Posts Tagged ‘sports psychology’

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John F. Murray, Ph.D.
Sports and Clinical Psychologist
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Phone: 561-596-9898
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johnfmurray@mindspring.com

Beijing Olympics: Competition looms

Sports psychologist Dr. John Murray is providing Journal Star readers daily updates from the Olympics. The former tennis pro and Florida resident is working with judo competitor Adler Volmar. The goal is to offer insight into the mental and psychological aspect of sports, right up to Volmar’s matches and immediately following them. The doctor will add some Beijing observations both inside and outside the sports venues. Murray’s full work and profile can be found on his own Web site: http://www.johnfmurray.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beijing Olympics: Here we come

Sports psychologist Dr. John Murray is providing Journal Star readers daily updates from the Olympics. The former tennis pro and Florida resident is working with judo competitor Adler Volmar. The goal is to offer insight into the mental and psychological aspect of sports, right up to Volmar’s matches and immediately following them. The doctor will add some Beijing observations both inside and outside the sports venues. Murray’s full work and profile can be found on his own Web site: http://www.johnfmurray.com/

August 9, 2008 – Sunday – Detroit – 2:15 PM
If you are going to the Olympics, and especially as far away as Beijing, you better not miss the flight, so I stayed the night in a Ft. Lauderdale hotel not far from the airport and we just arrived in Detroit to catch the flight to Tokyo and then on to the big city.

I flew up with Crystal and we met her father, Earl, smartly attired in his red, white and blue sporting clothes, so the three of us can pursue with Adler (Volmar) the mission of (judo) gold. Over lunch we discussed again how all athletes need to believe totally in their abilities and in their chance of actually winning the gold. At the same time, the best athletes — Adler included — know that while they are giving their best and outworking and out-thinking their opponents in preparation for the big day, ultimately outcome is decided by a higher force, be it spiritual or the mere fact that as hard as you prepare there might be someone else on the other side of the mat who prepared longer, smarter, or better.

Still you pursue the dream with total confidence and willpower, with the best possible strategy, nutrition and physical training possible. Another topic that came up over lunch was the “Tiger Woods” element. This is the flow that was written about so long ago in the book “Flow” in the 1960s. There are a lot of cliches that cover the topic of focus and concentration, but so few athletes come even close to maximizing their use of flow.

Just look at the history of Olympic records and how records are broken every year, and how it is almost a steady progression of faster times and greater strength, so if you examine the Olympics 100 years from today the accomplishments of today will look very average. Mentally this highlights that we are never truly reaching our human potential in sports — but only approaching an unlimited human potential.

OK, enough philosophizing for now. I am seated amongst about an 80 percent population of Japanese citizens returning to their homeland as we all three get ready to board the massive 747 with upstairs seating and a food/drink lounge to Tokyo.

The upcoming 14 hours of flying would seem taxing if not for the fact that less than two years ago I flew down to Australia with Vince Spadea for the three tournaments at the start of the 2007 season — Adelaide, Sydeny and Melbourne and it was about a 26 hour trek! So, we are all excited to join Adler in Beijing as this two time Olympian gets ready for his day of destiny on August 14.

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

Coaches Who Can Turn A Phrase

Sport Psychology Commentary by Dr. John F. Murray – December 26, 2012 By DOM AMORE, The Hartford Courant

It’s one of the most famous phrases ever uttered by a coach, and yet Vince Lombardi always regretted saying it.

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

“He actually hated that,” said Dan Lauria, the veteran actor and Southern Connecticut State University grad who portrayed Lombardi on Broadway last year. “He didn’t mean it the way it came out — obviously, he didn’t think you should cheat to win. The saying he did always like was, ‘If you pursue perfection, you can reach excellence.’ ”

Back in September, Kevin Ollie became the UConn men’s basketball coach, and he opened with a memorable phrase of his own: “We’re going to take the stairs — escalators are for cowards.”

That one is now available on T-shirts. And since then, he has used his gift for turning a phrase, or in some cases tweaking a phrase to make it his own, to fashion a number of what one might call “Ollie-isms.”

“Ten toes in, not five” … “First you bring the sugar, then you bring the hot sauce” … “You don’t go through life, you grow through life.” … “In trying times, you don’t stop trying.”

The buck doesn’t stop here, to paraphrase Harry S Truman. History offers many examples of catch phrases that define a leader — a coach, a general or a politician. Ollie, 39, has made a favorable impression in his first season as coach, and his way with a phrase is obviously part of the reason, as he tries to get out a message, not only to his own team, but to fans and potential recruits about what he, and his program, will be all about.

“They can have a lot of value,” says Dan Gerstein, former adviser to Sen. Joseph Lieberman and president of Gotham Ghostwriters, a New York based writing firm. “Especially today, when the Internet and social media has made for such a cacophonous environment, it’s much harder to stick out. If you can come up with phrases that are short, pithy and memorable, it can be a great asset.”

Sometimes, they happen by accident. Leo Durocher, the most famous baseball manager of his day, watched the opposition work on the field and predicted to a sportswriter in 1946 that the team would finish last, because they were not competitive enough, but all nice guys … and “Nice guys finish last.”

It became the title of Durocher’s memoirs, and it stamped him forever as the ultimate hard-nosed, fiery competitor among his peers. But he saw a need to clarify it after he retired.

“Writers picked it up and made it sound as if I were saying you couldn’t be a decent person and succeed,” Durocher wrote. “But, do you know, I don’t think it would have been picked up like that if it didn’t strike a chord, because as a general proposition, it’s true. Or, are you going to tell me that you’ve never said to yourself, ‘The trouble with me is, I’m too nice.’ ”

Durocher also said he would “trip his mother” if she were rounding third with the winning run against him.

Catch phrases may become oversimplified, but the ones that stick do have that strong strain of universal truth in them. John Wooden, who coached UCLA to 10 national titles, had dozens of them and is often quoted by both Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma at UConn.

Calhoun’s favorite: “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.”

Others from Wooden included, “Discipline yourself and others won’t have to.” … “Ability may get you to the top, but takes character to keep you there.” … “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Author Rick Reilly wrote of Wooden: “He believed in hopelessly out-of-date stuff that never did anything but win championships.”

Alan Castel, associate professor of cognitive psychology at UCLA, interviewed John Wooden just before his 98th birthday while doing research on aging and memory.

“There are likely many reasons coaches develop these short catching phrases,” Castel said, “ranging from, the phrases can be easily remembered and recited to the idea that they can be widely applied – often beyond a sports context. Wooden was a classic example.”

The catch phrases that catch on, naturally, are the ones backed up with success. Jerry Izenberg,a veteran of over 60 years of sportswriter, has written 13 books, one of them, on a week behind the scenes with the Giants, took one of Bill Parcells’ catch phrases as its title — “No medals for trying.”

“You have to remember that what works for college doesn’t always work for the pros, and vice versa,” Izenberg says. “Woody Hayes had a lot of sayings, and once in his locker room, there was a sign over the trainers’ room — ‘You can’t make the club in the tub.’ … Could you imagine saying that over and over to professionals? They’d laugh at you.

“And when Vince Lombardi first got to Green Bay, diagramed a play, his ‘Lombardi sweep,’ and the tackle had to make this incredibly difficult block. The tackle, Forrest Gregg, said it was ‘impossible,’ and Lombardi said, ‘if you think it’s impossible, I’ll find someone who thinks it is possible.’ … You couldn’t say that to college players.

“… But the main thing is, these guys won. Imagine Lombardi saying, ‘winning isn’t everything …’ if he lost?”

The Giants won the Super Bowl the year “No medals for trying” came out. Parcells had many phrases, but Izenberg did not recall his using them behind closed doors. Behind the scenes, he tailored his messages to the individual.

When a coach becomes too closely identified with his sayings, it can obscure his true talent for leadership.

“What happens,” Lauria says, “is that these things get taken out of context. Vince Lombardi knew how to push the right buttons with each individual player.”

The value in phrases is that they can make good habits second nature. That, Ollie said earlier this year, is what he has in mind.

“It’s the mind-set I’m so concerned with,” Ollie told The Courant in November, “that you don’t take the easy way in life. I think taking escalators is the easy way. You should take the stairs in life, each and every step. … I try to use [the sayings] sparingly, I don’t want to use them all the time. I am trying to make a point, and I try to use word pictures. I think it resonates with guys. Instead of a, b, c, d, they can picture things in their own minds.”

Dr. John F. Murray, a Florida-based sports psychologist, says the most popular page on his website (johnfmurray.com) is the one that lists more than 100 famous quotes from coaches. However, he says, catch phrases should be considered only one of many tools a successful coach uses in reaching his players.

“The danger,” Murray says, “is that they can become a superficial mask for serious issues. But when they’re used properly, they can be a very effective tool.”

Dr. John F. Murray has compiled a list of quotes from great coaches to help motivate your players mentally.

Locker room tolerance and sensitivity have simply changed forever with Michael Sam

Sports Psychology News – Dr. John F. Murray – February 10 2014 – A look into the locker room after Michael Sam.

NBC News, Melissa Dahl –  We now know what Michael Sam’s teammates have long known: The All-American defensive lineman from the University of Missouri is gay, and could very well become the first ever openly gay football player in the NFL.

Much has and will be written about the historical impact of Sam’s coming out, but a quietly remarkable aspect of Sam’s story is this: For at least an entire college football season, Sam’s teammates knew his secret, and they not only accepted it, they helped him keep it.

Sam has said that he came out to his team before the 2013 season, during a team meeting in which each player was asked to tell a secret about himself. “I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Sam told the New York Times. His team, and the coaches, kept their star player’s secret, even as the team faced building media attention as they competed for a national title.

But even in a generation notorious for social media oversharing and in a sport not known for its tolerance, no one let Sam’s secret slip. Not even Sam’s dad found out.

“I think it’s tremendous, in this day and age, that they could do that without anything leaking,” said Leif Smith, a clinical and sports psychologist who works with athletes at Ohio State University.

It’s also possible that his teammates didn’t think it was that big of a deal, Smith and other sports psychologists said. “I do think it’s more of a ho-hum issue for this generation,” Smith said. “It was a big issue to address it, but once they started playing football, they could care less.”

According to the day’s stereotype of a macho-bro culture like college football, an admission like Sam’s could lead to ostracization, or a Miami Dolphins-esque case of bullying. And indeed, some unnamed NFL insiders have reportedly already responded to Sam’s admission by saying things like an openly gay player would “chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

But sports psychologists who work with college athletes say that they see this generation being more tolerant when it comes to the matter of their peers’ sexual orientation. Seventy percent of millennials — defined here as those born after 1980 — said in a 2013 Pew Research Center survey that they support gay marriage, and that percentage is rapidly increasing, up from 51 percent in 2003.

Sam’s teammates said his sexuality was no big deal in the lockerroom, and many of them joined a chorus of public support that included first lady Michelle Obama.

Sam is a gifted athlete, named in his last year at Mizzou to the College Football All-America Team, which means his team has even fewer reasons to care about his personal life.

“I think the bottom line for most players is — if you have a teammate that can help you win, it doesn’t matter,” said John Murray, a clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla., who has worked with NFL athletes.

If Sam did explicitly ask his teammates not to share his sexual orientation, the team’s secret-sharing may even have strengthened their cohesion as a group.

“We know that when people choose to confide secrets with us, that can draw us closer together, because that disclosure signals trust and intimacy in itself,” said Clayton Critcher, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has researched the psychology of secret-keeping.

In ideal circumstances, a team may function much like a family, experts say “Teams are going to protect their own,” Murray said.

“The family will kind of circle the wagons, and protect their secret,” he said. “Because a family very well represents that concept of a unit that needs to be able to be cohesive to be able to perform well, to be able to win.”

A fascinating view into the world of sports psychology.

 

25 Inspirational Olympic Games Quotes

In honor of the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, here are 25 inspirational Olympic Games quotes that capture the heart of sports psychology

“The Olympics have been with the world since 776 B.C., and have only been interrupted by war, especially in the modern era.”
-Bill Toomey, American decathlete, 1968 Summer Olympics

“You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.”
– Coach Herb Brooks

“If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.”
– Mark Spitz, winner of 7 Gold medals, 1972 Munich Olympic Games

“It’s all about the journey, not the outcome.”
-Carl Lewis, Winner of 9 Gold medals, 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games

“I Didn’t Set Out to Beat the World; I Just Set Out to Do My Absolute Best.”
– Al Oerter

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
-Wilma Rudolph, Winner of 3 Gold Medals, 1960 Rome Olympic Games

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
-Muhammad Ali, Winner of Gold Medal, 1960 Rome Summer Olympics

“Nothing is impossible. With so many people saying it couldn’t be done, all it takes is an imagination.”
– Michael Phelps, U.S. Gold medalist, Swimming

“Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.”
-Serena Williams, Winner of 2 Gold Medal, 2000 and 2008 Olympic Games

“What keeps me going is not winning, but the quest for reaching potential in myself as a coach and my kids as divers. It’s the pursuit of excellence.”
– Coach Ron O’Brien

“The Olympics are always a special competition. It is very difficult to predict what will happen.”
-Sergei Bubka Ukrainian pole vaulter, 1988 Summer Olympics

“The Olympics are a wonderful metaphor for world cooperation, the kind of international competition that’s wholesome and healthy, an interplay between countries that represents the best in all of us.”
– John Williams

“The first thing is to love your sport. Never do it to please someone else. It has to be yours.”
– Peggy Fleming, Gold medalist, figure skating 1968 Olympic Games

“One shouldn’t be afraid to lose; this is sport. One day you win; another day you lose. Of course, everyone wants to be the best. This is normal. This is what sport is about. This is why I love it.”
– Oksana Baiul, Olympic Gold Medalist

“For athletes, the Olympics are the ultimate test of their worth.”
– Mary Lou Retton, American gymnast, 1984 Summer Olympics

“It has been said that the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games is something that an athlete will remember for the rest of their life. It is true. That moment when you walk into the Olympic Stadium as part of the Australian Olympic Team, is a moment that I will never forget.”
– Jeff Fenech, Australian boxer

“It’s always an honor to be able to represent your country at the highest level.”
– Coach Basheer Abdullah

“I wanted no part of politics. And I wasn’t in Berlin to compete against any one athlete. The purpose of the Olympics, anyway, was to do your best. As I’d learned long ago from Charles Riley, the only victory that counts is the one over yourself.”
– Jesse Owens

“My only focus was the Olympics because in my sport, that is the ultimate. Everything is geared toward that, and my entire life was geared around getting there and winning gold.”
– Cammi Granato

“At the Olympics, you there to do a job. I feel you should take it seriously. You should be respectful. You are putting on the red-white-and-blue and going out there to perform for your country.”
– Shannon Miller

“Victory is in having done your best. If you’ve done your best, you’ve won.”
– Coach Bill Bowerman

“Never put an age limit on your dreams,”
– Dara Torres, U.S. Gold medalist, Swimming

“You have to train your mind like you train your body.”
– Bruce Jenner, Gold medalist, Decathlon 1976 Olympic Games

“Runners in the western world have a tendency to create psychological barriers for themselves, but Morceli runs at will, with no inhibitions.”
Eamonn Coghlan, 3-time winner, Olympics Games

“A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.”
Jesse Owens, 1936 Olympic Games

If you’ve enjoyed reading these, here’s my collection of great quotes from coaches.

John F Murray’s Office, Books & Method

Enjoy a set of three photos that clearly depicts three aspects of my professional practice, namely, my physical office location in Palm Beach, Florida, the books I have published, and the method I use in helping athletes achieve greater success as shown in a simply graphic!

For more information, please call me at 561-596-9898, visit www.JohnFMurray.com or send me an email
johnfmurray@mindspring.com

 

Super Bowl Pre-Game Speeches from a Sports Psychologist’s Perspective

Have you ever wondered what type of speech you would give to your team if you were a head coach and your team was about to play in the Super Bowl? What type of speech would be most effective from a football psychology standpoint?

There are a few pre-game speeches that any general sports fan could likely recite if asked to do so. Many people would probably choose Knute Rockne’s “Win one for the Gipper” speech or perhaps John “Bluto” Blutarsky asking his Delta Tau Chi members if it was “over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor”.

So what does a real coach say to a real team of men right before they play in one of the biggest games of their lives? The best way to find out is to ask them and the people that were there to listen to them.

Here are a few quotes from some of the great Super Bowl coaches and their pre-game speeches.

Don Shula (Super Bowls III, VI, VII, VIII, XVII, XIX)

Don Shula coached his teams to 6 different Super Bowls including two Super Bowl wins with the Miami Dolphins. When asked about his pre-game speeches that he gave before each Super Bowl, Don has said that “What you try to do is do the things that got you to where you are… you don’t want to be someone that you’re not. The thing I tried to do is summarize what it took to get there.”

“Once you reach the Super Bowl, both teams are talked about during the week,” Shula said. “But when the game is over, [the media] only go to one locker room. I told them to make sure it was our locker room.”

Don Shula’s record as a head coach also included 4 Super Bowl losses. After losing one of these Super Bowls and preparing to begin a new season, Shula decided to deliver the same message to his players from the first day of practice right through the end of the season.

“We lost the year before, so my message from the beginning of training camp was that our goal wasn’t to get to the Super Bowl,” Shula said. “Our goal was to win it.”

Brian Billick (Super Bowl XXXV)

Brian Billick led the Baltimore Ravens to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV. Peter Boulware (4-time Pro Bowler and 1997 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year) later spoke about what Billick had said to the team in the locker room before the game.

“He said to approach this like any other game,” said Peter Boulware. “We took a very businesslike approach. That’s what helped us. We didn’t get tight. We just worked the same way.”

Jon Gruden (Super Bowl XXXVII)

In 2002 Jon Gruden led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. One of his players; Ryan Nece had been injured during the 2002 season and was watching from the sidelines during the Super Bowl. He later commented on Gruden’s pre-game speeches saying that “Coach Gruden always was a great pregame [speech] guy. He was always good.”

Gruden’s words seem to have been intended to stir up more emotion within his players than the quotes that you can read above from Don Shula and Brian Billick. According to Nece, Gruden said something to the effect of “This is the time of your life… go out and take what’s ours. It’s destiny. Just go out there and take what is ours.”

Mike Ditka (Super Bowl XXXVII)

Mike Ditka delivered his pre-game speech to the Chicago Bears on the evening before Super Bowl XX. While many coaches wait until just before the game to do this, I think that this was an interesting yet wise decision.

One could argue that a player is likely to worry about the game the most on the evening before the big game (rather than during pre-game when there are routine things to do like team warm-up).

After the fact, Ditka noted to the media that “Basically I said this was not about me and not about the city of Chicago. I told them this is the one memory you will have of each other for the rest of your lives.”

Chuck Noll (Super Bowls IX, X, XIII, XIV)

Chuck Noll was the Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969 to 1991. He had several great players in his lineup during the 1970s like Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swan, and John Stallworth. He likely didn’t have to say much in order to inspire these types of players or lead them to victory.

Lynn Swan later said “Chuck was a very level, low-key kind of guy, not a fire-and-brimstone type of guy. Very directed in terms of what he wanted to get done. We didn’t get those type of speeches from Chuck Noll… but we didn’t lose a Super Bowl, either.”

I would imagine that Noll’s pre-game speeches were similar to that of Don Shula.

Vince Lombardi (Super Bowls I, II, NFL Champions in pre-Super Bowl era’56, ’61, ’62, ’65)

How about the man who had the Super Bowl Championship Trophy named after him? Jerry Kramer recently handed over some audio to ESPN from Vince Lombardi’s Super Bowl II pre-game speech. You can click on the link after this sentence and listen for yourself what he had to say. Vince Lombardi’s Super Bowl II Pre-Game Speech

What Type of Pre-Game Speech is Best?

So what type of pre-game speech is the most effective for players? Something simple like what Don Shula is quoted as having said? Or perhaps something more likely to stir emotion such as “It’s destiny. Just go out there and take what is ours”?

“There’s definitely a place [for a motivational speech], but it’s all how much the players respect the coach,” Ryan Nece has said. “If guys are just out there and don’t respect the coach, they’re not going to ‘win one for the Gipper’ or anything like that.”

Lynn Swan has also said that “It’s a coach-by-coach thing”.

There is a lot of truth to these statements. One of the last things that a coach should ever do is come into the locker room before the game and do something out-of-character simply in an effort to inspire his players.

This might work after a team plays horribly during the first half of a game and their calm-demeanored coach comes into the locker room and starts throwing water jugs around. That might help to get their attention and change their mindset from whatever it had been during the first half of the game. However, for a pre-game speech, I just don’t think that this would be productive.

Most sports psychologists will tell you that if a coach like Jon Gruden gets his players too fired up or too excited with an emotionally charged speech, this can actually put his players at a disadvantage. I don’t expect athletes to perform at their peak levels if they are too pumped up with energy.

While there are no exact guidelines, and the speech must be appropriate for the team and situation, I’ve always admired the more low-key, cerebral, intelligent approach like we have seen from Don Shula.

What is a Real Sports Psychologist?

Before you choose a sports psychologist it is important to understand what the difference is between someone who has completed a sports psychology/sports science education and a licensed psychologist. There are many people in the world who are perceived as sports psychologists but they lack the actual credentials to practice psychology in their state.

Most states require anyone who is practicing clinical psychology to be licensed by the state that they are practicing in. This helps to set a minimum standard of care and protect the general public. It would be against the law in most states to use the title “Psychologist” if you were not properly licensed.

A student who has successfully completed a sports psychology education will not be fully qualified to practice as a psychologist and will not be able to obtain a license from the state to do so. Their knowledge may be significant and they may be best known as a sports psychologist, however there is still a clear distinction between this type of sports psychologist and a licensed psychologist who is also a sports psychologist.

The most significant difference is that a clinical psychologist has been educated and trained in general psychology. This means that they have been trained to deal with general mental disorders and conditions like depression and anxiety. These are important fundamentals for all psychologists regardless of whether or not they focus on sports and athletes.

A real sports psychologist is someone who has been trained and educated in general psychology in addition to sports psychology.

I received a Master’s Degree from one of the best sports psychology programs in the country and I recall that in that process I learned very little about how to assess, counsel, or diagnose an athlete who had a general problem. Clinical psychology programs suffer from a similar fault in that the students here will learn very little about how to increase performance through mental skills training. There are numerous areas of study that a psychologist needs to become familiar with before they are truly qualified to practice as a sports psychologist.

So what is the most important element of training for a sports psychologist? While the initial education and classroom time is important to laying down the ground work for your knowledge base, the most valuable part of a psychologist’s education is the time spent doing on-the-job training.

This is where psychologists learn about how to interact with their patients and how to actually counsel them. This element is not part of most sports psychology programs and this is what I consider to be the most valuable part of the education phase. Psychology programs are set up to offer and require this while sports science programs are not.

In order to provide the best counseling and the most help for patients, a psychologist needs to understand their patients both as “people” and as “performers”.

So is it really necessary for someone to make sure that a potential sports psychologist is a licensed psychologist? Yes, the majority of the time that I spend counseling (even when working with athletes) is usually spent diagnosing, discussing, and resolving general issues that are not directly related to the sports field. In some cases this might be much as 70% of what we discuss.

While this article will likely provide a little bit of insight for my readers here, this is not any kind of revelation to the psychology world. Other publications like Sports Illustrated and the New York Times have published similar articles to this one that have made exactly the same point.

The Crucial Role of Imagery in Golf Psychology

Special Report by Dr. John F. Murray – May 12, 2013 – I’m often asked what the most demanding sport mentally is and my answer is always “golf.”  The types of demands placed upon a golfer define the fact that managing thoughts, feelings, and sensations are essential while the potential distractions are immense. The brain must figure out how to do this consistently all day for anywhere from 65 to 80 shots.

A top priority in golf psychology includes having a well thought out pre-shot strategy. Note the emphasis on “thought out.” It does not just happen by osmosis. It must be envisioned and envisioned clearly and properly to work. The golfer must choose the proper club for the task at hand. He or she must also learn how to bounce back from bad shots while staying extremely calm and centered. It goes against nature when the mind and body just want to explode in anger following an errant shot.  But without proper stress management and steady mood states, you might as well take up another sport.

Analogies between golf and cerebral board games like chess and checkers have long been made. I personally think hitting a ball and walking in a gorgeous part of the world is a lot more fun and better physically than sitting in a stuffy room, but the mental demands can be similar. Proper mental skills are needed not only for match day competition, but also in training and developing physical tools for the game (e.g., building a solid swing, getting to the gym).  Without solid fundamentals gained in lessons it’s very hard to move forward in this challenging sport. It’s not like you can just run faster, jump higher or hit harder to get that little ball to fall into the cup. It’s far more refined than that. Athletic ability of course is important in any hand/eye sport, but the mental demands call for more advanced brain development and training that is acquired through proper imagery.

One of the most important aspects of golf psychology is imagery, or “making movies in the mind”. This is a mental technique that programs us to respond as planned, using all the senses to recreate or create an experience. Whenever we imagine ourselves performing an action in the absence of physical practice, we are said to be using imagery.  Golfers use it to rehearse new skills, practice and refine existing skills, and prepare for particular situations such as the first tee shot. Research in the area of imagery shows that it is very useful in in a number of ways such as reducing the time it takes to warm-up, decreasing tension and fear, and boosting hope and confidence.

Imagery, like many physical skills, needs to be practiced frequently to become effective. It doesn’t just happen overnight. Golfers are notorious for the time that they spend eagerly refining their swings while neglecting the importance of golf psychology.  But the greats were well aware of the benefits of imagery even before the scientists were talking about it.  Jack Nicklaus was a firm believer in imagery.

Be careful not to sabotage your game. If your understanding of strategy and/or technique is deficient, or if you are total beginner, you’ll likely just reinforce bad habits if you try to use imagery. Before getting started, make sure your knowledge and basic skills are solid. If you are a professional or advanced golfer, this should pose few difficulties. Beginners and intermediates should take lessons and watch plenty of video before getting started.

Imagery can be done while sitting in a comfortable position or lying down in a quiet room, fully relaxed, with eyes closed.  A longer version of imagery can last anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes and is often used prior to a match. Here, the player rehearses a perfect performance, often visualizing a complete round shot by shot. A much briefer form of imagery, lasting only a few seconds, can be used during match play. For example, prior to teeing off, the golfer visualizes an ideal shot to the perfect location. Imagery can also help familiarize a golfer to high percentage shot sequences.

Some golfers are better at making images than others. Here are some tips for those with difficulty forming images or seeing vivid details:

(1)  Begin thinking in pictures instead of words.

(2)  Review photos or videos of proper technique before using imagery.

(3)  Remain in a peaceful state to avoid losing focus.

Here are some good ideals to practice imagery in golf:

(1) Make sure that the imagery is perceived as realistically as possible by including all senses, in full color and detail, within a similar emotional context.

(2) Like any skill, practice is needed, so practice imagery frequently as it may take months before seeing great improvement.

(3) Half of the battle is just having the confidence that imagery will help. Your attitudes and expectations enhance the effect more than you might realize.

(4) Stay relaxed, calm, focused and centered while using imagery.

(5) Sometimes see yourself hitting the shot (from your mind’s eye), rather than viewing yourself from the outside looking in as you would see in a movie or picture. At other times, the outside picture view (called the external imagery perspective) is just fine. Mix it up.

(6) There is little point in visualizing mistakes. Imagine great shots. This boosts self- confidence and helps you develop great habits.

There is no doubt that imagery works. It is a very potent mental technique that will raise the level of your game by helping you build positive habits. Habits then rule our behavior and the beauty is that we don’t even have to think about it. You don’t want to be thinking too much. Isn’t it amazing that to become mentally strong in the most demanding sport mentally, you kind of want to turn down the computer!

I hope that you enjoyed this golf article on sports psychology.