Posts Tagged ‘sports psychology’

Hall of Famer Vissser to Write Epilogue for Upcoming Football Psychology Book

Special to JohnFMurray.com – Hall of Fame sports broadcaster Lesley Visser recently agreed to write the epilogue for an upcoming book published by World Audience in New York City and authored by Palm Beach clinical and sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray titled “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.” Murray’s previous best-selling book was Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game.

In his new book, to be released in 2010, Murray will unleash his patented MPI system of rating a football team’s performance on a scale of 0 to 1 (like a baseball batting average), including crucial mental factors in the rating such as pressure performance and reduction of mental errors.

The Mental Performance Index (MPI) was extremely accurate over six years of pilot testing in making overall performance explicit in the NFL playoffs, and this data allowed Murray to say more or less how the teams would perform in 5 of 6 Super Bowls and to beat the spread in 4 of 6. For this book, Murray is rating every play in Super Bowl history to produce the data, ranking every team from 1 to 88, showing the actual data, and announcing the best and most dominant team ever.” Many other interesting questions will be answered such as, what is really more important to winning the big game, offense or defense, or something entirely different?

“I’m extremely fortunate to have a superstar and extremely nice person in Lesley Visser to write the epiloge, said Murray. It will greatly enhance an already exciting book and be icing on the cake by a broadcasting legend who has covered most Super Bowl games in history. Visser was recently awarded as the top female sports broadcaster in history. She adds a rare and extremely informed perspective that I’m delighted to be able to share with the world in this book. It’s not surprising that the publisher has a name like World Audience, said Murray with a chuckle, because the world will indeed be audience to an audacious approach in this book, an approach based on precision and thinking outside the box.”

Murray expects people to learn more about the MPI and pay much more attention to the mental game in anything they do after reading this book. “Readers will never quite view football or other sports the same,” stated the sports psychologist once dubbed ‘The Freud of Football’ by the Washington post. “Readers don’t even have to love football to appreciate this because the principle of performing well mentally is necessary in any high-demand situation. We all expect that the interest from fans, coaches, players and media will be overwhelming.”

The author believes that the fun controversy of arguing over which team was best, as well as the learning that will take place in this spirit of healthy competition, will advance the sport for everyone. “Let each city argue over whether their which team was the best, but the truth will become clear with the MPI data analysis,” explained Murray.

Every year after the Super Bowl game, new MPI ratings will determine whether that year’s winner just became the best team overall, or if they did not it will show exactly where they fit in the hierarchy of all teams who have participated. Starting in 2010 teams will be playing two Super Bowls, the regular Super Bowl, and the “Super Bowl of Super Bowls” to see if their team can become overall champ. “This might be the first book in history that never ends, added Murray, as a new chapter will be added to the book at the end of every football season with the new data that emerges! Teams will have a chance to be crowned Super Bowl champion for that particular year, but also crowned Super Bowl champion of all time.”

The logic behind why the system was accurate in forecasting team performance in the Super Bowls between 2003 and 2008 is clear in retrospect. For the first time the MPI includes something extremely influential in performance, but rarely or probably never measured directly, and that is mental performance. “The mental aspect of performance is quantifiable and very real, said Murray, and it will be clear how this is accomplished by reading this book.”

“I’m extremely fortunate and grateful to Lesley Visser for her willingness to contribute the epilogue to this innovative book which will help everyone become a little less intimidated by mental coaching and sports psychology. It will be much clearer after this book how necessary solid mental training is, and future coaches and players will look back and wonder how they ever survived without it.”

The upcoming book and MPI page are available for review at: http://www.mentalperformanceindex.com.

For more information:

John F. Murray, Ph.D.
139 North County Road Suite 18C
Palm Beach, FL 33480
Tel: 561-596-9898
Fax: 561-805-8662
http://www.JohnFMurray.com

Baseball’s Most-Ejected Managers

Sports psychology commentary in Forbes.com – Monte Burke – June 22, 2009 – Sure, home runs and stolen bases are cool, but the ejection of a manager is baseball’s greatest performance art. Two actors (manager and umpire) meet on center stage in front of thousands to kick dirt, toss bases and hats and spit tobacco juice and obscenities into each other’s faces. The fact that we already know exactly how the spectacle will end–with the outstretched arm of an ump–diminishes it not one bit.

Earl Weaver, the fiery, longtime manager of the Baltimore Orioles, was perhaps the art’s most flashy practitioner. While he argued, he furiously pecked the brim of his hat on an umpire like a bird. He once tore up a rulebook and scattered the pages all over the field. In an infamous incident, Weaver was tossed for smoking a cigarette in the dugout. The next day he delivered the lineup card to the ump with a candy cig dangling from his lip. He was tossed again.
In Depth: Baseball‘s Most-Ejected Managers

Legendary as he was, however, Weaver has nothing on Atlanta Braves skipper Bobby Cox, who is the all-time leader in manager ejections, with 143 (which doesn’t even count his two ejections in World Series games). The most recent one? Yesterday, when he was tossed in a game against the Boston Red Sox for arguing balls and strikes, giving him 34 ejections since 2004. “I don’t know why umpires miss strikes,” Cox grumbled after the game.

Behind the Numbers

To determine our list of most-ejected managers, we looked only at who’s been tossed the most since the 2004 season. Our statistics come courtesy of David Vincent, a contributor to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and the author of Home Runs Most Wanted. Cox tops our list by just a hair, over Ron Gardenhire of the Minnesota Twins. But his all-time ejection record may prove unbreakable.

St. Louis Cardinal’s manager Tony LaRussa has the second-highest total of active managers with 78. That’s roughly half of Cox’s all-time total. And LaRussa is only ninth in ejections since 2004, with 11 dismissals. He’ll have to work very hard to catch Cox.

Cox is the Cal Ripken Jr. to Weaver’s Mickey Mantle. The Braves manager lacks flash, but he’s consistent, averaging a little more than five ejections a year in a 27-year career (Weaver, who is No. 4 on the all-time list with 98, averaged almost six a year for 17 seasons). What sets Cox apart is his seemingly shorter fuse: He’s been tossed mostly for arguing balls and strikes, but last August a dismissal came for something as simple as arguing with ump Joe West about turning on the stadium lights.

A fiery manager can be an asset more than a liability at times. Last August, with his team down 4-3 to the Chicago White Sox, The Twins’ Gardenhire was booted for arguing about a hit batsman. As he steamed off the field, he punted his hat 15 feet into the air. The Twins then rallied to win game.

“I hope [Vikings head coach Brad Childress] saw that,” Gardenhire said later. “If he ever needs a kicker, I got good height on it.”

No. 3 on the list is Charlie Manuel from the world champion Philadelphia Phillies, with 21 ejections. A late-season ejection last year was followed by the Phillies winning the National League East, then going on to win the World Series.

Does getting ejected have a material effect on the team’s play? Perhaps. Including Cox and Manuel, seven of the 11 men on our list have won the World Series: the Red Sox’s Terry Francona, the Chicago White Sox’s Ozzie Guillen, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Mike Scioscia (all tied for sixth place), the Cardinals LaRussa (ninth) and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joe Torre (tied for 10th).

Two others, the San Francisco Giants Bruce Bochy (fifth) and the Tampa Bay Rays’ Joe Maddon (tied with Torre) have taken teams to the World Series. On our list, only Gardenhire and the Cleveland Indians’ Eric Wedge (tied for third) have not taken a team to the World Series.

Rallying Cry?

Ejections have had short-term positive effects, too: Lou Piniella, who surprisingly didn’t make this list (he only has six ejections since 2004), had a famous blowup and ejection on June 2, 2007 against the Braves, when his Chicago Cubs were a disappointing 22-30. He kicked dirt on the third-base umpire’s shoes and kicked his hat across the diamond as the crowd bellowed “Loooooooo!” The Cubs went 63-47 the rest of the way and made the playoffs.

Then again, ejections can have no impact whatsoever. At the time of Cox’s ejection last August, the Braves were 55-63 and on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention. After his tossing, they went 17-27 the rest of the season and missed the postseason.

Says John F. Murray, a sports performance psychologist: “The managerial ejection is a way to change the tempo of a game, a very tactical way of delaying and distracting.”

It’s certainly been a useful tool in the careers of most of the managers on our list. But frequent ejections can also be a sign of serious trouble. Former Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost would have been on our list of active managers, with 18 ejections since 2004, but he was fired in September 2008. Former Colorado Rockies skipper Clint Hurdle and former Houston Astros manager Phil Garner also would have made the list, with 14 and 13 ejections, respectively, but they, too, were canned. These guys lost their cool–then lost their jobs.

Hope you enjoyed the comments from sports psychology.

Wimbledon 2009: Can Middle England learn to love Andy Murray?

Sports psychology commentary – Sunday Telepgraph – June 21, 2009 – William langley – Andy Murray is the brightest Wimbledon hopeful Britain has produced for decades. Even if he triumphs, winning over the public will be trickier.

Ever since he emerged, slab-chopped and scowling, beneath a jungle of greasy curls, Andy Murray, the nation’s brightest tennis star, has been frightening opponents – but also a substantial segment of the British public and the advertisers who ought to be making him rich.

Around Glasgow-born Andy hung an air of alienation and charmlessness, which suggested that he could never take over from Tim Henman as the once-a-year darling of Middle Britain. Even Tim stopped being nice when the subject of 22-year-old Andy came up. “He’s a miserable git,” sniffed the former British number one. (He later insisted he was joking and that the two are friends.)

The refashioning of Andy’s image was never going to be easy, but last week offered an intriguing glimpse of how the project is being handled. Groomed, buffed and with his zits airbrushed out, the player was introduced as the new ”face” of Fred Perry sportswear.

The venerable company’s marketing director, Richard Martin, claimed that Andy had “worked closely with the design team” to create a classic new range of tennis kit launched in homage to Fred – Britain’s last Wimbledon men’s champion – who was born 100 years ago last month.

Although the extent of Andy’s design contribution remained uncertain, marketing experts were broadly impressed. “Fred Perry is one of the few English brands to support Murray,” says Geoff Woad of Brand Republic, “but it is a good fit for the company.”

The tailored shorts and smart, Gatsby-esque cable knits were a big improvement on Andy’s earlier grungy look, but the deal raised the question of whether, by invoking a direct comparison with Fred, the all-English hero of the 1930s, it was placing unrealisable expectations on a man of a strikingly different nature.

The raffish, cosmopolitan Perry, who dated Marlene Dietrich before marrying American movie star Helen Vinson, was a Renaissance man – knowledgeable, refined and at ease in almost any company.

Murray, as someone who knows – and admires – him, put it last week, “is not a deeply cultured individual. He doesn’t read books, doesn’t have any other interests. He just plays tennis, and that’s all that matters to him.”

So what? Britain has been yearning for a home-grown Wimbledon men’s champion since Perry’s last win in 1936 against a sinister German, Baron Gottfried von Cramm. Far from worrying about how often he smiles and which brand of kit he wears, some experts fear the campaign to soften his image may actually damage his game.

“I like Andy just the way he is,” says Dr John Murray, a former US tennis professional, now .one of the world’s foremost sports psychologists.

“He’s quiet, he’s low-key, but he’s basically a nice guy. He has good people around him. The public doesn’t always see him this way, and it’s maybe understandable that he wants to have a different image, but what you don’t try to change is the character.

“You work within the character. Ultimately, you’ve got to be yourself, and to realise that the greatest endorsement of being yourself is winning.”

Murray’s ascent to the big time, four years ago, appeared to catch tennis unawares. Here was a boy with none of the obvious polish or reassuring wholesomeness of previous British standard-bearers such as Roger Taylor, John Lloyd or Henman.

These were chaps the establishment felt comfortable with; who, even if they didn’t win much, at least held the line against the brattishness and narcissism eating at the game’s heart.

The Scotsman had the talent, but he appeared to be wreathed in Caledonian gloom, and when – jokingly, he now claims – he made disparaging remarks about the English, much of his potential fan base switched off.

Murray appeared bewildered by the hostility. He’d had a sheltered, but not comfortable upbringing – a child of divorced parents, whose primary schooling had been disrupted by the 1996 Dunblane massacre. He’d noticed the nice guys losing, and formed his own conclusions.

“How often have you seen me smash my racket on court?” he asked. “I know I say things I probably shouldn’t say, but I’m not stumbling out of nightclubs or throwing up in front of the paparazzi.”

Last year he hired Stuart Higgins, a former Fleet Street editor, whose public relations company offers “crisis management support” for public figures.

One of the player’s close associates says: “It was a case of Andy, himself, realising that he couldn’t carry on as this kind of Harry Enfield’s Kevin character and that there was a real value to looking right and having the crowd on his side.

“He’s listened to people, understood his problem, and become more confident and mature. He’s still prickly with the media, because he’s been stung, but I’ve seen him away from the court, working with kids, out with his family, and he’s really OK.”

The stakes are high. According to the American magazine Sports Illustrated, Roger Federer, the world’s most successful player, earned an estimated $35 million last year – more than two-thirds from commercial deals with companies such as Rolex, Gillette and Nike.

Even Maria Sharapova, who hasn’t won a major title since Wimbledon in 2004, pocketed $21 million. Federer has charm and Sharapova glamour – high among the qualities advertisers cherish. The Scotsman, to put it bluntly, has struggled to display either.

Not that he’s scratching around for the price of a pack of oatcakes. Last week Murray bought a £5 million, mock-Regency house in Surrey with a swimming pool, where he is expected to live with his 21-year-old girlfriend, Kim Sears. Even so, for a world number three, his off-court earnings are believed to be relatively modest, with the bombed-out Royal Bank of Scotland and Highland Spring as his main sponsors.

“Everyone who uses sport stars for commercial endorsements is looking for the Beckham factor,” says an industry source. “That’s the gold standard, but it’s very tough to fulfil, and not something you can easily define other than as a special kind of appeal that reaches across age, class, gender, language, frontiers, everything.”

An early blunder was declaring, during the 2006 World Cup, that he supported “anyone but England”, prompting some English tennis fans to declare that they would support “anyone but Murray”. During last year’s Wimbledon, after dispatching Richard Gasquet in five sets amid much fist-pumping, Andy flaunted and caressed his muscles in what some felt was an unseemly show of vanity.

The “auld enemy” syndrome of Anglo-Scottish rivalry continues to pursue him, and many advertisers remain sceptical of his selling power south of the border. Henman, in pluckily upholding the great British tradition of heroic failure, hit a much surer chord with the shire and suburban types who follow Wimbledon, and was commercially more bankable.

Happily, it may not be too late for the country to learn to love him. “I think he’s a very good boy, really,” says novelist Jilly Cooper. “I love to watch him play, and I don’t understand why everyone is so nasty about him. I am sure that if he wins Wimbledon, we will forget all about him being a bit prickly, or whether he doesn’t like the English, and take him to heart.”

“Andy’s not naturally articulate, although he’s a lot better than he used to be,” believes Telegraph sportswriter Andrew Baker. “You have to realise that he just doesn’t need the crowd in the way that Henman did. He doesn’t play off a crowd, doesn’t milk it in the same way. Andy’s a lot less concerned about how people see him, and his image isn’t so important to him. Having said that, he’s got intelligent people around him who do understand what a valuable commercial property he is.”

At Wimbledon this week, we will get an idea if Andy Murray, all kitted out for the part, is now really ready to play it.

Hope you enjoyed the comments from sports psychology.

Bowden, experts differ on generation gap

Sports Psychology Commentary – Orlando Sentinel – June 27, 2009 – Andrew Carter – Bobby Bowden has been coaching football for more than a half century, the past 33 years at Florida State, and he said recently that he’s often asked one question in particular more than most: How have the athletes changed from generation to generation?

And his answer, he said, is usually the same: They haven’t, really.

“These kids come into my office, players, whether it’s 55 years ago or last week, [a] player walks into my office, I look at him . . . [it’s the] same sweet kid,” Bowden said recently during one of his spring booster tour stops. “Same sweet, innocent boy. You know it? Only his hair his longer. Or he’s got earrings . . . and he wears his underwear outside instead of inside.

“But he’s still the same sweet kid [as] that kid I had 50 years ago.”

Bowden’s opinion notwithstanding, the philosophy and psychology of coaching the athletes of today has become a business — the subject matter of instructional videos, coaching seminars and books. At the 2009 Nike football coaching clinic, held in Orlando in late February, Alabama’s Nick Saban gave two speeches.

One was titled, “3-Deep Matching Zone.” The other: “Coaching Today’s Athlete.”

The idea was to help football coaches better inspire and lead a changing generation. The athletes might be the same at heart, as Bowden believes, but the pressures and expectations surrounding them have changed, experts say.

“The generational profile of today’s kids, they’re so goal-driven they know exactly what they want and what it’s going to take to get there,” said Mike Voight, a Connecticut-based sports-psychology consultant who has worked with teams at USC, Texas and UCF. “But they unfortunately don’t have some of those key coping resources. So once they’re hit with some adversity, some tend to crack.

“And you hear that continuously from the coaches, especially, [that] kids just break down.”

Voight and others who specialize in sports psychology say the athletes of today are more specialized than those in previous generations. They grow up spending Saturday mornings not in a sandlot or in a neighborhood playground, as kids decades ago might have, but instead at camps or on travel teams designed to maximize their potential.

Few athletes enter college with as much pressure as those who play football. Florida State this week welcomed its incoming class of football players. They’re still months away from their first college game but many Seminoles fans have, in some cases, followed their recruitment for years.

As college football recruiting has gained popularity — exposed through fan-driven Web sites affiliated with Rivals.com and Scout.com — the expectations surrounding young players have soared.

“One of the big challenges [in coaching] is that we’re in the information age,” said Dan Mullen, Ole Miss head coach and former Florida offensive coordinator. “A young man that comes in to play in the Southeastern Conference right now for two years has been profiled the whole way through. With the Internet, with all the attention given to these young people, they come in and I think they feel a lot of pressure . . .

“The expectations are so high with today’s athletes that for an 18-year-old, that’s a lot to deal with.”

And, experts say, the current generation — classified as “millenials” — is less equipped to handle such pressure, even if much of it is self-applied. According to Voight, who has led seminars about coaching today’s athletes, dissatisfied college athletes are more likely to transfer schools, complain to the media, lead a coup against a coaching staff, fake injuries to get out of practice and instigate a player mutiny or revolt.

Still, the idea of coaches adapting to fit the needs of their players is still a relatively new concept, Voight said.

“There’s definitely kind of this missed connection,” he said. “Especially the older coaches; you know they’ve done it a certain way for so many years and it’s worked for them so why should I change?”

Bowden isn’t alone in his assertion that athletes haven’t changed much over the years. Asked if players grow up more quickly these days, or if coaching them is somehow different, first-year Auburn Coach Gene Chizik said, “They’re still 18 to 22 years old and they’ve all come from various places and backgrounds and that’s kind of what’s neat about being a coach . . . And I don’t think they’ve changed over the years.”

Experts say that mindset is outdated.

Yet it persists, they say, especially in the world of football — a sport so much defined by its physicality that its mental side might perhaps be overlooked.

“I bang my head against the wall trying to get more and more NFL coaches trying to come around to the idea [of sports psychology],” said John Murray, a noted sports psychologist based in Palm Beach. “I think there’s an old mindset that eventually needs to die out.”

If Saban’s seminar is any indication, perhaps the “old mindset,” as Murray described it, is fading.

Rich Brooks, the veteran Kentucky coach, said psychology is more a part of his job than it ever has been. Brooks, who has been coaching more than 40 years, said recently players have become more difficult to coach and that “it’s probably because of the information age and expectation levels.”

“They all come in believing they can play as freshmen,” Brooks said. “They all come in believing that they’re going to play in the NFL. And in reality that ain’t going to happen. So dealing with those expectations, I think, takes a little bit more psychology than it used to in coaching.”

Part of the issue, Voight said, is that the athletes of today are savvier, better connected and less patient. He said the phrase he hears most often from coaches to describe athletes of today is that they arrive on campus “with a sense of entitlement.”

Yet the trend of how athletes have changed over the years is difficult to quantify, Voight said.

One thing that has changed, Bowden said, is the parental responsibility placed on coaches. He told a story during the booster meeting about a parent who’d complained to him after one of his players had found trouble.

Bowden’s response: “You had him 18 years. I had him two.”

“You go back to your youth, how your parents raised you — made you go to school, made you go to church, made you do this and that,” Bowden said. “They don’t do it anymore. They don’t do it anymore.”

He told the crowd that the players hadn’t changed but that the parents had — and that they needed to get better. Those in attendance applauded.

Another contribution from sports psychology.

With smarts, grace, this female sportscaster broke down barriers

SI.com – Jeff Pearlman – Pearls of Wisdom – She covered her first NFL game in 1976, when the language on media credentials included the sentence NO WOMEN OR CHILDREN IN THE PRESS BOX. Four years later, while working the Cotton Bowl between Nebraska and Houston for The Boston Globe, she was stared down by Cougars coach Bill Yeoman in the victorious post-game locker room. “I don’t give a damn about no Equal Rights Amendment!” he screamed. “I ain’t having a woman in my locker room!” Yeoman escorted her out.

“All the cameras shifted from the players to me,” she says. “I went to the top of the Cotton Bowl by myself, sat down and cried.”

When she started at CBS Sports in the late 1970s, network executives were perplexed about what she should wear on-air. “My first jackets were men’s sports coats that they tailored for me and attached a CBS patch near the pocket,” she says. “Ridiculous, right?”

Because she is, by all accounts, as nice as they come, she will not replay all the horror stories from the 1970s and ’80s — the graphic clubhouse gestures (when, in 1989, a New York Jets tight end named Mickey Shuler spotted her entering the locker room, he screamed, “Hey, no f—— women!” She simply waved him off and kept walking); the athletes who wouldn’t give her a second’s time; the fans who refused to take her seriously; the repeated whistles and smirks and tags: Honey. Baby. Love. Cutie.

The mounds of disrespect; of disregard; of disgust. “What kept me going through all the years?” she asks — then pauses for a moment’s reflection. “More than anything, the love of and respect for competition. That’s what it comes down to for me. That’s why I do this.”

In the transient world of televised sports, personalities come and go like failed breakfast cereals. Where in the world is Irv Cross? Joe Montana? Steve Zabriskie? Eric Dickerson? Jerry Azar? Kit Hoover? Meghan McDermott? Emmitt Smith? So much of the medium is based on looks and gimmicks; on catch phrases and ratings, that stability is little more than a meaningless nine-letter word. Today’s hot sideline reporter is tomorrow’s old news. It is what it is — a surface industry. A temporary stroll in the sun.

And then, there is Lesley Visser. The 55-year old. The survivor. She is the one who ignored the words on a credential and overcame Yeoman’s Archie Bunker rant. She’s the one who grudgingly donned the ugly blazers and dealt the taunts and slurs. Nine years ago, when ABC fired Visser as its Monday Night Football sideline reporter, replacing her with the younger, blonder, perkier, sexier Melissa Stark, most thought her career was over. It was a new age in sports television, one where — when it came to women — knowledge and experience ranked a distant second to looks.

Today, Visser is a reporter for CBS Sports, writes a regular column for CBSSports.com and hosts a morning show on WFTL in South Florida. Today, Stark is, eh, uh, somewhere.

“That I’ve lasted,” says Visser, “is one of my greatest accomplishments. Maybe my greatest.” Earlier this week, the American Sportscasters Association named Visser its No. 1 Female Sportscaster, outdistancing a field of 36 finalists that included such standouts as Andrea Kramer, Robin Roberts, Michele Tafoya and Hannah Storm. That the announcement received all the media attention of a John Oates CD release was both unfortunate and, in more than one sense, tragic.

Instead of focusing on Visser’s achievement, the national media zeroed in on the sad, unsavory saga of Erin Andrews, the ESPN reporter who was videotaped naked in her hotel room. Whatever one thinks of Andrews as a professional, each moment devoted to her pitiful plight (and each Google search) takes away from the strides that women like Visser and Gayle Gardner and Christine Brennan made.

Back in the day, the righteous fight was for respectability. Women weren’t objects. Or playthings. Or idiots. Every time a female reporter entered a clubhouse, or asked a thought-provoking question to a chauvinistic jock, or wrote a breathtaking lede, the slow-moving world of sports took another small step toward enlightenment. That was one of Visser’s aspirations then — not to be seen as some sort of trailblazer (which, without question, she is), but as a professional. As an equal. Now, however, thanks to this odd physical obsession over all things Erin Andrews, as well as to the ritualistic hiring of women reporters based first and foremost on looks, we are back in the dark ages. Paging Bill Yeoman. Mr. Bill Yeoman.

Once upon a time, female sports journalists weren’t celebrities to be lusted after. They were simply people who wanted to tell the stories, then step to the side and listen. The goal wasn’t to be seen, or to walk on the ESPY red carpet in a revealing outfit. There were no blogs, no look-at-me antics or low-cut dresses.

Lesley Visser’s goal was to cover sports and go unnoticed. She did it better than anyone.

Nowadays, that seems impossible.

After an Epic Loss, Then What?

Sports psychology material – Wall Street Journal – Darren Everson – When you win the Masters, the Stanley Cup or one of sports’ other grand events, everyone knows what’s next. There are parades to ride in, White House visits to arrange. One of the best-known ad slogans of all time—“I’m going to Disney Worldâ€?—is about the itinerary of champions.

But what about the guys who come in a close second?

Tom Watson, above, on the final round of the British Open in Scotland last week.

There has been a slew of soul-crushing defeats in recent months, from Kenny Perry’s collapse at the Masters in April to Andy Roddick’s epic Wimbledon loss earlier this month to the latest: Tom Watson finishing second at the British Open on Sunday after missing a 10-foot par putt on the 18th hole that would have clinched it.

Earlier this month, Mr. Roddick narrowly lost the Wimbledon title to Roger Federer in the longest fifth set ever played in a Grand Slam final (16-14). Afterward he hung out in New York for a day and a half and had breakfast in his favorite diner, according to his agent. (Mr. Roddick said he didn’t want to talk about it.)
A Drive in the Country

Mr. Perry, who lost the Masters after holding a two-stroke lead with two holes remaining, got up at 5 a.m. a couple of days later and drove around rural Kentucky for three hours because he couldn’t sleep. “Lot of cattle,â€? he said at the time. “Lot of horses.â€?
Losses That Sting

A look at some of the most painful losses in pro sports history.

Mr. Watson, for his part, is getting right back on his horse: He is playing in the Senior British Open, which begins Thursday in Berkshire, England, and says he will play in the U.S. Senior Open next week. Despite getting little rest after losing the Open — “I asked him how he slept, and he said ‘Fitfully, for an hour,’â€? says his caddie, Neil Oxman — Mr. Watson says he never considered taking a week off. “There is still quite a vacuum in the stomach, but this, too, shall pass,â€? he said Tuesday. “Honestly, it’s not the most important thing in life.â€?

Rocco Mediate — who says Mr. Watson “has been and always will be my idolâ€? — knows exactly what his hero is going through. Mr. Mediate, a 46-year-old golfer who has never won a major, lost the 2008 U.S. Open to Tiger Woods on the first sudden-death playoff hole, which followed an 18-hole playoff, which came after Mr. Woods’s 12-foot putt on the final regulation hole to tie.

Going into the tournament, which was held in San Diego, Mr. Mediate had a good feeling about his chances. “A buddy of mine owns a restaurant up in Manhattan Beach, so I told him I’m bringing the trophy home,â€? Mr. Mediate says. “He said, ‘We’ll have a party.’â€?

They had the party, just without the trophy. Mr. Mediate drove to the restaurant but he left the tiny medal he got for second place in the car.

“It still hurts sometimes,â€? Mr. Mediate says.

Disappointment isn’t limited to sports, of course. Al Gore famously grew a beard and gained weight after losing the 2000 presidential election, and singer Kanye West had a profanity-laced fit at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2006 when he didn’t win the best-video award.

But in sports, especially individual games like tennis and golf, losses are far more intensely personal. In most team sports, the end of the season is almost always followed by a ritual get-together. Players trickle into their home arena or stadium to clean out their lockers; in the process, they run into teammates and coaches, chat amiably and say good-bye for the offseason. After a tough loss, this can be a cathartic event — not much different from a wake.

Top athletes in individual sports may have entourages of coaches and trainers — some of whom take losing as personally as they do — but without teammates, they have fewer people to discuss their loss with. Palm Beach, Fla., sports psychologist John F. Murray, who has worked with pro and amateur athletes in all sports, says he often winds up filling that role himself for clients. “I always tell people it’s OK to feel bad for a while, but don’t dwell on it,â€? Mr. Murray says. “Take a day.â€?

Aaron Krickstein needed three. For three days after his classic 1991 U.S. Open loss to Jimmy Connors, he didn’t sleep and “vegetatedâ€? at his Florida home. Mr. Connors, who turned 39 that day, overcame a 5-2 fifth-set deficit to win the nearly five-hour match before a manic, pro-Connors crowd. “I never felt that way after a match in my whole career,â€? says Mr. Krickstein. “I heard I gave an interview afterward, but I was just kind of numb. I don’t know how Tom’s dealing with it, because it’s never going to go away, and he’s probably never going to have a chance like that again.â€?
‘Life Goes On’

Not every defeated athlete slinks off in a daze. “Life goes on,â€? says Mitch Williams, the former Philadelphia Phillies closer who gave up Joe Carter’s clinching home run in the Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series victory. (The Phillies were two outs away from forcing a Game 7.) Mr. Williams said he went back to his hotel just as he would have after any other game. The only thing he did differently was fly straight home to Texas from Toronto, which he says he did to shield his wife from the criticism to come. “She didn’t sign on for all of that stuff,â€? he says.

Maybe it’s just the benefit of hindsight. Or maybe professional athletes are just a different breed of bird. But Mr. Williams says he’s pretty sure Mr. Watson will be fine. “I’m sure Tom will just stick a tee in the ground and go play,â€? he says.

Many benefit today from the tools of sports psychology.

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

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

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

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

Baseball’s Winning Glue Guys

Wall Street Journal – July 15, 2009 – Darren Everson – Baseball’s Winning Glue Guys: The Gritty, Gutty Players Who Hold Teams Together and Help Them Succeed – There are aces, closers, sluggers and Gold Glovers. And then there are the really important people in a ballclub: the glue guys.

“Glueâ€? guys, in baseball parlance, are the players whose oft-overlooked performance quietly holds winning teams together—and without which, presumably, the team would fall apart. Statisticians don’t buy that they exist, but psychologists do. And players and managers swear by them.

“He’s the scrapper,â€? says Charlie Manuel, manager of the defending World Series-champion Philadelphia Phillies. “The guy who plays every day. Who gets big hits. Hustles. He’s the guy who, in his own way, whether it’s quiet or spoken or whatever, he leads.â€?
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Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies

Jason Bartlett is a glue guy. Before he joined the Rays last season, Tampa Bay had baseball’s worst record in 2007, due greatly to having the majors’ worst defense. Then Mr. Bartlett came over from the Twins and took over the shortstop position. The Rays’ defense became the best in baseball last season and they reached the World Series.

Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox’s knuckleball pitcher, is a glue guy. As Boston’s pitching staff has evolved over the past 15 years—with youngsters coming, veterans going and pricey additions like Daisuke Matsuzaka not always delivering—the dependable constant has been Mr. Wakefield, a first-time All-Star this year at 42 who has made at least 15 starts each season.

As baseball enters the second half of the season Thursday, the top contenders all have a glue guy or two whom they attribute part of their success to. With the Tigers, it’s All-Star third baseman Brandon Inge, who not only has a surprising 21 home runs but is also hitting .348 in close, late-game situations. With the Yankees, as usual, it’s shortstop Derek Jeter, who owns the highest on-base percentage among the American League’s starting shortstops despite being its oldest (35). And the Phillies insist slugger Ryan Howard is a glue guy—despite not fitting the tag’s small, scrappy stereotype—because he quietly never takes a day off.

“They’re the reliable guys,â€? says Braves president John Schuerholz, “who, in the toughest of circumstances, in the biggest of moments, deliver the goods.â€?

The legend of the glue guy is an extension of the age-old question in sports over whether natural “winnersâ€? exist—players who are greater than their statistics indicate, who win in part because of their force of will or ability to perform under pressure. Whether it’s with superstars who make clutch plays or unknowns who have a knack for being in the right place at the right time, fans and observers ascribe special talents to these players—often exaggerating their actual contributions.

Michael Jordan famously said in a 1997 Nike commercial that he’d missed 26 potential game-winning shots. “He’s probably been successful about 50 times,â€? then-Bulls coach Phil Jackson said at the time. But when Mr. Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1999—seven months after making his iconic shot to beat the Jazz for the championship—the total number of game-winning shots he’d hit was 25.

Skeptical about whether winners exist, statistician Scott Berry of Berry Consultants studied the matter in 2005. Taking the statistics of more than 14,000 players who had played in Major League Baseball, he created a formula to find the ultimate winner: the player whose teams exceeded their win-loss expectations the most when he happened to be on them.
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Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox

The winners’ winner? Dennis Cook, a journeyman lefty reliever in the 1990s. Several players whom fans widely regard as winners and glue guys did fare well: Mr. Jeter, the Yankees shortstop, was in the 97th percentile, and David Wells, a noted big-game pitcher in the 1990s and 2000s, was in the 99th. But the presence of the relatively unknown Mr. Cook at the top, Mr. Berry says, proves his point. “Announcers refer to players who just have the will to win,â€? he says. “The fact that he comes out on top pokes fun at that notion.â€?

But Mr. Cook does believe in glue. Although he admits he was lucky to bounce from one winner to the next—including the 1996 division-winning Rangers, the 1997 world-champion Marlins and the 2000 National League-winning Mets—Mr. Cook says his teams won in part because they invested in overlooked roles like middle relievers.

“A long man who eats up 100 innings a year, he saves the rest of your pitching staff,â€? he says. “Those guys don’t get recognized, but they’re every bit as important. Baseball people see that, but number-crunchers don’t.â€?

Psychologists say there is indeed a spill-over effect with glue guys that helps their teams win, one which goes beyond quantifiable contributions. John F. Murray, a sports psychologist
in Palm Beach, Fla., says that teams are much like fraternities or high schools in that players spend a massive amount of time in close proximity to each other. Because of this, “they’re constantly influencing one another,â€? he says. “One of the keys to confidence is social support and modeling. If you have some outstanding role models who deal with pressure effectively, that glue is going to spill out of the bottle and help everyone.â€?

A huge hole in the reasoning of glue believers is that it’s impossible to know in retrospect how teams would have fared without their glue players. For example, the Rays won 58% of their games (11 of 19) earlier this season when Mr. Bartlett, their slick-fielding shortstop, was out with an injured ankle. They’ve won 54% overall. But the first-place Phillies’ abundance of glue, according to both them and their opponents, appears to be what’s put that franchise over the top—just a few years after it had a reputation for underachieving. “It’s not about just one guy,â€? says All-Star second baseman Chase Utley.

The Phillies’ most-talented players also happen to be their glue guys, including Mr. Utley, who has led the majors the past two years in times hit by pitch, and Mr. Howard, who has played in 362 of Philadelphia’s last 363 games. Unlike many left-handed hitters over the years, he even refused to take a day off against Randy Johnson once last season.

“He’s definitely a leader, just by keeping his mouth shut,â€? Mr. Manuel says. “I call him the Big Piece. As in the big piece of the puzzle.â€?

… just another example of the benefits of sports psychology.

Simple formula fuels UFC’s appeal

Watch Video: Palm Beach to Las Vegas for UFC 100 (many more on the way)

Las Vegas Review Journal – July 9, 2009 – Adam Hill – Fighters’ physical, mental toughness stoke fan interest. Brandon Beals looks like every other Ultimate Fighting Championship fan walking around Mandalay Bay three days before the mixed martial arts outfit’s historic Saturday night card.

Beals and six friends are assembled near the doors where they expect some of the competitors in UFC 100 to exit on their way out of Wednesday’s media workouts, hoping to get a glimpse of some of the sport’s biggest stars.

The 38-year-old Beals said he has been a fan since UFC 1, nearly 16 years ago.

“I think it’s nonstop action. There’s lots of upsets. I think it’s also very fan-friendly,” Beals said. “There’s more action than boxing, and that’s cool.”

Yes, Beals might be like any other UFC fan — except he is the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church in Lynnwood, Wash., outside of Seattle.

He does not think the sport conflicts with the values he preaches at his church.

“If it was still no-holds barred, if it was underground or illegal, then yes,” he said. “But this is legal and sanctioned. It’s got rules. You’re talking about stellar athletes, so I don’t believe it does at all.”

Dr. John F. Murray, a sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla., said the adoption of rules went a long way to helping mixed martial arts gain acceptance among mainstream fans and that the sport will continue to grow.

“As far as the blood-and-guts aspect, some people will be turned off by that, and that’s understandable,” Murray said. “But if you look at it as a pure sport, and the rules are important to that, it’s not that way. If they continue to make it something that won’t turn off a large part of the population, it will just continue to get bigger and bigger.”

Murray has worked with MMA fighters in the past. He said he was not interested in the sport until he started learning about some of the athletes.

“It wasn’t something I would have naturally gotten into,” said Murray, who was a tennis player. “I’ve grown to appreciate how amazingly complex it is and how much the mental skills need to be a part of any training.”

Frank Mir, the interim heavyweight champion who will try to unify the belt against current heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar on Saturday, thinks much of that mental aspect is ingrained in the sport’s competitors.

“I think that we’re kind of genetically wired at birth to be a certain type of individual,” Mir said. “The same kind of guy that will jump out of an airplane or go bungee jumping. The same kind of guy that signs up to go into the military and doesn’t just sign up to go fix cars, but he wants to sign up to be a ranger and be the first guy into battle.”

Mir said a fighter’s mentality differs from that of other athletes.

“I mean, in a football game, you go and hit somebody. Everybody’s wearing helmets and pads. It’s not that personal level of seeing the guy in front of you and causing him discomfort,” he said. “Whereas in the competitive arts, such as boxing, wrestling and MMA, there is that closeness of combat. And so first and foremost, you have to have that mindset that you’re willing to overcome those fears and just, you know, a less PC term, you’re just kind of crazy, I guess, to begin with.”

Stephan Bonnar, who will fight Saturday against Mark Coleman, says the mental aspect is still a struggle, particularly during grueling training camps.

“It definitely takes a different kind of person. It’s not for everyone,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s still hard. Every day, you get pushed to your breaking point. It’s a constant struggle just trying to stay in the best shape possible. It’s not like baseball, where you can get your swing down and you’re just hitting dingers. It takes tons of work every day.”

As for what keeps drawing fans to the sport, Murray says the formula is pretty simple.

“It’s one person against another person, and they can bring whatever skills they have to the table, within reason,” he said. “It’s raw.”

That has helped the sport grow quickly with fans across all demographics.

In fact, while Beals attends his fourth live event Saturday, the pay-per-view broadcast of the card will be shown back home at his church.

Dr. Murray is in Las Vegas this weekend for UFC 100 and sports psychology.

That was Best Match in Tennis History

Special to JohnFMurray.com – John F. Murray, Ph.D. – The match is not even over, and Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach sports psychologist has already declared that Roddick/Federer in the Wimbledon Final of 2009 is the best match in tennis history. “It is not even close,” said Murray. This was a battle for the ages, and both players went beyond human in this epic struggle to see who would crack first.

Murray posted frequent tweets on the website at Twitter.com and at one point declared that if the match went another 30 minutes it would be the best ever. Well it did … and the declaration came well before 1 PM New York time … this was the best.

“This will be a match we will watch forever, said Murray, and the pressure play will be studied carefully and help help raise the mental performance of competitors in all sports.”

There is not doubt that this match was a case of the player who had performed best in the area of sports psychology!