Posts Tagged ‘washington post’

Contributing, but barely playing Two-sport star in high school adjusts to mostly watching soccer with Cavaliers

Washington Post – Steve Yanda – October 31, 2009 – Sports Psychology – CHARLOTTESVILLE — An all-state honoree who set her high school’s records for goals and assists doesn’t expect to be warming the bench midway through her third collegiate soccer season. A three-time state player of the year in basketball possesses plenty of options other than performing a role unnoticed by nearly everyone.

Katie Carr, a redshirt sophomore for the Virginia women’s soccer team, is all of the above. She does not start and barely plays for a Cavaliers team that has earned 15 consecutive NCAA tournament berths. Once the heartbeat of any team on which she played, Carr carries out a far diminished responsibility. Her value is tied to her performance in practice, where official stats aren’t kept and victories are mostly of the moral variety.

Virtually every roster of every college sports team includes athletes such as Carr: players who were stars in high school, active for nearly every consequential minute of every game, but who now spend more time watching rather than competing during matches.

“It’s hard because when you win a game, you’re ecstatic, you’re happy, you’re happy for the team, you’re happy that we’re doing well,” Carr said. “But then at the same time you’re like, ‘Well, how much did I really contribute to that?’ ”

For Carr and the constituency she represents, athletic validation comes in subtler forms, such as a dime-size scab crinkled on the bridge of her nose, lingering evidence of a slide tackle she executed in practice the day before. Carr hasn’t played in seven straight games, and she’s been on the field for 16.8 percent of the total minutes Virginia has played this season.

Carr’s primary task involves devoting countless hours and immeasurable amounts of energy and focus during practices to ensure that her teammates — some of whom stand between her and the prominence she used to own — have the best chance to succeed come game time. Her function on the Cavaliers, though far different than she ever imagined it would be, remains vital, her coach says. But for a long time, Carr struggled to come to that realization.

“The beauty of playing a team sport to me is you’re really sacrificing your service to the team,” Virginia women’s soccer Coach Steve Swanson said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. These guys are giving a lot of time and a lot of sweat and a lot of tears, and they’re sacrificing it for the team. The biggest thing you have to balance in a team sport is you have to decide at some point, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ”
Below the dunes

For six days during every preseason camp, Swanson takes his squad to Maple City, Mich., where the Cavaliers train and scrimmage against Notre Dame. In August 2007, Carr and the rest of the incoming freshman class learned the most daunting task of the trip was climbing nearby sand dunes, some of which rise as high as 450 feet.

When it came time for that exercise, though, Carr stood aside. She had torn her left anterior cruciate ligament and some of meniscus during the first soccer game of her senior season at the Walsingham Academy in Williamsburg and had to sit out her first college year for rehabilitation. No practices. No games. No bonding with teammates over the shared accomplishment of conquering a sand dune.

“They all could celebrate that because they did it together, and I kind of was just there cheering, you know?” Carr said. “It was hard from that aspect, just that I wasn’t going through the same things they were going through.”

She paused as the memory replayed in her mind. “Honestly, I think that’s what made me fall in love with Virginia even more was the fact that the coaches were always there for me,” she continued. “Never was it like I was overlooked. I would be running sprints around the field while they were practicing because I couldn’t play with a ball yet, and every time I came around someone would be like, ‘Yeah, here we go. Let’s go, Katie.’ That was one thing that really helped me out that made it, not okay, but better than it could have been.”

The frustration — and the questions that fueled it — did not intensify until the following spring, when Carr was back on the field trying to recapture the mobility and speed that once made her an elite two-sport talent. During a high school career in which Carr tallied the second-most points in the history of Virginia girls’ basketball, she was courted initially by such storied women’s college programs as Tennessee and Connecticut. But Carr had decided by her sophomore year of high school that soccer would be the sport she would pursue.

She said one of the main reasons why she chose to play at Virginia was the experience she had during a summer camp run by Swanson before her junior year at Walsingham.

“Honestly, up until the day that my parents dropped me off, I was crying,” Carr said. “I didn’t want to go. ‘This was so stupid. Why are you making me do this?’ And then I came to camp and I got seen.”

For most of the camp, Swanson had Carr compete with and against the pool of players from which Swanson was recruiting. By the end, one of the camp counselors approached Carr and told her Virginia was interested in her. She felt wanted and needed and more than a little flattered.

By the fall of 2008, the first season in which Carr physically was able to play for the Cavaliers, all of those emotions had faded. She appeared in five of the team’s 23 games, starting one. Carr said she second-guessed herself constantly during practices. Am I just a practice player? Is this what I’m here for?

During games, Carr said she would go through the motions during warmup drills, reconciled to the fact she almost certainly was not going to play that day. Virginia advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament, and Carr wasn’t completely sure how to feel.

“Just knowing that we’re getting results and we’re getting the wins, I’m excited about how the team’s doing, but you question what you really brought to the table,” Carr said. “We always talk about how it starts at practice. You push each other, you do all that, and yeah, I can do that. I’m fine with doing that, but at the same time, you’re like, ‘Did I really make a difference in winning this game?’ ”

John F. Murray, a sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla., said a college athlete dealing with such an internal debate must be able to expand his or her definition of what it means to be a member of the team. For those with prolific athletic backgrounds such as Carr, Murray said the process is more drawn out.

“Most of these guys are viewing it as whether they’re just fodder for the other players or someone to help out,” Murray said. “Everybody would like to play, but there has to be some level of acceptance of the reality of their role, sort of a resignation at some point, but also an extremely altruistic purpose.”

Following the 2008 season, several members of Virginia’s back line graduated. A starting spot at the center defender position — Carr’s position — became available, and her confidence sprouted from the opportunity in front of her. Finally, Carr thought, a chance to make what she considered a meaningful impact. She said she showed up to preseason camp in the best shape of her life.
‘You have to get over it’

Swanson could empathize with the player who was on her way into his office. He was a three-sport athlete in high school who played four years of varsity soccer before signing on at Michigan State. During his freshman season as a Spartan, though, Swanson said he didn’t play at all and that he took his predicament personally.

“You say, ‘Well, I must not be very good,’ and you get down on yourself,” Swanson said. “Psychologically, it doesn’t help you in terms of your development, and you start focusing on things that you have no control over, really. During my first year I really struggled, but I was fighting myself. And it wasn’t until I had a good conversation with my coach where he told me where I was and he made it out very honestly.”

In late August, Swanson had a similar talk with Carr, a player for whom the coach said he has the utmost respect. Carr had started the first game of the season — a 1-0 loss at Penn State — but played only the first half. Carr called earning a spot in the starting lineup “a breath of fresh air,” and for a few weeks, the questions — Do I really want to play soccer? What do I want to do? — died down.

Carr sat down in Swanson’s office, expecting to talk strategy or improvement, and heard her coach deliver the news: She would no longer start, and in fact, she would change positions entirely. An influx of talented first-year players had just entered the program and the coaching staff felt one of those players was a better fit at center defender. Carr would move to defensive center midfielder, a position she last played in high school.

Swanson said it was one of the most difficult meetings he has had with a player in 20 years as a head coach because “you want to reward people like Katie.”

Furious, Carr left the meeting but had to report immediately to practice. The questions returned. What is she doing that’s better than I can do? What did I do wrong?

“I was literally driving myself insane,” Carr said. “I started to realize that I couldn’t do that anymore. You have to get over it. I had spent the past two years in my own head.”

Carr returned to practice the following day determined to embrace the role laid out for her. She said she accepted that her performance in practice could impact the team’s play during games. Her minutes declined while her attitude improved.

Anne Carr, Katie’s mother, said she has noticed an evolution to the manner in which her daughter handles her frustrations on the soccer field, as well.

“She doesn’t want you feeling sorry for her,” Anne Carr said. “She doesn’t want you to say, ‘Oh Kate, I’m sorry.’ She’s like, ‘It’s fine.’ She doesn’t want that” sympathy.

On Sunday, Virginia will play its regular season finale against Miami, and whether or not Carr plays, she’ll at least be content in her newfound perspective. Soccer has made her more disciplined, responsible and humble. Those lessons, acknowledged in retrospect, are why she persists. She could have gone to another school and played as soon as she was healthy. She could have played another sport entirely.

“Or I could come here and have all these hardships and have all these, not letdowns, but things that you question about yourself and then you start to find answers,” Carr said. “I’ve realized a lot of things that I didn’t even think I could overcome. I think I’m a better, more mature, more understanding person because of it. Yeah, I’m really grateful to have come to this school.”

I hope you enjoyed this article on the topic of sports psychology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information:

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

WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE AND MPI 3 FOR 3 AGAINST SPREAD

Washington Post – Feb 5, 2005 – Don Oldenburg – Football Fans, Calling It as They Foresee It – John F. Murray is the Freud of football. A sports psychologist in West Palm Beach, Fla., he devised the Mental Performance Index for quantifying how close a team comes to mental and physical perfection.

He has broken down every play of the Patriots’ and Eagles’ playoff games, assigning point values for factors ranging from “focused execution” to “pressure management.” An MPI score of .600 is excellent and .500 is average.

Murray accurately predicted the blowout upset two years ago by Tampa Bay. Last year, he presaged an “extremely close game” but got the winner wrong — he picked the Carolina Panthers, not New England (the game was indeed one of the closest games in history, a 3 point game decided in the final 3 seconds). This Super Bowl looks like another tough call.

“The Eagles have a slight edge,” he says. Their MPI score is .541, the Patriots’ .525. “When you isolate out only those pressure situations, the Patriots are better. But given a relatively clean-played game, no turnovers or mistakes, Philadelphia has the advantage.”

So which is it? “Total score, you have to say the Eagles,” he says.

Could be a close game.

{It was another game that was one of the closest in history. Don, thanks for the “Freud of Football” reference. I definitely use it! You accurately refer to the MPI as quantifying degree of perfection including mental and physical factors. The MPI’s purpose is to help coaches and teams, but of course everybody loves the fun “pick.” The MPI was right on again in estimating the relative performance shown in an extremely close game, and your article is great! The MPI is 3/3 in beating the spread now}

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