Posts Tagged ‘sport psychologist’

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.

Step Into My Office

Take a virtual tour of my office located in the historic Paramount Building in sunny Palm Beach, Florida.

John F. Murray, Ph.D.
Sports and Clinical Psychologist
The Paramount Building
139 North County Road Suite 18C
Palm Beach, Florida 33480
Phone: 561-596-9898
Fax: 561-805-8662
johnfmurray@mindspring.com

Beijing Olympics: Competition looms

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 13, 2008 – Thursday Early Morning
The day began with the most delicious won ton soup on this side of the Great Wall!
I went back twice to the special hotel soup bar, quite analogous to a nice omelet station in an American hotel. This morning’s “snake sausage” was replaced with “link sausage” so I curiously asked the hotel staff if it was snake meat and they bent over backwards in apologies – explaining that it was just a typographical error on the sign above the food, and then sent me a huge beautiful basket of fruit to my room as a gesture of apologies.

My goodness, I did not expect this and was somewhat embarrassed! But thank you China Resources Hotel, a superb 4-star accommodation about 20 minutes taxi ride from Olympic Village.

Crystal, Earl and I engaged the same routine of walk, subway, and walk and made it to the gorgeous gymnasium before noon to watch a full day of judo. By the way, the subways are ultra modern and I have been in the best and consider Beijing’s subways cleaner and faster than others, with nice digital tvs to watch the Olympics while you wait.

The people seem overall happy, like people in any large city, but there is a strange fascination with cats and dogs which we have seen few of. One cat yesterday came up to Adler in between our watching judo and sprawled on his back right in front of him for a 20 minute nap. Countless locals approached with smiles to take pictures.
I’m not sure what the fascination with a simple cat was, but it aroused more attention than an appearance by the greatest judo master ever — who never lost a match in his entire career — Yasuhiro Yamashita.
I was excited to meet Yamashita and get his autograph on my Olympic flag with a photo and I left the cat where he was.

Adler today was very reflective about his overall mission and how this all fell into place, winning at the trials and now having a chance to represent Team USA. The one thing that is absolutely clear is that he believes totally in his chances and works as hard as anyone in training, but at some point lets go and realizes that it is out of his control, and that competitive outcomes are influenced from an above higher source.
He is indeed very Christian in his beliefs and wants his success to give him the platform to show others what faith does. If it moves mountains tomorrow and he wins gold, he wants the world to know that it was much more than Adler.

As he stated again, this is way beyond me. While he appeared ready to rumble the next day, my only concern was that he not overextend himself in being the perfect tour guide and judo commentator, and get back to his village and get ready for war tomorrow.

He assured me repeatedly that his being with what he calls “his family” here (Earl, Crystal and I) was far more helpful than going back to his dorm room in Olympic Village. So he stayed with us all day until he finally slipped off around 7 p.m. to head back while Crystal, Earl and I watched the semifinals, bronze matches, and gold medal bouts of the day.

Perhaps the most interesting storyline was the performance by a Georgian Judoka, who beat a Russian with sheer passion and then went on to win the gold medal. Seeing the emotion and hugs you just knew there were the politics of Russia and Georgia as much as you want to keep that element out of the games.
Today is the day now that we have all been waiting for. The table is set, the cards are shuffled, and we will soon witness Adler Volmar in all his raw form as he goes up against the absolute best 31 other judoka in the world in the 100 kg class today.

The 32-man draw is set up that you have to win 5 matches in a row to win the gold. If you lose, you can still fight an extremely hard uphill battle for the bronze medal but you need some help in that the person who beat you needs to win the next round. It is sort of like a single elimination tennis tournament with a small chance for third place.

Whether Adler wins or loses, I will be extremely proud of him and eternally grateful for his bringing me to Beijing to experience all of this. While the matches are televised in some parts of the world, they are not being televised in the USA, so your best bet by far — where all matches can be seen live — is to log in to www.nbcolympics.com and you can see it as if you are in the stands!

Beijing is 13 hours ahead of Peoria time, so you would want to get your computer ready no later than 10:45 p.m. and be ready to start watching matches at 11. Be attentive because these matches can last over 15 minutes with the timeouts, or be over in a flash before they start.

Adler appreciates all your support, prayers, and love. He sincerely realizes that social support from the so many good people he has met over the years will be a major force. Now he needs to just compete and I am sure he will be brutal today. If someone beats Adler today, I will credit them endlessly.

I can tell you that I would not have to face this determined warrior today. This is the day he has been waiting for his entire life so tune in and watch him win the gold! None of the traditional press has given him a chance. I know he can do it. Go Adler!

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

Arrival at the Beijing Olympics

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 11, 2008 – Tuesday Morning Blog
We all got in to Beijing quite late last night and made it over to the taxi stand around 10PM. It took a bit of haggling to make sure we were not overcharged $60 and the three of us squeezed into a small taxi ride that took about 45 minutes only cost $18! The bargains ended abruptly in the hotel, however, as a bottle of Evian water cost $10. The city is vast and spralling and we did not notice anything that unusual about the air quality late at night. So now on a Tuesday morning we all had a great buffet breakfast consiting of dumplings, rice, snake sausauge (no not real snake), breads and eggs. I asked if the mild was pasteurized and it took 4 or 5 attendants to finally say they did not know. But since this is the 4-star China Resources Hotel I am assuming all will be fine. TV here is interesting. There are a few English stations including CNN and CTV, and at least 5 or 6 different stations were covering the Olympic games so I had the pleasure of watching women’s polo (US vs. China), some of the women’s basketball (US vs. China) and weight lifting.

We are all excited because today we go over to the Olympic village and get a tour with NBC and Telemundo while meeting up with Adler Volmar here for the first time. My goal really is to just make sure he is aggressive and hungry as Adler historically has a tendency to need adversity in a match to really turn it on. He is such a nice guy but nice guys don’t win gold medals unless they keep their perspective and realize that everyone out here would like to send him home with nothing to show for it but an Olympic appearance. I did the sport psychology evaluation on Adler and have now worked with him for a month, and I will say that he is perhaps the strongest athlete mentally that I have ever seen. Something tells me that he very well might toss the judo world on their head and walk away with this gleaming gold medal. Nobody expects it … now if i can only keep him hungry, mad, and on fire I think he has a great chance!

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.

My Pseudo-Trainer and Client Wins Summa Cum Laude

Special to JohnFMurray.com – July 22, 2010 – Many of you follow my daily activities on Twitter, Facebook or this website. In a few of my past posts I alluded to one of my clients who I started counseling while walking in my unique brand of walk therapy written about in the National Post of Canada and the Wall Street Journal. Why be normal when you can be super-normal is my motto!

This client was fun to tweet about because he was somewhat odd in his sessions which started with walking and progressed to intense walking sessions. I soon realized that this client had no interest in wearing running shoes and instead opted to wear flip flops or sandals even when running long distances as many as 30 miles! Our sports psychology sessions would transpire in the car driving to our runs or on the walks before the runs, and we would then run long distances alone and meet up at a later time, at times running the University of Miami campus, the Palm Beach lake and ocean trails, or more lately from the west part of Las Olas Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale to AIA and then north to Oakland Park or Commercial Blvd. and back.

In short, we combined our sessions with healthy exercise but despite my many warnings to him he insisted in running in sandals. He soon outclassed even the fastest runners on AIA and one day even went 30 plus miles in sandals. He tried a pair of vibram running shoes that look like gloves, but they soon broke and he returned to wearing sandals.

This client was a married student with two children and attending a local university. On campus he dressed in casual clothing and got into his share of trouble with administration. He bucked the trend, spoke his mind, and at times complained to the university administration for unfair policies and restrictions of student freedom. We’ll spare the details, but let’s just say that he was more inclined to tell the truth than play the game and stay out of trouble. He despised red tape, university politics and outdated policies, and unfair treatment of students send him into a frenzy. His controversial nature got him in trouble more than once and the administration even tried to throw him out a couple times in ridiculous hearings that he always defended himself well at, leaving the administration looking confused and disoriented, but he always walked away from these conjured up hearings because there was nothing to them.

He didn’t talk much about his grades, so I assumed he was a B student or maybe B+ since he had a family to take care of, engaged in these marathon runs, and just didn’t fit the image of a pencil case carrying geek with academic perfectionism. I was wrong. He didn’t look like a geek, but he apparently is. My pseudo-trainer recently attended his graduation ceremonies and learned after completing his degree not in 4, but in 1.5 years, and was named the overall best student in the school with a GPA over 3.9 that earned him the top honors of Summa Cum Laude. To add insult to injury for the mean spirited adminsitration, last week he also get accepted into medical school program that awards a combined MD and PhD.

After medical school and residency, this pseudo-trainer wants to do nothing less than cure cancer, and he says he already knows exactly which part of the human genome he is going after once he sets up his lab and begins his practice. Is a Nobel Prize in the future for him. Probably not. It is probably not a big enough challenge for him.

I’ll keep pseudo-trainer annonnymous because he is still a client, and he also has a lot of schooling left and probably not the convenience of a sports psychologist bragging about him. Knowing his blunt and somewhat controversial nature he’ll probably rub someone wrong somewhere in the future and I would prefer that nobody with ill intent gain the benefit of reading this. Like art for art’s purpose alone, this article is an applause for the human spirit exemplified in pseudo-trainer. It is a celebration of our need to remain unique and think big throughts. All is within grasp with the proper mental attitude. I teach that daily to my clients and the flip flop running pseudo trainer has been a great student indeed. He has also been a great running coach for me and I am still learning. Let’s clap now for running dude in sandals who beat a corrupt university administration at their own game by being the school’s overall best student, for getting into a very fine MD/PhD program, and for his future Nobel Prize 🙂 Everyone can take a lesson from him to stand up for what is right rather than go along with corruption and politics, and to shine both academically and in sports.

I hope you all enjoyed this little glimpse into the world of sports psychology and the kind of clients that come my way. Go get em in med school now! This was an article about the human spirit and the benefits of sports psychology.

HOLIDAY PUT ON HOLD

{Note: Congrats to Matt Hasselbeck and Seattle! Click to Go to Super Bowl Ratings … you might be surprised to read what the MPI shows this year}

The Oregonian – Nov 24, 2005 – Geoffrey C. Arnold – The NFL’s demands alter how a family with two quarterbacks celebrates Thursday, November 24, 2005

Matt Hasselbeck will see his brother, Tim, this weekend, but they will not be eating turkey or sipping eggnog to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.

The exchange of greetings Sunday instead will occur across Qwest Field as the Seattle Seahawks play host to the New York Giants.

Matt is the starting quarterback for the Seahawks; Tim is a backup quarterback for the Giants.

Like many families with professional and college athletes, the on-field meeting will be about as close as the Hasselbeck clan will get to enjoying time together during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“A lot of families get together for Thanksgiving. Ours is a little different,” Matt Hasselbeck said. “We are not really going to get to hang out. It will be good to see him. I haven’t seen him in a long time so it will be fun and a little weird at the same time.”

It’s the combination of divergent schedules, travel and team obligations that prevents many athletes from gathering with their families during the holidays. However, like the Hasselbeck family (father Don Hasselbeck played nine seasons in the NFL), they know it comes with the territory.

It’s part of the reality of high-level sports, says Dr. John Murray, a sports psychologist who has worked with professional football athletes.

“Obviously, there are sacrifices. At the same time, there are enormous benefits to being in that line of work,” said Murray, who added that it’s important that family members and spouses understand the situation.

“It’s extremely difficult and you have to choose a partner that understands that and can deal with that.” Murray said.

Of course, watching a family member on television can help ease the pain of not having someone around on Thanksgiving.

“You have someone who is going to play on national television. In many ways, the family accommodates to that,” Murray said. “They realize what they’re dealing with and they realize it’s a short career.”

That’s what the members of the Harrington family of Portland can do today as the Detroit Lions play the Atlanta Falcons in one of the NFL’s two traditional Thanksgiving Day games. Joey Harrington, who grew up in the Laurelhurst neighborhood, plays quarterback for the Lions.

But he won’t be the only Harrington missing from the dinner table for sports-related reasons.

Another son, Michael, a quarterback at the University of Idaho, had to remain on the Moscow campus for practice during the week. He hopes to at least join his family, in spirit, by watching the Lions-Falcons game.

“Hopefully, we won’t practice when he’s playing,” Michael Harrington said.

The other NFL game today is Denver at Dallas, and the NBA has two games today: Cleveland at Indiana and Seattle at the Los Angeles Lakers. The NHL has three games today: the New York Rangers at Atlanta, Los Angeles at Nashville and San Jose at Vancouver.

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

Sports Psychology in Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated – Dr. John F. Murray Profile – Sports Psychologist – October 14, 2003 – Work in Sports Feature by Mike McNulty – What started as a routine sideline interview after a typical preseason NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons, quickly turned into a serious, heart-felt discussion of mental illness. There Ricky Williams stood talking about the social anxiety disorder he recently overcame. It was unusual — but incredibly positive — to see a tough-as-nails, muscular football star admit to something so personal. And Ricky Williams isn’t the only one.

All across the country, the stigma of mental illness is slowly disappearing. As a result, more and more athletes are willing to discuss their feelings with a professional.

One of those well-respected confidants is Dr. John Murray, PhD, who treats NFL players, professional golfers and professional tennis players.

Interestingly, Murray didn’t set out to be a sports psychologist when he started his career. “I traveled the world coaching tennis,” he says. But he saw something glaring while on the road watching matches.

Seeing how critically important the mental game was to success, and how few athletes trained their minds properly, I felt this was the perfect “next step” in my career,he says. “I wanted to do what I was doing in coaching but expand it to a much broader application for all people and athletes in all sports. Sport psychology was a small but growing specialty within psychology and the sport sciences.”

Along with a BA in psychology from Loyola University, Murray went south to Florida and began piling up degrees along with invaluable experience.

“I completed all my graduate work at the University of Florida in the 1990s. Got two masters degrees (Sport Psychology and Clinical Psychology) and a PhD (Clinical Psychology). The 1997 national champion Florida Gators football team was the subject of my doctoral dissertation.”

Now he needed an internship to apply his skills and gain some real world experience.

“I did my clinical and sport psychology internship at Washington State University and a post doctoral fellowship at Florida International University prior to opening my private practice.”

That practice, which is based in Florida and also includes non-athletes, has blossomed in recent years. Through his professional commitment, Murray’s schedule keeps getting more and more busy.

“My day typically involves seeing clients in my office and talking with them on the phone,”he says. “For many athletes this is the main way I work with them–using phone and email follow-up–as they travel throughout the world.”

“I always start with a new client by doing a full evaluation to see where their mental skills are, what they are like as a person, what they are dealing with. Then I devise a plan to help them reach their goals more effectively.”

Because of his success, Murray has slowly become one of the better-known voices in the sports psychology community.

“Other things I do are write articles for magazines, conduct workshops, and speak at various engagements,”he says. “I also do a fair number of interviews for newspapers, magazines, and TV occasionally. Most recently, I was called to do interviews for BBC radio, CBS national radio, NPR, Bloomberg Radio, ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated.”

Another big element of his job is attending sporting events.

“I get out to the athletic site quite often. I spend time on the sidelines, on the court and on the course to see the athlete in their natural environment.”

Murray says one of the drawbacks (or at least issue to keep in mind when considering the field) is the constant hours.

“I am available 24/7 to my clients so it is definitely not a 9 to 5 job!”

Yet the benefits, according to Murray, are endless.

“It’s exciting work helping people achieve more success,” he says. “And the great thing about working with high performers such as athletes is that you can actually see the performance. Just turn on the TV on Sunday.”

How many people can see such direct results? Hey, there goes my client rushing for 467 yards today. Looks like the sessions are working!

Of course, there’s also travel.

Along with visiting clients and athletic sites, Murray says, “I went to London twice this year to do workshops. The cell phone gets a lot of use.”

Perhaps one of the most intriguing things about sports psychology is that it’s still emerging. There’s plenty of room for newcomers to join and enrich the profession.

Murray’s overall advice to those considering a career is this: “To be a sport psychologist you have to wear many hats and credentials are extremely important. I believe the only way to do it is to become a licensed psychologist first, as the bare minimum level of training. You need to know what makes people tick, how they break down, all of the assessment and treatment training.

But a license in psychology is not enough. You also have to have studied the sport sciences–the physical bases of sport–the movement sciences, the biology, the physiology etc. Then, and perhaps the hardest part to acquire, is the hands-on training by another qualified sport psychologist. I was fortunate to train under a current Olympic sport psychologist when I did my internship. It’s a long road with little gratification and a lot of hard work. But now I’m professionally satisfied and challenged, invigorated by what I do, and constantly learning. You never know enough. Performance and competition is always changing so you have to be able to go with the flow, make adjustments with athletes on the fly, and treat clinical problems too when they come up.”

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