to that deal, most notably Androstenedione, which within years would become known as Andro and a focus on the debate regarding steroids in sports when McGwire went on his home-run spree.

A player testing positive the first time would be suspended for five games and be required to enter a program under the supervision of professionals jointly selected by the league and the union.

A second positive test would result in 10 games and re-entry into the program, and any subsequent violation would mean 25 games and another re-entry Also, a player would be banned from the NBA if he is convicted or pleads guilty or no contest to a crime involving the use or possession of steroids.

Selig was questioned after the San Francisco Chronicle published grand-jury testimony in which Giambi admitted that he had used steroids.

His testimony was given a year ago to a federal grand jury investigating BALCO. An investigation into the leak was ordered by a U.S. District judge Friday.

Selig said he has instructed Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president of labor relations and human resources, to continue working with the Players Association to implement a tougher testing program in baseball.

“I instituted a very tough program on steroids in the minor leagues in 2001,” Selig said. “We need to have that same program at the major-league level.

“I’m going to leave no stone unturned until we have that policy in place by spring training. We need a tough policy, and I’m going to be very aggressive in the implementation of that policy.”


Stuart News Oct 21, 2008, 2004 – Kevin Van Brimmer – In the days since Friday’s fight between NBA players and fans in Detroit, commentators, writers, coaches, players and fans have been expressing their outrage, disgust and shock that such a thing could happen in American professional sports. But the question is: Should we be shocked?

“I think this issue has been brewing and accelerating for a long period of time,” says Jupiter-based (correction – Palm Beach based) sports performance psychologist John Murray. American culture is more and more becoming one of violence. It sells in the news and it sells in entertainment, from professional wrestling to blockbuster movies. So was it any surprise it has spilled over professional sports like a tidal wave? Friday night’s fracas isn’t the first case of athletes and fans tussling in American sports. But the tsunami crested and broke in the 15-minute melee in Detroit on Friday when Indiana’s Ron Artest charged into the stands to mix it up with a fan who threw a drink on him and was followed by his teammates. Artest received a season-long ban from NBA Commissioner David Stern for his actions and eight other players on both sides received suspensions of various lengths. But will Stern’s actions quell any future player-fan confrontations? Murray says no, not by themselves.

He says there needs to be proactive measures taken by teams to ensure its players don’t get so close to the breaking point again. “I do believe in discipline, suspensions and fines,” Murray says. “I think it’s a great move by Stern. I think (Artest) being out the whole season is the way to do it; tighten up the grip a little more. You have to stand up and have some bite behind the bark. Otherwise, it’s just talk. There needs to be a policy of no-tolerance. “My pitch is, each franchise needs to have a genuine sports psychologist that can work with these athletes and give them perspective. A sports psychologist may also help athletes express themselves in positive ways instead of exploding.”

But it’s not just the moral compass of the professional athlete that has been progressively skewed in recent years. The other part of the equation Friday was the behavior of the fans, Murray said. “I think the opportunity for people to become part of the limelight has changed,” Murray says. “Especially with reality television. Everybody wants to become part of the action.” Murray also believes the media perpetuates the growing culture of violence and aggressiveness in America. The best example is the fact that footage of Friday’s fight has been playing continuously on sports and news channels since the incident. “We’re intoxicated as a culture, so we need a detox program,” Murray says. “We need to think smart as a culture. “The most important thing is our kids see this and think it’s acceptable. It’s not. We need to wake up.”
Edition: All Dailies
Section: Sports