Posts Tagged ‘sports psychology’

The Many Dimensions of a Book

Sports Psychology Commentary – A Warm Palm Beach Evening in Late July, 2011 – By John F Murray – In writing “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” I really feel that I hit on multiple dimensions of the athletic experience and the role of mental skills, mental training, sports psychology, and its overall relationship with football coaches, teams, and fans. The book probably doesn’t fit neatly into any one category, so I will be blogging over the coming weeks about the various areas it covers and questions it answers. It is an autobiography of sorts in the first 90 or 100 pages, and I would like to think that it is a book of inspiration, discovery, and social change too.

Ordinarily, a book like this might appear to be biting off more than it can chew and not deep enough. I do not believe this is the case here. It’s just that the topics lend themselves to many applications and there has been negligence in this area for so long that a lot had to be said. Everyone so far who has given feedback on amazon.com or told me directly has expressed great admiration for this book, saying that it flows well, is practical as well as deep, and that it is long overdue. Of course there will be critics, and that is fine, but the consensus so far is uplifting!

The coming blogs will be titled “Dimension I,” Dimension II etc… to separate the topics. There will be a total of 24 separate blogs after this one, each covering a different aspect of what this book is all about. I hope you enjoy this 25 part series of blogs from the world of sports psychology.

NFL Trivia: Colt’s President Bill Polian and Sports Psychologist John F. Murray are 3rd Cousins

Sports Psychology Special Feature to JohnFMurray.com – July 26, 2011 – By John F. Murray, PhD – Every now and then I insert a fun article, music video or photo album to the site at JohnFMurray.com, and this one fits the bill precisely, especially since the NFL lockout is over and our sport is back. The effort is usually well received as a refreshing break from more usual mental coaching angles designed to help NFL teams or other athletes win, or the more serious commentary on news or mental illness that is often sought by major media outlets. So here I go again, throwing caution to the wind, and sharing what I consider a fascinating personal story given my passion for and involvement with NFL players. It’s just one more example of how small the world really is and how we are all so closely connected and we might not even know it. Since I also love time travel and learning about the past, this sort of fits into that genre too!

We Americans usually prefer to look forward rather than back into the past. After all, our country is only 235 years young, and most of our ancestors left horrible circumstances in hopes of finding a better life. Rarely were these early years as an immigrant filled with prominence and comfort, and more often our arriving great-grandparents struggled to exist in a world of minimum wage sweat shops, dangerous coal mines, and noisy factories. Yet as inquisitive, determined and proud people, we often rose quickly in this land of opportunity, and more quickly than others at the bottom rung of society in so many other countries. In fact, it is not at all surprising for the son or grandson of a peasant coal miner in this American system to go on to own a multi-billion dollar company, gain international acclaim in the arts or sciences, or in the case of Bill Polian to become the most successful and respected executive in NFL history from a history of Irish immigrants in NY City. Another fellow that Polian does not yet know (that fellow is me) went on to get the first PhD in his family’s recorded history of some 400 years, and works today as a sports psychologist to NFL players and others.

Bill Polian built three Super Bowl teams in Carolina, Buffalo and more recently Indianapolis. He apparently did it with remarkable insight and well oiled management skills, and he has received many NFL awards for his accomplishments. I first heard of Polian in the late 80s and early 90s as a wild Miami Dolphins fan because I was jealous of his ability to find great players like Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas to terrorize my beloved team. So I had heard of him, and knew about his skills, but to me he was like “my team’s nightmare come true” and never in my wildest imagination would I think that guy would end up being my cousin! He didn’t wear aqua and orange … so he couldn’t possibly be related …. but I am wrong, I found out recently that my enemy was all along my cousin! (Note: Polian is not really and never was really my enemy and I have not even met or talked with him yet).

Like Polian, I love the NFL and have consulted at the highest levels including to NFL quarterbacks and coaches as a licensed clinical and sports psychologist. Before all this, I conducted my doctoral dissertation on the Florida Gators football team that won the national title in 1996. I even wrote my second book this year on the Super Bowl and have probably contributed to over 300 stories on football in the general media in the past 10 years. So it truly amazed me when I discovered that this mega NFL influence and talent evaluator and I are third cousins! What is even more amazing is that Bill Polian does not even know this yet, or perhaps he doesn’t want to know it, but why? It’s great trivia! Maybe nature is indeed stronger than nurture and we share a rare football passion and football player evaluation gene or something!

Well into his 60s and having already achieved fame and fortune for his talent in finding the right players for his teams, what need would a guy like Polian have to give the time of day to a newly discovered cousin sports psychologist dubbed “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post who is the author of a book that quantifies mental performance in American football called “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.” Tom Flores wrote my forward and he told me that he plays golf with Polian and loves him. Lesley Visser wrote the epilogue of my book, and she knows everyone in football and is the only female in the pro football Hall of Fame. Still, I’ve never even talked with my cousin the NFL genius!

I’m actually pretty good with communication. I sent Mr. Polian a nice letter telling him of my interesting discovery and even spoke with his secretary at the Colts team headquarters on two occasions. I wished him well in a Christmas card to the team in December, 2009 when the Colts were getting ready to make a move in the playoffs (and would eventually play the Saints in the Super Bowl) and this year I sent him several signed copies of my new book when it came out. I am a little puzzled that I have not once heard back from Polian about whether he liked the book or not, and he has never once even commented on my fun family discovery even though I had sent him a chart of our ancestral connections.

I love sharing a good mystery, so I thought it was time to share this trivia. Maybe he’ll read this and realize that I was never some grovelling fan or ailing coach seeking employment with the Colts by trying to play the family connections game. For 12 years now I have been professionally satisfied and fully engaged in working with some of the best teams and athletes in the world, and while it would be phenomenal to help any team win a Super Bowl with my rare skills in an emerging profession, I considered this story more worth telling since we are both so obviously interested in elite football player evaluation and talent development. Maybe we’ll meet for coffee or lunch some day and laugh about this and how busy he has been with the Colts, or how his secretary never gave him the messages, but as I type away this article, that day has not come yet and I’m not sure it ever will.

How did I discover the connection between Murray and Polian? It started as a favor to my mother. My mother’s brother was about to celebrate his 80th birthday at a big party in New Jersey and my mother wanted to surprise him. For almost 100 years, my mother and her brother had no idea about the whereabouts of their maternal grandmother, my great-grandmother, Catherine Tiernan. It was as if she had simply disappeared while my grandmother was still a child, and they did not know if she had died in the Spanish Influenza of 1919, went missing, or had experienced something so shameful that family had covered it up. It was a major family mystery, but my mother knew I was good at research, having completed two masters degrees and a PhD, and she was confident that when I put my mental skills to work I usually get good results. I did.

I put my thinking cap on, subscribed to Ancestry.com, and posted a note about the whereabouts of my great-grandmother. A few days later I received an email from a law librarian and genealogy buff in California who had been searching in vain for my grandmother, Natalie (Catherine Tiernan’s daughter) and had all the information about Catherine! He told me that he was my third cousin. This led to a six hour phone conversation and some amazing sharing. We helped each other with each other’s mystery! When I told this librarian about my love of NFL football and NFL consultation work, and my upcoming NFL book, he told me that Bill Polian, the famous executive with the Indianapolis Colts, was my third cousin. I have since verified it to be 100% true from several other sources.

The following shows how I am related to Bill Polian, President of the Indianapolis Colts:

1. Bernard V. McLaughlin (1833-1892) married Julia Mullaly (1830-1895) and two of their children were Julia McLaughlin (1868-1899) and Bernard S. McLaughlin (1858-1905). Julia and Bernard S. were brother and sister.

2. Julia McLaughlin married Joseph Tiernan (1858-1886) and they had a daughter named Catherine Tiernan (1886-1916), and Catherine is my mother’s long sought after grandmother and my great grandmother!

3. Bernard S. McLaughlin married Johanna Stokes (1867-1895) and they had a son named Joseph J. McLaughlin (1891-1951) who married Cecilia A. Casbay (1895-1976). They had a daughter named Bernice Julian McLaughlin (1915-1997).

4. Bernice Julian McLaughlin married William Patrick Polian Sr. (1907-1995), and William is the father of Bill Polian of the Colts. Thus, Bill Polian and I are third cousins once removed!

Presidents Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt are often referred to in American history as cousins, yet they were distant 5th cousins. Third cousins are much much closer, and the fact that my grandmother was Bill Polian’s second cousin makes this even more compelling. The timing is a little asynchronous historically, as Bill is now in his late 60s and I am in my late 40s, but the facts remain true. I am not too far removed to the greatest talent evaluator the NFL has known. I discovered it by accident and with luck thanks to another third cousin who loves ancestry research and does it well.

I do not expect anything from Bill Polian, but it would be fun to meet him some day. I was the one who reached out, not he. I sent him a copy of my football psychology book, told him about the family connection, and wished him well in the Super Bowl. Whether he ever read my book or not is unknown. If not, he is missing a direct fun challenge that I gave him in the book. It is a a challenge that would help improve the landscape for all pro athletes by removing a ridiculous stigma about psychology in sports that keeps teams from getting better, and keeps players from getting help when they need it.

Anyone who is interested in my new NFL book, and the challenge I proposed to Mr. Polian, can find it at amazon.com at the following link.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this fun article from the world of sports psychology!

No. 2 Odesnik Wins Over Lexington Fans by Topping No. 1 Ward

Sports psychology and tennis news from the world of sports psychologist John F Murray at JohnFMurray.com:

Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships – July 24, 2011 – Jim Durham, Lexington Challenger Media Director, Lexington, KY – Second-seeded Wayne Odesnik showed many flashes Sunday of why he was ranked No. 77 in the world two years ago, clamping down on top-seeded James Ward 7-5, 6-4 for the 17th annual Lexington Challenger men’s title.

Odesnik was the man on a mission – trying to get back under that 200-ranking mark (he’s No. 206 currently) and then take aim at the sub-100 territory again. “I hope I’m on the way back…I’m trying. Starting with Futures (this year) and no ranking – from nothing to 160 is an exceptional run for me,” said Odesnik, referring to his expected new ranking Monday.

Ward had two break points at 4-4 in the first set, and three more (love-40) at 5-5, but couldn’t cash in. But, when Odesnik had Ward on three break points (love-40) at 5-6, he seized set point with a sharply flicked, high over-the-shoulder backhand.

“I was more solid on the big points…(in fact) in the big moments, I served well all week,” Odesnik said. A disappointed Ward, who had beaten Odesnik earlier this year, allowed, “This was still a positive week for me…a good first week in the States.”

Indeed, after looking like a man with a plane to catch while spotting Odesnik a 5-0 lead in the second set, Ward rediscovered his pride and ran off four straight games. But, the eventual winner again claimed a couple of those “big points” to close out this USTA Pro Circuit event.

Just as big for him, he said this week, was winning back the respect of tennis fans and fellow players that he lost in 2010 when he was charged with possession of HGH when entering Australia and then banned briefly from the tour. BIG for him has been the support of “my team” – including coaches Guillermo Canas, a former Davis Cupper for Argentina, and Juan Pablo Sangali (Canas Tennis Academy in Key Biscayne, FL) and sports psychologist John Murray.

Can he return to the Top 100 and climb back into the 70s or higher? “I’m not focusing on ranking…but on enjoying tennis.”
Ward (at No. 202) also appears to be a man who won’t be kept “down on the farm.” The British Davis Cupper said he’s striving for that next level, “working on things…because sometimes you have to take a step backward to go forward.”
And, yet Ward would not admit to any real holes in his game. “If there was one thing I was bad at,” he said, “I’d think Wawrinka (currently No. 16 in the world) and Querrey (now no. 50) would have picked up on it.”

Where to NEXT? Odesnik is headed for the qualies of the ATP in Washington, D.C. And, he and Ward both will play the Binghamton (NY) Challenger.

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

You can be mentally as tough as Pete Sampras, Steffi Graf, and Roger Federer

LA Tennis Examiner – July 8, 2011 – Rich Neher – Reviewing “Smart Tennis – How to play and win the mental game” by John F. Murray, Ph.D., 1999, 237 p.

Ever since I heard legendary tennis teacher and researcher Vic Braden (jokingly, I assume) say, “Tennis is 100% mental”, I became interested in tennis books written by experts in the mental aspects of the game. My reviews of books in that genre have allowed me great insights in the mysterious and often masochistic ways our own mind is trying to sabotage our tennis game.

The Inner Game of Tennis, written 1974 by Timothy Gallwey, ended up #5 on my Top 10 all time favorite list of tennis books and I have since realized that numerous serious coaching professionals are followers of many of Gallwey’s teachings. Dr. Allen Fox’s book Tennis: Winning the Mental Match (Overcome your emotions, fears and nerves and build confidence for success in life and on the courts) specifies 3 big problems in tennis: Anger, tanking, and choking. He discusses those problems and suggests ways to overcome them, in addition to a bunch of real helpful tips for winning the mental match.

More recently I came across a booklet written in 1999 by John F. Murray, Ph.D. that caught my attention because Vic Braden is quoted on the back cover as follows: “Smart Tennis is a must for players at all levels – from the beginners to Wimbledon champions! An outstanding book for understanding and improving your mental game.”

Dr. John F. Murray has an extensive background in playing and coaching tennis, writing and lecturing on sport psychology and tennis, and providing psychological services. A graduate of Loyola University (New Orleans), Murray is certified by both the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) and the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR). He taught tennis in Munich, Germany, before joining the Peter Burwash organization and teaching in Europe, Hawaii, North America, and the Middle East.

Dr. Murray’s accomplishments are numerous, like his contribution to the psychology of tennis, an award winning sport psychology column titled Mental Equipment. He is also a member of Division 47 (Exercise and Sport Sciences) of the American Psychology Association, and of the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology.

The author welcomes the reader to an “exciting personal journey… to help identify your own strengths and weaknesses to help you win the game against your toughest opponent – yourself!” He adds, “As a tennis player and coach I was often dismayed by the lack of high-quality materials on the mental aspects of the game.” Murray also discovered there were few qualified sport psychologists with an understanding and love of tennis to communicate this knowledge. “To my knowledge this is the first written by an author combining expertise in tennis, sport psychology, and clinical psychology. This book shares my enthusiasm in all three disciplines.”

The first chapter is all about understanding your personal needs. The author’s so-called Whole Person Approach is represented by the acronym ACES, four ways in which mind-body skills are expressed in tennis and other performance situations. ACES stands for Actions, Cognitions, Emotions, and (physical) Sensations.

Tennis Mind-Body Checklist (TMBC)

Designed to help the readers understand themselves better, the TMBC consists of 100 questions with simple True/False answer requirements. A point matrix helps create a Skills Profile and an ACES Profile, en route to finding a Need Type.

Example: If the lowest score on the ACES Profile is E (Emotions), and the lowest score on the Skills Profile is C (Confidence), the resulting Need Type is E-C. The abbreviated description of E-C amongst the 20 listed Need Types reads: You should examine your feelings on the court and how they affect your expectations for success. For example, after winning an important game, you might be elated and need to guard against overconfidence. If you lack confidence, you might re-create feelings you had during previous successes. You will find help for this in Chapter Four!

Subsequent chapters provide direction for improving identified areas and further enhancing areas of strength. Chapters 2-6 are discussing related issues, such as Staying Focused, Your Mind-Body Time Machine, Confidence, Energy Control, and Goal Setting. Example: Under Steps to Eliminate Fear, Dr. Murray writes: When struck by fear during a match, realize that your opponent probably feels the same way or worse. Focus concretely on what you are going to accomplish and then just do it. Practice beginning matches at 15-40, 4-5 in the final set. Learn to love this challenge. Maintain an aggressive style of play rather than becoming tentative. Your best tennis comes when you are relaxed, poised, and full of belief in your abilities. You cannot control the outcome and you cannot always win, but by confronting your fears head on you’ll develop greater confidence.

Competition Management Playing Smart Tennis

I enjoyed Chapter 7: Competition Management Playing Smart Tennis, because I am being assured as my self-understanding increases and mind-body techniques improve, playing smart tennis becomes more natural. I also learn that my automatic pilot takes over and allows me to perform naturally. In Tennis Nutrition 101 the author warns that too many carbohydrates (pasta, breads, fruit, veggies) can lead to a sugar crash and complete exhaustion. Fats provide a more long-term energy source. Balance is the key to healthy nutrition. Both food quantity and quality should be closely regulated.

At the end, after teaching how to cope with injuries, the writer expands on tips and tricks during and after the match, such as point and changeover routines, momentum management, challenging your eyesight, explaining a match outcome, and taking stock of your mind-body skills. One of Dr. Murray’s students sums it all up. I am more excited about tennis than ever before, not only because I made it to the semifinals but because I have finally found the key to mental toughness. Sport psychology teaches you to ignore the distractions and concentrate instead on becoming the best you can be!

One of Dr. Murray’s biggest supporters is retired touring pro and former Top 20 player Vince Spadea. Born in Chicago and now residing in Boca Raton, Florida, Spadea was under Murray’s coaching care for 10 years. He says: “Dr. Murray was great in helping me come back from the longest losing streak ever of 21 straight losses, and we worked for ten years together on a fairly regular basis. He traveled with me to the 2007 Australian Open, and as my appointed coach (filling in since I was not with my regular coach) I beat Igor Andreev – a top 10 player – in straight sets, and we had other big wins together as well. Many of the same mental coaching principles he used with me can be found in his book Smart Tennis, but it was more than knowledge that really helped me get back to 18 in the world and top 10 in the champions race, it was also the fun and passion of having a common mission and goals with my sports psychologist … of constantly coming back to the mental game, and practicing it with imagery and other techniques. Smart Tennis players are wise to take the mental game as seriously as they do technique and physical strength.

I like this book because it gives me so much more than any book on stroke production or doubles strategy ever could. It focuses on my own abilities to make a change and cope with challenges on the tennis court. It is like a secret weapon in my arsenal of fighting tools on the tennis court. It is like the book I don’t ever want my opponents to read.

Dr. Murray’s web site is located at www.JohnFMurray.com and you can send an email to Dr. Murray at: johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

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

Great athletes often come back to avoid regrets

Hindustan Times – May 18, 2011 – Rohit Bhaskar – Sportsmen very rarely, if ever, have a fairytale ending. Basketball’s greatest wizard Michael Jordan ended his career as a wizard, literally. Having popularised the sport with his gravity-defying feats for Chicago Bulls, he made a comeback with Washington Wizards that ended in the most unceremonious way possible.

Another Michael, who was arguably the greatest proponent of his sport, Schumacher, made a comeback to the fast lane last year only to see the world pass him by!

When former India captain Sourav Ganguly announced his comeback with the Pune Warriors, everyone had a take on why he returned; from wanting to prove a point to Kolkata Knight Riders owner Shah Rukh Khan to getting his competitive juices flowing again.

While Ganguly alone would know the real reasons behind his return, HT talks to noted sports psychologist John F Murray on why former greats just can’t seem to let go, and why, more often than not, the results don’t go their way.

Are even the greatest athletes the last to realise their waning powers?

Absolutely. Even when an athlete is far beyond the physical possibility of a comeback, his or her mind often holds that extremely rare possibility as a probability only requiring true effort and a new plan. The demands of confidence in competition explains this in part, as even an athlete one month from retirement goes into matches still believing that he or she can do it better than ever. I think this is all part of human nature. The experienced mind in sports is even better at denying reality and creating an illusion of unlimited strength and capability.

Why do so many athletes make a comeback after retiring?

Retiring is like a first death for most athletes. It is almost impossible to find the same thrill as on a match day, and like a war veteran at a military reunion, there are no finer hours than those that were spent in battle for a worthy mission. A top athlete’s entire life is sacrificed to be able to play a pro sport. When it ends, there is still more than half a life to live but with a Grand Canyon of meaningful activity missing… hence the comeback.

Many of these comebacks don’t end with the desired results. Why?

The reasons for the retirement in the first place were so real and pervasive and still remain despite all passion and good intention. Seeing one’s glory diminished in the second go-round is just a further reminder to the athlete that it’s time to move on. But maybe this comeback attempt serves a purpose in terms of final closure so that there are no later regrets that one stopped too soon.

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

QUESTIONS ANSWERED IN THIS NEW BOOK

The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History
Author: John F. Murray, PhD
Publisher: World Audience Inc., (2011), New York, NY
For More Information: www.JohnFMurray.com – 561-596-9898 – johnfmurray@mindspring.com

What new scientific discovery is announced?
Before this book, team mental performance was simply never measured. By measuring
this in all Super Bowls, and empirically showing how it separates winning teams from losing
teams, this book makes the strongest case yet for sports psychology. This book clearly
demonstrates how much mental performance matters … and it is titanic.

Why do many still avoid working with a sports psychologist?
This book grapples with and answers that question, and introduces a paradigm shift in sports
by showing how essential mental coaching and mental performance is to winning.

If all 90 Super Bowl teams could play one another in a mythical tournament,
which team would win?

By standardizing team performance with a new statistic called the MPI, teams can now be
compared across decades on how well they performed. This book reviews and rates every
Super Bowl team from this new perspective, then ranks teams across 28 categories of
performance. A new annual event is launched in which all teams compete to be the best
performing team of all time.

What have we learned about success on the biggest stage of the Super Bowl?
This book provides the 45 essential lessons learned from each Super Bowl game that anyone
may now apply in their sports, businesses or personal life.

What made San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh so enormously successful?
This book offers rare insight into the mind and behavior of a coaching genius courtesy of
Lesley Visser’s epilogue. The 49ers produced 3 teams ranked in the top 6 of all time in this
book’s overall rankings, so Walsh earns this special chapter written by a pro football hall of
fame sportscaster who knew him well.

What inspired the author to become a sports psychologist and later create a way to measure football team performance that included mental factors?
This book tells John F. Murray’s personal story with anecdotes from his youth and worldwide
travels that are compelling and entertaining.

What can football coaches now do to improve their teams’ mental performance?
This book shows coaches how to identify their team’s greatest needs mentally and physically
and win more games using the MPI and sports psychology. Barriers to hiring a team
psychologist are discussed and eliminated.

Order Book at Below Link

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE BOOK AT AMAZON.COM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

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

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

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

Tom Flores, two-time Super Bowl champion head coach of the Raiders, and a winner in 4 Super Bowls with no losses, writes in the foreword: “Dr. Murray’s Mental Performance Index can be and will be the next part of sports evolution in the 21st Century.”

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

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

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

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

For Further Information or interviews:

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

No sure things guaranteed in NFL draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Hall’s ex: ‘Done 4 Life’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As well it should be,” she adds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything is turned upside down.

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

And after three years, she’s gone.

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

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

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

What’s up with that?

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

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

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

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

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

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