Posts Tagged ‘John F Murray’

Early retirement: players call it quits in prime of careers

Sports Psychology in Associate Press – By JANIE McCAULEY – July 30, 2015 – SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Patrick Willis walked away first with a nagging toe injury that kept him from being the dominant All-Pro linebacker of his prime.

Then his heir apparent and San Francisco teammate Chris Borland followed with his own stunning retirement on the heels of his spectacular rookie season, citing concern about head trauma over a hard-hitting career.

Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker called it quits after four seasons. Next, ex-Pittsburgh pass-rushing specialist Jason Worilds bid farewell to football. And then yet another 49er joined the list of departures from the NFL while still young: Offensive lineman and 2010 first-round pick Anthony Davis also chose his health and future over more punishing knocks in the head after a concussion left him dazed for weeks late last year.

“You don’t want to see guys walk away, but at the end of the day everyone has their own problems and things they need to deal with, their own reasons,” San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis said. “We didn’t expect Patrick to retire.”

Around the league, players began taking the leap to that unknown life after football — at 30 or younger, no less.

“As many players that do consider perhaps the long-term risks and the cost benefits of a long-term career in a contact sport, you’re going to get that,” said sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray, based in Palm Beach, Florida. “We’ve had more education and increased awareness from many avenues about the risks of concussions long term, the risks of the effects of that.”

In an offseason overshadowed by deflated footballs, Willis, Locker and the 27-year-old Worilds retired in a stunning 24-hour span starting March 10.

Five-time All-Pro Willis retired at age 30. Davis is 25 and Borland 24. Locker, then 26 — the NFL’s eighth overall pick in 2011 — never played a full season and appeared in only 30 games in all.

Willis left without a Super Bowl ring, coming so close following the 2012 season in a three-point loss to the Ravens.

“I always told myself that I wanted it to be on my terms,” Willis said in an emotional announcement at Levi’s Stadium last spring. “I wanted it to be in a way that was just amazing. … In my head, I’m already a Hall of Famer. I am leaving this with closure, saying that I am happy today, more happy today than I was the day I was drafted. That says something to me.”

San Francisco players expressed mixed emotions at the turnover, as fearsome defensive end Justin Smith also retired, though the 35-year-old had 14 years in the league.

Borland and Anthony Davis feared concussions and head injuries.

“When I started there wasn’t a whole lot of awareness on concussions,” 40-year-old 49ers placekicker Phil Dawson said. “Now, guys are informed. The doctors are on top of it. I think it’s a good deal.”

Willis, San Francisco’s defensive captain and locker room leader, explained his tender size-13 feet “12½ when they’re bent” could no longer handle the grind of NFL practices, let alone the demands of game day. He had surgery on his left big toe, went on season-ending injured reserve on Nov. 11 after getting hurt at St. Louis on Oct. 13.

“I have no regrets. I’ve had the most amazing eight years of football of my life,” he said.

Locker has returned to his roots in Washington state with his wife and two young children.

Davis, the outspoken offensive lineman, left open returning if his body fully heals. Davis had been considering leaving for a few years, announcing his plans in a statement.

“This will be a time for me to allow my brain and body a chance to heal. I know many won’t understand my decision, that’s OK,” Davis said. “I hope you, too, have the courage to live your life how you planned it when day dreaming to yourself growing up. Your life is your dream and you have the power to control that dream. I’m simply doing what’s best for my body as well as my mental health at this time in my life.”

For veterans who have stayed healthy, thoughts of retirement might be far from their minds.

“When you have those things going for you, why not keep playing?” 38-year-old Raiders safety Charles Woodson said. “Even though you’ve got guys retiring, there’s a bunch of guys that would still love to be playing. For all of those guys that I’ve played with that tell me every year, ‘Keep going,’ because they would love to have this opportunity.”

Murray says the NFL shouldn’t be overly concerned about a dwindling talent pool.

“There will always be a demand for multi-million-dollar salaries and the glory that goes with playing NFL football,” he said.

Still, constant change is part of the business.

“Every man in here has the right to decide how long he wants to play. It’s his career,” Dawson said. “Whether it’s retirements, or injuries or trades or cuts or whatever the case may be, for those of us who are still here you’ve just got to come to work and do the best you can.”

AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker and AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report. I hope you enjoyed this item from the world of sports psychology.

Should Your Sports Psychologist Be Your Friend

Sports Psychology Special to johnFMurray.com – Should Your Sports Psychologist Be Your Friend – June 18, 2015 – One of the earliest principles in psychotherapy, and a long held position since the early years of Freudian psychoanalysis, is the notion that strict professional boundaries must be maintained between a client or patient and his or her psychologist. Ethical guidelines have long warned against becoming too chummy or friendly with clients, and for good reason.

For one, the client is seeking the special expertise and experience provided by a doctor. Maintaining that respect with healthy personal distance is beneficial. The client is paying for an important service. As a society, we would not want professional judgment or professional respect to be eroded by temporary likes, dislikes, or other transitory personal factors. These elements can and often do change rapidly in a friendship relationship and its far better for both parties to stick to the work at hand. It’s actually analogous to the principle that a surgeon is unwise to perform an operation on a family member. We would prefer our surgeons to be 110% professional and non-emotional in making critical decisions on where, how, and when to cut which limb or organ. With fear of failure removed, the surgeon is freer to make impartial clinical decisions with a greater chance for success. The same holds true in psychotherapy. Much of therapy also involves critical decision making and strategizing for what is best for the client.

Another strong tradition in psychotherapy is the need for confidentiality. Going to a ball game with a client or chatting socially at the supermarket just doesn’t provide that level of security and aura of sensitivity that a client needs to bare his or her soul comfortably and/or reveal information needed in the process of change or recovery. This principle is so ingrained in our professional ethos that psychologists are trained to not even say hello to a client in public unless her or she says hello first. I get this. It may seem odd, but it ensures a level of comfort and safety for the client who might not enjoy letting the world know that her or she is seeing Dr X for suicidal thoughts and impulses.

Now let’s change the focus to the world of the sports psychologist/client relationship. I have been doing both general psychotherapy and mental coaching for performance in private practice for 16 years and have noted some very important and significant differences between the two that often change the outlook on “friendly behavior” entirely.

For one, the sports or business client usually comes to me for improvement in their craft not for clinical recovery from illness. Sure there are occasional serious clinical issues such as depression and anxiety, and having the background as both a clinical psychologist and sports psychologist is essential in my view, and it allows me to be aware of and treat these problems when they exist. Mental distress is hardly a recipe for performance or well-being so it must be treated. However, this is often not even necessary as the top athlete and business executive is usually healthier than most of us! In the majority of cases, the client is not disturbed mentally or in need of clinical psychology services. In sports psychology work, the client who finds their way inside my office or on the phone usually feels excited and privileged to do this exotic yet very important training to enhance success. What a far cry from the general client who comes in saying “please help me recover” as opposed to the mental coaching client who says “please help me win!” In the latter case, not only is the client not embarrassed about seeing a sports psychologist, he or she is often proud of maximizing talent through a specialized service. It’s much more analogous to going to school where everything is done in public. Imagine how strange the world would be if all learning took place in private.

Another aspect of the sports psychologist/client relationship is that critical observation of performance is often done in public, whether in a team or individual sport context, with many others watching during training and competition. The athlete or top performer is already used to the social aspect of sport, or they should be as it is so important, and there is just no way to get around that fact that mental coaching is just another solid part of sports training. There is little need to hide the fact that you are working with a sports psychologist. Doing so also keeps this needed profession hidden, which does little for society at all.
Still, I always start with the default presumption of confidentiality and make sure the client is comfortable with me watching them in public and interacting with them in public. I respect the client’s wishes and in 95% of cases they usually end up wanting to talk publicly about their work in mental coaching. They also usually want me around more rather than less in public and ask me to travel to them quite frequently.

There is also the importance of developing social and often public rapport with the sports psychologist in a more relaxed manner than would ever be considered in a more traditional clinical psychology context. I’ve traveled many times with clients, whether to the Summer Olympic Games, UFC fights, the Australian Open in tennis, or to pro football games, and there is rarely getting away from the fact that sport is public and that mental coaching is just coaching. Again, however, keep in mind that this is all discussed upfront with the client and solid professional savvy is always needed to decide what is in the client’s best interest. That must rule the day.

As a result of these major differences, I do not converse with or even acknowledge the presence in public of my clients who are primarily seeing me for clinical problems unless they shout out first. On the other hand, for clients being seen primarily for mental coaching, and given consent with my judgment that it is also in their best interests, it is not at all uncommon to go with the client to a hockey or football game and we’ll often make a session or two out of it in the process. Traveling to where the client is performing also offers the obvious opportunity to have sessions before and after the event. This helps greatly in establishing the bond between professional and client.

The key in all of this is to be experienced and professional and to always do what is in the client’s best interest with proper consent. However, Sigmund Freud would be rolling around in his grave if he were aware of the way sports psychologists  and clients often interact in public today! I am fine with that. Siggy knew less about sports psychology and what is best to encourage success in performance than I do, and thank goodness I know less than he did about subconscious conflicts, oedipal impulses, and the need to resolve these conflicts by having clients talk about dreams for 5 years on a couch while he blows cigar smoke in their face.

In sum, while I would never become friends with my general clinical clients or break into their houses late at night to observe their personal interactions, I might very well encourage a more collegial relationship with a purely mental coaching client whose success hinges on public performance in areas such as improving confidence and focus, reducing distractions, realizing specific performance and process goals, and developing increased resilience in the face of adversity. Being there when it happens is not only important to see, but it further encourages the client to be oblivious to needless distractions.

Having a friendly public rapport with my sports psychology clients, while not the same as being their best man at a wedding or hanging out together, is often not only not discouraged, but often greatly encouraged.

I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into the world of sports psychology!

Looking Back and Forward: Always More for the Client

Special to JohnFMurray.com – Hello from sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray. Hope you all had a nice Easter or Passover weekend! In this blog, I’d like to reflect back on the past 15 years and talk a little more about sports psychology and the future. One advancement that I have made recently is to put clients on an indiviudalized data collection package to analyze their performances and shape a questionnaire to provide state of the art feedback. It is very exciting and if you are just getting started with me, you are part of this evolution. Clients who have seen me in the past are enjoying this advantage too when they come back in.

Let’s look back. It was late in 1999 that I finished my post-doctoral training requirements, passed the Florida state licensing exam, and began working as one of a handful of legitimate and licensed clinical and sports psychologists in America. Having jumped through so many graduate school hoops and rings of fire, I considered applying for the job as the dolphin at Sea World. Since my earliest clinical experiences in the NFL included working with players on our long struggling Miami Dolphins, I was definitely considering Sea World.

All kidding aside, I was thrilled to be in private practice, seeing clients both here in South Florida and worldwide by phone, including some of the best athletes and teams in the world. I had begun this journey at age 30 and by 36 had transformed a career in international tennis coaching into an even more exciting and meaningful profession targeted at helping a wider range of athletes and teams refine their mental approach to competition while dealing better with a multitude of potential distractions.

Now 15 years later and in my early 50s, I wonder where the time has gone but can honestly say that I would not have changed a thing. I love what I do and have been privileged to collaborate on so many meaningful missions that I could never even begin to share a small fraction of them in a brief article. What I would like to share today, however, are a couple of the lessons I’ve learned in this past decade and a half, and also state my vision for the future.

Lesson 1

The Need for Restraint and Patience Along with Passion

When I first started, the media as well as some professional teams immediately jumped on the bandwagon, saw the huge opportunity with sports psychology, and quickly accepted my proposals and story ideas. It was overwhelming at times. I was thrilled to be on the cutting edge and to have the new challenges of developing a private practice and working with pro athletes. However, along with that excitement and my total belief in the profession, I might have been a little too eager to seize every opportunity, jump in, take on all challenges, and even push hard to effect change at the organizational level.

The truth is that a lot of people were not ready for change and most are still not ready today. While I clearly saw the need then (and still do today) of having a sports psychologist in the clubhouse of every professional sports franchise, others were not ready then and most are still not ready today. When I started, I figured that by 2015 having a sports psychologist on the roster of every professional sports franchise would be as commonplace as the iconic team dentist on every hockey team in the NHL. I was way wrong.

What I did not anticipate was how slow major change takes place, and how most people would much rather keep the status quo intact even at their own detriment. While there are a number of reasons for this, that is another story saved for another day. So 15 years later, I have learned to retain the intensity and passion in my work, but to slow down a little more in my fervor to transform sports into a mental training enterprise. Athletes and teams find me today when they are ready, not when I am ready. It’s the same with individual clients or students in any field that learning never begins until a true audience appears and is completely ready. It will probably be 30 more years before every sports franchise finally understands and realizes the tremendous benefits of having a sports psychologist on staff, and I am ok with that. Those who see the light will prosper while those who don’t will suffer, and I’m not responsible for their wake up call. I’ve stopped worrying about it. Restraint and patience are virtues that I now hold onto more than ever.

Lesson 2

There is No Substitute for True Experience

In the beginning months of my practice, I was loaded with ideas, methods and solutions, and eager to share them all. What I was lacking as a sports psychologist, however, was true experience. Sure, I had been through some of the finest graduate training available, had worked for years in a cutting edge psychology clinic and before that worldwide as a coach and athlete, but the truth is that as a sports psychologist I was a neophyte. I hope that I did not hurt anyone in those early months with my inexperience, but I’ve since learned that while knowledge and ideas are necessary in any professional toolbox, they take a major backseat to experience and clinical judgment.

When you purchase a book , CD, or DVD you buy ideas and knowledge and the world is already filled with those. Hiring a true sports psychologist with experience dances circles around plain knowledge. With experience hopefully comes wisdom, and with many rich clinical experiences to draw from in helping a client, there emerges a professional perspective that is severely lacking in the beginning professional.

This is why there is a stark difference between what any one of hundreds or even thousands of psychology professors or researchers might be able to offer client in a side practice, compared with someone who lives, breathes and practices the profession daily. It comes down to clinical savvy, key decision-making, and often that subtle avoidance of that “frenzy to cure,” as it was so aptly described by my internship coordinator many years ago. Jumping in eagerly to deliver a solution is often disastrous for the client. Wisdom is hard to come by in any profession without experience. With wisdom comes better clinical decisions, greater confidence on the part of the provider, and an overall more efficient process of improvement for the client. Knowing what not to do is often just as important as what to do, so the value of true experience cannot be overemphasized in sports psychology.

Vision for the Future of Sports Psychology

The future of sports psychology is bright because the need to succeed in competitive situations will never go away. In fact, competition and performance only continues to increase over time, and it will always do so with evolution of training methods, nutrition and strength training as just a few examples. This profession of mental training is the best at preparing people for success, training the mind, developing solid routines, and operating as a practitioner who informs his or her practice with solid science to stay cutting edge. As I indicated earlier in this blog, it is all further enhanced with the science of great data collection and statistical analysis!

Coaches and administrators must realize that sports psychologists are not coming to take their jobs away or create havoc. I can no better call plays or develop a defensive game plan for the Dallas Cowboys than my 11-year-old daughter, and I do not want to do so. I am trained and experienced in a profession that is vastly underutilized and has a right to exist because it helps others succeed. Coaches and administrators have no time or energy to spend the countless hours needed to assess or train the minds of their athletes, and I have no time to go on recruiting trips, negotiate salaries, wrap ankles, or perform surgery. Teamwork is truly the key to success in anything. When sports teams and franchises eventually wake up to the necessity of a solid mental training component in their program, they will realize that the sports psychologist is just one essential piece to a complex puzzle. I am too busy and involved in my own work as a sports psychologist to have the time (and I certainly do not have the knowledge) to try my hat as head coach, athletic trainer or massage therapist. However, together as a team we all prosper to make a better team.

Let me know if you want to get started now, or come in again for a fresh new round! Hope that you have enjoyed this brief glimpse into the world of sports psychology.

Happy New Year 2015 & Where Have 15 Years Gone?

Special to JohnFMurray.com – Happy New Year 2015 from Sports Psychologist Dr. John F. Murray – Palm Beach, FL – Jan 4, 2015 – It was late in 1999 that I finished my post-doctoral training requirements, passed the Florida state licensing exam, and began working as one of a handful of legitimate and licensed clinical and sports psychologists in America. I had jumped through so many graduate school hoops and rings of fire that I considered applying for the job as the dolphin at Sea World. Since my earliest clinical experiences in the NFL included working with players on our long struggling Miami Dolphins, I was definitely considering Sea World.

All kidding aside, I was thrilled to be in private practice, seeing clients both here in South Florida and worldwide by phone, including some of the best athletes and teams in the world. I had begun this journey at age 30 and by 36 had transformed a career in international tennis coaching into an even more exciting and meaningful profession targeted at helping a wider range of athletes and teams refine their mental approach to competition while dealing better with a multitude of potential distractions.

Now 15 years later and in my early 50s, I wonder where the time has gone but can honestly say that I would not have changed a thing. I love what I do and have been privileged to collaborate on so many meaningful missions that I could never even begin to share a small fraction of them in a brief article. What I would like to share today, however, are a couple of the lessons I’ve learned in this past decade and a half, and also state my vision for the future.

Lesson 1

The Need for Restraint and Patience Along with Passion

When I first started, the media as well as some professional teams immediately jumped on the bandwagon, saw the huge opportunity with sports psychology, and quickly accepted my proposals and story ideas. It was overwhelming at times. I was thrilled to be on the cutting edge and to have the new challenges of developing a private practice and working with pro athletes. However, along with that excitement and my total belief in the profession, I might have been a little too eager to seize every opportunity, jump in, take on all challenges, and even push hard to effect change at the organizational level.

The truth is that a lot of people were not ready for change and most are still not ready today. While I clearly saw the need then (and still do today) of having a sports psychologist in the clubhouse of every professional sports franchise, others were not ready then and most are still not ready today. When I started, I figured that by 2015 having a sports psychologist on the roster of every professional sports franchise would be as commonplace as the iconic team dentist on every hockey team in the NHL. I was way wrong.

What I did not anticipate was how slow major change takes place, and how most people would much rather keep the status quo intact even at their own detriment. While there are a number of reasons for this, that is another story saved for another day. So 15 years later, I have learned to retain the intensity and passion in my work, but to slow down a little more in my fervor to transform sports into a mental training enterprise. Athletes and teams find me today when they are ready, not when I am ready. It’s the same with individual clients or students in any field that learning never begins until a true audience appears and is completely ready. It will probably be 30 more years before every sports franchise finally understands and realizes the tremendous benefits of having a sports psychologist on staff, and I am ok with that. Those who see the light will prosper while those who don’t will suffer, and I’m not responsible for their wake up call. I’ve stopped worrying about it. Restraint and patience are virtues that I now hold onto more than ever.

Lesson 2

There is No Substitute for True Experience

In the beginning months of my practice, I was loaded with ideas, methods and solutions, and eager to share them all. What I was lacking as a sports psychologist, however, was true experience. Sure, I had been through some of the finest graduate training available, had worked for years in a cutting edge psychology clinic and before that worldwide as a coach and athlete, but the truth is that as a sports psychologist I was a neophyte. I hope that I did not hurt anyone in those early months with my inexperience, but I’ve since learned that while knowledge and ideas are necessary in any professional toolbox, they take a major backseat to experience and clinical judgment.

When you purchase a book , CD, or DVD you buy ideas and knowledge and the world is already filled with those. Hiring a true sports psychologist with experience dances circles around plain knowledge. With experience hopefully comes wisdom, and with many rich clinical experiences to draw from in helping a client, there emerges a professional perspective that is severely lacking in the beginning professional.

This is why there is a stark difference between what any one of hundreds or even thousands of psychology professors or researchers might be able to offer client in a side practice, compared with someone who lives, breathes and practices the profession daily. It comes down to clinical savvy, key decision-making, and often that subtle avoidance of that “frenzy to cure,” as it was so aptly described by my internship coordinator many years ago. Jumping in eagerly to deliver a solution is often disastrous for the client. Wisdom is hard to come by in any profession without experience. With wisdom comes better clinical decisions, greater confidence on the part of the provider, and an overall more efficient process of improvement for the client. Knowing what not to do is often just as important as what to do, so the value of true experience cannot be overemphasized in sports psychology.

Vision for the Future of Sports Psychology

The future of sports psychology is bright because the need to succeed in competitive situations will never go away. In fact, competition and performance only continues to increase over time, and it will always do so with evolution of training methods, nutrition and strength training as just a few examples. This profession of mental training is the best at preparing people for success, training the mind, developing solid routines, and operating as a practitioner who informs his or her practice with solid science to stay cutting edge.

Coaches and administrators must realize that sports psychologists are not coming to take their jobs away or create havoc. I can no better call plays or develop a defensive game plan for the Dallas Cowboys than my 11-year-old daughter, and I do not want to do so. I am trained and experienced in a profession that is vastly underutilized and has a right to exist because it helps others succeed. Coaches and administrators have no time or energy to spend the countless hours needed to assess or train the minds of their athletes, and I have no time to go on recruiting trips, negotiate salaries, wrap ankles, or perform surgery. Teamwork is truly the key to success in anything. When sports teams and franchises eventually wake up to the necessity of a solid mental training component in their program, they will realize that the sports psychologist is just one essential piece to a complex puzzle. I am too busy and involved in my own work as a sports psychologist to have the time (and I certainly do not have the knowledge) to try my hat as head coach, athletic trainer or massage therapist. However, together as a team we all prosper to make a better team.

I hope that you have enjoyed this brief glimpse into the world of sports psychology.

MPI Based NFL Power Rankings – Week 10 of the 2014 NFL Season

JohnFMurray.com – Saturday November 8, 2014 – By John F Murray, PhD: Welcome to the state of the art. In a continuing effort to show the power the MPI (Mental Performance Index as written about in the book by the same name), I am offering readers complete performance based power rankings at the mid-point of the 2014 NFL season. These rankings are based on a careful MPI analysis of every play so far in the NFL season. Considering that there have been 9 weeks of games already, that equates to approximately 40,500 plays that have been reviewed with precision by the MPI.

Enjoy these rankings, which include total performance that includes observable mental performance too such as how well teams cope with pressure situations, how well they avoid careless mistakes, how well they avoid penalties and turnovers and execute properly.

Decide for yourself if these rankings correlate with the outcome of the games this weekend. What teams do in the past is not always what they will do in the future, but I will confidently add that this is about as good as it will get in 2014 accurately assessing the actual performance of a team. You tell me how well it correlates with outcome after the games. These are just the facts, and yes, those numbers beside each team show their total power and they are roughly equivalent to how many points any given team should win over any random opponent in the NFL. If the value is negative, this means that they should on average lose by that many points against any random opponent if past performance matters.

Interestingly, the Miami Dolphins are number one on this midseason report, even though most media based power rankings have them in the mid-teens. I am not concerned with media hype or opinion. I based these rankings exclusively on facts, the facts of every single play so far this season. Enjoy and be sure to tell me how these rankings perform this weekend!

MPI BASED POWER RANKINGS PRIOR TO WEEK 10 OF NFL SEASON

Miami Dolphins 8.5
Kansas City Chiefs 7.6
Philadelphia Eagles 7.2
Denver Broncos 5.5
Indianapolis Colts 5.4
New Orleans Saints 4.6
New England Patriots 2.3
Pittsburgh Steelers 2.1
Arizona Cardinals 1.1
Baltimore Ravens 1.1
Minnesota Vikings -.20
Detroit Lions -.30
Cincinnati Bengals -.40
Seattle Seahawks -.40
San Francisco 49ers -.60
Washington Redskins -.60
Dallas Cowboys -.70
Buffalo Bills -.80
Jacksonville Jaguars -1.2
St. Louis Rams -1.4
Green Bay Packers -1.7
New York Jets -2.5
Carolina Panthers -3.0
Cleveland Browns -3.1
Atlanta Falcons -3.1
Houston Texans -3.1
Chicago Bears -3.4
NY Giants -3.6
Oakland Raiders -3.7
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -4.5
Tennessee Titans -5.6
San Diego Chargers -6.1

Hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into the world of sports psychology and the Mental Performance Index!

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.

Beijing Olympics: Sports Psychology profile of Adler Volmar

Sports psychologist Dr. John Murray is providing Journal Star readers daily updates from the Olympics. The former tennis pro and Florida resident is working with judo competitor Adler Volmar. The goal is to offer insight into the mental and psychological aspect of sports, right up to Volmar’s matches and immediately following them. The doctor will add some Beijing observations both inside and outside the sports venues. Murray’s full work and profile can be found on his own Web site: http://www.johnfmurray.com/

August 12, 2008 – Wednesday early Morning
Adler is nothing but energy! Yesterday was a big day as we finally met up with the man with a heart of gold who is going for the less significant piece of gold. He showed us all around the Olympic complex, the Team USA headquarters and living accommodations, and just about everything there was possibly to see in the Olympic Village.

The security, as you might imagine, is matchless. Once you finally do get in there are countless additional restrictions unless you have this number, decal or color on your badge.

What a great feeling as the weather cooperated following a rainstorm and the air looked actually clear and clean! Athletes were trading badges, walking from training session to another, playing silly video games, lounging, or meeting with media. If you can imagine a major university campus in the USA, with only
all the athletes out and about, and then multiply this by 150 — you get a glimpse of the awe.

I mean these are the best of the best, and the dreams of every country all in one spot.
Let’s talk a little more about Adler. He was born in Miami when his mother visited his sister, but he grew up in Haiti. When he was a teenager he was picked on by bullies and given a good beating. His mother insisted that he learn to defend himself, so at age 13 he started training for judo. By 15 he was a black belt and three years later, he was going to his first Olympics in Atlanta, where he carried the national flag.

After Atlanta, with very poor English, he was tricked into thinking that he had to join the US military and served in the Navy as a combat medic. He missed the 2000 Olympics largely due to his military service but tried again for the judo team in 2004 and missed, coming in third. Many would have given up but Adler persisted with the dream for the gold and he rose in the ranks and won several major international events leading up to the Beijing Olympic trials.

That is when he tore both his anterior cruciate ligament and lateral cruciate, and the Miami Dolphins team physician, Dr. Caldwell, surgically repaired his knee in February and told him he had between a 0 and 1 percent chance of even competing at the June Olympic trials. Adler heard “one percent” and he said “that was plenty enough for me!”

At the trials, he had to win in a sudden-death overtime and it was a highly controversial ending … but the fact is he won and he now represents the USA Team Judo in the 100kg class.

I’ve given you just a sketch of the facts. What you might not realize is that he is one of the most humble and caring persons I have ever met! Can you believe this … for a world class athlete. His mother died last year and she has been an inspiration. His wife has been tirelessly patient and supportive as he reaches for his goals. He had a great training staff in his recovery and then I had the honor of him calling for an appointment only a little over a month ago. We hit it off immediately and he kept telling me that he was taking me with him to Beijing. I kept denying it sarcastically. Well … he felt strongly enough about the mental game and our rapport that he inisted I go and got the plane ticket and hotel reservation.

Very few in the world media or judo land really believe in Adler. He is a definite sleeper from those in the supposed know. But when you meet him, you realize it is never about Adler; rather, he is on a mission to change lives. He has a great family with three kids and he wants to make their lives better.

He wants to get the first gold for judo in U.S. history. He even told me that he wants to help me with the sport
psychology. The man is sincere and he is funny, too. During our long walks around the village he often teased and joked, but the serious side came out too and there is no doubt in his mind that he will walk away with gold, but even that he ultimately gives up to a higher source — his belief and his faith.He never should have been here after that injury, but he is, and the world will have to deal with it.

There are 32 fighters in the draw at the 100kg class and his first opponent Thursday is from Bosnia. He says, “just five steps to change our lives forever,” meaning just win five matches and he will fulfill his mission, and his faith removes any anxiety.

As he said, “This is way beyond me … I’m here for the ride!” Thanks for all your support readers. Today we will go watch some live judo matches and I’ll do some more imagery and relaxation training with Adler. He is one of the best that I have ever seen mentally … yet he also realizes that he needs to be tip-top shape physically as well as mentally. So he takes our work together seriously … looking for ever-so-slight an edge.
I’m going to get some more sleep now.

Dr. John F. Murray attended the Beijing Olympics to provide his unique perspective from the world of Sports Psychology.

Beijing Olympics: Here we come

Sports psychologist Dr. John Murray is providing Journal Star readers daily updates from the Olympics. The former tennis pro and Florida resident is working with judo competitor Adler Volmar. The goal is to offer insight into the mental and psychological aspect of sports, right up to Volmar’s matches and immediately following them. The doctor will add some Beijing observations both inside and outside the sports venues. Murray’s full work and profile can be found on his own Web site: http://www.johnfmurray.com/

August 9, 2008 – Sunday – Detroit – 2:15 PM
If you are going to the Olympics, and especially as far away as Beijing, you better not miss the flight, so I stayed the night in a Ft. Lauderdale hotel not far from the airport and we just arrived in Detroit to catch the flight to Tokyo and then on to the big city.

I flew up with Crystal and we met her father, Earl, smartly attired in his red, white and blue sporting clothes, so the three of us can pursue with Adler (Volmar) the mission of (judo) gold. Over lunch we discussed again how all athletes need to believe totally in their abilities and in their chance of actually winning the gold. At the same time, the best athletes — Adler included — know that while they are giving their best and outworking and out-thinking their opponents in preparation for the big day, ultimately outcome is decided by a higher force, be it spiritual or the mere fact that as hard as you prepare there might be someone else on the other side of the mat who prepared longer, smarter, or better.

Still you pursue the dream with total confidence and willpower, with the best possible strategy, nutrition and physical training possible. Another topic that came up over lunch was the “Tiger Woods” element. This is the flow that was written about so long ago in the book “Flow” in the 1960s. There are a lot of cliches that cover the topic of focus and concentration, but so few athletes come even close to maximizing their use of flow.

Just look at the history of Olympic records and how records are broken every year, and how it is almost a steady progression of faster times and greater strength, so if you examine the Olympics 100 years from today the accomplishments of today will look very average. Mentally this highlights that we are never truly reaching our human potential in sports — but only approaching an unlimited human potential.

OK, enough philosophizing for now. I am seated amongst about an 80 percent population of Japanese citizens returning to their homeland as we all three get ready to board the massive 747 with upstairs seating and a food/drink lounge to Tokyo.

The upcoming 14 hours of flying would seem taxing if not for the fact that less than two years ago I flew down to Australia with Vince Spadea for the three tournaments at the start of the 2007 season — Adelaide, Sydeny and Melbourne and it was about a 26 hour trek! So, we are all excited to join Adler in Beijing as this two time Olympian gets ready for his day of destiny on August 14.

Dr. John F. Murray attended the Beijing Olympics to provide his unique perspective from the world of Sports Psychology.

Coaches Who Can Turn A Phrase

Sport Psychology Commentary by Dr. John F. Murray – December 26, 2012 By DOM AMORE, The Hartford Courant

It’s one of the most famous phrases ever uttered by a coach, and yet Vince Lombardi always regretted saying it.

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

“He actually hated that,” said Dan Lauria, the veteran actor and Southern Connecticut State University grad who portrayed Lombardi on Broadway last year. “He didn’t mean it the way it came out — obviously, he didn’t think you should cheat to win. The saying he did always like was, ‘If you pursue perfection, you can reach excellence.’ ”

Back in September, Kevin Ollie became the UConn men’s basketball coach, and he opened with a memorable phrase of his own: “We’re going to take the stairs — escalators are for cowards.”

That one is now available on T-shirts. And since then, he has used his gift for turning a phrase, or in some cases tweaking a phrase to make it his own, to fashion a number of what one might call “Ollie-isms.”

“Ten toes in, not five” … “First you bring the sugar, then you bring the hot sauce” … “You don’t go through life, you grow through life.” … “In trying times, you don’t stop trying.”

The buck doesn’t stop here, to paraphrase Harry S Truman. History offers many examples of catch phrases that define a leader — a coach, a general or a politician. Ollie, 39, has made a favorable impression in his first season as coach, and his way with a phrase is obviously part of the reason, as he tries to get out a message, not only to his own team, but to fans and potential recruits about what he, and his program, will be all about.

“They can have a lot of value,” says Dan Gerstein, former adviser to Sen. Joseph Lieberman and president of Gotham Ghostwriters, a New York based writing firm. “Especially today, when the Internet and social media has made for such a cacophonous environment, it’s much harder to stick out. If you can come up with phrases that are short, pithy and memorable, it can be a great asset.”

Sometimes, they happen by accident. Leo Durocher, the most famous baseball manager of his day, watched the opposition work on the field and predicted to a sportswriter in 1946 that the team would finish last, because they were not competitive enough, but all nice guys … and “Nice guys finish last.”

It became the title of Durocher’s memoirs, and it stamped him forever as the ultimate hard-nosed, fiery competitor among his peers. But he saw a need to clarify it after he retired.

“Writers picked it up and made it sound as if I were saying you couldn’t be a decent person and succeed,” Durocher wrote. “But, do you know, I don’t think it would have been picked up like that if it didn’t strike a chord, because as a general proposition, it’s true. Or, are you going to tell me that you’ve never said to yourself, ‘The trouble with me is, I’m too nice.’ ”

Durocher also said he would “trip his mother” if she were rounding third with the winning run against him.

Catch phrases may become oversimplified, but the ones that stick do have that strong strain of universal truth in them. John Wooden, who coached UCLA to 10 national titles, had dozens of them and is often quoted by both Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma at UConn.

Calhoun’s favorite: “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.”

Others from Wooden included, “Discipline yourself and others won’t have to.” … “Ability may get you to the top, but takes character to keep you there.” … “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Author Rick Reilly wrote of Wooden: “He believed in hopelessly out-of-date stuff that never did anything but win championships.”

Alan Castel, associate professor of cognitive psychology at UCLA, interviewed John Wooden just before his 98th birthday while doing research on aging and memory.

“There are likely many reasons coaches develop these short catching phrases,” Castel said, “ranging from, the phrases can be easily remembered and recited to the idea that they can be widely applied – often beyond a sports context. Wooden was a classic example.”

The catch phrases that catch on, naturally, are the ones backed up with success. Jerry Izenberg,a veteran of over 60 years of sportswriter, has written 13 books, one of them, on a week behind the scenes with the Giants, took one of Bill Parcells’ catch phrases as its title — “No medals for trying.”

“You have to remember that what works for college doesn’t always work for the pros, and vice versa,” Izenberg says. “Woody Hayes had a lot of sayings, and once in his locker room, there was a sign over the trainers’ room — ‘You can’t make the club in the tub.’ … Could you imagine saying that over and over to professionals? They’d laugh at you.

“And when Vince Lombardi first got to Green Bay, diagramed a play, his ‘Lombardi sweep,’ and the tackle had to make this incredibly difficult block. The tackle, Forrest Gregg, said it was ‘impossible,’ and Lombardi said, ‘if you think it’s impossible, I’ll find someone who thinks it is possible.’ … You couldn’t say that to college players.

“… But the main thing is, these guys won. Imagine Lombardi saying, ‘winning isn’t everything …’ if he lost?”

The Giants won the Super Bowl the year “No medals for trying” came out. Parcells had many phrases, but Izenberg did not recall his using them behind closed doors. Behind the scenes, he tailored his messages to the individual.

When a coach becomes too closely identified with his sayings, it can obscure his true talent for leadership.

“What happens,” Lauria says, “is that these things get taken out of context. Vince Lombardi knew how to push the right buttons with each individual player.”

The value in phrases is that they can make good habits second nature. That, Ollie said earlier this year, is what he has in mind.

“It’s the mind-set I’m so concerned with,” Ollie told The Courant in November, “that you don’t take the easy way in life. I think taking escalators is the easy way. You should take the stairs in life, each and every step. … I try to use [the sayings] sparingly, I don’t want to use them all the time. I am trying to make a point, and I try to use word pictures. I think it resonates with guys. Instead of a, b, c, d, they can picture things in their own minds.”

Dr. John F. Murray, a Florida-based sports psychologist, says the most popular page on his website (johnfmurray.com) is the one that lists more than 100 famous quotes from coaches. However, he says, catch phrases should be considered only one of many tools a successful coach uses in reaching his players.

“The danger,” Murray says, “is that they can become a superficial mask for serious issues. But when they’re used properly, they can be a very effective tool.”

Dr. John F. Murray has compiled a list of quotes from great coaches to help motivate your players mentally.

Locker room tolerance and sensitivity have simply changed forever with Michael Sam

Sports Psychology News – Dr. John F. Murray – February 10 2014 – A look into the locker room after Michael Sam.

NBC News, Melissa Dahl –  We now know what Michael Sam’s teammates have long known: The All-American defensive lineman from the University of Missouri is gay, and could very well become the first ever openly gay football player in the NFL.

Much has and will be written about the historical impact of Sam’s coming out, but a quietly remarkable aspect of Sam’s story is this: For at least an entire college football season, Sam’s teammates knew his secret, and they not only accepted it, they helped him keep it.

Sam has said that he came out to his team before the 2013 season, during a team meeting in which each player was asked to tell a secret about himself. “I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Sam told the New York Times. His team, and the coaches, kept their star player’s secret, even as the team faced building media attention as they competed for a national title.

But even in a generation notorious for social media oversharing and in a sport not known for its tolerance, no one let Sam’s secret slip. Not even Sam’s dad found out.

“I think it’s tremendous, in this day and age, that they could do that without anything leaking,” said Leif Smith, a clinical and sports psychologist who works with athletes at Ohio State University.

It’s also possible that his teammates didn’t think it was that big of a deal, Smith and other sports psychologists said. “I do think it’s more of a ho-hum issue for this generation,” Smith said. “It was a big issue to address it, but once they started playing football, they could care less.”

According to the day’s stereotype of a macho-bro culture like college football, an admission like Sam’s could lead to ostracization, or a Miami Dolphins-esque case of bullying. And indeed, some unnamed NFL insiders have reportedly already responded to Sam’s admission by saying things like an openly gay player would “chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

But sports psychologists who work with college athletes say that they see this generation being more tolerant when it comes to the matter of their peers’ sexual orientation. Seventy percent of millennials — defined here as those born after 1980 — said in a 2013 Pew Research Center survey that they support gay marriage, and that percentage is rapidly increasing, up from 51 percent in 2003.

Sam’s teammates said his sexuality was no big deal in the lockerroom, and many of them joined a chorus of public support that included first lady Michelle Obama.

Sam is a gifted athlete, named in his last year at Mizzou to the College Football All-America Team, which means his team has even fewer reasons to care about his personal life.

“I think the bottom line for most players is — if you have a teammate that can help you win, it doesn’t matter,” said John Murray, a clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla., who has worked with NFL athletes.

If Sam did explicitly ask his teammates not to share his sexual orientation, the team’s secret-sharing may even have strengthened their cohesion as a group.

“We know that when people choose to confide secrets with us, that can draw us closer together, because that disclosure signals trust and intimacy in itself,” said Clayton Critcher, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has researched the psychology of secret-keeping.

In ideal circumstances, a team may function much like a family, experts say “Teams are going to protect their own,” Murray said.

“The family will kind of circle the wagons, and protect their secret,” he said. “Because a family very well represents that concept of a unit that needs to be able to be cohesive to be able to perform well, to be able to win.”

A fascinating view into the world of sports psychology.