Posts Tagged ‘sports psychology’

FIGHTING THROUGH FATIGUE – BY DR. JOHN F MURRAY

Sports Psychology Column – Dec 1, 2001 – By Dr. John F. Murray – One of the most difficult states to overcome is fatigue. It has been said that fatigue makes cowards of us all. This is not true for everyone. Following a 33-hour solo flight, Charles Lindberg landed safely in France. Give in to fatigue and you are cooked. Fight through it properly and you gain a huge advantage! Let’s take a closer look.

No matter how fit you are you have undoubtedly experienced the ravages of being exhausted during a match. Fatigue should always be considered from both a psychological and physiological perspective.

Safety First

It’s essential to know your body and physical condition well before undergoing any rigorous activity. Always have a medical exam and ask your physician before attempting to withstand 3 to 5 sets of hard core tennis, especially in heat conditions. Look at the recent number of deaths due to heat stroke. If you experience severe pain, headaches, vomiting, inability to sweat, or other common danger signs, always stop playing immediately.

Assuming that you are able to play tennis and not in significant danger, fatigue usually presents itself in a variety of ways. Physical signs that your body is tiring include greater difficulty breathing, slower movements, aching muscles, reduced vision and slower reaction times to name just a few.

Lost Focus

Perhaps the riskiest thing to your tennis game, and eventual ego, is the focus you often lose when you are tired. The mind has a way of wandering all over the place when the body signals exhaustion. This is partly due to the relationship between arousal and attention (Optimizing Arousal in Tennis) whereby narrow attention allows many distractions to intrude. It is also true that when you become tired, your focus has a tendency to turn inward and dwell on your condition. Again, focus is lost because it could be much better spent attending to more relevant performance cues.

What can be done to battle this robber of attention and energy? If you are seeking a crucial edge for your game, let’s take a look at my ten tips to battle fatigue:

1. First and foremost, make sure that you get plenty of sleep prior to the big match. Nothing prepares your mind and body better to fight fatigue than recharging the batteries the conventional way.

2. Eat small balanced meals throughout the day and never consume a large meal before the match. Eat light a few hours before the match, but make sure to get some good complex carbohydrates in your body the day before the match too. For more details, consult with a nutritionist. Everyone’s body and performance demands are different.

3. Drink plenty of water mixed with Gatorade or fruit juice prior to and throughout the match. Start hydrating at least two hours before the match. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

4. Pace yourself throughout the match. Anticipate your opponent’s style in advance and know what will be needed to win in the final set if necessary. If needed, take a little longer before serving and setting for the return. Control the pace of the match and you save valuable energy for later.

5. Wear a hat and light-colored clothing in the sun. These minor measures mean a lot when battling outdoors. Protecting the head is especially important. White reflects sun.

6. Lose weight. Carrying an extra load around makes everything more difficult. Like a hot air balloon, throwing off some of the excessive baggage helps you soar higher for much longer.

7. Visualize yourself as a powerful force. When you become tired, an energy jolt is often helpful. See yourself as a space shuttle taking off rather than as a donkey bogged down in the sand.

8. In an emergency, end points sooner. If you are hopelessly outclassed by a more consistent player and realize that your energy reserves will not last, find another way to win. Thinking of two and three point combinations to end the rally sooner will sometimes do the trick. Don’t get wild, just bring the point to a close sooner and conserve energy.

9. Never let your opponent know how tired you really are. Psychological warfare often involves deception. Show how tired you are and your opponent gains both a tactical and emotional boost. Disguise your fatigue by turning toward the fence to catch your breath and your energy.

10. Breathe continuously and steadily through the match. Players sometimes hold their breath under stress. Just like a world-champion weight lifter, oxygen is essential. Breath in and out with your strokes. Use deep slow breathing during changeovers.

I hope this article has rejuvenated your energy and given you another weapon to unfurl on the court. Like many other distraction, fatigue should be managed wisely to your advantage.

Keep your comments, suggestions and feedback flowing. This is truly an international tennis forum and I love hearing from you, wherever on the globe you type. I’m in Munich for the next couple weeks and can be contacted using this form.

Article written by Sports Psychologist Dr John F. Murray

THE IMPORTANCE OF BELIEF – BY SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST DR JOHN F MURRAY

Sports Psychology Column – Nov 1, 2001 – Dr. John F. Murray – Talent, desire and mind-body skills all work together to enhance performance. This increases the probability that success will occur, but the opponent has to cooperate before winning actually takes place. Remember — higher performance never guarantees success, but only increases the probability.

In providing sport psychology services to athletes at many levels, I’ve found that one particular mindset is useful in unlocking true potential in a person. It is the attitude of the beginner’s mind, open and trusting, that seems to work well. No matter how accomplished an athlete may be or how much they know, an innocence and almost trust in our plan together is what sets the stage for learning and excellence. Let’s call this attitude belief.

Scientists usually scoff at the notion of belief in their research and knowledge creation. After all, we’ve sent men to the moon and discovered the cures for many diseases not by believing, but by analyzing and thinking in an extremely critical fashion. This healthy doubt is the hallmark of the scientific revolution and serves us well in creating knowledge, but doubt in an athlete’s mind only sidetracks progress and interferes with performance.

The problem with doubt for the athlete is that an awful lot of energy and left-brain thinking is required to analyze critically and consider the many possibilities of action. Doubt creates distractions that disrupt flow and focus and reduce confidence. To perform with grace and efficiency on the tennis court requires an almost single-minded and simple trust in the chosen training method.

In working with an athlete, whether as a coach or sport psychologist, it is essential to establish trust up front and spell out the benefits that occur by letting go of control and believing in the plan. This is not to say that every word out of a good coach or sport psychologists’ mouth is scientifically based. Far from it! A good part of any coaching and counseling is art, based upon intuition, smart risks, trends and hunches.

Still, it is often the athlete’s belief, as well as the precision of their knowledge, that leads them to progress. Much has been written about the placebo effect in medicine. A sugar pill will often cure pain as effectively as an established pain medication. The mechanism here is belief. This placebo effect is equally important in getting an athlete ready for peak performance.

Here are some guidelines in helping promote belief in an athlete. Whether you are an athlete, coach, sport psychologist or highly involved tennis parent, you will find these useful:

1. Whatever you are doing, make sure that your approach is based on sound principles. Although belief is important, belief alone will never suffice. Part of the challenge in establishing trust is showing how what you are doing is credible and state of the art.

2. Paint a total picture for the athlete from the outset. Show the person what it takes to achieve high performance and how goals will be accomplished. Only after showing the overall plan is it time to get specific and address details.

3. Simplify your message. Rather than trying to accomplish too many things at once, focus on one skill at a time until mastery occurs. Confusion rarely enhances belief or performance.

4. Never promise victory, but always promise higher performance. There is no way to absolutely control the outcome of an athletic event. False promises only reduce belief.

With solid knowledge and a total belief in the program and goals chosen, the athlete is more confident, uncluttered by doubts and free to express their own creative genius. Teach belief as much as you teach skills and you’ll unleash a force with few limitations.

Hope you enjoyed a useful and important passage written by Dr John F. Murray

Top 10 Reasons to See a Sports Psychologist

Special from John F Murray – September 10, 2009 – See the new article on the Top 10 Reasons for Sports Psychology today. It was posted on the Squidoo website.

For more information overall about the field and to hear 2-minute audio mental tips, go to the main site about sports psychology.

Is Oudin’s Run the Best Ever for a Teenager?

Sports psychology insight – New York Times – Nicholas McCarvel – September 9, 2009 – Women’s tennis has always been littered with talented teenagers. Martina Hingis reached her first grand slam quarterfinal at 15 years of age. Venus Williams did so at age 17. Steffi Graf was 16.

So when comparing Melanie Oudin’s meteoric run at this week’sUnited States Open to the past, it doesn’t seem so meteoric; Oudin is a mature 17 herself.

But for Hingis, Williams, Graf and a host of other women, their appearance in such late-round matches early in their careers were expected of them. They had been predicted to make it big from a young age; they had been primed for the big time.

Oudin, on the other hand has had to fight for every point, game, set and match on her way from world No. 373 in 2007, to a current rank of No. 70.

Moreover, she has taken the hardest path to a Grand Slam quarterfinal by any little-known teenager in recent years.

In the past decade, only three players under 18 have advanced to a Grand Slam quarterfinal while possessing a ranking outside of the top 50 in the world: Oudin, Sesil Karatantcheva and Lina Krasnoroutskaya.

Karatantcheva’s run came at the 2005 French Open, where as a 15-year-old she stunned Venus Williams in the third round. Her path, otherwise, was rather padded: she beat one other seeded player and faced two players ranked outside the top 90. The average rank of her four opponents was 57.

Krasnoroutskaya also made her run at the French Open, but as a 17-year-old in 2001. She beat no. 9 Nathalie Tauziat in the opening round, but then did not face another seed until Justine Henin handily beat her in the quarterfinals. The average rank of her opponents was 67.

In contrast, Oudin has faced magnificent resistance at Flushing Meadows. Her first-round opponent, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, was ranked No. 36, and was only the third player not to be seeded coming into the Open. The average rank of Oudin’s first four opponents? 21.

The biggest obstacle for any young player to overcome is her older opponent’s power. On clay – where both Karatantcheva and Krasnoroutskaya accomplished their quarterfinal feats – the speed of the ball is slowed significantly, and power is neutralized.

At the United States Open, however, the courts are DecoTurf hard courts that play extremely fast, making Oudin’s ball-retrieving, power absorbing and counter-punching that much more impressive against the powerful groundstrokes of Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova.

Is Oudin’s run to the second week the best ever by a low-ranked youngster? It’s hard to say. But she can certainly put herself in an elite group with a win over Caroline Wozniacki on Wednesday night.

No American teenager has been to a Grand Slam semifinal since Serena Williams did so here a decade ago. Good company to keep for the No. 70 player in the world.

Melanie certainly has the eye of this sports psychologist

Sports Psychology Needs to Stop Shooting itself in the Foot

Editorial by John F. Murray, Ph.D. – JohnFMurray.com – Sports Psychology commentary – With today’s news that Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Warren Moon credits therapy and going to a psychologist for much of his success over the years, we are faced with an exciting opportunity to once and for all put the nail in the coffin of ignorance about psychology, sports psychology, therapy, mental health and whatever else you wish to call it.

Many have written about the terrible stigma associated with going to a psychologist, and I have worked very hard to help eliminate that. I have been on national television and radio talking about it, I have written hundreds of articles, and I have been quoted in over 2000 articles and often extolling the same theme that talk is tough and that it is more manly to admit to a problem and seek help than to hide from counseling as if it is some deep dark secret that can never be revealed. And my thesis today is that one of the primary reasons for this stigma comes directly from my own profession – from the thousands of psychologists and few sports psychologist in America who only further the terrible stigma by taking the principle of confidentiality and perverting it to an unnecessary degree!

In graduate school and in professional supervision, we as psychologists are taught about the virtues of total patient confidentiality so much that I think we go way overboard. Now I am not saying that every client does not have the right to total privacy, even about the fact that they entered therapy or sports psychology counseling, or whatever you call it, and this right is essential to getting people to open up, feel safe, and deal with difficult issues in a professional manner. But what really irks me is that many psychologists take this principle to the absolute extreme with their introverted personalities, and their hush hush environments, and that this behavior contributes unnecessarily to the stigma that we all need to eradicate. Many clients (by the way I hate using the word “patient” as it is demeaning and puts the client in the role of a sick person) end up with the view that what they are doing is somehow shameful, embarrassing or taboo. No wonder so many people like Warren Moon had to sneak into the therapist’s office late at night, probably dressed in disguise, so that nobody would find out that he was seeing a shrink!

Get real world. The biggest problem is that people are not accessing mental heath care and they are not accessing sports psychology the way they all know they should. This stigma associated with psychology is especially pervasive in my specialty of sports psychology because athletes are supposed to be “tough” and to not need help from another person. How silly and insane is that? People like Warren Moon are the toughest and strongest of them all by coming out and admitting to a problem. Moon got help. Did it hurt him? Is being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame such a bad thing?

Now confidentiality is indeed important and I tell all my clients that this is their total right. I explain to them how it helps them. But the fact that they are seeing a therapist or a clinical psychologist or a sports psychologist should not be such a deep shameful secret. I am certainly not going to tell anyone who my clients are without their consent and participation and desire, but there are no reasons why any individual on the planet should feel that they have to sneak into their therapist’s office late at night! It is this shame and this ridiculous stigma that prevents people from accessing care and getting the help they need in the first place. It is this absurd baggage that prevents NFL teams and coaches from employing team psychologists as regularly as they do trainers and physicians. People – stop equating counseling and psychology with shame! It is just a profession to help people become more well adjusted, and sports psychology can also give them a better chance to win the Super Bowl with vastly improved mental skills such as confidence, focus, energy control and goal setting. Even Joe Namath recently talked about how hard it was to stay totally focused.

I recently received an email on a list of a group of psychologists from a therapist that I will not name after the Warren Moon news came out. Here is a direct quote: “can athletes really feel safe when so many sport psychologists advertise who they work with (whether it is an individual, team, etc). I do whatever I can to make sure no one ever knows who I work with for so many reasons, but in our field, it is rare…let’s work to improve this.”

While every therapist and sports psychologist is entitled to their opinion and to practice the way they see fit, it is the spirit of this message which got my attention and which irritates me to no end. Why would it be a shameful thing for a team to say they had a team psychologist or sports psychologist? I would say that we need to improve our marketing much more and to remove the stigma by shedding light on what we do, not running into a corner and pretending like our clients just committed an embarrassing act by coming to see us! He did not say anything inherently wrong but the field of sports psychology is cloaked in shame and secrecy so much that good athletes are suffering and good teams are being prevented from improving.

My message to all therapists and fellow sports psychologists is that we need to be much louder in talking about our work, and we need to do a much better job of telling everyone that we exist and that our services are needed, not going into hiding as if we just committed a crime! The shame associated with seeing us is ridiculous and we are our own worst enemies in promoting confidentiality so much that it makes it seem like a horrible thing for clients to come see us.

I say remove all stigmas about going to see a psychologist but retain total confidentiality about what is discussed. Promote to your clients and promote in your advertising that going to see a psychologist is like going to your dentist, medical doctor, or publicist. We are providing a vital service to society that is being terribly neglected because we have too many introverted, OCD, and secretive characters who are fearful of telling our clients to let others know that we exist. We are greatly needed, we should be confident in that truth, and there is nothing at all shameful in seeing us.

On the contrary, our clients should be raving about our services. Why did it take Warren Moon many years after his career to finally tell the world his secret. It should not have been a secret at all. It should have been a celebration that he was getting help for his issues and others should have known about it so that they could get help too. In some ways, confidentiality taken to the extreme is not only weird, it is selfish because it prevents others from knowing about a great profession!

The Berlin Wall only fell because there was an overwhelming movement and tipping point that revealed that keeping people locked up behind a wall is somehow wrong. What an interesting view. When the wall came down everyone asked why it did not happen earlier. Today we face the same problem in psychology and sports psychology. As a society, let’s band together to tear down the wall of ignorance and shame surrounding psychological services.

Most people will have some form of depression or anxiety in their lifetime. All athletes need mental training to be at their best. Brag about your sports psychologist. Brag about your psychologist. Brag about your counselor and social worker. Tell your teammates they are wimps and losers for not going to the sports psychologist when they need it. Tell your coaches that they are neglecting the team by not having a regular sports psychologist on site. Deal with mental health and mental training issues long in advance as preventive care, not long after it is too late and someone abuses dogs, shoots someone in a nightclub, beats their wife, goes in hiding before the Super Bowl, or suffers from social phobia so much that they go to Australia to smoke weed and destroy a team and all their fans in the process.

The bottom line is that Warren Moon just took a big chunk out of that wall of absurdity with a big and strong sledge hammer. I encourage every one of you who reads this article to start swinging and pounding away at that wall of idiocy until it falls even harder than the Berlin Wall did! I hope you enjoyed this editorial article on sports psychology.

Joe Namath Talks about How Difiicult Focus is in Football

Sports psychology comments from the Orlando Sentinel – Ethan J. Skolnick – September 5, 2009 – Towards the end of this article, the coach of the Miami Dolphins, Tony Sparano, is quoted as saying, “So nothing is owed to you. Nothing is guaranted.” Skolnick continues, “And even the guy who made football’s most famous guarantee can attest.” He then quoted Joe Namath: “And I can tell you, our brains throw a lot at us, man,” Namath said. “You know, they’re tricky. We like to think we’re very strong, too, but we can be brought to our knees very easily with some strange things, man … Total tunnel vision is very difficult to achieve. Tunnel vision, my goodness! But focus is so critical and distractions play such a role. We think we’re ready when we’re really not. It’s hard to convince yourself, but sometimes you really get fooled.”As Namath put it, “We talk about how frail the brain is. You lose some of that urgency. You get spoiled, maybe.”

Focus is indeed so important in all sports and sports psychology is the profession best suited to train this critical mental skill. Hope you enjoyed the commentary by another NFL legend, Joe Namath, on sports psychology.

Hall of Fame NFL QB Warren Moon: Psychology Helped Me Achieve Greatness

Sports psychology – Newsday – Bob Glauber – September 7, 2009 – Ex-Vikings QB Moon says therapy helped him cope – In his upcoming book, the Hall of Famer credited secret therapy sessions in Minneapolis for finding the root of his unhappiness.

Warren Moon would wait until the end of the day before sneaking into the back entrance to the office building. Twice each week, the Minneapolis psychologist would give Moon the last appointment so no one would discover that an NFL quarterback was in therapy.

But it was during those sessions that Moon, who was playing for the Vikings at the time, would begin to unravel the reasons behind his unhappiness.

“I’d go Tuesday and Fridays, and I’d always go at the end of the day so no one would see me in the stairway,” Moon recalled during a recent interview. “Confidentiality was a big thing with me, but once I got past that, I was able to open up and talk about myself.”

And it was then that he discovered how much had built up inside him through the years.

There was the overwhelming feelings of responsibility for his mother and six sisters after his father died of liver disease when Moon was only 7.

The stress of dealing with suggestions that he was not smart enough to pursue his dreams of becoming an NFL quarterback.

The acrimonious dissolution of his first marriage.

“When my dad passed away, I took a lot of responsibility and probably matured a lot faster because I was so caught up with being the ‘man of the house’ with my sisters and my mom,” said Moon, who learned to cook, sew and clean the house to help his mother, Pat, a full-time nurse. “Football was a way for me to make it in order to take care of my family. I never really paid any attention to me, except for the kind of football player I wanted to be.”

Even after Moon became successful at every level he competed at, the personal issues still gnawed at him. But during more than a decade of soul-searching, Moon finally has come to terms with himself — not just as the first black quarterback to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but also as a man.

He hopes that by sharing his experiences, he can help other pro athletes with similar struggles. Moon’s autobiography, “Never Give Up on Your Dream: My Journey,” details his experiences during a lifetime of personal and professional challenges.

“One of the things I learned from this whole experience is that you need to deal with yourself first,” said Moon, who has since remarried. “If you do that, you’ll be a better person to be around for others.”

He strongly believes therapy would be of similar help to other athletes.

“I would suggest to any player that if he can get past the confidentiality part of it, especially male athletes who try to be these stoic figures, where nothing bothers us and we can conquer the world,” Moon said. “Address your feelings. Address your emotions. It will be a much more freeing experience in life, which will help you to be better to others around you.”

Another message from the book: “Anything you do in life is going to be tough, but anybody who has been successful will go through tough times.”

Moon’s challenge was to care for his family the best way he knew how: by throwing a football. He grew up in an era in which college and professional coaches and scouts viewed black quarterbacks with skepticism, often recommending that they switch to running back or wide receiver because they weren’t considered intelligent enough to play quarterback.

Moon had to overcome those stereotypes at every level. He had to spend a year in junior college before being offered a scholarship at the University of Washington. After going undrafted by the NFL, he played in the Canadian Football League for six years, winning five championships for the Edmonton Eskimos. Finally, in 1984, he signed with the Houston Oilers and wound up playing 17 NFL seasons for the Oilers, Seahawks, Vikings and Chiefs.

He never spoke publicly about it until now.

“There were two reasons I didn’t talk about it,” Moon said. “One, it was painful. My thing was, as a quarterback and being a stoic figure, I acted like nothing bothers me. I’m bigger than that. Another reason is because I didn’t want to seem like I was using it as an excuse.”

So why talk now?

“It’s important to acknowledge it,” he said. “There are just not a whole lot of us [black quarterbacks] out there, and I knew I’d have to be better and make sure I watched any move on or off the field.

“[Former Bucs and Redskins quarterback) Doug Williams and I were able to help open doors for the next generation. We were pioneers in that. So many African-American quarterbacks are playing now because of the way we played during our time. That’s important to me.”

Moon’s message to others: Live the dream.

“My story is about a guy who didn’t come from a whole lot,” he said. “I had to live through racism and a lot of other stuff, but I was still able to accomplish my dream. People out there struggling to find theirs can do it, too.”

I hope you enjoyed this article focused on sports psychology.

Media YouTubes of Dr. John F Murray

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Visser set to become first female NFL analyst on TV

Sports psychology special report from Dr. John F. Murray: CBS SPORTS’ LESLEY VISSER TO BREAK NEW GROUND AS FIRST WOMAN ANALYST FOR NFL GAME ON TELEVISION

Lesley Visser, who is writing the epilogue for Dr. Murray’s new book “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” will Serve as Analyst for New Orleans Saints-Miami Dolphins on Thursday, Sept. 3 on WFOR-TV in Miami

NEW YORK — CBS Sports’ Lesley Visser, voted the No. 1 Female Sportscaster of all-time by the American Sportscasters Association, is about to break new ground as the first woman analyst for a television broadcast of an NFL game.

On Thursday, Sept. 3, Visser will serve as a color commentator for the fourth quarter of the Miami Dolphins-New Orleans Saints pre-season game seen on WFOR-TV (Ch. 4), the CBS affiliate in Miami. She works the Dolphins pre-season games with Bob Griese, Nat Moore and CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Craig Bolerjack.

“Lesley Visser is one of the most accomplished sportscasters in history,” said Shaun McDonald, President/General Manager of WFOR-TV/CBS4 and WBFS/My 33. “She’s not only an inspiration for others and a pioneer in breaking down boundaries, but she also sets a standard that every other sportscaster aspires to achieve. Needless to say, we’re delighted that she’ll be contributing her expertise to our final preseason game.”

An example is Visser’s pioneer spirit is her support of sports psychology, as she recently had Dr. John F. Murray on her talk radio show with co-host Jeff De Forest on Fox Sports 640 AM to discuss innovative issues to help improve the NFL and NBA with better mental health care and mental training.

“Having had many challenges in my career, I am especially excited about this one,” said Visser, who was the NFL’s first female beat writer in 1976 when she covered the New England Patriots for the Boston Globe. “I am grateful to CBS for giving me this opportunity.”

This season, Visser, the only woman in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the recipient of the 2006 Pete Rozelle Radio and Television Award, will be working her 36th year of NFL coverage. She will contribute to THE NFL TODAY, the CBS Television Network’s pre-game show, and cover her 23rd Super Bowl when CBS broadcasts Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 in Miami. Visser became the first female color analyst on radio when she worked selected Monday Night Football games for Westwood One with Howard David and Boomer Esiason in 2002.

This has been a special report from JohnFMurray.com, devoted to clinical and sports psychology.

Lesley Visser & Jeff De Forrest speak with sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray on Fox Sports Radio

Sports psychology radio interview: Pro football hall of famer Lesley Visser and notable talk show host Jeff De Forrest of WFTL 640 Fox Sports interviewed Dr. Murray on August 28, 2009.
Click here to play the segment