Posts Tagged ‘sports psychologist’

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New Super Bowl Book Reveals Team Mental Performance, Never Before Measured, is Actually a Main Key to Winning

Palm Beach, FL – May 10, 2011 – “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” (World Audience, Inc., see www.JohnFMurray.com) is a new book written by clinical and sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray after eight years of research that pits all teams that have ever appeared in the Super Bowl against one another to determine which team is best.

For the first time ever, “mental performance” is measured as a part of overall team performance in football, and higher correlations with winning are revealed than with all other traditional team statistics. Tom Flores of the Raiders writes the foreword, pro football hall of fame sportscaster Lesley Visser writes the epilogue, and Don Shula provides a quote about mental and physical preparation from his coaching days.

Dr. John F. Murray, a licensed clinical and sports psychologist, describes in his book a new way of measuring team performance with just one number called the “MPI” or “Mental Performance Index,” and a new annual competition called the MPI Bowl involving every team that has ever appeared in a Super Bowl.

Tom Flores, two-time Super Bowl champion head coach of the Raiders, and a winner in 4 Super Bowls with no losses, 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.”

Don Shula, the NFL’s winningest coach, stresses the primacy of mental and physical preparation with a quote for Murray’s book taken from words he himself had used in his days of coaching.

Others contributing to or supporting the book include pro football hall of fame inductee Lesley Visser who wrote the epilogue on Bill Walsh and his genius with the San Francisco 49ers, NFL Films President Steve Sabol who called the book “a fascinating work of remarkable scope and scholarship,” Coach Doug Blevins, who called the book “a masterpiece,” and past NFL players including Jim “Crash” Jensen, Nick Lowery, and Dan Johnson.

In the book, Murray writes about how a mere hunch led him to make a remarkable discovery about something missing in sports. “There were many team performance statistics to show how well a team performed in areas such as yards gained, time of possession, and turnovers, said Murray, but no statistic captured mental performance or how smart a team played, so I created one.” It is called the Mental Performance Index or MPI for short. Amazingly, the MPI, it is revealed, 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 mental performance and training players in these areas in order to stay ahead.

“The book appeals to a wide audience of readers because it has that human interest element of striving for improvement at all levels,” said Murray. Murray, once dubbed “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, shares anecdotes about the people and situations influencing him to eventually become a sports psychologist and develop the MPI. He also discusses some of the early struggles trying to break into the NFL, how the MPI and mental coaching can be introduced to a football program, and he gives his 44 Super Bowl Lessons that can be applied to situations in daily life.

For Further Information or interviews:

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

No sure things guaranteed in NFL draft

The Kansas City Star – April 22, 2011 – Kent Babb – Bobby Parrish remembers a skinny kid with his future unwritten, an athlete determined to prove that football could carry him out of southwest Alabama’s poverty and despair.

JaMarcus Russell was a freshman quarterback when Parrish took the head coaching job at Williamson High in Mobile, and Russell never missed a practice in four years. Parrish says Russell wanted to make something of himself, and even after he left Mobile and became a star at LSU, it was clear Russell was persistent — chasing a carrot that, if he reached it, would reward him with fame, riches and success.

All those financial struggles would be behind him, if he could only reach that carrot.

Then he did, becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. The Oakland Raiders signed Russell to a contract that guaranteed him $32 million. He had made it. After that, Russell wasn’t the same.

“We try to say money don’t change you,” Parrish says now.

The skinny kid that Parrish remembers swelled to more than 300 pounds, and the work ethic that carried Russell through the amateur ranks was deflated. He went 7-18 as a starter before the Raiders released him last year. No team has re-signed Russell, and nearly four years after that draft, he is out of the NFL — known as one of the biggest busts in league history.

Russell’s story is common among kids who grew up poor. They spend years dreaming of that life-changing payday, when all the work and sacrifice will be rewarded. If only they can reach the NFL, everything will be different.

For some, though, they can never again match the motivation once fueled by the notion of financial security. Some see reaching the NFL as a finish line; after they cross it, sports psychologist John Murray says, it’s difficult to re-establish new goals. And these days, when rookie contracts set records each year, pro teams have a difficult responsibility: Who is not only worthy of perhaps $50 million in guaranteed money — but who won’t be satisfied by it?

“When they get their money,” Murray says of some players, “things change.”

Some of the reasons are geographic. Of the states among the top-10 per-capita producers of NFL players, five — Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas and South Carolina — also are in the nation’s top 10 in highest poverty rate. Money is a motivator, but perhaps more so in places where a player’s friends, neighbors and relatives live below the poverty line.

Russell grew up in a place like that, and Parrish says the player’s family was on the lower end of Mobile’s financial spectrum.

“Your role is to get there,” Parrish says of the NFL. “You want to do everything you can: ‘I’m gonna bust my butt.’ Then once you get there, you receive that money. … Some people still have that motivation to keep going, to make even more money. And then there are some that are like, ‘Well, I’ve made it.’ ”

During the first four months of each year, NFL teams invest time, money and resources to try to separate the players who want to be great from those who only want to be rich. The Chiefs are among several teams that elevate character and background on a par with talent, and if there are signals that a prospect is interested only in money, some teams back off — regardless of that player’s upside.

Others, though, aren’t so willing to distance themselves.

“Sometimes talent wins out,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper says. “You talk yourself into liking this player.”

Players become busts for plenty of reasons: poor work habits, the inability to adjust to the NFL game, bad fits within a system. But none seem to foretell a collapse more than how that player reacts to his first taste of wealth. Players often take out huge loans before the draft to make their first major purchase: a car, a home or clothing — or all of it.

“If a guy pulls up to a predraft visit for a football team in … an S600 Mercedes with 21-inch rims and he’s got a $300,000 watch on,” Hall of Famer Howie Long says, “I’m checking him off my list.”

The challenge, of course, is finding players who want more than millions. The Chiefs have said often that they target players who desire greatness, regardless of how much money they make.

Former Chiefs player Bill Maas, who was the No. 5 overall pick in 1984, suggests that perhaps as few as five of each year’s 32 first-round picks are interested as much in fulfilling their potential as money. He says the Chiefs seemed to find one of those players last year, when they selected safety Eric Berry with the fifth pick. Berry signed a contract worth a guaranteed $34 million, but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the team’s most well-known bargain hunters and, more than that, the Chiefs’ first rookie in more than two decades to reach the Pro Bowl.

“You’ve got to go figure out what kind of guy you’re getting,” Maas said. “If you’re going to spend that kind of money, you’ve got to find the right guy.”

Players such as Berry can help unite a locker room. Those such as Russell can divide it, and the Raiders are still trying to overcome that bad pick.

“If that guy is going to become a rich bum,” analyst Cris Collinsworth says, “then you’ve got problems. It’s going to permeate within the whole team.”

The problem is that there is no scientific way to predict who might react like Berry and who might respond like Russell. Parrish says teams in 2007 performed all the research; he was interviewed, along with Russell’s friends and family to try to properly vet the player before he was drafted and handed his millions. Parrish says he told teams that Russell was a hard worker with plenty left to prove. His fall, Parrish says, was as much a surprise to those close to him as the outsiders who watched a talented player become an example of what not to be.

“You think you know,” Kiper says. “You really don’t. … There’s no failsafe way.”

Another of Parrish’s former players, defensive tackle Nick Fairley of Auburn, is expected to be a top-10 pick in next week’s draft.

Parrish says Russell still comes around Mobile, attending Williamson basketball games and talking to players about their futures. The coach says Russell talks sometimes to the school’s current players, and occasionally, he has a message.

“We just try to show them,” Parrish says, “not everybody is going to make it.”

I hope you enjoyed this perspective of the NFL draft and also some sports psychology.

Scott Hall’s ex: ‘Done 4 Life’

Charleston Post & Courier – May 8, 2011 – Mike Mooneyham – Sometimes it’s better just to let go.

Dana Hall, ex-wife of pro wrestling star Scott Hall, says she’s finally come to the stark realization that closure doesn’t come to all.

She recently made what she called a last-ditch effort to reach out to Hall, who has battled substance abuse for a number of years, in an attempt to reconnect Hall with their two teen-aged children.

Hall, 53, has been hospitalized several times in recent months, and last year had a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted in his heart.

She has publicly pleaded with friends and family to intervene on Hall’s behalf.

But in light of recent events, she says, nothing short of a miracle will “save” the wrestler.

“I know now my prayers will not be answered as I had hoped,” she says.

Dana Hall, 49, said a recent phone call from her ex-husband gave her a brief glimmer of hope. That hope, however, was short-lived.

“I could barely understand him, but finally heard him say he was sorry for his behavior, and after wrapping his head around it, he knew he was going to die, didn’t have much time left, and wanted me and the kids to be with him in the end.”

She says Hall, however, hung up when she started to talk and would not answer when she called him back. Not knowing what his condition might be, she says she called 911 to meet her at Hall’s home 10 miles away in case he needed help.

“He sounded like he might be dying,” she says. “I was freaking out because he sounded really bad.”

Emergency medical technicians were already on the scene and climbing through a bedroom window when she arrived.

When she got to the front porch, she says, Hall was pushing an EMT out of the door.

“It was nothing short of a scene from ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ meets ‘The Shining.’ This is no exaggeration … I wish it was,” she says.

When he saw her, she says, Hall “went into a rampage against me, telling them to get this (expletive) off his property.”

“He was threatening to beat them all up, doing the crotch chop thing to them, making a fool of himself, ranting and raving like a crazed mental person,” she says.

She claims Hall, who was wearing a T-shirt and boxers, spat in her face as he yelled obscenities.

“I had my hands out to him and was crying, and he could have cared less. He just went on with his ranting,” she says. “He at one point held his hand up to strike me, and they moved me away. There were like eight paramedics and six officers. I told him goodbye. This would be the last time I would come see him.”

Now in hindsight, she says, she feels foolish after years of trying to mend fences and help her ex-husband.

“I feel like such a fool for falling for it again. There was nothing behind his eyes but hate and evil. He made his bed … now he has to lie in it.”

The incident was just the latest chapter in the sad saga of a one-time pro wrestling superstar whose fall from grace has been dramatic and painful to watch.

Noted sports psychologist Dr. John Murray says the situation is a delicate one that should be carefully handled.

“Scott’s condition is obviously a very sad one that is played out all too often in our society,” says Murray. “He is seriously trapped by his addiction, and it is going to kill him unless he makes a 180-degree change soon.”

The difference, says Murray, is that Hall is a very public sports figure, and his drama is being played out for all to see.

“This probably makes it even more difficult for him to recover and more painful for his family.”

Hall was one of the highest-paid performers in the wrestling business during the ‘90s when he headlined as Razor Ramon and later as a member of WWE’s Kliq (with Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Triple H and Sean Waltman) and WCW’s NWO (with Nash and Hulk Hogan). But his professional and personal life spiraled out of control due to a string of drug-related incidents, and the self-proclaimed “Bad Guy” became a problem child and liability that lost favor in the business.

“A very long nightmare” is how Dana Hall describes their rocky relationship.

The two had been acquaintances and had first met at a bar where they both worked when she was only 17 years old. But they went their separate ways and didn’t meet again until nearly eight years later at another Orlando-area nightclub.

By then Dana was divorced with 5-year-old twin boys. The two dated and lived together for about two years before marrying in February 1990 in Winter Park, Fla., where Hall was based while working for Dusty Rhodes in small towns throughout the Southeast.

“We had a very strong attraction to each other, and pretty much that was the basis of our relationship for the entire time,” she says.

Things were different in the beginning, she says, as the two traveled together during a two-year stint in Germany and the Caribbean.

“We used to go to the gym twice a day and train together, go on bike rides, beach, sun. We used to joke and say we were living the ‘Muscle and Fitness’ lifestyle.”

She says she never envisioned that their lives would take such a dramatic turn.

“There were many red flags in the beginning which never really stopped, and I guess I chose to ignore them. I was ‘in love’ and thought I could change him like a lot of woman make the mistake of doing. I thought the attraction would get us through.”

She says she never thought Hall would achieve the success he later did in the business.

“He was working for Otto Wanz those first two years, and we traveled to Germany and Austria for months at a time, and lived in little caravans behind the building. Martha and Owen Hart were our neighbors.

“I never even thought he would get famous. We’d watch WWF on TV, and Scott would say that he was going to be like that one day. I didn’t think it was ever going to happen, but little did I know that it would become our worst nightmare.

“It wasn’t until Scott started with the first alter ego, The Diamond Studd, then Razor Ramon, that things started to go really bad, and it hasn’t stopped. The more fame, the more out of control he was. And the more our marriage and family crumbled. All I can say is that whatever good memories there might have been, they are now overshadowed by more bad ones. His dream to become a pro wrestler became our nightmare.”

Dana says Hall at first denied his drug abuse and tried to hide his addiction. Perhaps it would have been better had he chosen another line of work, she says, but he always loved the wrestling business.

“He was just sucked into this fantasy life,” she says. “He probably would have still been addicted, but I don’t think it would have gotten this far out of control. He wouldn’t have been able to do some of the things he has done and gotten away with as much.”

The two divorced in May 1998 after eight years of marriage, tied the knot again in March 1999, and divorced for the final time in October 2001. They have separated and gotten back together several times since then.

The fame, fortune and big homes, she says, didn’t make up for the dysfunction.

“All the money in the world could not make up for all that was lost to gain it,” says Dana Hall, who now cleans other people’s homes for a living. “Scott used to always say he was doing this for us when I would complain about how often he was gone, but what he was doing for us only ultimately destroyed us — and him. How could all the money in the world be worth that? Be careful what you wish for.”

She says her latest attempt to reach out to Hall will be her last.

“I tried like hell. I lost. He is lost. When I was staring into his eyes for the last time, there was nothing in there. I cannot waste any more of my time and tears on Scott Hall. I have to save myself and our kids from any more direct hurt from this man. The indirect hurt is more than enough.”

She says she had been praying that Hall would make amends with his children.

“My last hope was that he would get in a safe place, get his brain cleared out enough to where he could make amends with the kids. But I know that’s not going to happen now. That was my last prayer and dream and wish … that there would be some kind of happy ending … that he could die with his family around him and on good terms with me and the kids.”

Their two children, 16-year-old daughter Cassidy and 19-year-old son Cody, are the real casualties, she says.

“They hold it in. They hate to talk about it, but they accept that they don’t have a father or a normal life.”

Now, she says, any possible reconciliation will have to happen without her.

“That was all I needed to see to convince me. I saw him for the last time as I had wished. It didn’t go as I had planned, but when does it?”

She recently reached out to WWE, which had helped Hall in the past, regarding the company offering Hall another chance at rehab.

She says the organization is looking into the possibility, but is concerned that there are not many facilities that can deal with his level of addiction as well as his mental and heart issues.

Kevin Nash, she says, would be the likely intermediary since Hall has limited his interaction with other friends.

“Kevin and I have both approached Ann Russo-Gordon at WWE about possibly offering more help to him. They have not said yes, nor have they said no. Finding some place that is qualified to deal with Scott’s magnitude of issues is proving to be difficult. They, of course, have been burned by Scott many times in the past and I don’t blame them at all if they completely shut the door at this point. I had to ask for him at least one more time, but after seeing him, I know he doesn’t even want the help.”

If Hall declines this time, she says, that door would probably be “closed for life.”

“As well it should be,” she adds.

Nash said recently that his friend’s problems go beyond substance addiction. Hall’s issues, he claims, are based on events that happened before his wrestling career, and his only coping mechanism has been turning to drugs and alcohol.

“Drugs and alcohol aren’t the problem; to Scott they are the solution,” says Nash.

The problem, both agree, is that Hall, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, doesn’t seem to want the help he desperately needs.

“Scott has made it very clear he does not want help,” says his ex-wife. “Scott made it clear that he does not want his family, nor his kids in his life in the end, more than he wants alcohol, drugs, sickness and his last enablers. He has no intentions of making amends to his children in the time he has left.”

She recently had advocated more drastic measures — a possible staged intervention on Hall’s behalf.

“Scott appears at this point to be unable to monitor and control his actions responsibly, and any attempts at a staged intervention as a last resort need to be extremely carefully planned and executed,” says sports psychologist Murray. “It might be the best hope for him at this stage. His ex-wife needs to do whatever she can to first protect the children and then try to facilitate help for him without endangering herself.”

Dana Hall, however, says she no longer entertains any desire to intervene.

“I am not going to facilitate any more help for Scott or endanger myself. Scott has not had any visitation rights with the kids since before 2004, and he lost parental rights and visitation in 2005.”

She describes her ex-husband as “a train wreck in progress.”

Hall showed up intoxicated at an appearance at an independent show April 8 in Massachusetts. He had to be helped into and out of the ring before being hospitalized for several days in Rhode Island where he was treated for cardiac issues.

“He is oblivious. He doesn’t even realize what he did at that show,” she says. “He doesn’t realize anything that’s happened since then. He has been in and out of the hospital this whole time. He called Kevin one day and suggested opening a wrestling school. He can’t relate to anybody unless it’s about wrestling. He’s completely out of touch with reality.”

She says he hasn’t seen their daughter since last August and, until she convinced her son to go with Nash to visit Hall at the hospital two weeks ago, he hadn’t seen his son in nearly two years. She says she fears her children have suffered irreparably from the family dysfunction.

“As long as he is not in treatment at least trying to get sober, any kind of a relationship concerning our kids is impossible, as they have suffered enough disappointment and hurt in their lives in regards to their father. His mental state is unpredictable and out of control to put it mildly. No one should have to be subjected to what he is spewing … least of all our kids. I could not trust this would not happen after what I witnessed that day. Besides being severely addicted, bipolar and depressed, he seems to be exhibiting multiple personalities, and none of them are nice.”

She says she appreciates Nash’s involvement in attempts to get Hall help, but that even he is feeling the strain of trying to assist someone who apparently doesn’t want it.

“Kevin is the new conductor for this crazy train, for as long as he can take it,” she says. “He is pretty much at his wit’s end as well.”

As for Dana Hall, she says her battle is over.

“I am officially done. That’s the last time that man will hurt me. I’m wrapping all of this up and getting on with it. I guess it was the closure I needed. It was not the closure I had imagined, but the closure the kids and I will have to accept.

“I have tried everything humanly possible to get through to this man for way too long. I have yelled, screamed, begged, pleaded and made enough of an ass out of myself too many times for someone who could care less. You can’t save someone with your love … my bad.

The decision to give up, she says, was not her own in the end.

“I am at peace with letting him go … I have no choice.”

I hope you enjoyed this difficult but important article from the world of clinical and sports psychology.

These are among the worst of times to be a sports fan in L.A.

LA Daily News – May 9, 2011 – Jill Painter – 05/09/11 – We are not a proud sports town today.

How bad is the L.A. sports scene? Let us count the ways.

The Dodgers and Lakers, our two most storied and prideful franchises, are in turmoil.

The Lakers were embarrassed Sunday after being swept by the Dallas Mavericks. More disgusting than the Lakers’ pathetic defense was the cheap shots that caused the ejections of Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum.

Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers in a highly leveraged deal in 2004. His pockets are so empty he can’t pay his employees at the end of the month and Major League Baseball, already having taken control of the team, might force a sale.

Los Angeles once was one of the best sports cities in the country, even without an NFL team.

“Let’s call a spade a spade. You shouldn’t be proud of the Dodgers and Lakers right now,” said John F. Murray, a Florida-based sports psychologist and author of “The Mental Performance Index.”

“They need to make changes so this happens less frequently …”

It’s a good lesson learned, for those who considered our sports successes and championships to be more than just entertainment and fun. If you’re taking these teams too seriously, you shouldn’t.

Bostonians and New Yorkers and even Clevelanders surely think we’re a joke. The joke once was how
Hollywood and fickle fans were, arriving late and leaving early. Now, it’s that we’re no longer competent and have no sportsmanship. In October, “The Sporting News” named Los Angeles the third-best sports city behind No. 1 Chicago and Boston.

In 2003, Los Angeles was named the top sports city.

At this rate, Los Angeles will be on the worst sports cities list, alongside Detroit, in 2011.

The Lakers were at an all-time low Sunday after losing in the Western Conference semifinals in their quest for a third consecutive NBA title. Bynum gave a forearm shiver to guard J.J. Barea, who already was in the air and in a vulnerable position, and was ejected. It was dirty and ugly.

Odom had been ejected earlier for a cheap shot against Dirk Nowitzki.

It was a classless display for a once classy organization. Where was the sportsmanship? Imagine the poor parents who had to explain why the Lakers were such poor losers.

Bynum shred his Lakers jersey as he walked off the floor. With all of his antics, including postponing knee surgery so he could attend the World Cup, injury-prone ligaments and bones, there’s no need to ever see him put on the purple and gold anymore. Trade him. It is the same scenario for those thinking about throwing on their Kings hockey jersey.

“These people are role models, and they set examples for society,” Murray said. “We need to keep sports as healthy and clean as possible. Kids need ideals to look up to. It keeps them focused on being the best they can be.

“It seems ridiculous that sports have to hold some moral standard, but they do. Kids look up to them. Even adult kids. Everyone loves sports.”

The Clippers should be a better ticket than the Lakers. After the Lakers showed their true, ugly colors Sunday, perhaps we should get behind the other NBA team in L.A. They have cheaper tickets and Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin, who’s also known as the human dunk machine. He’s exciting to watch.

The Dodgers are not. McCourt’s sordid divorce and revelations that he was using team money for his personal gain was upsetting. He’s so broke – reportedly $500 million or so in debt – he had to take out a personal $30 million loan last month to pay his employees.

This storied franchise, that flourished under the ownership of the O’Malley family for nearly five decades, has come unglued.

Angelenos are so downtrodden that everywhere Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban went here in town last week, fans were begging him to buy the Dodgers … while the Lakers were playing his team.

And on Opening Day, there was the brutal beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow, who’s still in a medically induced coma.

That’s much worse than any divorce drama or McCourt bank statement.

The Angels have Jered Weaver, who’s from Simi Valley and won his first six games, and former Dodger Mike Scioscia managing. But what a drag to have to drive to Orange County to witness a good team with a credible owner. I know they’re called the Los Angeles Angels, but that’s only a name.

The fun even has been taken out of our college sports. USC football was on probation and ineligible for a bowl game.

USC basketball coach Kevin O’Neill ruined a solid season with a public tirade against an Arizona booster in a hotel across from the Pacific-10 Conference Tournament at Staples Center. As if USC wasn’t in enough trouble.

UCLA isn’t doing anything to brag about, either. Rick Neuheisel had another pedestrian football season at 4-8 in his fourth year. He ran out Norm Chow, but hired a new offensive coordinator while Chow still was on staff. Neuheisel then took an eternity to hire a defensive coordinator.

Bruins basketball is trying to get back to the glory days and made progress this season, but then lost two players to the NBA. UCLA even has to play at the Sports Arena, on USC’s campus, while Pauley Pavilion is being renovated.

Everything is turned upside down.

The best thing going at UCLA was women’s basketball coach Nikki Caldwell, and the Bruins couldn’t keep her. She left for LSU, where she’s making $700,000 a year over five years. She’s bright, articulate, a philanthropist, a fashionista and a brilliant coach and recruiter.

And after three years, she’s gone.

It was understandable as she’s closer to her family in Tennessee and is making a much better living in a place that adores women’s basketball. But this one hurts UCLA.

Let’s not forget hockey. The Kings had one of the best starts in franchise history and stumbled late but managed to make the playoffs.

Then they squandered a 4-0 lead at home in Game 3 against the San Jose Sharks and lost three home playoff games and the series, 4-2.

What’s up with that?

We couldn’t even get back on the horse in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Of the entrants with Southern California connections, the highest finish was Twice the Appeal, in 10th place.

Guess there’s always the Galaxy and the return of Candace Parker to the Sparks.

“Sports are a great diversion and great entertainment,” Murray said. “There’s a lot worse things we could be doing. They are a healthy pursuit physically and a challenge. When things go bad there, like they are now, there needs to be change in order to make improvements and realize what they have is delicate and precious.

“They better improve their management or they’re going to lose it.”

L.A. fans might lose it if we don’t get our sports teams back in shape.

I hope you enjoyed these insights from the world of sports psychology.

Do Midseason Coaching Changes Work?

Newsday – November 17, 2010 – John Jeansonne – Years of scholarly research and psychological interpretation can assure Islanders fans that this week’s reboot – firing of coach Scott Gordon and replacing him with AHL call-up Jack Capuano – may work. Or may not.

“I think back to the New York Yankees and Billy Martin,” said sports psychologist John Murray, who has worked with coaches and athletes in all professional sports, “and the brief effects of the incredible passion he would bring. He’d win a while, then they’d start losing and he was gone, then he’d come back and they’d start winning again.”

A 2007 article in the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching – “The Effect of Mid-Season Coach Turnover on Team Performance: The Case of the National Hockey League (1989-2003)” – found that teams that resorted to such methods boosted their point totals from .35 to .45, a slight improvement, during their transition season, and continued to improve to .51 the following year.

But the same study indicated, similar to the Billy Martin anecdote, that the change was relatively short-term.

As far back as 1963, an analysis by Oscar Grusky – examining managerial changes in baseball – demonstrated a “negative correlation” between replacing the team’s skipper and its won-lost record. Grusky’s interpretation, cited in a 1995 Journal of Sport Behavior paper, was that the manager/coach replacement process for a struggling team “is also disruptive to the organization. The uncertainty associated with a new leader with a different agenda and new ideas may result in ever poorer sport team performance.”

That hardly is encouraging news for the Islanders’ rescue plan, with the team on a 10-game winless streak and the season in danger of slipping away altogether.

The same Journal article, however, offered opposing fact-finding by Gamson and Scotch, published in the mid-1960s, arguing that Grusky had not given sufficient credit to the “meaningful impact” of coaches and managers on team performance. Gamson and Scotch contended that “a change in leadership provides fresh ideas, new perspectives, and a rejuvenated atmosphere. …”

Murray agreed. “Novelty in human behavior is something that is extremely salient,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s like, if you want your dog to come, you use a different tone of voice. It may be questionable how effective it can be early in the season. It’s difficult to predict. But it might be an effective psychological
ploy.”

Not surprisingly, these mid-season searches for a master locksmith – attempting to free what possibilities might not have been realized on a stumbling team – have become increasingly common. According to a researcher named Dodd, the rate of turnover among managers and coaches in professional sports in North America jumped from 15.3 to 20.6 percent from the mid-80s to mid-90s, with coaching tenures dropping from an average of 2.48 to 2.44 years.

With any disappointing team – the Islanders and Dallas Cowboys being the most obvious current examples – there clearly are factors beyond any coach’s command. Player talent. Injuries. Deteriorating confidence. Still, the time-honored coaching shake-up, often presented as a call for accountability, can fall on deaf ears if read by players as holding only the coach accountable.

“I do believe there are benefits to novelty,” Murray said. “But you can’t substitute quality. I would think, that unless it’s an extreme, extreme case, you can always improve a team with good mentoring. Take anybody: There’s a range of behavior from good to bad. A good coach can inspire his players; that’s what I do for a living. You try to get the maximum out of each person.”

So, the Islanders’ sacrifice of Scott Gordon may work. But only if expectations are based in reality.

“You don’t control the outcome in sports,” Murray said. “You control performance. Don’t think about winning. Don’t think about statistics. Think about performance. Don’t think about outcome.”

Don’t think about the Stanley Cup just yet.

I hope you enjoyed this article from the world of sports psychology.

A Sneak Preview of CaneSportMagazine.com and Football Psychology

Note: Publisher Jim Martz writes a great column on football at CaneSportMagazine, an online and print publication dedicated to the University of Miami. In the not-yet-published upcoming issue, he spoke with Dr. John F Murray about the letdown teams experience after success, and about real versus artificial enthusiasm. Below is the raw and unedited version of Jim’s contribution, re-printed here in its entirety with his permission. Those interested in the University of Miami football should subscribe to this terrific publication and all the great contributions at http://www.CaneSportMagazine.com. I hope you enjoy the below article as an example of quality of writing you will find there.

By JIM MARTZ – CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. – It sounded like New Year’s Eve here Saturday afternoon. Every time Virginia scored, the band would strike up “Auld Lang Syne.” And they did it often, much to their surprise and delight. They change the words, of course. It’s not about “Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” For the Cavaliers’ fans it’s a celebration song, and it was party time on this cool, sunny day.

Virginia’s football season had been practically down the toilet going into the game. Now the University of Miami’s season is on the brink of being down there. It’s anything but party time.

Virginia’s stunning 24-19 upset victory over 22nd-ranked Miami marked the third time in the last four games that the Hurricanes seemed flat for much or all of a game. How can that happen Saturday on a team that controlled its own destiny toward a BCS bowl? On a team that finally had the schedule in its favor?  Who’s to blame: coaches or team leadership? Or both?

“Tough loss,” said coach Randy Shannon. “You can’t win a game when you have six turnovers (it was five) like we did. We moved the ball offensively but when you have six turnovers there’s no way you should win games. “We played well in the fourth quarter and got a chance to win it. Defensively we hung in there the whole entire time, just didn’t come up with the third down play to get off the field and give the offense another shot at it.”

The Hurricanes can still reach the ACC Championship game in Charlotte but they’ll need help. Someone will have to knock off Virginia Tech, and, of course, the Hurricanes will have to defeat the Hokies at home Nov. 20. And, obviously, the Canes will have to defeat Maryland at home this Saturday and win at Georgia Tech on Nov. 13. And they may have to do it with their fourth-string quarterback, true freshman Stephen Morris.  “We’ve got to bounce back,” Shannon said. “We don’t control our destiny any more. We’ll bounce back and get ready for Maryland next week.”

Does Saturday’s setback alter the goals? “No, we still have to win each game one by one and just keep going from there,” Shannon said. Each year lately the Hurricanes tease you, make you think they can play for the ACC title. Then they break your heart. Yes, the loss of Jacory Harris early in the second quarter was huge. But against a 3-4 Virginia team that had been blown out by Florida State and North Carolina, the Canes should have been able to win without him. They should have been able to win by just pounding the ball. The Cavaliers ranked 114th in the nation in rushing defense, for heaven’s sake. Georgia Tech ran for nearly 500 yards against them. I thought the backs for the most part ran hard, but they didn’t have many holes. If someone had said to me before the game that Virginia would intercept five passes, I would have said that’s impossible because you don’t need to throw a whole lot to win that game.

Lots of unanswered questions, such as: Why didn’t Lamar Miller didn’t touch the ball until the fourth quarter? During the too-little-too-late comeback, why was Stephen Morris throwing deep so often when the Canes were finally getting big chunks of yards on the ground? Why are there so many dropped balls by receivers still at this stage of the season? Zero sacks by a Hurricane defense that was second in the nation in tackles for loss? Only one turnover for a defense that also ranked among the best? Unacceptable against a team the caliber of Virginia, especially with all that was at stake. Twelve penalties costing 95 yards? Unacceptable against anyone.

It’s hard to offer answers when questions can only be posed to the head coach and four players after a game. That’s all that was made available to the media after Saturday’s game. The media used to be able to go in the locker room and interview – if you hustled – a dozen players and two or three assistants. Now, since the locker room has been closed in recent years and assistants have been off limits, only Shannon and a few players are brought in to an interview room. A few more players are available at the Tuesday press conference but no assistants, and a few players, sometimes assistants, are available after early week practices.

My point: Access to UM football players and coaches has never been this limited going back to the 1970s, perhaps even longer. So, when fewer answers are available, even more questions are raised and unanswered. And just when you thought the Canes’ stellar play in the romp over North Carolina a week ago had quieted the critics, the negativism now will soar on the talk show and chat rooms. It won’t stop unless the Hurricanes run the table and get some lucky help.

Even that probably won’t quiet things because this question will remain: Why are the Hurricanes so inconsistent mentally and physically? Allow me to offer this, and it’s not an excuse: College football has never been more fluid than it has been the last five seasons. It becomes moreso every year. How else do you explain all the wacky scores, like undefeated fifth-ranked Michigan State trailing 30-0 at the half against Iowa.? Or Virginia Tech losing at home to James Madison, or was it Dolly Madison? Or Texas getting stomped on at home by UCLA and Iowa State but knocking off undefeated Nebraska on the road? Or the Florida Gators returning most of their team but losing three in a row? The list goes on and on.

I asked Shannon if the team was excited or flat before Harris was injured. “We were still excited no matter what,” he said. “Any time you lose somebody it’s going to go down a little bit. Like I said, we bounced back and the guys responded.” With all these ups and downs, maybe the Hurricanes need some psychological help. Sports psychologists are more involved in working with athletes and teams than ever. Some old school coaches see it as a sign of weakness; others embrace it.

I talked to prominent sports psychologist Dr. John Murray of Palm Beach about ups and downs. He had a poignant message: “It’s so easy after success to have a letdown,”he said. “After success you’ve really got to focus on making your game even better. Immediately get in there and set another goal to make it even better than it was before. Number two, you need to have a sense of urgency. There’s always room for improvement. Three, keep doing what you do best. And finally, walk the walk. If you want to improve, just don’t talk about it.”

Then there’s the matter of genuine enthusiasm (is that what we saw in the North Carolina game?) and false enthusiasm, such as the day at Louisville a few years ago under Larry Coker when the Canes stomped on the Cardinals’ midfield logo before the kickoff, then got stomped on themselves by Louisville.

“Real or genuine enthusiasm is the sincere overflow of hard work, effort, and a long-term focus on a worthy goal,” Murray said. “It is a no holds barred passion that shows that a person’s past history or team is invested fully in what they are doing, and that they are going to give 110% effort to accomplish the task they are focused on no matter what happens or no matter how long it takes. “When I think of real enthusiasm I think more of great performances than cheerleading. I think of Kellen Winslow (Sr.) in the 1981 playoffs for the San Diego Chargers, who looked like he had been pulled off the battlefield five times and just kept on going back out. I think of Marcos Baghdatis continuing to play despite a terrible cramp. I think of Dan Marino and the Dolphins preventing the Bears in ’85 from stealing their immortal accomplishment in ’72 of going undefeated and beating the Bears in front of a national audience.

“Artificial enthusiasm is when a player or team gets excited when things are going well, but then goes flat when there is adversity. Artificial enthusiasm might also have less of a focused or enduring or patient or persistent quality than real or genuine enthusiasm. Vince Spadea coming back from the biggest losing streak in the history of pro tennis by grinding for two years in the middle of nowhere until his ranking was decent enough to return to the sport he loved even more after the effort – that is real or genuine enthusiasm. It is also more characterized by a team or player’s desire to do well themselves rather than to put down another team or player. In other words, genuine enthusiasm is focused on performing well and realizing a long and hard-fought desire or goal. It has neither time nor interest in putting others down or stomping on logos, for goodness sakes. It is a more healthy selfish quality of affect that is oblivious to the opponent and how ugly they might be or how much that rival is despised.”

The Canes don’t stop on logos any more. Fans wish they’d stomp on opponents more often like the teams of the 1980s and early 90s. Dream on, you’re not going to see that again at UM. But a team can strike a balance between the taunting days of old and false bravado. The 2001 national champion Hurricanes had that balance. They had big-time swagger and class. The current Canes have class. The swagger seems to make cameo appearances.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of Miami Hurricanes football and sports psychology.

Top 25 Articles by Traffic 2009-2010

Sports psychology is a growing profession and science and below are the top 25 most popular articles on the website of Dr. John F Murray over the past 1.5 years.

1. “The Field and Science of Sports Psychology” by John F Murray, 2009

2. “Offsides Beyond the Game: The Pre-Game Speeches” by Brett McMurphy, Tampa Tribune, January 31, 2010.

3. “Earl Morrall Shares Wisdom with Sports Psychologist” by John F. Murray, June 6, 2009

4. “Visser Set to Become First Female NFL Analyst on TV” by John F. Murray, September, 2009

5. “Sports Psychology in Sports Illustrated” by Mike McNulty, Sports Illusrated Work in Sports, October 14, 2003

6. “Best Books Survey Results” by John F. Murray, November, 2007

7. “NFL Teams Examine Minds of Potential Draft Picks Too” by Kent Babb, McClatchy Newspapers, April 19, 2009

8. “Wanted: Insane Tennis Parents” by Huan Hus, Slate Magazine, June 2, 2009

9. “Concentration is Crucial in Football” by John F. Murray, September 7, 2009

10. “Mind Game: Crossword Craze Hits Devil Rays’ Clubhouse” by Roger Mooney, Bradenton Herald, May 15, 2005

11. “Games People Play” by Richard Pagliaro, Tennis Week, October 22, 2008

12. “What is Real Sports Psychology” by John F. Murray, 2005

13. “Baseball’s Most Ejected Managers” by Monte Burke, Forbes, June 22, 2009

14. “Dr. John and Vince Spadea on Social Facilitation” by John F. Murray, 2008

15. “Hall of Fame NFL Quarterback Warren Moon: Psychology Helped Me Achieve Greatness” by Bob Glauber, Newsday, September 7, 2009

16. “Little Kangeroo Hops into Tennis All the Way From Australia” by Lesley Visser, CBS Sports, December 9, 2009

17. “Bending the Rules: Shady Ethics Deeply Ingrained in Baseball” by Harvey Fialkov, Sun Sentinel, November 3, 2005

18. “The Psychology of Missed Field Goals: Was Nate Kaeding’s Performance Part of Choking Outbreak?” by Ian Yarett, Newsweek, January 22, 2010

19. “NFL is Number One on SportsPro Ranking of World’s 200 Most Valuable Sports Properties” by John F Murray, 2009

20. “Gold: Coaches Go From a Scream to a Whisper” by Jon Gold, Los Angeles Daily News, March 14, 2009

21. “Badri Narayana Talks Out about Sports Psychology: Letter from Tennis Coach in Salt Lake City” 2008

22. “Michael Jackson Fame is Dangerous” by John F. Murray, 2009

23. “Simple Formula Fuels UFC’s Appeal” by Adam Hill, Las Vegas Review Journal, July 9, 2009

24. “Ground Strokes Canada Cover Feature of Dr. John F. Murray, Author of Smart Tennis” by Lin Conklin, Ground Strokes Canada, December, 2009

25. “Knowing When to Stop Key in Sports” by George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel, July 12, 2005

I trust you enjoyed this contribution from the world of sports psychology.

Motivation is a key part of Fisher’s job

The Tennessean – October 18, 2010 – Jim Wyatt – Sports psychology feature – Coach has used several methods over the years.  The night before their game in New York last month, the Titans got an emotional lift. They heard a speech by Will Jimeno, a Port Authority Police officer who survived being buried under World Trade Center rubble for 13 hours on 9/11.

A couple of days before their game against the Cowboys last week, the Titans got a kick in the pants. They heard an expletive-filled tirade by their usually mild mannered head coach, who questioned their readiness to play.

Over the years — 17, for those counting — Jeff Fisher has used a variety of methods to motivate the grown men who call him coach. He’s inspired them, challenged them, insulted them, and made them laugh.

Judging from his longevity, it’s working. Fisher has lasted longer in his job than any other active NFL head coach, and he ranks third among active coaches in career wins (144), trailing only Bill Belichick (166) and Mike Shanahan (157).

While X’s and O’s and developing players have a lot to do with a coach’s success, Fisher has shown an uncanny ability to keep other things fresh, from his teaching methods to his handling of players and what’s needed to stimulate their collective psyche.  And he knows how to pick his spots.

“Until you’ve sat in that head coach’s chair in the National Football League you really don’t understand what all it entails and how all encompassing it is,’’ said Titans linebackers coach Dave McGinnis, a 37-year coaching veteran who was Cardinals head coach from 2000-03. “All of the different things you have to be able to juggle, from the mental aspect of the game and the temperament of your football team and when to press a hot button and when to press a cold button, when to pull them together.

“That is the biggest thing that separates head coaches from guys who have head coachingpositions. To be honest, there are guys right now that have head coaching positions in this league that have no business being head coaches. But a real head coach gets it, and Jeff Fisher is at the top of that list.’’

The Titans head into tonight’s game against the Jaguars with a 3-2 record. A year ago they were 0-5, on the verge of crumbling as talk about Fisher’s job security rose well above a whisper. Then the Titans won eight of their last 11 games.

Fisher’s personality never changed during the trying start or the strong finish, his players said. Jaguars Coach Jack Del Rio once put an axe and a big block of wood in the locker room to enhance a “keep chopping woodâ€? theme, only to have his punter hurt himself with the axe.

Fisher’s motivational methods have been equally creative — no word if he’s placed calls to any Chilean miners recently — but from every indication he really hasn’t had one backfire.

“Jeff always had something new up his sleeve,’’ former Titans punter Craig Hentrich said. “And there’s a method to his madness every time he does something.’’ The night before the Sept. 26 game against the Giants, the Titans watched a clip from the 2006 film World Trade Center. Seconds later, Jimeno walked in and shared his story of perseverance.

Before a 2003 playoff game against the Steelers, the Titans watched a clip from Remember The Titans. Then the high school coach who was the inspiration for the film, Herman Boone, made a surprise appearance.
Fisher also likes week- and season-long themes. One was “212 Degrees, The Extra Degree,â€? that included posters tacked up around Baptist Sports Park and a movie. “At 211, water is just hot water,’’ safety Donnie Nickey said. “But that extra degree gets it boiling and changes the physics of it. The message was to get that extra degree, and see what we get. It was a challenge to us. It was unique.’’

Fisher once had all 53 players place a small stone into a pile in the LP Field locker room. The message: Here’s how big you can grow working together. Once he sensed that players needed a laugh the night before a game. He stunned them by having “Office Linebacker Terry Tateâ€? of TV commercial fame come out of nowhere to tackle strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson, whose cell phone had “accidentallyâ€? gone off during a team meeting — one of Fisher’s pet peeves. It broke the tension in a hurry.

In 2008, Fisher risked life and limb for the sake of motivation, jumping from a helicopter with the 101st Airborne Parachute team and landing on the practice field as astonished players looked on. “We were 10-0 and the pressure was mounting and we were getting tight, not wanting to lose,â€? linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. “That was his way of loosening things up.’’

The Titans lost the following Sunday, “but Coach Fisher is very clever with what he does and that is a credit to him and how long he has been around,â€? Tulloch said. “And players have a lot of respect for him.’’

Fisher, 52, is a big practical joker, but during last Friday’s practice he unleashed a darker side. The Titans looked lackadaisical. Two players began chirping at each other, which escalated into pushing and shoving as others joined the jawing. Fisher charged in with a rare show of anger and harsh language. “It was necessary,’’ defensive back Vincent Fuller said. “He knew that we couldn’t get what we got done in Dallas done if we weren’t together, if we weren’t as a team.’’ Immediately after practice, Fisher apologized to a female reporter who witnessed the tirade.

The flash of fury was not planned, Fisher said. The Titans entered the game as a seven-point underdog, but won 34-27. “There is no manual, that is probably the best answer,’’ Fisher said of his methods. “I reacted (that day) to an accumulation of things. But I am not one to circle a date and say, ‘This is the date you’re going to do it.’

“Every game is different and no game we play over the course of however so many years is similar. It’s a different set of circumstances each week and you adjust. What I try to do is get a sense from the players, from their preparation habits, commitment, and what is required going into a game.’’

John F. Murray, a sports psychologist from Palm Beach, Fla., said a coach has to keep his messages from getting stale if he’s going to survive with one team as long as Fisher has. Of course, Fisher also benefits from an ever-changing roster, a new batch of players to motivate each year. “By varying the presentation, no matter how you do it, people will pay attention,â€? Murray said.

I hope you enjoyed this article on the topic of sports psychology.

Is Sports Psychology a Real Science?

Sports Psychologist Special to JohnFMurray.com – By Dr. John F Murray – September 21, 2010 – As the field of sports psychology evolves and more and more qualified and licensed practitioners hang out a shingle (something that is still moving enormously slow by the way), the media, potential clients and even current clients ask about the scientific validity and reliability of this science and profession. Well, they don’t really use the terms “reliability” and “validity” unless they’ve had some statistics or quantitative analysis classes, or just couldn’t turn off the PBS channel as a child, but these are the questions they are essentially asking: (1) Is sports psychology really a science; (2) Are sports psychologists basing their work on scientific findings, and (3) If sports psychology is a good science then why aren’t there more people using this in sports in the year 2010?

The answer to the first two questions is a resounding YES! Whether you are looking for coach speeches for your football team, to prepare for an upcoming triathlon, or to build your golf game over the coming year after finding out about sports psychology after taking a free psychological evaluation, there is no doubt that the research questions, hypotheses, data collection, and peer reviewed process in the field is every bit as scientific as studies in chemistry or biophysics. Good sports psychologists trained in the scientist practitioner tradition will also base their work on the findings emerging from these journals. It is definitely miles ahead of common sense advise even if many of the principles appear to be quite logical.

People tune into johnfmurray.com to read about many of the discussions in the popular media channels such as the Bloomberg wire, New York Times newspaper, or ESPN television. As a sport psychologist, I am contacted frequently by these outlets to give my opinion on a matter of current news interest. Maybe there was a player suicide or a team on a massive losing streak, and they all want my expert opinion. I gladly give it as any one of several legitimate sports psychologists would because it helps to educate the public and hopefully gives the field a little boost each time a story appears.

There are those who will claim that sports psychology lacks scientific merit because you cannot always predict team and individual behavior and success. The problem, however, has nothing to do with the science. The science, like the traditional field of psychology, has been around and doing well since the 1800s, and the predictability is sometimes hard there too, but the real issue is the subject of study – human beings! We humanoids tend to be very hard to pin down and control. Our behavior and thoughts are extremely variable, and we would want it that way. Add a contest between two highly intelligent tennis players, or even more complex between two teams of 11 of the best athletes in the world, and you are going to have a nightmare of potential variables bouncing around. Even the most famous sports psychologists are going to tell you that it is not possible to control outcome 100%. The best we can hope for is to get that team or that athlete prepared to be their best on game day. Whether they win or not depends on whether the opponent cooperates, and if they are competitive you can be sure they will not. So you can have the best game in your entire history and lose, or perform like the Bad News Bears and win. It’s really about performance and not outcome, even though we all want to win.

The fun and inspiring sports psychology quotes on JohnFMurray.com and the mental tests are ways to get people’s attention and to realize that this great service exists in the first place, because many still do not know about it. Famous coach speeches might grab the headlines and we’ve all heard about one more for the gipper or about winning one for the teammate who died suddenly, but why the hype? What about the day to day training by a legitimate and qualified/licensed psychologist/sports psychologist who just rolls up his or her sleeves every day along with the athletes and coaches and does his or her best job to both teach and inspire, to inform about the science and deliver the tools needs to raise performance.

Like all battles, sports psychology competition is won in the trenches over lunch meetings, late night phone calls, office visits, crisis intervention, and even babysitting of famous athletes at times. Earl Morrall, whom I had the pleasure of meeting a year ago in Sarasota, quarterbacked the most successful NFL team in history to 71% of the team’s plays (1972 Miami Dolphins). Many today do not even know his name because he is such an outstanding and confident gentleman who sought little publicity and just did his job. Earl told me that the difference between going 17-0 and having an average season was not huge, but “doing a little bit more each day.” I have also found this in calculating my Mental Performance Index (MPI) scores. The team that scores at 54% percent of perfection almost always destroys a team riding along at 52% of perfection. Small edges are actually huge! Get the point? Sound like the trenches again?

Given that we are in the trenches and seeking any kind of advantage possible to slightly elevate our performance, doesn’t it make sense to turn to science and years of training and experience found in qualified sports psychologists, rather than wearing the latest energy bracelet, or listening to some wide toothed motivational speaker? How about going to the town psychic? Get real folks. I did in going to graduate school from 1992 to 1998, getting a couple masters degrees and a PhD at the University of Florida, then going to the only sports psychology internship in the country that was also an approved APA psychology internship, and then doing a postdoctoral fellowship the following year. This process took until 2000 before I was able to open my office. I did it the right way and took forever and it cost a lot of money, but at least I knew I was gaining the training needed to do it properly to help my clients. Some of the successes I’ve had together with my clients over the past 10 years were not accidents at all, just solid trench warfare informed by science and inspired by passion.

Great coach speeches are necessary if you are a coach, but think of the value of bringing in a legitimate and licensed sports psychologist who can work at both the individual and team level to help get a team get ready like never before. Even before I opened my practice in 2000 I saw the value of this kind of work on a consistent basis. In working with two tennis teams at two different colleges in back to back years, and seeing each team’s players once a week for 45-50 weeks, each one of those teams had their best season in their entire history. It was no accident. It was just hard work on the mental game. Anyone can do it. But they need to first get out of the 14th century, realize that the science and profession of sports psychology is alive in the right places, and maybe they too can realize the biggest comeback in the history of their sport, win a Super Bowl, or grab a Stanley Cup. Resist the gleaming white teeth, the reputation of the ex-player speaker, the allure of the psychic friend’s network, and slow talking Southern drawl speaker who relates well but offers little insight beyond common sense, the ridiculousness of the energy bracelet … get real and get with the times! Get back in the trench where you belong and where you can raise your game a few percentage points and win a championship!

If you enjoyed this little adventure as we strolled down the avenue of legitimate and licensed sports psychology, call me now to help you or your team at 561-596-9898.

With hearts heavy from death of player, Pokes prepare for No. 5 Texas

Casper Star Tribune – September 11, 2010 – Eric Schmoldt – After tragedy, Wyoming returns to field. Grieving continues to be a daily process. For the Wyoming Cowboys, it takes its next step today.

Just five days after the tragic death of freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse in an automobile accident, the Pokes must return to the field for a game at No. 5 Texas.

“Emotions are going to be running high,â€? UW senior wide receiver David Leonard said. “It’s a tough time right now, but when you have tough times, you come together as a team and a family. I don’t think we have a choice.â€?

Subhed: “There’s no way around griefâ€?

As with the grieving process throughout this week, the responses the players and coaches will have today are wide-ranging and somewhat unpredictable.

Likely, each player will feel a little differently about the experience.

“It does affect a tight-knit group that has been in camp for months and knows each other really well just like a family,â€? said Dr. John F. Murray, a renowned sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla. “You can’t really accelerate grief reactions or bereavement types of responses. They differ widely based on the relationship with that person and the individual that’s coping with it.

“[But] there’s no way around grief except through grief. You’re going to have to deal with it sometime.â€?

Few have dealt with a situation quite like this one.

Narcisse, a 19-year-old from Miami, Fla., was riding in a vehicle with three other teammates on their way back from Colorado early Monday morning.

The driver fell asleep and the vehicle drifted off the road, rolling down an embankment on Highway 287 in northern Colorado.

The three other passengers have been treated and released from hospitals, but Narcisse did not survive.

Now the Cowboys not only have to deal with the death of a teammate, but they must do so in the middle of the season while trying to play football.

“I would say that in that case you’ve got to put on your gameface quick and it might actually delay the response,â€? Murray said. “Some of the players might not deal with it until after the season or might not fully process it.

“[But] some kids won’t be affected at all. A lot has to do with their personal histories, what they’ve dealt with and what they’ve seen in terms of death.â€?

Subhed: “They grew up in life real quickâ€?

The Connecticut Huskies found themselves in a similar situation nearly a year ago.

Star cornerback Jasper Howard made 11 tackles and forced and recovered a fumble during a victory over Louisville last year. Hours later, he was stabbed to death on campus.

One week later, the Huskies were back on the field, honoring their fallen teammate.

“It was hard, but I also think it was good,â€? UConn coach Randy Edsall said. “It was therapy for us to get out there and really kind of get our mind off some of those things.

“We took his jersey with us to all the games. We still have his “JHâ€? on the back of our helmets this year because he would still be a senior and he’s an honorary captain for us.â€?

The Huskies lost a close game at West Virginia on the Saturday following Howard’s death.

The grieving process was far from over.

“The next task then was, on Monday after that Saturday, was to go to the funeral and to bury Jazz,â€? Edsall said. “That was something that was a difficult part to do and then you go back and play again the following Saturday. It’s very difficult, but our kids grew from it, they grew closer together and they grew up in life real quick.â€?

Subhed: “You’re still not over it todayâ€?

Jasper Howard’s face greets the Huskies every day.

A plaque in their facility’s lobby greets them with a smile from a fallen teammate.

Inside their locker room, the cornerback’s locker sits behind glass, untouched.

“It was just something we felt like we had to do,â€? Edsall said. “In life, things do happen, but you still have to move on and find ways to honor the young man. You never forget about it and you never will.â€?

The Cowboys are following a similar approach.

They’ll wear helmet decals with Narcisse’s initials during today’s game and a player will wear Narcisse’s No. 12 jersey, probably for at least the rest of this year.

Back in Laramie, the young linebacker’s locker will remain as it was for the next four seasons, when Narcisse would have graduated.

“It helps to memorialize that person’s meaning to the team,â€? Murray said. “It could also work to their benefit to help inspire the team with a little reminder that they’re playing for somebody who died.â€?

The constant reminders will keep the memory of Narcisse fresh on the mind for the next few seasons.

It will also mean a constant reminder that the grieving process may not end after one game, one week, one month or even one year.

“Every day was a healing process for us as we went forward from the day that he was murdered,â€? Edsall said. “You’re still not over it today. We’ve dealt with it, but it’s something that’s never going to leave us.â€?

The Cowboys take the next step in the healing process today.

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