Posts Tagged ‘mental skills training’

Sports Psychology Workshop in London with Dr. John F Murray

Sports Psychology Workshop featuring Dr. John F. Murray.

LONDON, March 7, PRNewswire — You’ve heard of spoons mysteriously bending and breaking. But tennis rackets? This is a very exciting weekend for an exclusive group of tennis players in London intent on improving their mental game and having fun. USA Sport psychologist, Dr. John F. Murray presents a series of workshops on March 11, 12 and 13 assisted by Barry Cowan, the player who took Pete Sampras to 5 sets at Wimbledon in 2001, and LTA Tennis Coach Paul Barton.

Uri Geller, a personal friend of Dr. Murray, agreed to make a guest  appearance on one of the three days, bend a tennis racket, and give a one-hour inspirational message. Spaces are limited to 12 tennis players each day, at any level of play above age 10.

Participants receive a full-day of coaching, complete mental skills workshop (on and off-court), personal sport psychology evaluation conducted by Dr. Murray, the same one he used to help Vincent Spadea (Current #18 on ATP Tour) overcome the longest losing streak in tennis history, and a full year of mental coaching via computer with Dr. Murray.

Guests will also receive a personally signed copy of Dr. Murray’s book  “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game” cover endorsed by Wimbledon Champion Lindsay Davenport. Dr. Murray’s workshops are sponsored primarily by my hotel Chelsea and the David Lloyd Club Raynes Park (site of the event). All LTA tennis coaches earn 6 license points for attending. While working regularly with a sport psychologist would normally cost over 5,000 pounds sterling for the year, it is being offered here at a promotional rate for only 250 pounds! There are only several places remaining and players are accepted on a first come first serve basis.

Reserve your place by contacting Dr. Murray at drjohn@smarttennis.com, calling him directly in the United States at: 561-596-9898, or contacting Mr. Paul Barton in London at info@Londontennis.co.uk, Tel: 020 8789 0482, Fax: 020 8789 0479.

For more information and the brochure, just go to http://www.JohnFMurray.com and click the News and Events tab.

Dr. John F. Murray is available for workshops, and public speaking events on the importance of mental skills improvement and sports psychology.

Students Wishing to Become Sports Psychologists Should Read This

Do You Want to Become a Sports Psychologist?

Where does the field and the science of sports psychology stand today in 2013?  In a nutshell, it is still an emerging science and profession that is often cloaked in mystery and ignorance. Part of the problem is that there are so few people who have actually become fully licensed and legitimate psychologists who specialize in sport. Another aspect is that to become a licensed psychologist and sports psychologist who can see clients independently and provide both mental training for sports and more general psychotherapy too, you have to obtain training and experience in two vastly different disciplines: psychology and the sports sciences. Understanding the field and profession of sports psychology can be difficult at best!

Ponder the implications for a second. Psychologists are social scientists who usually come from an orientation of helping others through careful listening, understanding, reflecting and providing a needed therapeutic intervention for mental distress. Of course there are exceptions but I believe I speak for many. Now contrast that with the role of a competitive sports psychologist like myself, coming from a sports and coaching background, whose mission is more likely to help my clients win the Super Bowl, become the heavyweight champion of the world, or find the strike zone better in baseball. Whereas one profession is associated with “therapeutic” and gentle caring, the other is directed toward helping athletes sharpen their fighting skills to destroy their opponent! Imagine the sea of potential differences!

In some ways this contrast in styles is true and in some ways not, as even top prize fighters need therapy at times and even depressed middle aged managers need to perform better in their weekend bowling leagues! Of course, extreme contrasts are more salient in memory than fine nuances or technical differences. The fact is that to help an athlete or team in a profession that is known as sports psychology, you really would be well suited if you could offer a broad range of skills acquired through a total and complete exposure to both sports and the various sports sciences, as well as all that professional psychology has to offer. It is the merger of these two often contradictory and different disciplines – the various sports sciences and psychology – that produces state of the art applied sports psychology today. Mental toughness is rooted in a lot of training and experience!

Training for this profession is never easy or rapid, and only the most persistent and completely focused graduate students and beginning professionals will even stand a chance of gaining specialization in two totally separate academic disciplines that appear so different.  Patience and practical experience in these two areas is needed. Try to find a supervisor to help you gain the hours needed for a state license and it is not easy at all as there are so few psychologist/sports psychologists. Those not licensed by definition cannot supervise. It is a classic catch 22!

While psychology programs for years have been organized to provide academic and professional training opportunities (after WWII injured soldiers’ needs led to the creation of vast internship opportunities at VA Hospitals), similar programs in sports science departments have not been nearly so well organized and usually do not exist. As a result, a student going through a sports science program is not likely to obtain the hands on training gained by his psychology student counterpart even if he or she is exposed to marvelous research and literature, ideas and dogma. In a similar way, the psychology student does not receive sports science training because the courses do not usually exist in those areas in a psychology department. The key for the student is independent thinking and resourcefulness, and mental toughness too.

As a general rule in life, we become who we are surrounded by. The sober truth is that if you go to a sports science program you will become just that – a sports scientist – because your mentors will be those people.   The same holds true in reverse with those being trained by psychologists. This all further highlights the fact that to gain this training and experience students need to be extremely open-minded, creative, and flexible. In my own pursuits as a graduate student, I started in a sports science program, got a masters degree, and was fortunate to jump ships and gain admittance to a totally different world – a clinical psychology doctoral program. It was like going from a football stadium during homecoming to a university library on Spring Break. The world of contrasts jumped out at you. Students in sports sciences tended to be fitter, more jock-like, and less rigorous academically. This is not to say that the jocks were lacking intelligence or that the egg-heads lacked in physical coordination, but there was a clear distinction between blue and white collars, GPA, GRE scores, educational background, sports experience and more.

The same contrasts held true for practical training opportunities in each program. The psychology part was easy to gain since the system is set up for that. The hardest part for me was to find an internship (the last year of any PhD program in professional psychology) that was both APA accredited as a psychology internship but also with a full year training program in sports psychology. You might be shocked to hear this, but it was the only accredited psychology internship in the country with this dual designation! I had been granted a truly rare internship and this was going to help me become the sports psychologist I had always wanted to become.

The following year this pattern continued with a similar set-up of working with athletes on my post-doctoral fellowship at FIU in Miami where I was hired in the counseling center, but did a lot of outreach to the athletic department and the various teams and coaches. I was able to work with athletes and teams on many issues including performance enhancement with a tennis team that had their best season in history (the same happened the previous year on internship with the tennis team) as well as working with general students through the counseling center.

While you may not have the opportunity or time to gain training in separate graduate school programs like I did, you don’t need to lose hope or give up. You might consider looking into some programs that did not exist when I was in school. You can also gain this experience in the community once you finish your formal studies, and one way is to pay a current practicing sports psychologist for extra supervision until you are qualified (usually 2000 hours after the doctorate of supervised work).

The main message here is that the bare minimum to be able to practice this profession independently, ethically and legally, compels you to obtain training, supervision, and academics in two arenas that may seem worlds apart. You definitely need a state license to practice. There is no getting around that if you want to practice independently.

If you think getting entry into this field is hard, you are right. But don’t lose hope. It is possible to do what you love. I do it. With persistence anything is possible and what is nice about the challenges in getting properly educated and credentialed is that it nicely mirrors what we are asking our athletes and teams to do on a regular basis! Just as they need to achieve and become one of the top 1% of 1% of 1%, those who make it into this profession are often the hardest workers who just refuse to quit or give in, even to monetary pressures!

I am hopeful that more get into this profession so that more know about sports psychology. I often feel like I am fighting an uphill but winning battle in letting others know about it and that is why I am so grateful to the media for helping me spread the good word.

Whether you are a sailor, salesman, stock broker or sports psychology student, never give up on your dreams. Work hard and you will find that your luck increases! Did I really say that? I am supposed to be a scientist! I am just kidding. Let’s get real. And let’s tune into sports psychology! If the most basic need in life is survival, and sports psychology teaches and trains people to survive and even thrive better, then by definition a huge key to life is sports psychology and what it offers!

There are great benefits for athletes, coaches, managers and owners for fully integrating this sports psychology science and profession into their training and programs. If you want to get into the profession, you have to battle and hang in there and battle again, and never lose hope. You really get to use the skills you teach others! With effort you can make it in this exciting science and profession of success. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of sports psychology and I would be happy to help you on your career course by answering any questions.

Sports Psychologist Dr. John F Murray Launches New Podcast Tips on Mental Skills

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hear All the Podcasts Here. They are Posted One Week After Appearing on Kiki Vale’s Radio Show Site in Chicago.

Palm Beach, Florida – July 21, 2009 – Athletes, business executives, sales associates, and performing artists just gained a new source of information and inspiration for their performances at work and play. Dr. John F Murray, clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida, today launched a new podcast program consisting of brief two minute sports psychology segments. The first show on confidence was posted today on Chicago radio show host Kiki Vale’s website.

“Kiki has had me as a guest on her popular Chicago radio show about six or seven times over the years we’ve developed a great rapport and friendship as we share the same passion for helping others with cutting edge advice. She loves sports psychology and I’m thrilled to be able to share my tips with her listeners,” said Murray.

Dr. Murray is the author of the best-selling book “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game.” He has written hundreds of columns in popular magazines and appears on national television and radio to discuss the psychology of sport. Murray has been pegged “the most quoted psychologist in America” with almost daily contributions to thousands of newspapers including USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. The Washington Post called Murray the “Freud of Football” and Tennis Week magazine called him the “Roger Federer of Sports Psychologists.”

Video on Mental Benefits of Stretching

Sports Psychology Tip #3 – John F. Murray, Ph.D. – Stretching before any athletic competition is very smart. The physical benefits are obvious, but what you might not realize is that this helps remarkably to relax the athlete and get them ready mentally too.

While on a coaching trip with my client Vince Spadea who was playing a tournament in Chicago in July, 2009, I spoke with him about how stretching helps him with his performance.

Enjoy this video at:

Dr. John F Murray Talks Sports Psychology on NY Baseball Digest

Sports Psychology Interview with Dr. John F. Murray

Click here to hear Dr. John F. Murray in a 20 minute interview with Mike Silva of New York Baseball Digest

This interview was conducted on May 28, 2009

Head Games on the Diamond

Charleston Mercury – May 7, 2009 – Spencer Broom – Three seconds on the clock. Your team is down by two against your hated rival, and Joe the Kicker is lined up 42 yards away on the right hash, wind barely brushing against the flags in the distance, the crowd tantalizingly silent.

The whistle blows, bodies begin clashing. The snap, the hold, the kick is up….

Fundamentally, only two results can occur in this scenario. Either ol’ Joe misses it, sending you and your buddies to the car in a foul mood and cursing the relationship you have with your team. Or Joe becomes your new hero and is carried off the field as the toast of the town, not to be forgotten in the near future.

Yet, despite those two reasonably simple and contrasting outcomes, the variables that are put into play as foot meets ball can go much deeper than plain leg strength.

Just ask Dr. John F. Murray, one of the premier sports psychologists in the world.

“There is an art and a science to understanding how each player ticks and also how to be able to bring out the best in that person,â€? Murray said via phone from Palm Beach, Florida, where he runs his practice. “You have your talent, your physical skills, and then you have your mental skills. Those all go together with effort to determine performance, and how well you perform determines whether you win or lose.â€?

Murray, dubbed “The Roger Federer of Sports Psychologistsâ€? by Tennis Week and “The Freud of Footballâ€? by the Washington Post, has been providing sports psychology along with clinical psychology services to help individuals, organizations and teams succeed for over 14 years, not to mention writing a best-selling book, Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game.

While it seems fans and media types alike would prefer our athletes to be cut from the mold of Terminator – robot seeking to destroy the opposition without so much as a glitch – it is a vision that is confounded by real human deficiencies.

Athletes struggle with common problems like everyone else, problems such as anxiety, low confidence or improper management that unavoidably effect performance, Murray says. He estimates about 80 percent of the people he sees are seeking to perform better in their individual sports.

Murray has worked with individual athletes from tennis players – he has played and coached tennis including an ATP professional at the Australian Open — to quarterbacks, as well as entire teams, and says one of the most common issues he encounters is athletes that perform well in practice but can’t reach the same level of performance in live game situations.

Yogi Berra once stated, “Baseball is 90 percent mental — the other half is physical.â€? And though Yogi’s math was a bit rusty, the basic principle holds true in all sports.

“If you ask any group, ‘How important do you consider mental skills?’ depending on the sport you will get inevitably people raising their hands and saying 70,80,90 percent,â€? Murray explains. “Then if you ask, if its 70-90 percent, how often do you train your mental skills, how much time do you spend on that in your training time, they will always say 5 percent to nothing.â€?

The lack of training represents the challenge for a sports psychologist. Nearly everyone recognizes the magnitude of the mind in athletics, yet it is hardly practiced enough, like, say, offensive or defensive drills.

“That’s the gap that you are filling,â€? Murray says of the function of a sports psychologist. “You’re a high performance advantage to somebody with the science of success that’s derived from many years of solid research, in both psychology and the sports sciences.â€?

A bit of the research that Murray mentions includes his own Mental Performance Index (MPI), which is a measure of an overall football team’s performance in a game by looking at every meaningful play and including mental aspects of performance. He calls it the percentage of perfection.

Progress is obviously being made within the field, though Murrays says it is difficult to gauge the overall awareness.

However, one needs to look no further than the recent NFL draft to see the influence of sports psychology. Amidst 400 pound bench presses and 4.4 40-yard dashes, more and more professional organizations, specifically the NFL, are taking the time to administer psychological assessments, especially among skill position players (namely quarterbacks) in the scouting stage of amateur players.

With money on the line, teams are attempting to slim the chances of wasting a big payday on a player who shows signs of psychological immaturity or imbalance that weren’t correctly taken into account. In sports, the mind is gaining ground on the legs and arms in terms of usefulness on the field of play.

But Murray still sees plenty of room for growth.

“[Professional leagues] are not doing it preventively or proactively,â€? Murray says. He is currently working on a book based on football and psychology. “Usually what they do, they have people they pull from when they need them, when there is a problem they can’t solve. In my opinion, that is putting a bandage on it after it’s too late. “

Murray would prefer consistent contact with athletes in order to understand their needs fully, their strengths and weaknesses, thereby developing an ongoing plan to move forward with accordingly.

He rehashes on a time he approached former (2000- 2004) Miami Dolphins and current Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt about bringing in a sports psychologist for regular office hours to work with the players as needed. His idea was rebuffed. And a “we’ll call you when we need youâ€? attitude was given in return.

“For a league that is so invested in success and professionalism, that’s really the thinking,â€? Murray says. He cites a Good Old Boy system that is prevalent within coaching ranks that would rather utilize more of their own former teammates and coaches to come in and speak with their players than a sports psychologist.

Small steps seem to be the most prudent approach at this point in time for sports psychologists in professional sports. Know that we’re here and we can help you; just let us show you is the mantra right now.

Murray, who says that there are fewer than a handful who make their living exclusively practicing sports psychology, which might a potential roadblock to growth, wants to assist others the way he did professional tennis player Vince Spadea. Spadea suffered from the longest losing streak in ATP history; after working with Murray, he rose from 300 in the world to the top 10.

A broken psyche, a wounded confidence or a misguided culture within a team or program is truly where Murray’s field begins.

“It’s just being able to help that person in a professional way to perform at his or her highest level, to do it in a systematic, ongoing training way,â€? says Murray. “There are so many possibilities that could be affecting that person because we are all so complex.â€?

One athlete’s problems can be complex enough, but when you begin to imagine a full squad of players there is an innumerable amount of psychological variables that can have a profound impact on a team’s success, or lack thereof.

The easiest and most common expression thrown on a sports entity that has struggled over a number of years is curse. Murray scoffs at the word, calling it ridiculous. And what sports psychologist wouldn’t? Because for every Chicago Cub’s Curse of the Billy Goat that is still ongoing, there is a Boston Red Sox Curse of the Bambino that has been seemingly broken. Does anyone even remember the Red Sox “curseâ€? anymore?

Changing a losing culture, Murray says, can only take a small dose of success, breaking through the wall of low confidence. Though he does believe the past influences the present and the future, Murray points to a famous Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.â€?

Finding the happy medium of personalities to productively lead a team along with correct psyche is essential.

Take a team like Murray’s own Miami Dolphins. For the past decade, a once proud organization had been reduced to nothing more than a laughingstock, barely sniffing anything remotely close to a winning record. Then enters the rough and tough disciplinarian Bill Parcells, a man who will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame with two Super Bowl rings. As the new vice president of football operations prior to last season, he begins to transform the mentality within the team through personnel and coaching moves and — boom! — they are AFC East champions in 2008.

“What he does, being tough on his players, making sure things are done the right way, is very similar to what a sports psychologist does,â€? Murray says. “What we are doing as sports psychologists is taking it to another level, being available to the players and understanding much deeper so we can help the Bill Parcells of the world have their players perform even better.â€?

All in all, psychology and its use in sports is still in the infancy stages, and Murray says he will know they have progressed past that when his phone is ringing off the hook from the likes of the Yankees and the Dolphins, though the foundation that has already been laid creates optimism for the future of the field.

So next time Joe the Kicker lines up for the game winner, perhaps he will have the security in knowing that when the ball is in the air he has been prepared to perform at the peak of his ability, physically and mentally.

By the way, the kick was good. Now everyone can go home happy.

Press Enterprise

Jun 9, 2005 – Jim Alexander – The most important talisman of Cal State Fullerton’s run to the 2004 College World Series championship may have been the toilet.

You probably saw it if you watched any of ESPN’s coverage last June. It was a tiny porcelain replica, perched on a shelf in the dugout whenever the Titans played. The object wasn’t to take a bat to it after a particularly aggravating strikeout, but to use it as a reminder to flush away a bad at-bat or a bad pitch — to focus on the task at hand and not be distracted by previous failures.

The powerful reminder was the work of Ken Ravizza, a professor in the school’s Division of Kinesiology and Health Science. The success that followed was another boon to the growing, maturing relationship between sport and psychology.

“Mental skills training,” it’s called. Athletes spend a lot of time on strengthening their bodies and honing their mechanics, but there’s also an increasing emphasis on the way the brain affects performance.

Yes, it may be too new age in some quarters, where the macho, I-can-fix-my-own-problems attitude still applies and some coaches and managers feel threatened by outside advice.

Still, when the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez recently acknowledged that he was undergoing therapy to deal with personal issues, it may have busted some more barriers.

“I think it’s definitely becoming more and more accepted, simply because of the influence that the mental side has on performance,” said John F. Murray, a sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla., in a telephone interview. “Often, the difference between winning and losing, or between performing well and not performing well, is how you manage the enormous amount of potential distractions.”

Fullerton’s baseball team, which continues defense of its national title in an NCAA super regional at home against Arizona State beginning Friday, seems a classic example of what happens when you tend to the mind as well as the body.

Flash back to early April 2004. Ravizza, who teaches courses in sport philosophy, applied sport psychology and stress management at Fullerton, received a call from Titans coach George Horton seeking help. Nothing else was working: CSUF was 15-16 and out of the national Top 25, and Horton was out of ideas and out of patience.

Ravizza’s first words to the team: “I don’t know why you are feeling so sorry for yourselves. You have the chance to make the biggest comeback in Cal State Fullerton history.”

In individual and group sessions, Ravizza worked on players’ confidence, focus and sense of team, while providing methods to cope with pressure and stress. He started the momentum and the team took it the rest of the way, winning 32 of its last 38 games and the school’s fourth national championship.

“I saw guys who were insecure, who had lost their confidence,” Ravizza said in an interview with Athletic Management magazine. “I saw guys who couldn’t focus. Mostly, I saw guys who were trying too hard and not getting results. And the harder they tried, the worse it got. And as it got worse, they had no strategies except to try even harder. And ‘try harder’ never works. You have to have something else to go to.”

Ravizza has worked with the Angels, the Nebraska and Arizona State football programs, UCLA’s softball team and a number of U. S. Olympic teams in different sports. And he’s pulled off the neat trick of advising both Fullerton and its baseball arch-rival, Long Beach State.

“He’s really wonderful at rolling up his sleeves and digging up the dirt with the guys,” said Sue Ziegler, a sports psychologist at Cleveland State University, in a phone interview. “He’s a guy’s guy. He’s very effective in terms of communicating, giving you quick and easy strategies that you can implement right off the bat.”

The lessons continue with the 2005 Titans. During last weekend’s regional tournament at Fullerton, Titans outfielder Sergio Pedroza was asked about dealing with a recent hitting slump and whether his approach changed.

“I did the same thing,” he told reporters. “I stuck with the process. I wasn’t getting rewarded. Sometimes it happens in hitting. I talked to Ken Ravizza and he told me it (slump’s end) was going to happen eventually as long as you don’t let it get to you.”

The field of sports psychology, or at least the study of the mind’s effects on performance, goes back as far as the early 1900s, when Indiana University psychologist Norman Triplett determined that cyclists rode faster in groups or pairs than they did when alone. Coleman Griffith of the University of Illinois began more expansive research on sports in the 1920s, and actually did some consulting for the Chicago Cubs for a time in the late 1930s.

But sports psychology didn’t take off until the 1970s, after Eastern Bloc success in the Olympic Games prompted people in this country to take a closer look at the techniques the other side was using.

Today, athletic departments such as Penn State and Oklahoma employ full-time sports psychologists. Most other schools — such as Fullerton, with Ravizza, or UC Riverside, which borrows Bob Corb from the school’s Counseling Center — will use a sports psychologist on an occasional or as-needed basis. Some professional organizations retain psychologists as consultants, and a greater number of individual sport athletes have sought help.

“(Golfer) Brad Faxon said that in 1984 if you worked with a sports psychologist, people thought you were weird,” Murray said. “Now if you don’t work with a sports psychologist, people think you’re weird.”

After all, the most important muscle is often the one between the ears.

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