Posts Tagged ‘sports psychologist’

One thing matters in college sports: winning

Sports psychology commentary in the Sarasota Herald Tribune – Doug Fernandes – September 3, 2011 – Today at the University of Florida, all eyes will be on first-year head coach Will Muschamp.

At Florida State and South Florida, Jimbo Fisher and Skip Holtz begin their sophomore campaigns leading their respective teams.

And at Miami, Al Golden starts his first season at a program rocked by a scandal that could have repercussions for years to come.

For the NCAA, its member schools, coaches, players and administrators, the kickoff to the 2011 college football season could not have arrived at a more favorable time.

Frankly, there has never been an offseason during which the sport’s lower lip was more bloodied. Revelations of free cars, sex parties, nightclub visits, yacht trips and players trading memorabilia for tattoos dominated headlines, blogs and radio airwaves.

It forced the resignation of Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, revealed, yet again, the lengths programs will go to court success, and how those in positions of authority often turn their heads to transgressions happening right before their eyes.

All in the name of winning and securing its ancillary benefits. For quite some time now, fans of all sports have been bludgeoned into semi-consciousness with stories of athletes and institutions engaging in myriad nefarious acts.

Whether it’s cyclists and track athletes who dope, baseball players who take steroids, or student-athletes who choose College A over College B for reasons other than — wink, wink — academics, the American sporting public had grown tired.

Tired and apathetic.

Just give them their games.

Just give them their teams.

Provide that three- or four-hour window when nothing else matters except the school emblazoned on their shirt coming out on top.

“Even more than entertained, they want to win,” said John F Murray, a Palm Beach clinical and sports psychologist. “That’s the thing we attach ourselves to, because, for whatever reason, we’re not able to enjoy our jobs or whatever it might be.

“I think we attach success to our team’s success. They are our team. We’re willing to overlook what they do to get that success.

“Most fans probably, deep down in their psyche, would rather have their teams win on steroids than lose without steroids.”

In psychology, it’s called “basking in reflected glory,” the belief that one experiences personal success through their association with successful people or institutions.

It helps explain the reason a Florida Gator fan feels a sense of satisfaction after a victory over Georgia, or, conversely, depression following a loss.

He or she has no material connection to the Gators’ winning or losing. But anyone who has rooted for a team is familiar with the phenomenon.

On Monday, the Miami Hurricanes play at the University of Maryland. The scandal should have embarrassed anyone connected to the school’s program.

Yet they’ll be there, Hurricane fans, wearing their school’s colors, oblivious to anything except what transpires on the 100-yard-by-53-yard plot of ground before them.

“What you’re suggesting,” said Murray, “is that we’re more corrupt than ever and that the fans don’t care.”

Well, they do care. Care deeply. Care passionately.

Over anything else, about one thing.

Just win, baby.

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

Mind Games: Coping with NCAA Investigation

Canesport Publisher’s Note: Today we introduce a new feature to CaneSport.com and CaneSport Magazine called “Mind Games.” The column will be written each week by John Murray, a noted sports psychologist and author who has developed an index for evaluating the mental performance of players and coaches in games. We think it will provide all of us with a unique viewpoint each week as the Hurricanes navigate through a new season. In this introductory column, Murray tells us a little bit about himself and the index and comments on the Hurricanes’ mental rebound from the distractions of the Nevin Shapiro controversy.

I am quite excited to write my first column for CaneSport. Growing up in South Florida I cheered for Hurricanes football in the dreary 60s and 70s right on through the exciting mid-80s. After traveling worldwide for six years in tennis, I returned to the USA to become a clinical and sports psychologist and I’m proud to write a sports psychology column for CaneSport and hope you’ll enjoy it.

This forum will allow me the opportunity to discuss the psychology of the team, and also serve as the launching pad for new insights into the Canes football performance each week. I will be unleashing a powerful and exciting tool that I developed over the past eight years and wrote about in my recently published book “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.”

This Mental Performance Index (or “MPI” for short) captures how well a football team performs with just one standardized statistic on a scale of .000 to 1.000 (like a team batting average), and for the first time including a “mental performance” component.

So the MPI adds enormous precision and comparisons never before possible. I’ll be sharing details of this more in my second column after the Maryland game when I use the MPI to quantify how the team actually performed. For now, just realize how excited I am to be absorbing everything related to Miami Hurricanes football. I hope that offering this unique service to CaneSport readers will make you the most informed fans in the country.

Getting back to the present day, I’d like to discuss in this first column how the Hurricanes football team is coping psychologically with the dark clouds of uncertainty caused by the assault by convicted swindler and traitor Nevin Shapiro.

Shapiro obviously had an axe to grind and showed his true team colors to be hatred and chaos for a program he supposedly loved. The university is reacting appropriately and cooperating fully with the investigation. I applaud UM for this, and for holding all students and coaches accountable for their actions. The U needs to first help the NCAA bring the truth to light.

Well needed integrity and leadership have been shown in comments by President Donna Shalala and coach Al Golden, and these two experienced leaders are a huge asset to UM during this period of pain and uncertainty. While the spotlight and scrutiny on the program could lead to some understandable distractions which reduce team performance, Miami is far from going under as a result of this, and I believe this team will only emerge stronger in the long-term.

This is a new era for Hurricane football, so it is ironic that the investigation comes when it does, but it might as well run its course so that the team can once and for all deal with it and begin with a fresh approach. It appears that some Miami players and coaches may have made some mistakes, but the idea of the death penalty is absurd and feelings of guilt amongst current players over the past are inane.

Booster violations are wrong, but Nevin was a master manipulator and Miami does not hold the monopoly on transgressions despite the impressions. Other programs have flaws too, and college players ought to be paid anyway in my opinion, but the history and tremendous success of UM football and the amazing allure of South Beach makes this a perfect storm for Miami haters.

What else is new? Everyone knocks a winner. It comes with the territory.

The way in which this team is coping so far is difficult to assess without being in on every team meeting or as a fly on the wall in the locker room, but what I’ve gathered from players and coaches indicates that this team is doing as well as any team possibly could in coping. The Hurricanes have had a huge target on their backs ever since they started winning … and even when they have not been winning in recent years. To many they are an evil empire on par with the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Steelers, Manchester United or Real Madrid.

Regardless of the legacy of the U, this is a totally new start with the Golden era, and the investigation poses a greater threat to reputation of a dynasty than the current reality. Sorry. You cannot rewrite a history of greatness, and possibly paying inappropriately for yacht outings, wild parties, or an abortion offers little advantage on the gridiron. If anything it could lead to laziness and distractions. Football is a sport won in the trenches play by play through the sweat and grit, pain and dedication of warriors devoted to a cause. Say what you want about the transgressions of past players or teams, but the Hurricanes earned their titles and respect the old-fashioned way, not through trickery and mirrors.

Back to the present, I’m quite impressed with the way Al Golden appears to be managing the mess. Golden was a huge success at Temple and he is doing and saying all the right things by setting a great example for this team in encouraging them to focus on details. He is known as having extensive plans for every aspect of the team, and he seems positive and optimistic. He encourages an almost tunnel vision focus and was preaching distraction management months before Nevingate popped up its head out of the slime.

Practices have been cut-throat for the many open positions and there appears to be an intensity and teamwork approach that has only grown as a result of the US versus THEM reality. I agree with Gary Ferman’s assessment that it’s really just about the “us” rather than the “them” and players appear to understand that there is no need for worry about things they cannot control.

Time will tell if Golden is the answer to what this team needs, but the comments out of camp are so far exemplary. The investigation will yield whatever it yields, and there is nothing current players or coaches can do about it. Even more, I believe this investigation will bring the team closer together than it would have been without it!

The psychology of how a team copes with the ongoing stress and scrutiny of an NCAA investigation is an interesting reality. It probably has the potential to distract those players being investigated the most, but minimizing the carnage depends on the leadership of coaches and administrators.

What I keep hearing tells me that this team is far from devastated, and maybe even more inspired. In my work with athletes, the best competitive results rarely occur by making practices and imagery easy. Rather, encouraging an athlete or team to cope with remarkable stress is often the ticket to success.

By promoting a unified message of teamwork and by helping the team bond even more because the whole world is against them, Golden is cleverly building a stronger team. You see this in history in the way new governments often shake off the distractions of the past or overcome old enemies with a new battle cry, and the result is that the group or team comes to a new level of independence and self-reliance.

Al Golden encourages his team to “execute the process” according to an earlier CaneSport article. He is right on track, in my view as a sports psychologist, in helping his players perform at their very best. In fact, I will be assessing how well the team “executes the process” in my next column, because that is precisely what the Mental Performance Index measures.

In early 2000 when I kept telling my athletes to focus on performance and process and not on outcome or winning, I realized that I would need a way to measure how well they were doing that, and the MPI was eventually born. No matter how many players are deemed ineligible, Miami will find 11 players to line up against Maryland on both offense and defense, and I will be there analyzing every play to see how well those players on the field perform. We’ll then know if the players are really buying into Al Golden’s message.

Ideals thrown around by the UM football team include tunnel vision, focus on football, honesty, goals, leadership, discipline, optimism and teamwork. Many of these qualities were absent in recent years on the field, but this is a new season, a new start, and no matter how badly anyone wants to destroy this program, resiliency appears to be prevailing.

There is a new hope despite all the allegations and investigations, and I hope my column and the MPI ratings each week help this team to further focus on doing the right things both on and off the field.

Dr. John F. Murray, described as “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, is a South Florida native and licensed clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach. He provides mental coaching and sports psychology services, counseling, speeches and seminars. He recently authored his second book, “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” destroying stigmas about the mental game in sports and showing football teams how to perform better and win more games by enhancing team performance assessments and training. For further information call Dr. Murray at 561-596-9898, visit johnfmurray.com or email johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

For Immediate Release

Miami Hurricanes Publication Adds Sports Psychology Column for 2011 Football Season that will Highlight Team’s Physical and Mental Performance Each Week

Miami, FL – August 9, 2011 – America’s foremost authority on Miami Hurricane Sports, the 20-year-old publication known as “Canesport,” recently brought Palm Beach sports psychologist Dr. John F Murray aboard to write a weekly column on Hurricane football throughout the 2011 season. For the first time in the history of a sports column, the “mental performance” of a team will be carefully evaluated and quantified throughout a season. The column will aim to be friendly, easy to read, and uniquely informative. However, Murray also explains that he wants Canesport readers to be the smartest and most well informed football fans in the country.

Murray’s new column will be derived from his own quantitative analysis of every meaningful play in every Hurricanes game, giving readers insight that is not available elsewhere. This is the same approach that Dr. Murray used in reporting on all 45 Super Bowls in his new book, “The Mental Performance Index, Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” (World Audience, Inc., www.JohnFMurray.com). The big finding in the book is that, the new MPI statistic correlates with winning and performance in the Super Bowl more than any other traditional team performance statistic. The message for coaches and teams is to begin measuring team mental performance, and also training players in these areas to stay ahead.

This book is the culmination of eight years of research and introduces a new statistic, the MPI, that captures team performance more accurately than before possible because it includes mental performance as well. “This new column that will appear after every football game in Canesport (www.canesport.com) is both cutting edge and groundbreaking,” said Murray. “It will appeal to the diehard fan who thirsts for more information about the Canes, and it will help inform everyone in football.”

Dr. Murray, once dubbed “the Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, works with elite athletes and teams in his private practice. Tom Flores, two-time Super Bowl winning head coach of the Oakland and LA Raiders, writes in the foreword: “Dr. Murray’s Mental Performance Index can be and will be the next part of sports evolution in the 21st Century.”

Pro football hall of fame sportscaster Lesley Visser also supports the MPI, and Visser writes the epilogue on the genius of Bill Walsh. Don Shula also provided a quote for the book from his coaching days.

For Further Information or interviews:

John F Murray, PhD
Telephone: 561-596-9898
Web: http://www.JohnFMurray.com

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Dimension IX: Inspiration to Become a Sports Psychologist

When I wrote “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” I wanted to make it much more than a “self-help” or “how to” book for football coaches and teams. It can serve that purpose, but it is far more than that too, and the first 100 pages or so are very much like an auto-biography in which I tell my own story.

I write about my upbringing in South Florida in the 60s and 70s, and about my exposure to greatness as a fan through the excitement of the Miami Dolphins Perfect Season in 1972 and then later as a coach and sports psychologist. Good things just kept happening all around me and I became extremely interested in learning more about what makes a team a champion.

As a tennis coach traveling all around the world from Hawaii to Florida, Germany to the Middle East, Austria to Texas, I became fascinated by how critically important the mental game was in sports, yet how few resources existed to help others in this area. It was not surprising that the book Inner Game of Tennis was a worldwide hit in 1974 … we were starving internally and have only in recent years begun to really adopt an inner approach to training and preparation for high level competition.

You will enjoy the many anecdotes in this book “The Mental Performance Index,” such as the time I coached the current King of Saudi Arabia tennis lessons in Riyadh, relied on the advice of a legless and dying man to help an NFL quarterback bounce back from his struggles, and studied the loneliness of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria during a trip to Neuschwanstein Castle to crystalize my understanding of some NFL coaches and leaders in major corporations.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down the avenue of sports psychology.

Dimension VIII: Why Bill Walsh was so Great as 49ers Head Coach

When I wrote “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” I knew that Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers were good, but I did not know how good until I crunched all the data and ranked the teams from 1-90. It would turn out that the 49ers teams own 3 of the top 6 spots of all time in terms of performance on Super Sunday. Much of this was the doing of the late great coach Bill Walsh.

I met and befriended Lesley Visser as I was getting ready to go over to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympic games. We shared a common interest in tennis and football, and she was very excited about my upcoming book and offered to write the epilogue. She wanted to write it about Bill Walsh, whom she had known from her many NFL broadcasts, and I was thrilled. She did a terrific job and you can now read about what made this man so enormously successful as a coach.

For example, you will read that while Walsh projected an image as the intellectual professor, and did not like to yell at his players, he was anything but soft. In fact, he was an amateur boxer and he liked to study the intricate moves of Mohammed Ali, and he used the principles he learned from boxing (like coaching his team’s offensive and defensive lines to always explode off the ball faster than the opponent) to make his team better.

Lesley Visser is the only female in the pro football Hall of Fame, and she has a resume as a broadcaster that is too long for this page. I know you will love her epilogue and learn more about the genius and ferocity of Walsh when you read “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.”

I hope you enjoyed learning more about this book focused on sports psychology.

Dimension VII: Daily Lessons Learned from Super Bowls

I am the author of ““The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History”“and you might be surprised to learn that this book is not only about football and sports psychology.

When I wrote this book, I wanted to do something similar to what I did in my first book “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game,” and that is to give the reader something to take home and use to better their life.

The NFL Super Bowl is perhaps the most competitive game played every year and it is played on the biggest stage of all with billions of viewers from all over the world. Talk about pressure! I figured that if I could dissect what the keys to success in each one of these games were, I would then be able to provide people all over the world my findings so that they could improve their lives by reading the book and learning from the success principle that was taught on the natural stage of Super Bowl Sunday.

In this new book you will see these 45 lessons for success appear in the text and then again all together in a useful list for the reader at the end of the book. Learn from the biggest competitive arenas the world has known and apply these 45 lessons to your own self improvement.

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

Dimension VI: The Best Super Bowl Teams Ever

I am the author of ““The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History”” which, like the title implies, uses a systematic approach to determine which teams were best.

It was only after standardizing performance ratings in a football game with the Mental Performance Index statistic (MPI for short) that we were able to compare how teams had performed even when they were over 40 years apart. Using a play rating system that is fair and balanced, the MPI total score indicates how closely a given team came to perfection in a game in a similar manner that a baseball batting average shows how close a batter came to perfection on a scale of .000 to 1.000. In the case of football team performance, however, .500 is roughly average performance.

There were a total of 14 MPI statistics created and 14 more traditional statistics were analyzed in the book, so we looked at a total of 28 ways of determining how good a team was, and team rankings for all 28 statistics are presented in this book. Of course everyone wants to know which team was best overall, and that is shown in the MPI Total score (MPI-T) rankings in which the top 32 performing teams on Super Bowl Sunday are listed.

Read this book and let the debates begin over which team was best!

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

The “Tough Guys Talk” Initiative

Sports Psychology Excerpts – from pages 54-55 of the book “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” by John F Murray (World Audience, 2011):

Stephan and I had often discussed the misconception about talking to a psychologist or counselor that seemed to exist in our society, and especially in some of the more powerful quarters. It needed to change. The supposedly tough types that we often saw in business and pro sports, like the CEOs, NBA stars, or head NFL coaches had somehow learned to associate “toughness” with grueling schedules, physical pain tolerance and the hesitancy to open up about problems or seek counseling. But once they did open up it was clear that this repression had exacted a toll and they were filled with more needs than most. Examined closer, it just jumps out at you that what is really going on when an athletic or business culture fails to encourage help seeking, or when anyone avoids dealing with a serious issue, it is anything but “tough” and more accurately quite “weak!” Not meeting issues head on is actually rooted in deep fear and insecurity.

One example that was recently brought to my attention was when NFL hall of fame quarterback Warren Moon wrote a book in which he admitted that he was seeing a therapist for many years and sneaking in the back door of his therapist’s office at night so that nobody would notice he was seeking help. Pro football hall of famer, Lesley Visser, who writes a beautiful epilogue in this book, called to tell me the news of Warren Moon’s admission. I thanked her and told her that I would make sure to convey the message in this book that the toughest among us are those who when faced with problems and are not afraid to seek help, and I called it “tough guys talk.” Warren Moon should be proud that he faced his issues, but societal pressure made it harder for him to share the benefits he was receiving with others until now.

I have a solution, and it starts with every top executive in major sports as a campaign to encourage star athletes to face problems head-on and talk with a counselor or sport psychologist when needed. Every senior executive and coach or manager in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL should institute a program and call it: “Tough Guys Talk” with a poster and just these words on top in bright bold lettering. It should be posted in every locker room listing some of the great players who won national championships while talking with a sports psychologist or counselor. The list would be most impressive because some great athletes do seek help but then don’t talk about it because of the stigma that they will appear weak. Hogwash! These leaders would in one fell swoop begin to eradicate idiocy and allow more players to access care and be tough by talking rather than running like little children in fear of being ostracized.

The program I propose would start with just one team’s GM. And since I am related to one of the greatest ever and feel that he can have an enormous impact like none other, I personally and cheerfully challenge Cousin Bill Polian to institute a “Tough Guys Talk” program with the Colts. When Mr. Polian or another top executive in sports does this he will establish himself even more as a visionary who cared enough for his people to allow them to develop and improve.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Sports Psychology.

Brandon Marshall Admits he has Personality Disorder

Sports Psychology Update – John F Murray – Great Job Brandon Marshall of the Miami Dolphins! More people need to see mental illness for what it is. It is real, and it is more difficult than a broken leg.

Here is the story in ESPN

Hope you enjoyed that little message form the world of sports psychology.

Dimension V: Why Coaches Often Avoid Sports Psychology

I am the author of ““The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History”” which gets into the topic of why coaches and teams often avoid sports psychology to their own detriment.

The truth is that there are deep historical roots behind this stance, so this book makes an effort to understand the biases and remove wrong assumptions so that sports psychology is more accepted and user friendly as simply the science of success.

The book also introduces a paradigm shift in sports by showing how essential mental coaching and mental performance is to winning. Extensive data to back up the assertions is cited, and this data was produced only after carefully analyzing every play in Super Bowl history. In this way, the book is quite useful to the mental health care provider or sports scientist who is trying to help, and also useful to the coach in order to provide another perspective that will help his or her team. The author did his graduate work at University of Florida’s Department of Clinical and Health Psychology as well as their Department of Health and Human Performance, so he offers a rare view that covers both the sports sciences that emerged from academic departments of physical education, and the more traditional psychology with roots way back to the 19th century.

There are many reasons why for centuries the mental part of daily life took a back seat to the physical, but when you examine it more closely from a neuropsychological perspective you come to realize that “mental” is very much physical and real, and in fact more real than the more limited actions or body movements that are an invention of the brain, mind, and mental activity. The practical coach and athlete as well as the deep thinker and academician will appreciate “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” and see the world in a slightly different way after taking the time to invest in the discoveries made.

I hope you enjoyed this journey into the world of sports psychology.