Posts Tagged ‘John F Murray’


New York Times – Nov 18, 2005 – Benedict Carey – Scientists working with mice have found that by removing a single gene they can turn normally cautious animals into daring ones, mice that are more willing to explore unknown territory and less intimidated by sights and sounds that they have learned can be dangerous.

The surprising discovery, being reported today in the journal Cell, opens a new window on how fear works in the brain, experts said.

Gene therapy to create daredevil warriors is likely to remain the province of screenwriters, but the new findings may help researchers design novel drugs to treat a wide array of conditions, from disabling anxiety in social settings to the sudden flights of poisoned memory that can persist in the wake of a disaster, an attack or the horror of combat.

The discovery may well prove applicable to humans, the experts said, because the brain system that registers fear is similar in all mammals. Moreover, the genetic change did not appear to affect the animals’ development in other ways.

“Potential clinical applications could be quite important” for people with “fear-related mental disorders,” said Dr. Gleb Shumyatsky, an assistant professor of genetics at Rutgers, who led a team that included investigators from Columbia, Harvard, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Brain scientists who were not involved in the study said the study’s finding was unexpected.

“The way I see it, there are three types of studies in science: one that moves a theory along, one that closes it and another that opens a new door altogether,” said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which helped finance the research. “This one opens a new chapter, introducing an entirely new molecular candidate for the study of anxiety, and we’re going to be hearing a lot about it in the next 10 years.”

The researchers found the fear-related gene by analyzing brain tissue, in particular the tiny prune-shaped region called the amygdala, which previous studies had shown to be especially active when animals and humans were afraid or anxious. They found that a protein called stathmin, produced by the stathmin gene, was highly concentrated in the amygdala but hard to detect elsewhere in the brain.

Using genetic engineering, the scientists removed the gene from mice and bred a line of the animals, all missing the same gene. Those animals developed into normal adults, as far as the researchers could tell, and learned as ably on standard tests as a group of normal mice.

In one test, they learned to expect a small shock to their feet after hearing a loud tone.

“They looked normal,” Dr. Shumyatsky said. “They weren’t stupid. They would run away if you tried to pick them up.”

But when presented with the same loud tone 24 hours later, the genetically engineered mice froze in place – a standard measure of learned fear – only about 60 percent as long as the control group.

When left alone on an unfamiliar white surface, the engineered mice also spent about twice as long exploring as did the normal mice. This “open field” test is standard measure of innate caution.

To be sure that it was the gene change and not some other quality that explained the differences, the researchers tested hearing and pain sensitivity in the altered mice. Both were normal.

In the paper, the authors suggest that stathmin, the protein that the engineered mice were missing, may help brain cells form new memories in the amygdala, where unconscious fears appear to be stored. (Conscious memories are filed elsewhere.)

In theory, a drug that inhibits the activity of stathmin could prevent or slow that process. That, in turn, might blunt the impact of traumatic experiences in people who are vulnerable to disabling memories of those experiences.

Reducing stathmin activity in the amygdala might also allow people to overcome innate or learned anxieties. Dr. Shumyatsky said doctors already had a drug that acts on the same brain molecules as stathmin does; it is Taxol, a cancer drug.

Taxol works throughout the brain, however, and not exclusively in the amygdala, which the new study suggests is the best target.

“It would be very interesting to study things like this, but it is still very early,” Dr. Shumyatsky said. “This study is only a first step.”

Still, it is a step that could take the study of fear in a new direction. In an e-mail message, Dr. Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at New York University wrote: “While we are a long ways away, it is possible in the future that we will be able to identify amygdala-specific genes that can be used to play a role in amygdala-specific drug therapy. Studies like this are the kind we need in order to get to this point.”

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


South China Morning Post – Dec 11, 2005 – Richard Luscombe – SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 16 – Sixty years after the disappearance of a US Navy training flight, the mystery of a notorious stretch of water that has claimed so many lives still endures, writes Richard Luscombe

It has been almost three decades since Steven Spielberg “solved” the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle in his classic science-fiction movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The Lost Patrol, five US Navy training aircraft that vanished without trace off the Florida coast in December 1945 in the notorious triangular stretch of the Atlantic bordered by Bermuda, Miami and Puerto Rico, were simply abducted by aliens.

It might be a far-fetched theory, but nobody today is really any closer to the truth. This month’s 60th anniversary of the sudden disappearance of Flight 19, and a rescue plane sent to find them, has provoked renewed interest in hundreds of missing ships and aircraft, but the triangle remains an enigma destined never to be fully resolved.

“People are fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle because it’s one of the world’s great mysteries,” said Gian Quasar, a California-based author who has spent more than a decade researching the subject.

“The last island has been discovered, the last mountain has been climbed, but there’s something here still to be discovered.

“There’s also something tangible about it all. The aircraft and ships that disappeared did exist, the people who were on them were real people.”

The Flight 19 episode was the most intriguing of countless unexplained disappearances of aircraft and ships in the Bermuda Triangle dating back more than 200 years, and some experts believe the fate of the 27 airmen on the training flight and rescue mission could hold the key to the entire mystery.

Theories put forward over the years include the presence of an electromagnetic “fog” that rendered navigation equipment useless, extreme and sudden weather conditions and even supernatural forces or UFOs. Other pilots have reported being “buzzed” by strange objects.

Aircraft disappeared from radar screens with no wreckage ever found. Ships, some with hundreds of crewmembers aboard, put to sea and were never seen again. No official records are kept, but over time thousands of people are unaccounted for.

The puzzle is still being debated at the highest levels of government, even though officials do not recognise the concept of the Bermuda Triangle and the US Coastguard dismisses all talk of the supernatural or alien forces at work.

It insists that no more lives are lost in the heavily traversed triangle than any other half-million square miles of sea. “The combined forces of nature and unpredictability of mankind outdo even the most far-fetched science fiction many times each year,” according to the US Navy’s historical centre in Washington DC.

But Congressman Clay Shaw of Florida is one politician who believes there could be something out there. “There’s just so many weird things here,” he said after persuading Congress to support his motion honouring Flight 19 commander Charles Taylor and the lost crewmen last month. “Perhaps some day we will learn what happened and lay this mystery to rest.”

Ironically, the most expensive and thorough expedition ever launched to try to solve the mystery returned last month with more questions than answers. A costly underwater expedition off the Florida coast, aided by 20 scientists and technology experts and using Nasa satellites for the first time, failed to find any trace of the lost planes.

Filmmakers also staged a re-enactment of the doomed flight from Fort Lauderdale in a vintage 60-year-old Avenger torpedo bomber identical to the navy’s lost aircraft, yet found no clues to what might have caused the planes’ compasses to malfunction, or Lieutenant Taylor to radio in saying that he had lost his bearings and did not know if the pilots were over the Bahamas or Florida Keys.

One early theory was that the pilots became disoriented and thought they were heading back to land when they were actually flying east and further out to sea, where they ran out of fuel.

Alleged sightings of the flight crossing the Florida coast and signals picked up by an aircraft carrier from five unidentified planes later that day appear to debunk that theory. Yet despite one of the biggest searches in maritime history, involving hundreds of ships and aircraft in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, no trace was ever found of Flight 19 or the lost rescue plane.

“We know why they got lost but the big mystery is why they didn’t come back,” Mr Quasar said.

Nautical researcher David Bright led the marine expedition to try to find Flight 19’s rescue plane, thought to have crashed with 13 airmen aboard. “We took into account that there could be scenarios where the ‘ship’ exploded in midair and pieces would come down,” he said.

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

“Or that it exploded as it hit the water, or that it may have hit the water and parts of it could have blown up yet the remainder could have gone on a little further with the tides. We were excited about the science we did out there and none of us would have done anything differently.”

History records many similar chilling tales, such as the plight of the USS Cyclops, a 165m navy warship that vanished in the triangle in March 1918 with its 306 crew and passengers, just days after leaving Bridgetown, Barbados.

Another large vessel, the 153m tanker Marine Sulphur Queen, disappeared in February 1963 on its way from Texas to Virginia. All that was ever found of the ship or 39 crewmen was one solitary lifejacket, recovered 75km from her last known position in the Florida Strait.

John Murray, a psychologist based in West Palm Beach, Florida, believes that some pilots and captains simply panicked after they become disoriented. Experts claim that the triangle is one of two places on earth, with Japan’s so-called Devil Sea, where compasses point to true north, not magnetic north.

“The triangle is better explained by poor mental skills and reckless behaviour than magical or mystical forces. The Bermuda Triangle may really just be a function of under-developed mental training,” he said.

Mr Quasar, meanwhile, believes the truth is still waiting to be found, but theories of the paranormal can be discounted.

“The enigma of the triangle is real,” he said. “But it’s not aliens, and it’s not ghosts doing nasty things to people. The unexplained is not the supernatural.”


USA Today – Nov 04, 2005 – Tom Weir – Monday night, the Indianapolis Colts face their nemesis, the New England Patriots, in a matchup where the examination of Xs and Os has given way to psychological analysis.

Peyton Manning’s memories of the Patriots are not fond ones considering he is 2-10 against the team since 1998.

The conventional wisdom is this is a mini-Super Bowl for the Colts, even when they are the NFL’s only remaining unbeaten team and have a 1½-game lead in the AFC race for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

New England has been characterized as the monkey on Indianapolis’ back, but the Patriots have been more like a herd of gorillas mooning the Colts’ team bus every time it departs Foxboro, Mass.

The Patriots are 10-2 when Peyton Manning is the opposing quarterback and 7-0 against him at Foxborough, which also is where the Colts have been ousted from the playoffs the past two seasons.

So, with the Colts headed to the scene of their darkest memories, how did they use their time during the just-completed bye week? Poring over Patriots film? Getting an early start on the game plan? Shopping for mojos on eBay?

Hardly. Head coach Tony Dungy went fishing in Florida and gave his players a vacation, saying he preferred to stick to his normal week of preparation and treat New England like any opponent.

“If we win the game, we certainly don’t want to feel like all of a sudden we’ve arrived, or we beat the New England Patriots so our season’s over,” Dungy says. “That will get us in trouble.”

Thursday, Manning was asked to characterize the tension, the buildup, and whether this is a must-win for the Colts’ collective psyche.

“Let’s see,” said Manning, surveying the Indianapolis locker room. “You’ve got a card game going on over there, somebody’s reading a book over there.”

The pregame hype includes Manning sharing the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated with New England quarterback Tom Brady. After three steady seasons of answering rounds of New England-oriented questions, Manning has become adept at fending them off.

Is he more confident entering this New England game?

“I can’t really remember my mood going into the week the other times we played them.”

What would a victory do for the team’s confidence?

“I can’t answer that.”

Does he constantly hear about the losses to New England?

“I don’t keep a chart or anything.”

Prodded further to give perspective on what vanquishing New England would do for Indianapolis’ mind-set, Manning passed on making any Freudian analogies and quoted a line uttered by the Ebby Calvin LaLoosh character in Bull Durham:

“I like winning. It’s better than losing.”

Getting over the hurdle a chore

Rather than focus on the history of this series, Colts defensive tackle Montae Reagor suggests a review of the league standings, which show New England at 4-3.

“I wouldn’t say this is our measuring stick,” says Reagor, one of the anchors on a defensive unit that has allowed an NFL-low 77 points this season. “We’re 7-0. We’re the undefeated team.”

New England head coach Bill Belichick concurs, saying, “I don’t see how you can say anybody is better than them. They haven’t lost a game. That’s more than anybody else can say.”

But the Colts still are at a junction other excellent teams faced before winning a Super Bowl.

Green Bay lost three consecutive playoff games at Dallas in the ’90s, then got its Super Bowl championship in the 1996 season when Carolina did the Packers the favor of beating Dallas in a playoff.

Tampa Bay lost playoff games at Philadelphia in 2000 and 2001, then set up its 2002 season Super Bowl win by beating the Eagles in the last game at Veterans Stadium.

Sports psychologists say there’s a harrowing aspect to facing an opponent who always has come out ahead, even if it’s a New England team that hasn’t won back-to-back games this season.

“Absolutely, confidence and momentum have a life of their own that pervades the team psyche,” says John F. Murray, a Palm Beach, Fla., sports psychologist who has worked with NFL players.

“The greatest source of confidence is past success, so if you have a history of blowing it several times in a row, the tendency could be dwelling on that.”

Until the Colts end their six-game losing streak against the Patriots, adds Murray, “They’re facing two enemies, the team they’re facing, and their history.”

Roland A. Carlstedt, chairman of the American Board of Sport Psychology, says he has done extensive research on more than 40 teams and 700 athletes.

If a team has individuals with a negative predisposition about facing their opponent, said Carlstedt in an e-mail, “They go into a game over- or under-activated. They fear losing, experiencing a coach’s wrath. When the game is on, they are slower, weaker and lack mind-body control, dynamics that can be captured in EEG and heart-rate variability studies or monitoring.”

Carlstedt adds, “These types of players remain stuck in an anxious ‘thinking’ instead of a ‘just do it’ state that disrupts the fine mind-body control required for peak performance.”

Key game in season’s stretch

That description seemingly applies to Indianapolis when it plays New England, particularly in regard to football’s most important statistic, turnovers.

Since Dungy became head coach in 2002, Indianapolis trails only Kansas City for coming up with more turnovers than it gives up, with a plus-32 mark.

But in the four Dungy-coached games against New England, Indianapolis has committed 13 turnovers to the Patriots’ seven.

Since the Colts’ Manning era began in 1998, the turnover count in head-to-head games is New England 11, Indianapolis 34.

Says Dungy: “People that win big games are people that can function in a pressurized environment and do the same things that they do in a training-camp practice, and that’s what we have not done against New England in the past.”

Dungy adds, “We’ve gone up there and false-started on the first play of the game, when we haven’t had a penalty in four or five weeks.”

Says Colts receiver Brandon Stokley: “I don’t think they’ve been in our heads. They’ve played better than us, and that’s the bottom line.”

Defensive tackle Corey Simon, a Pro Bowler with Philadelphia before coming to Indianapolis as a free agent this season, rolls his eyes at the mention of the psychology factor.

“Psychology. Oh gosh,” says Simon. “This is football. It’s not psychology class. … This team needs to beat New England because that’s who we play this week. That’s the only reason.”

But another reason Indianapolis needs to win is that its second-half schedule gets notably tougher after an early slate that included Baltimore, Cleveland, Tennessee, San Francisco and Houston, who are a combined 9-27.

Coming up are Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Seattle, who are 16-6 combined.

“All we are is off to a good start,” Manning says. “We knew after this bye week the kind of stretch of football that we’re going to have. This should really tell the tale of what kind of team we are, what kind of team we have, starting on Monday.”

Offense + defense this time

A bigger factor than any New England mental edge might be that Indianapolis is a different team this year, grinding out long drives, throwing shorter passes and relying on its defense.

Last year, receivers Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Stokley had yards-per-catch averages ranging from 12.9 to 16.9 yards. This season, Wayne’s 11.8 average leads the Colts’ core group of receivers.

“I think we’ve surprised some people with our patience,” Manning says. “People say, ‘Boy, you must not like this. The defense is getting all the attention.’ I say, ‘You’ve got it all wrong. This is the way you should have it.’ ”

Last season Manning had 22 touchdown passes after seven games, en route to an NFL-record 49 and his second MVP. With only 11 so far, he grins while acknowledging that fantasy league players “aren’t happy with me. … We’ve got different priorities.”

Although Indianapolis scored an average of only 15.7 points its first three games, it since has averaged 35.5. And though Manning raised eyebrows with a 13-for-28 Week 2 performance against Jacksonville that generated just 122 passing yards, he since has completed 75% of his passes.

“When people say they’re slowing down, I don’t know what games they’re watching,” Belichick said at a news conference this week. “I’d like to be able to go out and average 35 points a game.”

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


Nov 4, 2005 – {Note from Dr. Murray: Phil Richards writes a good article in accurately describing the truth of winning streaks and losing streaks which cannot be ignored, but Phil will be the first to say that I did not in any way make a prediction on this game or claim that the Pats have the Colts number! He is simply using the headline to demonstrate that any team which has lost 6 straight to another team has to deal with this reality and remove that pink elephant from the room! He does not mention in this article that I also advised that any team facing this kind of challenge (similar to my rationale for the MPI in focusing on every play of the game) needs to focus only on every moment and every snap, and not on that big pink elephant in the room!}

Indianapolis Star – Phil Richards – If the subject is numbers, then consider these: The Indianapolis Colts have lost their past six games to New England, including playoff defeats that ended their 2003 and 2004 seasons. They have lost their past nine appearances in Foxborough, Mass., where they will meet the Patriots again this week on “Monday Night Football.”

In the vernacular of sport, New England might be said to have the Colts’ “number.”

“A lot of coaches will say, ‘That’s hogwash. Forget it.’ But you know what? You have to deal with reality, and the reality is you’ve lost how many in a row?” said John F. Murray, a Palm Beach, Fla., sports psychologist who has worked with NFL teams and players.

“Oftentimes, the solution is to forget the streak, but how do you do that? It’s like saying, ‘Let’s not think about this pink elephant in the middle of the room right now. Whatever you do, don’t think about this pink elephant.’ ”

Colts coach Tony Dungy is inclined to neither feed peanuts to that pink elephant, nor ignore it. His team will study its losses to New England, but only in an effort to learn, to improve, to get it right this time.

“I guess you can’t ignore it because it’s history,” Dungy said, “but it’s not going to have an effect on what happens in this game.”

John Rauch, Harvey Johnson, Lou Saban, Jim Ringo and Chuck Knox might have recited the same motto. They were Buffalo’s head coaches while the Bills were losing 20 consecutive games to Miami from 1970-79.
That the Bills were persistently pathetic through most of that stretch explains away much of the Dolphins’ magic. But Buffalo went 9-5 in 1973 and did it again in 1974. Of their 10 losses those two seasons, Miami inflicted four.

People were beginning to say that Tennessee had the Colts’ number when the Titans ended a 13-3 Colts season with a victory at the RCA Dome during the 1999 playoffs, then came back in 2002 to sweep the Colts and win the title in the new AFC South.

The Colts have climbed that mountain. They have won their past five games against the Titans.

“Now they’re probably saying we have Tennessee’s number,” Colts linebacker David Thornton said. “I’m not too big on people thinking, ‘I’ve got your number. We can always beat you.’

“This is a new team, a new season.” New team, fresh hopes

It is indeed a new team. A 38-34 loss to New England at the RCA Dome during the 2003 season cost the Colts home-field advantage and a first-round bye during the playoffs. The Colts had to go to Foxborough for the AFC Championship Game.

The Patriots won it 24-14 to advance to the Super Bowl. The Colts went home.Fewer than half of the 53 players from the 2003 Colts remain on the active roster. This is a new team.

Chris Carr, a sports psychologist with Methodist Sports Medicine Center, said research indicates that a focus on the present facilitates optimal performance.

Play not just one season at a time or even one game at a time. Play one snap at a time. Each snap is a game within a game; win enough snaps and the accumulation wins the game.

It also occupies the focus to the exclusion of distractions such as streaks, one team having the other’s number, and the rest.
That’s why Carr, who has worked with the Kansas City Royals the past six years, forbids his pupils’ use of the word “slump.”

“If you’re telling me you’re in a slump, that means you’re using a description of past performance, being 0-for-20, as an excuse for your next failure,” he said.

Carr used to work with the U.S. Ski team, and he remembers well Sports Illustrated’s preview of the 1994 Olympic Games at Lillehammer, Norway.
“They used the phrase ‘Uncle Sam’s lead-footed snowplow brigade,’ and that we hadn’t medaled since 1984,” Carr recalled. “It was a description of the past. Our athletes were able to go into the Olympics, Tommy Moe in particular, and be very focused on race day.”

Moe won the downhill gold and became the first U.S. skier since 1964 to win two medals. The U.S. won five, a team record.

“From a story line, it’s intriguing to say, ‘Here’s the history,’ ” Carr said. “From a performance standpoint, those past games in Foxborough should be totally irrelevant to Monday night.”

They will be as big a factor as the Colts let them.

That’s the opinion of Challace McMillin, a mental training coach who teaches psychology at James Madison University, where he founded the football program and spent many of his 20-plus seasons as an NCAA Division I-AA coach.

McMillin’s position echoed Carr’s and was supported by another sports psychologist who has worked with NFL players, Rutgers University psychology professor Jim Mastrich.

“Let’s say the first play of the game, quarterback sack, fumble and the Patriots recover,” Mastrich proposed. “The Colts have two choices: They can walk around with their heads down, ‘They’ve got our number. Who’s kidding whom? They’re going to beat us anyway.’

“Or they can say, ‘Let’s go. Every snap of the ballgame is a game within a game. Play it one snap at a time. This is the only thing that matters.’ ”
Unbeaten, unfulfilled

The Colts (7-0) are in an interesting position. They are the league’s lone unbeaten team. They are 31/2-point favorites to win where they haven’t won since 1995, where quarterback Peyton Manning is 0-9, where their trips to the Super Bowl have been canceled the past two seasons.

They know they will face adversity. New England (4-3) is hobbled by injury, struggling on defense and inconsistent in the running game, but it has the champion’s presence. It is proud and poised. It has won the Super Bowl three of the past four seasons.

And it has committed 11 turnovers against the Colts in 12 meetings since Manning moved under center in 1998. The Colts have committed 34.

“The past is the past,” Colts defensive tackle Montae Reagor said. “This is the now. The same way they hunt for us, we’ll hunt for them.

“We’re not going to panic. We’ve come too far. We’ve been through too much. We’ve had our share of ups and downs but we’ve grown as a team and we know how to handle those situations if they show up.”

The Colts have won 15 of their past 16 regular-season games. Winning, like losing, becomes a habit, and habits will collide Monday. The fire will be burning on both sides of the field.

“You have to channel it in the right way,” Dungy said. “People that win big games are people that can function in a pressurized environment and do the same thing they do in a training camp practice.

“That’s what we have not done against New England. We’ve gone there and false-started on the first play of the game. We’ve done those kinds of things, which you can’t do because it’s hard enough to beat a good team when you do everything right.”

Stay in the moment. Play the game snap by snap. The mottos are trite but true. The Colts know them. The pink elephant waits.

Record of futility

The Colts have gone 2-14 against the New England Patriots since 1996. The record:

Season Winner Score
1996 Patriots 27-9
1996 Patriots 27-13
1997 Patriots 31-6
1997 Patriots 20-17
1998 Patriots 29-6
1998 Patriots 21-16
1999 Patriots 31-28
1999 Colts 20-15
2000 Patriots 24-16
2000 Colts 30-23
2001 Patriots 44-13
2001 Patriots 38-17
2003 Patriots 38-34
*2003 Patriots 24-14
2004 Patriots 27-24
*2004 Patriots 20-3

* Playoff game.

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


Tennis Week -Oct 26, 2005 – Last month, Vince Spadea boldly guaranteed he will crack the top 10 and reach his highest career ranking in the coming year. Today, the 66th-ranked Spadea commenced his climb back up the rankings with one of his biggest wins of the season. Spadea defeated fourth-seeded Ivan Ljubicic, 7-6, 7-5, to advance to the second round of the Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon.

Drained by his grueling duel with second-ranked Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s Madrid final in which the top-seeded Spaniard rallied from a two-set deficit to earn a 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) triumph that spanned three hours, 51 minutes, Ljubicic was understandably weary playing his 16th match in the last 22 days.

The 11th-ranked Croatian, who captured consecutive championships in Metz and Vienna prior to reaching the Madrid final, had won 16 of his last 17 matches (including two Davis Cup singles victories in Croatia’s semifinal conquest of Russia) but encountered a stubborn Spadea who stood up to Ljubicic’s power-based baseline game and put returns back in play.

“I haven’t had enough time to recover from my week in Madrid. I lacked energy,” Ljubicic said. “I gave everything I had but it was not enough. I was not very optimistic after the draw here. I knew that Spadea was one of the few players on the circuit capable of returning my serves well. He confirmed it today.”

Since falling to Greg Rusedski in the Newport final in July, Spadea stumbled to 3-9 record and exited in the opening round in six of his last nine tournaments. But the strong-willed Spadea took the court carrying the confidence of a man who had won two of his three career meetings with Ljubicic, including a 6-4, 7-6 victory in the 2004 Lyon round of 16 en route to the tournament semifinals. Ljubicic’s lethal one-handed backhand is his best ground stroke, but Spadea used his two-handed backhand to repeatedly repel Ljubicic in the cross court backhand exchanges.

The 31-year-old Spadea will face French wild card Michael Llodra for a place in the quarterfinals. Llodra was a 7-6, 6-3 victor over Xavier Malisse. Spadea has won two of three matches with Llodra, but the left-handed Llodra won their last meeting in the 2004 Adelaide quarterfinals.

Spadea, top-seeded Andy Roddick and eighth-seeded Robby Ginepri are the lone Americans left in the Lyon draw.

In other opening-round results: France’s Fabrice Santoro defeated American Taylor Dent, 6-3, 7-5.

Spadea, who recently completed a book with Tennis Week contributing writer Dan Markowitz that is a behind-the-scenes look at life on the ATP Tour, told Tennis Week last month he will reach his highest career ranking in 2006.

“Comebacks are never easy, but they are a part of sports, and I’m quite ready and excited about this new challenge,” said Spadea, who has resumed working with sport psychologist Dr. John Murray in an effort to aid his comeback. “I will return to my highest ranking ever. I guarantee it!”

Related Story: Spadea Issues Top 10 Guarantee

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


Jun 12, 2005 – The NY Yankees have sent a brief supportive letter in favor of Dr. John F. Murray’s mission to tear down the stigma associated with sport psychology and mental health.

Thanks Yankees! Growing up, I was an avid Yankees fan in the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida area in the 1970s where they held Spring Training.

Alex Rodriguez, George Steinbrenner, and the NY Yankees organization should be commended for their support of sport psychology!

A-Rod is the best baseball player in history and the Yankees are the most successful sports franchise ever. It’s interesting how the best usually speak up first on important issues of needed change!

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


Seattle Times – Oct 22, 2006 – Richard Seven – Missy Boone listens to music on her iPod during her running workouts. Studies suggest that listening to music while exercising improves the results.

Dance with a Box: Tricia Gomez, designs and markets “Hip Hop in a Box,” a way to teach movement to children. It comes with DVDs, CDs, a workbook and flash cards. Gomez, a former Laker Girl, has been a dancer for 28 years and opened her first studio at 17. Her product is aimed mainly at children younger than 10. She says it is about giving kids direction without squashing their creativity. (

MY FIRST INSTINCT was to make fun of “Drums Alive” when I saw it at a fitness conference in Las Vegas. The inventor, Carrie Ekins, was flanked by two slim women in matching black Spandex and wristbands. They were using drumsticks to pound anchored fitness balls. The ballroom was packed and all the participants were mimicking every move, slapping the orbs, stepping here, twirling there, pounding balls with rhythmic precision.

A marching band with nowhere to go, I thought.

But as I sat back and watched, I recalled what powerful things drumming and music are. The focus was dead-on. The louder Ekins shouted over her headset the louder the crowd responded.

I’ve always appreciated the power of music as a motivator and leader, but “Drums Alive” led me to look a bit closer and realize it is more than a distraction, which is how I tend to use it.

Stacey Richards, fitness product manager for Power Music, estimates the U.S. and Canadian group-exercise market at about $15 million a year.

“There were 40 million club members in the U.S. as of 2004 and 50 million iPods sold by Apple,” Richards says. “Put the two together and you have a very large potential market for personal exercise music.”

Power Music is one of the largest and more established vendors. But there are many. At the same convention, I saw six music companies showing their wares, exhibiting titles like: “Feel My Energy #1” (145 bpm), “Ticket To Ride” (134 bpm) and “La Cumbianchera” (136 bpm). BPM is a measure of musical tempo or speed of a song. A song at 120 BPM contains two beats each second. The BPM is tailored to a specific activity. For example, a step workout is safest and most effective in the 120-to-130 bpm range, and a cardio floor workout can be anywhere between 130 and 160 bpm. A bpm in the 122-to-140 range is great for mid- to fast-paced workouts, such as walking, elliptical and cardio machines.

“It’s about body mechanics and matching tempo to the movement,” says Richards. “The effectiveness of the music in the workout will depend on the energy of the individual song choices, the flow and energy of the song order and the ideal beats per minute related to the intended use or workout.”

Seattle’s Karen Moyer uses Power Music ( tapes to power the spinning classes she teaches at her Magnolia studio, Go Legs (

“My classes are all about the music,” she says. “It gets me and everyone else excited and into it. It makes all the difference.”

Does it really make a difference? Some studies suggest so. One by Farleigh Dickinson University, tracking 41 overweight or obese women, found that women who used portable CD players on their walking workouts lost more weight and body fat than those who didn’t use the devices over a six-month period.

“Walking to music seemed to really motivate the women in our study to get out there and stick with the commitment they made,” wrote researcher Christopher Capuano.

Another study looked at the effect of different music tempos on athletic intensity and performance. Subjects pedaled a stationary bicycle for an hour while listening to music of varying tempo. The subjects were free to ride as hard or easily as they felt. Predictably, speed and power output increased as the tempos did.

The music companies emphasize the optimal fitness music beat, but many of us tend to be more informal. I always listen to an iPod when I walk or jog. It distracts me. I forget about the chore and drift off. I also subtly ramp up with faster songs and chill on the slower. You could call it my own informal and unscientific bit of interval training.

Sports performance psychologist John F. Murray uses music with his athletes. It inspires, soothes and provides focus. But too often, he said, we use it strictly to tune out, which is not always a good thing. Sometimes, you need focus. You also need to be in touch with your limits on each particular day or outing. You can’t let Bob Dylan, of all people, to push you too far. Also, turn the sound down a smidge and save your eardrums. Also, don’t get so taken with the music that you forget your surroundings. Cars and creeps are out there.

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


Special to – Oct 22, 2005 – Dan Weil – As sports have turned into big business, the use of sport psychologists has mushroomed. Teams and athletes are looking for any kind of edge they can get, and experts are quick to point out that the mental game is key to athletic performance.

Roland Carlstedt, chairman of the American Board of Sports Psychology and a sport psychologist himself, estimates that up to two-thirds of professional teams have hired practitioners to help give their players a mental edge. “It’s a very glamorous field,” he noted.

John Murray, a 43-year-old psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida is one of the major psychologists in sports. He played tennis tournaments as a youngster and began his career as a teaching tennis pro after graduating from Loyola University in New Orleans.

The more he learned about tennis, the more he got excited about the mental aspects of the game. “I started to realize just how important it was to performance,” Murray said. So he went back to school at the University of Florida to earn a Master’s and PhD degree in psychology. He wrote his dissertation about a national championship Gators team during the 1990s and in ’99 opened a private practice.

Murray has counseled the Miami Dolphins, Olympic diver Michelle Davison and numerous golf and tennis players. “My philosophy is very simple,” he said. “I’m helping athletes improve their mental skills.” He breaks those skills down into eight categories, including resiliency. “How do you recover from the loss of a point, a game or a match?” Murray said. “You have to be vigilant to keep your passion and joy.”

Part of Murray’s work is helping athletes reduce distractions â€â€?”anything that gets in the way of pure performance,” as he put it. “It could be a personal issue. It could be that you’re wasting too much time in social situations or doing too much media. I help you dump some of that stuff to free up your mind and body to perform.”

While some sports psychologists are either pure sports science teachers with no training in treatment of personal problems or pure psychologists with no training in sports, Murray offers experience in both areas.

One of the techniques common to sports psychologists is getting athletes to think in terms of taking small steps rather than solving all their problems in one fell swoop. “I had an NFL quarterback who was struggling,” Murray said.

“He was taking it all on himself, not realizing he had a whole team around him. I came in and gave him a lot of work on imagery and relaxation â€â€? small steps without trying to do it all at once.” The result: “He relaxed and broke his slump after we intervened,” Murray said.

Among the imagery he had the quarterback go through was to lie on his back for five to 10 minutes visualizing situations where he dropped back to pass, faced pressure, found his primary receiver covered, checked off and completed short passes to his secondary receivers.

“Like Napoleon said, battles are won before soldiers go to the field,” Murray said. “There are a lot of things you can do.”

Pro tennis player Vince Spadea is certainly happy with what Murray did for him. After reaching his top world ranking of 19 in 1999, Spadea fell on hard times. He endured a record 21-match losing streak that lasted until mid-2000 before he decided to seek help.

A sports psychologist helped Vince Spadea reverse career free-fall that included a 21-match losing streak. (Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

Several businessmen mentioned to him that they utilized performance therapists. “And these people are looking for the best team money can buy,” Spadea said. So he realized maybe there was something to it. “I’d heard about golfers using psychologists and with tennis being similar, I just said to myself, I need to go about this more professionally.”

So he decided to consult Murray. “I had to start from the drawing board,” Spadea said. “I’d fallen to No. 250 in the world. John’s technique involved taking little steps.” During weekly sessions, Murray helped Spadea focus on an agenda of what he wanted to accomplish. They put together a plan for every day.

“I didn’t like traveling on a plane, so John taught me relaxation breathing techniques,” Spadea said. “You work your mind up so much that sometimes you don’t feel great or hit well. We started with these small remedies and got to the point where we figured out what we wanted out of each element of practice and what was my intention for a ranking. We made all of these objectives and put them on paper.”

It obviously worked because Spadea won his first ATP tournament last year and reached a career-high ranking of 18 earlier this year. But after a recent slump pushed him down to a ranking of 55, he felt he needed another jump start. So earlier this month, Spadea, with Murray’s encouragement, issued a guarantee that he will break into the top 10 next year.

“I want to get passionate in doing something I’ve never done before,” Spadea said. “I want to challenge people who don’t think it’s possible and to challenge myself.”

One of the country’s most prominent sport psychologists is Fran Pirozzolo. He worked with the New York Yankees from 1996-2002 and also consulted with boxer Evander Holyfield. Now, he is the psychologist for the Houston Texans and serves more than a dozen men and women golfers.

“I start by listening,” Pirozzolo said in an E-mail interview. “The act of listening isn’t as simple as it sounds. This is why it takes years of training to be a psychoanalyst.” After listening to his clients’ needs, Pirozzolo works with them to set up a training model. Sometimes he puts together a guided visual imagery CD to boost mental toughness. “We set goals. We communicate on the phone. I watch them play. I go to the range with them in the case of golfers, or I caddy for them.”

While Murray and Pirozzolo make a good living from their work, many sport psychologists don’t. And Carlstedt, chairman of the American Board of Sport Psychology, seeks to make the field more professional. He is developing a code of protocol for sport psychologists.

“The establishment is still not convinced about the worth of sport psychology; so it isn’t paying what it should,” Carlstedt said. “Million-dollar decisions about players are being based on rudimentary information, and teams are letting people who talk their way into the job get access to players.”

Dan Weil is a frequent contributor.

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


Oct 7, 2005 – Bloomberg Radio, CNN Radio (derived from 2003, 2004, and 2005 on-air interviews of John F. Murray by Bob Goldsholl, host of Bloomberg on the Ball, and others) – The Mental Performance Index or “MPI” is the first ever measure of mental performance used in sport, in this case American Football.

The index was developed by Dr. John F. Murray, a licensed clinical and sport performance psychologist in 2002 to demonstrate the importance of mental factors in football such as “pressure management,” “focused execution,” and “reduction of mental errors.”

In three major public tests of the accuracy of the MPI on radio and television stations worldwide, the MPI has accurately estimated the performance of the teams in the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXXVII 2003, Super Bowl XXXVIII 2004, and Super Bowl XXXIX 2005), beating the spread each time, going counter to public opinion, and correctly estimating the ultimate course of the games.

In 2003 the Oakland Raiders were favored to win easily over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The MPI showed that Tampa Bay, by contrast, was much better.

In 2004 and 2005, the MPI analysis showed the teams to be relatively equal with a very close contest even though the New England Patriots were predicted to win by at least 7 points in each game.

The 2004 game was tied with 4 seconds remaining (3 point New England win) and the 2005 game was the first game in Super Bowl history to be tied entering the final quarter of play. New England won by 3.

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


National Post of Canada – Oct 6, 2005 – Mark Spector – EDMONTON – The National Hockey League’s lockout lasted 301 days, with the two factions finally settling in July. As such, last night’s games marked the most anticipated slate on Opening Night since players with names like Newsy, Hap and Punch wore striped sleeves and handlebar moustaches.

In Canada, at least, the curtain raising for the 2005-06 season made more noise coming down the tracks than the time CP Rail showed up in the west. Yesterday morning at Rexall Place in Edmonton, there was the staff during the morning skate, scurrying about the building like army ants. Entire walls were prepped and waiting to be painted. Back-lit advertising signs were being assembled and ratcheted on to walls. Scissor lifts were drowning out media scrums with their “Beep! Beep Beep!” as they were being backed up right outside the Oilers dressing room.

It was like walking in the door at 5 p.m. on Christmas Day and having your hostess lean over to her husband and say, “Honey? Can you run down and get the turkey out of the freezer?”

“Didn’t have enough time to get it done?” laughed retired goalie Bill Ranford sarcastically, well out of earshot of one of the painters. Ranford was scheduled to work as an analyst on the Colorado-Edmonton game last night and was expecting to do a decent job of it. Though he had never actually done a real, live, televised NHL game before being pressed into service with TSN’s talent wearing thin yesterday, as they televised four games on opening night.

But if the building manager clearly wasn’t prepared for the big night, and the colourman was only quasi-ready, then they fit perfectly with a league that put out the welcome mat last night on 15 fronts without a clue to what was going to happen next.

Small players hoping that the new rules would help them prosper; big players hoping those same rules wouldn’t drive them out of the game; coaches and general managers praying that they had properly read the tea leaves, and stocked their lineups with kind of player who will succeed in The New NHL; officials praying they will be given time to deliver on all of the promises this time around, before coaches and managers bullied them back into the Andy VanHellemond era.

And above all the concern, a handful of U.S. markets were praying for a healthy walk-up crowd, knowing that whatever opening night brought, the next 10 home games would deliver about 20% less — if they were lucky.

“I don’t think you’ll see such dramatic changes,” Hamilton native Steve Staios said of The New NHL. “There will be some advantages for guys, and some disadvantages for others. Not being a 225-pound defenceman, I think that’s going to be an advantage for me personally.”

Out in the hallway, Staios’s coach was standing amid the construction, levelling off optimism against a realistic view.

“It will be a work in progress,” Craig MacTavish said. “We like to think, as everybody would at this stage, that we’re progressing and we have our teams prepared. But there will be things that crop up. Every coach is saying we don’t want to struggle with the learning curve early on. But some will.”

Because as we know, the more things the NHL tries to change, the more things have tended to stay the same. Not unlike the media, for that matter.

The first glove had not dropped on the 2005-06 season when the first anti-fighting rant moved on the Bloomberg News wire, courtesy of one Scott Soshnick. “Fighting in hockey is idiotic,” said Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach, Fla., sports psychologist whose clients range from football and tennis players to golfers. “Hockey is playing with the dinosaurs if they continue endorsing fist fights and responding with mere slaps on the wrists.”

The average Canadian may have trouble sticking with the piece however, past the point where the author felt a need to qualify a mention of Slap Shot as a movie “which centres on a minor-league hockey team.”

No kidding? Might have to rent that one.

Finally, our author pondered of the Bros. Hansen: “Exaggeration? Or is it art imitating life?”

Thank God hockey is back, so that people in hotbeds like Palm Beach, Fla., can air views intended for the consumption of others who also could not care less about the game.

Take solace, America. Many of you who seem bothered by seeing a couple Canadians bash each others heads in as you channel surf between college basketball games this winter will be spared by the fact that 26 million fewer homes in the United States were able to watch last night’s openers than two years ago, when ESPN and ESPN2 were league partners.

After ESPN dropped the NHL the Outdoor Life Network came forward, wedging the NHL into a spot in their schedule between fishing and hunting. That downgrade marks a trend that can not be swept under the red carpet even on opening night.

Back in 1993-94, Walt Disney Corp. and Wayne Huizenga’s Blockbuster Videos bought into the NHL, bringing a large dose of legitimacy to the league as owners in Anaheim and Florida respectively. A decade later, Disney having has cut its losses, and Huizenga has brought in a slew of partners to lighten his load. In St. Louis, Wal-Mart heir Bill Laurie can’t wait for the new economy to take effect — he has the Blues on the block.

They have all learned, in sunny climes in the U.S. South, the Southwest and even the Midwest, what actor and comedian Chris Rock explained to Sports illustrated last month:

“Hockey is like heroin,” Rock said. “Only drug addicts do heroin. It’s not like a recreational drug … Hockey is kind of the same way. Only hockey fans watch hockey.”

There will be plenty of talk in the coming weeks if there are enough in places like Anaheim and Florida and Carolina, and if the ones that were there two years ago have made their way back.

But we were spared all of that for a few, precious hours last night, as our game fired up again after its blackest era. As if we weren’t going to be watching.

We’re Canadian. What else were we going to be doing?
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.