Posts Tagged ‘Sports’

Are Sports Still Alive in this Economy?

SPECIAL REPORT FROM DR. JOHN F MURRAY: Are Sports Still Alive in these Tough Economic Times?

It’s been one of the most exciting weeks ever for sports, especially here in Florida. The Miami Dolphins won the AFC East after a 1-15 mark last year. The Florida Gators football team grabbed its second national championships in three years, making this author and all of Gator Nation extremely proud. But is all this sports hype justified in a time when the economy is tanking, shops are closing, and people are looking desperately for work? Read on …

Newsday and the Chicago Tribune: See the article in today’s Newsday and Chicago Tribune after I had a nice talk with John Jeansonne about the need for even more frivolity in sports

Florida Times Union: Mark Woods and I engaged in a similar discussion a few days earlier and you can find it here

Irish Tennis’ On the Line: Other nations are playing even more sports and learning about sports psychology. See my new article in Ireland’s top tennis publication, “On the Line” about sports psychology for kids

Speaking Engagements: I’ve been invited to deliver more speeches than ever recently. The consensus seems to be that sports should thrive even more in times of economic downturn as it serves a vital need in society to keep our spirits up. It was a pleasure this week to speak to the Palm Beach Flager Rotary meeting about coping with stress in these tough financial times. After the speech, I received the following endorsement from Stephen Millier, and thank him greatly for the invite and the quote:

John F Murray delivered a captivating talk at the Palm Beach Flagler Rotary breakfast meeting.
In these uncertain times, Stress was the topic of the day, John covered the topic in an interactive
manner engaging the entire group and leading to a lively discussion. We hope to have John F
Murray speak to us again. Stephen Miller, Speaker Chairperson, Palm Beach Rotary, January, 2009

It was also fun to deliver separate talks this week to almost 300 golfers and 30 tennis players at the Ibis Golf and Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens. I’ll be in touch soon with those details. Keep your schedules free for our February 21 workshop in Princeton, New Jersey. Contact me for details about that half day sports psychology seminar.

In sum, sports are not only surviving … they are … well … like what Joe Dimaggio represents in the song line “where have you gone Joe Dimaggo” … what we often turn our “lonely eyesâ€? to first in our times of greatest need.

All the Best!
John F. Murray, PhD
139 North County Road Suite 18C
Palm Beach, Florida 33480
Tel: 561-596-9898
Fax: 561-805-8662
www.JohnFMurray.com

Dr. Murray’s “high performance psychology” helps people in a variety of challenging situations in business, sports, academics and life. He is a best-selling author & columnist, and a frequent speaker and seminar leader. His commentary appears almost daily in the media. For example, Dr. Murray recently contributed to the Boston Globe, NY Times, LA Daily News, and Newsday, and he appeared as an expert on Fox Television, MSNBC and ABC Good Morning America.

TEAMS NEED TO TAKE MORE PROTECTIVE MEASURES

Stuart News Oct 21, 2008, 2004 – Kevin Van Brimmer – In the days since Friday’s fight between NBA players and fans in Detroit, commentators, writers, coaches, players and fans have been expressing their outrage, disgust and shock that such a thing could happen in American professional sports. But the question is: Should we be shocked?

“I think this issue has been brewing and accelerating for a long period of time,” says Jupiter-based (correction – Palm Beach based) sports performance psychologist John Murray. American culture is more and more becoming one of violence. It sells in the news and it sells in entertainment, from professional wrestling to blockbuster movies. So was it any surprise it has spilled over professional sports like a tidal wave? Friday night’s fracas isn’t the first case of athletes and fans tussling in American sports. But the tsunami crested and broke in the 15-minute melee in Detroit on Friday when Indiana’s Ron Artest charged into the stands to mix it up with a fan who threw a drink on him and was followed by his teammates. Artest received a season-long ban from NBA Commissioner David Stern for his actions and eight other players on both sides received suspensions of various lengths. But will Stern’s actions quell any future player-fan confrontations? Murray says no, not by themselves.

He says there needs to be proactive measures taken by teams to ensure its players don’t get so close to the breaking point again. “I do believe in discipline, suspensions and fines,” Murray says. “I think it’s a great move by Stern. I think (Artest) being out the whole season is the way to do it; tighten up the grip a little more. You have to stand up and have some bite behind the bark. Otherwise, it’s just talk. There needs to be a policy of no-tolerance. “My pitch is, each franchise needs to have a genuine sports psychologist that can work with these athletes and give them perspective. A sports psychologist may also help athletes express themselves in positive ways instead of exploding.”

But it’s not just the moral compass of the professional athlete that has been progressively skewed in recent years. The other part of the equation Friday was the behavior of the fans, Murray said. “I think the opportunity for people to become part of the limelight has changed,” Murray says. “Especially with reality television. Everybody wants to become part of the action.” Murray also believes the media perpetuates the growing culture of violence and aggressiveness in America. The best example is the fact that footage of Friday’s fight has been playing continuously on sports and news channels since the incident. “We’re intoxicated as a culture, so we need a detox program,” Murray says. “We need to think smart as a culture. “The most important thing is our kids see this and think it’s acceptable. It’s not. We need to wake up.”
Edition: All Dailies
Section: Sports

SHAQ HAUNTS MAGIC FANS

FLORIDA TODAY – Jul 12, 2004 – Jeff Dalessio and John Denton – Impending deal to Miami means more meetings against Orlando.

He’s 7-foot-1 and 340 pounds with arms like Popeye, tree trunks for legs and three NBA Finals MVP awards on his mantel.

And he’s coming to your division, 18-year-old Orlando Magic rookie Dwight Howard.

“Who wants to play Shaq and get in a wrestling match with him all night?” Howard said as news broke that Shaquille O’Neal was on the verge of joining the Miami Heat. “He could probably just put a finger on me and push me out of the way.”

Word of a pending trade between the Los Angeles Lakers and Heat isn’t just the worst nightmare for the 6-11, 243- pound Howard, who’s sure to be on the receiving end of a few O’Neal elbows when the two teams tangle at least four times next season in the newly formed NBA Southeast Division.

It’s also sure to bring frowns to the faces of Magic fans, who had a tough enough time watching their former center collect three NBA titles three time zones away in Los Angeles.

Now, pending NBA approval of the trade, O’Neal is headed back to the Sunshine State in a move that will reportedly net the Lakers Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, another player — possibly Caron Butler — and a future draft pick.

First, Tracy McGrady is sent packing. Now, the guy who led Orlando to the 1995 NBA Finals joins its biggest rival.

Hang in there, Magic fans.

“Magic fans are going to be struggling with this for a long time,” said John Murray, a South Florida sports psychologist. “It would be like Larry Csonka or Dan Marino coming back to play for the Jets. The only solution for Orlando is to sharpen their mental skills and beat Miami. This would give them double satisfaction.”

The trade can’t be completed until 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, when the NBA’s two-week player movement moratorium expires, but it’s reportedly a done deal. Perry Rogers, O’Neal’s agent, told the Los Angeles Daily News, “As of right now, there is an agreement to agree” and spoke of his client’s love for the city of Miami and admiration of Heat president Pat Riley.

O’Neal also was high on Orlando, where he still maintains a home eight years after leaving the Magic for the bright lights of L.A. But because of his massive contract — O’Neal is due to make an NBA-high $27.7 million next season — Orlando GM John Weisbrod last month called a Shaq-Magic reunion “pretty close to mathematically impossible,” adding, “We’d be fielding a roster of seven guys.”

The 32-year-old O’Neal soured on the Lakers after the team was eliminated, 4-1, by Detroit in the NBA Finals. When discussing the Lakers’ future afterward, general manager Mitch Kupchak told reporters he never would trade star guard Kobe Bryant, but wouldn’t rule out the possibility of sending O’Neal elsewhere.

The next day, O’Neal demanded a trade.

Despite a dip in O’Neal’s statistics this past season — a career-low 21.5 points with 11.5 rebounds and 2.48 blocks — Magic coach Johnny Davis calls him “the most dominant player in the game.”

“There’s just nobody else like him in our league,” Davis said. “He’s so big that he’s almost unstoppable.”

His presence in Miami is bad news for the rest of the new Southeast Division, which includes three teams coming off forgettable seasons — Orlando (21-61), Washington (25-57) and Atlanta (28-54) — and the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.

With O’Neal in the middle, the Heat (42-40 in 2003-04) would go into next season as the undisputed team to beat and a possible NBA championship contender. Even with the loss of three starters — Odom, Butler and Grant — they return Olympian Dwyane Wade at point guard and Eddie Jones, their leading scorer each of the past four seasons, at shooting guard.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Lakers fans are hoping O’Neal and the team will have a change of heart before 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

That also sums up the feeling in Orlando.

“I think he’s OK right where he was,” Davis said.

____________________________________________________

The NBA’s other big trades involving the big men

1965

The deal

Two days after the 1965 All-Star Game, when he had 20 points and 16 rebounds, two-time reigning NBA scoring champion Wilt Chamberlain is sent from the Golden State Warriors to the Philadelphia 76ers for Connie Dierking, Lee Shaffer, Paul Neumann and $150,000.

The impact

The 76ers went on to post the NBA’s best record the following season, then knocked off their nemesis, Boston, on their way to the NBA title the following year.

_____________________________________________________

1968

The deal

Following his fourth, and final MVP season, Chamberlain is shipped from Philadelphia to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff.

The impact

Chamberlain spent his final five seasons in L.A., helping the Lakers to the NBA Finals four times. At age 35, he grabbed 19.2 rebounds a night and was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team.

_____________________________________________________

1975

The deal

Unhappy in Milwaukee, three-time MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar requests the Bucks trade him to either New York or Los Angeles. He gets his wish, going to the Lakers in a deal for Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith and Brian Winters.

The impact

The Kareem-led Lakers win five NBA titles — 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988 — and he picks up three more NBA MVP awards, giving him six total.

_________________________________________________

Why Shaq’s still got it

1. As bad as he is at the line, no one shoots better from the field (NBA-leading 58.4 percent last season).

2. Anyone catch that 36-point, 20-rebound effort in Game 4 of the NBA Finals?

3. When he’s motivated and in shape, no one can stop him down low.

Why Shaq’s slipping

1. He’s coming off a career-low season scoring — 21.5 points a game.

2. He made just 49 percent of his free throws — down from his 62.2 clip the season before.

3. He’s been injury-prone and overweight, not playing in more than 67 games in any of the past three years.

– Jeff D’Alessio, FLORIDA TODAY

______________________________________________________

AP file

Sunshine Superman. Shaquille O’Neal is coming back to play in the Sunshine State and that could mean trouble for Orlando Magic rookie Dwight Howard and their fans when they meet four times.
Edition: F Final All
Section: Sports
Page: 01

“PATRIOTS FOOTBALL WEEKLY” INTERVIEWED DR. JOHN F. MURRAY TO HELP THEIR TEAM COPE WITH PRESSURE AND GO UNDEFEATED

Jan 30, 2008 – The writers for the official New England Patriots Magazine – You can read this article by clicking here!

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

No Fear

Nov 21, 2005 – Choking is universal, says Dr. John F.Murray, a clinical and sport performance psychologist in West Palm Beach Florida (http://www.johnfmurray.com). Everyone has experienced it, even the best athletes in the world such as Tiger Woods will choke occasionally, but he does it less frequently.

Typically with choking, a person perceives the event as extremely important, and their focus turns inward, becoming internal rather than appropriately external, he notes.

Their brain starts firing off too much, causing them to lose that smooth and automatic level of physical skill that usually characterizes their performance. They become much less fluid, not only in their performance, but also in their thinking. They become distracted by those internal sensations and thoughts. Its like tunnel vision. Choking is always a self-inflicted problem.

Having counseled U.S. Olympic springboard diver Michelle Davidson, and many other elite athletes, Dr.Murray is keenly aware of what transpires in pressure situations:

During practice youre just kicking balls, but in the Super Bowl with two seconds left and youre in position to make a winning field goal, an inappropriate focus arises, disrupting motor skills, even though youve done it a million times, and can do it in your sleep. Choking is very much a disorder. Athletes choke on too many thoughts, whereas panic is the exact opposite. In panic you lose all your thoughts. Its a non-thinking process. Choking occurs at a very high level of sophistication in which we over think, over analyze and we over worry. Its a different process then panic, but both lead to performance failure.

Chokings complexity is apparent in a groundbreaking Australian study that found a connection between pre-competitive anxiety and depression. Researchers theorize that many athletes equate happiness with success. Among their conclusions, certain individuals are vulnerable to depression because they utilize inappropriate strategies to set and pursue life goals (e.g., winning a sporting contest) If the athlete believes that happiness and wellbeing are conditional upon goal achievement, any thoughts of goal pursuit will be accompanied by a belief that the individual is not yet happy or content. This negative self-focus…is in turn likely to cause an increase in depression levels.
One of the studys authors, Professor Kerry Mummery, director of the Centre for Social Science Research at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton, Australia, explains the significance of their findings: We believe that goal linking is an often overlooked source of pre-competitive anxiety. High-level athletes who link their happiness to their next level of achievement simply fail to stop and smell the roses. They habituate to the recent success very quickly, set new challenging goals and tell themselves that they will only be happy.

Dr. Mummery and his colleagues drew on the views expressed by participants in the 2001 New Zealand Ironman competition.

Typically, athletes who set conditional goals are more likely to experience high levels of anxiety before competition, which can negatively impact their performance.

For the most part any anxiety is a bad thing, notes Dr. Mummery. Arousal and anxiety are subtly different. Athletes need to achieve their optimal level of arousal to ensure top performance, but anxiety is normally associated with a reduction in performance. Worry or anxiety negatively affects the concentration on the task at hand and has associated physiological responses that impair performance. I agree that maladaptive self-talk is often the basic problem that leads to choking. Focusing on the outcome, rather than the process (I need to make this putt, versus this is what I need to do to make this putt), often leads to sub-par performances in situations where the athlete would normally expect to perform well.

According to Dr. Murray, pre-competitive anxiety is not gender biased, but is more readily apparent in those who exhibit obsessive traits. He identifies the best possible mind set for athletic success: The ideal mental state is to have no fear, and a complete excitement for competition. Love that even above winning. Competition is what you have to love, irrespective of outcome. Easy to say, harder to do.

Let the Head Games Begin:

To help his clients stay cool under pressure, Dr. Murray employs these helpful relaxation techniques and imagery:

Imagine yourself mastering very difficult situations before important competitions: Envision an imaginary miners lamp on top of your head. Choking is when you turn the lamp towards yourself; proper performance is when you turn the beam outward. Rather than get caught up in your thoughts, get focused on the environment.
Utilize a process of self-examination: I talk about chronic and acute causes of anxiety Athletes need to know and understand how arousal and anxiety affects them personally then incorporate a positive habitual routine into their pre-competitive preparation This is done over years of development with the assistance of a good coach.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

ATHLETES PLAY DESPITE MAJOR HEALTH RISKS

Palm Beach Post – Oct 22, 2005 – Carlos Frías – Merril Hoge’s fears were fading. He was working out again, running, lifting weights. Concussions had ended his NFL career and put his future health in jeopardy. But a year after the hit that finally put him out of football, he was having doubts about his retirement.

He looked in the mirror, saw his 30-year-old face and physiqueâ€? the body of a former running back for the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelersâ€? and thought, “I can still play.”

He had not forgotten his doctors’ warnings. After suffering four concussions in five weeks in 1994 with the Bears, he was left with permanent damage. Bright lights caused pounding headaches. The bruises on his brain caused anxiety and paranoia for weeks. For a time, he couldn’t remember his wife’s and daughter’s names, much less his home telephone number.

“The next hit could leave me…” He paused.

In a vegetative state?

“If I was lucky,” he continued. “It could be fatal. Not even in a game. In practice.”

Bruschi’s decision

But Hoge wanted to play again. He needed to play again.

He understands what’s driving Tedy Bruschi, the New England Patriots linebacker who made a surprising return to the practice field this week nine months after suffering a stroke.

Bruschi temporarily lost his vision and was numb along the left side of his body when he was stricken just 10 days after the Patriots’ Super Bowl win against Philadelphia. Health, Bruschi said, was his first priority, but he never truly accepted the possibility of not playing again.

“There were times, in my mind, I thought I was done,” he told The Associated Press. “If I could express to you what this means to me (to return), I would, but I don’t know if I really can.”

Doctors have cleared Bruschi, telling him the condition should not keep him from playing.

Doctors big part of decisions

Hoge wasn’t as fortunate. He called Dr. Joe Maroon, the neurosurgeon who had denied him a medical clearance, to ask if there was a chance he could return to the field.

“It was sinking in, the reality of not being able to play again. I needed confirmation,” said Hoge, now an NFL analyst for ESPN. “You get better, you get healthy, and you tend to forget how long the season is, how physical it is.”

Maroon, who still works with the Steelers, put it simply:

” ‘Merril, I’m sure. I’m positive,’ ” Hoge remembers the doctor saying. “It was not easy for him, either, because I was at the top of my career.

“But he said, ‘I could not lay my head down at night knowing I let you go back and play.’ ”

Bruschi and the Patriots are confident that he is healthy enough to return.

Doctors found the problem and fixed it: a tiny hole in his heart that caused poor blood flow to his brain.

Some stroke victims are always at risk for a relapse, but Bruschi should not be one of them, said Dr. James Goldenberg, a neurologist at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis and a spokesman for the American Stroke Association.

“This is an example of something that can be fixed,” Goldenberg said. “Playing football, despite that very physical contact, shouldn’t put him at risk in the future.”

Still, when it comes to risk, elite athletes often have a difficult time walking away from their game.

Most will exhaust all medical opinions, undergo all possible surgeries, endure chronic pain, and sometimes even take risks to continue playing the sport that, in many ways, made them who they are.

“They see themselves as athletes and only athletes,” said Dr. John Murray, a Palm Beach Gardens-based sports psychologist.

Bruschi isn’t the only athlete who recently has returned to a sport despite a health issue.

Mourning understands

Eddie Curry, a 22-year-old NBA center, missed most of last season with the Chicago Bulls after doctors found he had an irregular heartbeat from a potentially fatal heart defect.

Before this season’s training camp opened, Curry refused to submit to a test the Bulls required that could have revealed a condition that killed Boston Celtics guard Reggie Lewis and collegiate star Hank Gathers.

The league eventually approved a trade to the New York Knicks, whose doctors cleared Curry to play.

Alonzo Mourning’s return from a kidney transplant has been well-chronicled. The Heat center said he can empathize with Bruschi about the moment the linebacker was told that he had a severe condition.

“What’s going through his mind is, ‘Am I healthy enough to play football?’ ” Mourning said. “For me, it was, ‘Am I healthy enough to play basketball and am I putting my life in jeopardy?’

“There’s a whole lot of things you feel: Uncertain. Impatient. Scared. Anxious.”

Mourning accepts his risks.

The kidney he received was added to his two and placed just below his abdomen. He wears a special pad to protect it when he plays.

He said he would walk away from the game if the condition meant his life was at imminent risk. But he never stopped trying to return to the court, even when he had to miss two seasons because of the illness. His family tried to encourage him to retire.

Mourning had already become rich in the sport, but he said only one message from doctors would have kept him away: “That playing ball would put my life in jeopardy. Plain and simple.”

“Every athlete has a clock to his career, and it’s up to each athlete to decide when it’s time to walk away from it,” he said.

Pain, risks seen as worthwhile

Orlando Magic forward Grant Hill was faced with retirement after missing the better part of four seasons with an ankle injury that never seemed to heal properly.

Hill endured four surgeries and a staph infection, but returned to be named an All-Star last season.

“This is what you do. This is who you are,” Hill said. “It’s something you always feel you can do.”

Constant pain isn’t enough to keep athletes from competing, Murray said, because they are conditioned to accept it and play through it.

Unlike a weekend warrior, who might hurt an ankle and take a week off, a professional athlete stops seeing pain as an indicator of something wrong.

“To them, pain can sometimes signal feeling alive,” said Murray, who studied the subject with the University of Florida football team during its 1996 national championship season. “Getting in touch with the physical pain can be therapeutic. The emotional pain of retirement can be more devastating than the temporary physical nature of pain.

“The pain of retirement means loss.”

Hoge said football players do realize that pain could signal the risk of serious injury, but they choose not to dwell on the danger.

“We understand that’s part of the game, but you just can’t function under that thought process,” Hoge said.

“If you consume yourself in thinking about that, you’re just not going to be a very good player.”

Though he was mentally and physically conditioned over years to play a dangerous sport, Hoge finally realized it was over for a good reason.

“It was hard to curb that appetite,” said Hoge, who rushed for more than 3,000 yards in an eight-year career.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

SPORTS PSYCHOLOGISTS PROVIDE NEEDED EDGE

Special to FOXSports.com – Oct 22, 2005 – Dan Weil – As sports have turned into big business, the use of sport psychologists has mushroomed. Teams and athletes are looking for any kind of edge they can get, and experts are quick to point out that the mental game is key to athletic performance.

Roland Carlstedt, chairman of the American Board of Sports Psychology and a sport psychologist himself, estimates that up to two-thirds of professional teams have hired practitioners to help give their players a mental edge. “It’s a very glamorous field,” he noted.

John Murray, a 43-year-old psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida is one of the major psychologists in sports. He played tennis tournaments as a youngster and began his career as a teaching tennis pro after graduating from Loyola University in New Orleans.

The more he learned about tennis, the more he got excited about the mental aspects of the game. “I started to realize just how important it was to performance,” Murray said. So he went back to school at the University of Florida to earn a Master’s and PhD degree in psychology. He wrote his dissertation about a national championship Gators team during the 1990s and in ’99 opened a private practice.

Murray has counseled the Miami Dolphins, Olympic diver Michelle Davison and numerous golf and tennis players. “My philosophy is very simple,” he said. “I’m helping athletes improve their mental skills.” He breaks those skills down into eight categories, including resiliency. “How do you recover from the loss of a point, a game or a match?” Murray said. “You have to be vigilant to keep your passion and joy.”

Part of Murray’s work is helping athletes reduce distractions â€â€?”anything that gets in the way of pure performance,” as he put it. “It could be a personal issue. It could be that you’re wasting too much time in social situations or doing too much media. I help you dump some of that stuff to free up your mind and body to perform.”

While some sports psychologists are either pure sports science teachers with no training in treatment of personal problems or pure psychologists with no training in sports, Murray offers experience in both areas.

One of the techniques common to sports psychologists is getting athletes to think in terms of taking small steps rather than solving all their problems in one fell swoop. “I had an NFL quarterback who was struggling,” Murray said.

“He was taking it all on himself, not realizing he had a whole team around him. I came in and gave him a lot of work on imagery and relaxation â€â€? small steps without trying to do it all at once.” The result: “He relaxed and broke his slump after we intervened,” Murray said.

Among the imagery he had the quarterback go through was to lie on his back for five to 10 minutes visualizing situations where he dropped back to pass, faced pressure, found his primary receiver covered, checked off and completed short passes to his secondary receivers.

“Like Napoleon said, battles are won before soldiers go to the field,” Murray said. “There are a lot of things you can do.”

Pro tennis player Vince Spadea is certainly happy with what Murray did for him. After reaching his top world ranking of 19 in 1999, Spadea fell on hard times. He endured a record 21-match losing streak that lasted until mid-2000 before he decided to seek help.

A sports psychologist helped Vince Spadea reverse career free-fall that included a 21-match losing streak. (Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

Several businessmen mentioned to him that they utilized performance therapists. “And these people are looking for the best team money can buy,” Spadea said. So he realized maybe there was something to it. “I’d heard about golfers using psychologists and with tennis being similar, I just said to myself, I need to go about this more professionally.”

So he decided to consult Murray. “I had to start from the drawing board,” Spadea said. “I’d fallen to No. 250 in the world. John’s technique involved taking little steps.” During weekly sessions, Murray helped Spadea focus on an agenda of what he wanted to accomplish. They put together a plan for every day.

“I didn’t like traveling on a plane, so John taught me relaxation breathing techniques,” Spadea said. “You work your mind up so much that sometimes you don’t feel great or hit well. We started with these small remedies and got to the point where we figured out what we wanted out of each element of practice and what was my intention for a ranking. We made all of these objectives and put them on paper.”

It obviously worked because Spadea won his first ATP tournament last year and reached a career-high ranking of 18 earlier this year. But after a recent slump pushed him down to a ranking of 55, he felt he needed another jump start. So earlier this month, Spadea, with Murray’s encouragement, issued a guarantee that he will break into the top 10 next year.

“I want to get passionate in doing something I’ve never done before,” Spadea said. “I want to challenge people who don’t think it’s possible and to challenge myself.”

One of the country’s most prominent sport psychologists is Fran Pirozzolo. He worked with the New York Yankees from 1996-2002 and also consulted with boxer Evander Holyfield. Now, he is the psychologist for the Houston Texans and serves more than a dozen men and women golfers.

“I start by listening,” Pirozzolo said in an E-mail interview. “The act of listening isn’t as simple as it sounds. This is why it takes years of training to be a psychoanalyst.” After listening to his clients’ needs, Pirozzolo works with them to set up a training model. Sometimes he puts together a guided visual imagery CD to boost mental toughness. “We set goals. We communicate on the phone. I watch them play. I go to the range with them in the case of golfers, or I caddy for them.”

While Murray and Pirozzolo make a good living from their work, many sport psychologists don’t. And Carlstedt, chairman of the American Board of Sport Psychology, seeks to make the field more professional. He is developing a code of protocol for sport psychologists.

“The establishment is still not convinced about the worth of sport psychology; so it isn’t paying what it should,” Carlstedt said. “Million-dollar decisions about players are being based on rudimentary information, and teams are letting people who talk their way into the job get access to players.”

Dan Weil is a frequent FOXSports.com contributor.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

FANS FINALLY GET A FIX OF THEIR NHL HOCKEY

National Post of Canada – Oct 6, 2005 – Mark Spector – EDMONTON – The National Hockey League’s lockout lasted 301 days, with the two factions finally settling in July. As such, last night’s games marked the most anticipated slate on Opening Night since players with names like Newsy, Hap and Punch wore striped sleeves and handlebar moustaches.

In Canada, at least, the curtain raising for the 2005-06 season made more noise coming down the tracks than the time CP Rail showed up in the west. Yesterday morning at Rexall Place in Edmonton, there was the staff during the morning skate, scurrying about the building like army ants. Entire walls were prepped and waiting to be painted. Back-lit advertising signs were being assembled and ratcheted on to walls. Scissor lifts were drowning out media scrums with their “Beep! Beep Beep!” as they were being backed up right outside the Oilers dressing room.

It was like walking in the door at 5 p.m. on Christmas Day and having your hostess lean over to her husband and say, “Honey? Can you run down and get the turkey out of the freezer?”

“Didn’t have enough time to get it done?” laughed retired goalie Bill Ranford sarcastically, well out of earshot of one of the painters. Ranford was scheduled to work as an analyst on the Colorado-Edmonton game last night and was expecting to do a decent job of it. Though he had never actually done a real, live, televised NHL game before being pressed into service with TSN’s talent wearing thin yesterday, as they televised four games on opening night.

But if the building manager clearly wasn’t prepared for the big night, and the colourman was only quasi-ready, then they fit perfectly with a league that put out the welcome mat last night on 15 fronts without a clue to what was going to happen next.

Small players hoping that the new rules would help them prosper; big players hoping those same rules wouldn’t drive them out of the game; coaches and general managers praying that they had properly read the tea leaves, and stocked their lineups with kind of player who will succeed in The New NHL; officials praying they will be given time to deliver on all of the promises this time around, before coaches and managers bullied them back into the Andy VanHellemond era.

And above all the concern, a handful of U.S. markets were praying for a healthy walk-up crowd, knowing that whatever opening night brought, the next 10 home games would deliver about 20% less — if they were lucky.

“I don’t think you’ll see such dramatic changes,” Hamilton native Steve Staios said of The New NHL. “There will be some advantages for guys, and some disadvantages for others. Not being a 225-pound defenceman, I think that’s going to be an advantage for me personally.”

Out in the hallway, Staios’s coach was standing amid the construction, levelling off optimism against a realistic view.

“It will be a work in progress,” Craig MacTavish said. “We like to think, as everybody would at this stage, that we’re progressing and we have our teams prepared. But there will be things that crop up. Every coach is saying we don’t want to struggle with the learning curve early on. But some will.”

Because as we know, the more things the NHL tries to change, the more things have tended to stay the same. Not unlike the media, for that matter.

The first glove had not dropped on the 2005-06 season when the first anti-fighting rant moved on the Bloomberg News wire, courtesy of one Scott Soshnick. “Fighting in hockey is idiotic,” said Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach, Fla., sports psychologist whose clients range from football and tennis players to golfers. “Hockey is playing with the dinosaurs if they continue endorsing fist fights and responding with mere slaps on the wrists.”

The average Canadian may have trouble sticking with the piece however, past the point where the author felt a need to qualify a mention of Slap Shot as a movie “which centres on a minor-league hockey team.”

No kidding? Might have to rent that one.

Finally, our author pondered of the Bros. Hansen: “Exaggeration? Or is it art imitating life?”

Thank God hockey is back, so that people in hotbeds like Palm Beach, Fla., can air views intended for the consumption of others who also could not care less about the game.

Take solace, America. Many of you who seem bothered by seeing a couple Canadians bash each others heads in as you channel surf between college basketball games this winter will be spared by the fact that 26 million fewer homes in the United States were able to watch last night’s openers than two years ago, when ESPN and ESPN2 were league partners.

After ESPN dropped the NHL the Outdoor Life Network came forward, wedging the NHL into a spot in their schedule between fishing and hunting. That downgrade marks a trend that can not be swept under the red carpet even on opening night.

Back in 1993-94, Walt Disney Corp. and Wayne Huizenga’s Blockbuster Videos bought into the NHL, bringing a large dose of legitimacy to the league as owners in Anaheim and Florida respectively. A decade later, Disney having has cut its losses, and Huizenga has brought in a slew of partners to lighten his load. In St. Louis, Wal-Mart heir Bill Laurie can’t wait for the new economy to take effect — he has the Blues on the block.

They have all learned, in sunny climes in the U.S. South, the Southwest and even the Midwest, what actor and comedian Chris Rock explained to Sports illustrated last month:

“Hockey is like heroin,” Rock said. “Only drug addicts do heroin. It’s not like a recreational drug … Hockey is kind of the same way. Only hockey fans watch hockey.”

There will be plenty of talk in the coming weeks if there are enough in places like Anaheim and Florida and Carolina, and if the ones that were there two years ago have made their way back.

But we were spared all of that for a few, precious hours last night, as our game fired up again after its blackest era. As if we weren’t going to be watching.

We’re Canadian. What else were we going to be doing?
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

FIGHTING IN HOCKEY IDIOTIC

Bloomberg Wire Service – Oct 5, 2005 – Scott Soshnick – Hockey Missed Chance to End Fighting – National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, whose league hits the ice tonight after a labor dispute wiped out last season, contends that fighting is a necessary part of his sport. Absolutely, positively gotta have it, he says.

The commissioner’s rationale goes something like this: With stick-wielding players skating — and hitting — at 30 mph, beating the bejesus out of each other provides a cathartic release that’s impossible to achieve with a body check. Translation: The Neanderthal players can’t control the impulse to trade haymakers.

“In the heat of the moment things happen,” Bettman says.

Hogwash! Players fight because no one says they can’t.

Fighters receive a five-minute penalty, the sporting equivalent of a time out for a misbehaving kindergartener. The other leagues, by comparison, eject, suspend and fine players for throwing punches.

National Football League officials are so intent on maintaining order that two players were ejected from a recent Atlanta Falcons-Philadelphia Eagles game for their overzealous pushing and shoving before the game even started. According to Bettman, football players rarely fight because the game is played in short spurts, affording them time to regain their composure before the next play.

`Playing With the Dinosaurs’

“Fighting in hockey is idiotic,” says Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach, Florida, sports psychologist who has worked with a host of athletes, including football and tennis players as well as golfers. “Hockey is playing with the dinosaurs if they continue endorsing fistfights and responding with mere slaps on the wrists.”

The NHL’s stance on fighting is so comical that it’s fodder for one-liners. Did you hear the one about the guys who went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out? In the 1977 movie “Slap Shot,” which centers on a minor-league hockey team, the brawl-happy Hanson brothers wrap their knuckles with tin foil in order to inflict more damage. Exaggeration or is it art imitating life? Back then, after all, the Philadelphia Flyers were dubbed the Broad Street Bullies. The only thing enforcer Dave “The Hammer” Schultz lacked more than finesse was teeth.

Steve Moore isn’t laughing.

Moore played for the Colorado Avalanche until he was sucker-punched by Vancouver Canucks All-Star Todd Bertuzzi last year. Moore is recovering from a broken neck. He may never play again.

There’s a Connection

Bertuzzi is at least the eighth NHL player charged by police with assault in an on-ice incident. Who would argue against a correlation between those kinds of attacks and the league’s laissez-faire attitude toward fisticuffs?

“It’s an indictment of how pervasive the attitude is that welcomes this violence,” said Tim Danson, Moore’s attorney and a season-ticket holder with the Toronto Maple Leafs. “I’m convinced that the NHL has used violence to disguise poor hockey.”

There’s an adage in the television business that says, when desperate, achieve higher ratings by showing a living creature being eaten or eating something else. Think Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. That’s fighting in the NHL.

As for the on-ice product, the NHL during the lockout adopted a series of rules changes aimed at making the game more aesthetically pleasing. The alterations are meant to favor skilled players over goons, for example, by allowing a pass from the defensive zone to cross two lines on the rink. If the NHL can change this old rule, why not banish fighting? There was a time when players didn’t have to wear helmets, either. Things change.

No Statistics

Even without legislation, fighting is on the decline, Bettman says. We’ll have to take his word for it because Benny Ercolani, the league’s chief statistician, said he didn’t have the numbers to back up his boss’s assertion.

NHL does have its limits. The league yesterday handed New York Rangers defenseman Dale Purinton a 10-games suspension for gouging an opponent’s eye. The league cited Purinton’s record — he’d been suspended three previous times for deliberate attempts to injure — for the severity of the punishment.

In terms of TV success, the NHL not only lags major sports like football, basketball, baseball and Nascar auto racing, but golf and tennis, too. Hockey’s television ratings are akin to niche sports like the Arena Football League.

The NHL won’t outlaw fighting because a segment of its fans tune in or show up solely to whoop it up over bloody noses and black eyes. Some auto-racing fans like multicar pileups, but Nascar doesn’t allow drivers to intentionally cause wrecks.

The NHL panders to its violence-addicted fans with its new TV advertising campaign, which begins with a quote from “The Art of War” by Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu. The 30-second promo depicts an athlete preparing not for a game but a life-or-death battle.

Martha Burk, the former chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, blasted the league for selling violence in a society already awash with it.

Pleading Guilty

“By no means do we want to be a bad example,” says Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis, the league’s point- scoring leader in 2003-04.

Tell that to Bertuzzi, who pleaded guilty to assault in exchange for staying out of jail. Tell that to Electronic Arts Inc., which allows kids armed with joysticks to simulate NHL fights. Most importantly, tell that to Bettman. If he won’t listen, start a fight. Don’t worry about the punishment. The commissioner knows better than anyone that hockey players can’t control their emotions.
sports, john f murray

TOP 10 OR BUST: BOCA’S SPADEA VOWS TO GO OUT WITH BANG

Miami Herald, San Jose Mercury News – Sep 29, 2005 – Michelle Kaufman – OK, so he’s not Joe Namath, and his bold guarantee is not making national headlines, but Vince Spadea’s public vow to rise from No. 56 to the top 10 is making some ripples in the insular world of tennis.

Spadea, the 31-year-old Boca Raton resident, on Sept. 19 signed a contract with his sports psychologist, John Murray, that ”guarantees” he will reach the top 10 — barring injuries — for the first time in his career. He sent out a press release, complete with photos of his contract.

”I’m sticking my head out there,” Spadea said by phone. “I like to say what I think, and I really believe this is within reason. I know there are skeptics out there who think I’m out of my mind, who think I’m being obnoxious and arrogant, and just using this as a publicity stunt. But I’ve always liked being the underdog and proving people wrong. That’s how I’ve made it this far even though I’m 5-10 ½ with no huge weapons.”

This is, after all, the guy who made one of the greatest comebacks in recent tennis history, soaring to No. 18 from No. 229 early last year and winning the first title of his career at Scottsdale.

”I’m in the last quarter of my career, and I want to go out with a bang,” Spadea said. “I want to make my last effort my greatest effort. I’ve beaten virtually every top 10 player in recent years, and shown small signs of greatness, but I need to commit every cell in my body to this and, hopefully, find another gear that I’ve never found before.”

Spadea said he doesn’t care how long he stays in the top 10. The point, he said, is to get there.

Spadea is 19-21 this year and has been hampered by injuries. He said he will train harder than ever now, and take tennis more seriously.

”This will help inspire me,” Spadea said. “I know it’s in me. I see other guys who have risen to the top 10 who haven’t won majors — [ Nikolay] Davydenko, [ Guillermo] Canas, [ Richard] Gasquet. I know on paper it’s improbable, but it’s not impossible. I’m jumping on this fast and furious. My career window is nearly closed, and I don’t want to end it knowing I didn’t give it everything.”

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.