Archive for the ‘News & Events’ Category

MIND GAMES: PSYCHOLOGIST SAYS PATS HAVE GOTTEN INSIDE COLTS’ HEADS

Nov 4, 2005 – {Note from Dr. Murray: Phil Richards writes a good article in accurately describing the truth of winning streaks and losing streaks which cannot be ignored, but Phil will be the first to say that I did not in any way make a prediction on this game or claim that the Pats have the Colts number! He is simply using the headline to demonstrate that any team which has lost 6 straight to another team has to deal with this reality and remove that pink elephant from the room! He does not mention in this article that I also advised that any team facing this kind of challenge (similar to my rationale for the MPI in focusing on every play of the game) needs to focus only on every moment and every snap, and not on that big pink elephant in the room!}

Indianapolis Star – Phil Richards – If the subject is numbers, then consider these: The Indianapolis Colts have lost their past six games to New England, including playoff defeats that ended their 2003 and 2004 seasons. They have lost their past nine appearances in Foxborough, Mass., where they will meet the Patriots again this week on “Monday Night Football.”

In the vernacular of sport, New England might be said to have the Colts’ “number.”

“A lot of coaches will say, ‘That’s hogwash. Forget it.’ But you know what? You have to deal with reality, and the reality is you’ve lost how many in a row?” said John F. Murray, a Palm Beach, Fla., sports psychologist who has worked with NFL teams and players.

“Oftentimes, the solution is to forget the streak, but how do you do that? It’s like saying, ‘Let’s not think about this pink elephant in the middle of the room right now. Whatever you do, don’t think about this pink elephant.’ ”

Colts coach Tony Dungy is inclined to neither feed peanuts to that pink elephant, nor ignore it. His team will study its losses to New England, but only in an effort to learn, to improve, to get it right this time.

“I guess you can’t ignore it because it’s history,” Dungy said, “but it’s not going to have an effect on what happens in this game.”

John Rauch, Harvey Johnson, Lou Saban, Jim Ringo and Chuck Knox might have recited the same motto. They were Buffalo’s head coaches while the Bills were losing 20 consecutive games to Miami from 1970-79.
That the Bills were persistently pathetic through most of that stretch explains away much of the Dolphins’ magic. But Buffalo went 9-5 in 1973 and did it again in 1974. Of their 10 losses those two seasons, Miami inflicted four.

People were beginning to say that Tennessee had the Colts’ number when the Titans ended a 13-3 Colts season with a victory at the RCA Dome during the 1999 playoffs, then came back in 2002 to sweep the Colts and win the title in the new AFC South.

The Colts have climbed that mountain. They have won their past five games against the Titans.

“Now they’re probably saying we have Tennessee’s number,” Colts linebacker David Thornton said. “I’m not too big on people thinking, ‘I’ve got your number. We can always beat you.’

“This is a new team, a new season.” New team, fresh hopes

It is indeed a new team. A 38-34 loss to New England at the RCA Dome during the 2003 season cost the Colts home-field advantage and a first-round bye during the playoffs. The Colts had to go to Foxborough for the AFC Championship Game.

The Patriots won it 24-14 to advance to the Super Bowl. The Colts went home.Fewer than half of the 53 players from the 2003 Colts remain on the active roster. This is a new team.

Chris Carr, a sports psychologist with Methodist Sports Medicine Center, said research indicates that a focus on the present facilitates optimal performance.

Play not just one season at a time or even one game at a time. Play one snap at a time. Each snap is a game within a game; win enough snaps and the accumulation wins the game.

It also occupies the focus to the exclusion of distractions such as streaks, one team having the other’s number, and the rest.
That’s why Carr, who has worked with the Kansas City Royals the past six years, forbids his pupils’ use of the word “slump.”

“If you’re telling me you’re in a slump, that means you’re using a description of past performance, being 0-for-20, as an excuse for your next failure,” he said.

Carr used to work with the U.S. Ski team, and he remembers well Sports Illustrated’s preview of the 1994 Olympic Games at Lillehammer, Norway.
“They used the phrase ‘Uncle Sam’s lead-footed snowplow brigade,’ and that we hadn’t medaled since 1984,” Carr recalled. “It was a description of the past. Our athletes were able to go into the Olympics, Tommy Moe in particular, and be very focused on race day.”

Moe won the downhill gold and became the first U.S. skier since 1964 to win two medals. The U.S. won five, a team record.

“From a story line, it’s intriguing to say, ‘Here’s the history,’ ” Carr said. “From a performance standpoint, those past games in Foxborough should be totally irrelevant to Monday night.”

They will be as big a factor as the Colts let them.

That’s the opinion of Challace McMillin, a mental training coach who teaches psychology at James Madison University, where he founded the football program and spent many of his 20-plus seasons as an NCAA Division I-AA coach.

McMillin’s position echoed Carr’s and was supported by another sports psychologist who has worked with NFL players, Rutgers University psychology professor Jim Mastrich.

“Let’s say the first play of the game, quarterback sack, fumble and the Patriots recover,” Mastrich proposed. “The Colts have two choices: They can walk around with their heads down, ‘They’ve got our number. Who’s kidding whom? They’re going to beat us anyway.’

“Or they can say, ‘Let’s go. Every snap of the ballgame is a game within a game. Play it one snap at a time. This is the only thing that matters.’ ”
Unbeaten, unfulfilled

The Colts (7-0) are in an interesting position. They are the league’s lone unbeaten team. They are 31/2-point favorites to win where they haven’t won since 1995, where quarterback Peyton Manning is 0-9, where their trips to the Super Bowl have been canceled the past two seasons.

They know they will face adversity. New England (4-3) is hobbled by injury, struggling on defense and inconsistent in the running game, but it has the champion’s presence. It is proud and poised. It has won the Super Bowl three of the past four seasons.

And it has committed 11 turnovers against the Colts in 12 meetings since Manning moved under center in 1998. The Colts have committed 34.

“The past is the past,” Colts defensive tackle Montae Reagor said. “This is the now. The same way they hunt for us, we’ll hunt for them.

“We’re not going to panic. We’ve come too far. We’ve been through too much. We’ve had our share of ups and downs but we’ve grown as a team and we know how to handle those situations if they show up.”

The Colts have won 15 of their past 16 regular-season games. Winning, like losing, becomes a habit, and habits will collide Monday. The fire will be burning on both sides of the field.

“You have to channel it in the right way,” Dungy said. “People that win big games are people that can function in a pressurized environment and do the same thing they do in a training camp practice.

“That’s what we have not done against New England. We’ve gone there and false-started on the first play of the game. We’ve done those kinds of things, which you can’t do because it’s hard enough to beat a good team when you do everything right.”

Stay in the moment. Play the game snap by snap. The mottos are trite but true. The Colts know them. The pink elephant waits.

Record of futility

The Colts have gone 2-14 against the New England Patriots since 1996. The record:

Season Winner Score
1996 Patriots 27-9
1996 Patriots 27-13
1997 Patriots 31-6
1997 Patriots 20-17
1998 Patriots 29-6
1998 Patriots 21-16
1999 Patriots 31-28
1999 Colts 20-15
2000 Patriots 24-16
2000 Colts 30-23
2001 Patriots 44-13
2001 Patriots 38-17
2003 Patriots 38-34
*2003 Patriots 24-14
2004 Patriots 27-24
*2004 Patriots 20-3

* Playoff game.

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

BENDING THE RULES; SHADY ETHICS DEEPLY INGRAINED IN BASEBALL

Sun-Sentinel – Nov 3, 2005 – Harvey Fialkov – In a time when nearly everyone knows someone who cheats, whether it’s on their income taxes, golf score or spouses, it’s a wonder why baseball fans seem surprised that players are using steroids to gain a competitive advantage.

Long before bitter slugger Jose Canseco accused some of baseball’s superstars of using performance-enhancing drugs, ballplayers have been caught breaking the rules or at least stretching them to gain a competitive edge.

The underlying issue is what does baseball consider acceptable cheating, and is this win-at-all costs behavior just a sad reflection of society?

“Everyone cheats,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told reporters earlier this season. “If you don’t get caught, you are a smart player. If you get caught, you are cheating. It has been part of the game for a long time.

“If you’re doing whatever you’re not supposed to do and you don’t get
caught, keep doing it.”

Guillen just led the White Sox to their first World Series championship since 1917. Coincidentally, it’s the same franchise that was forever sullied by the Black Sox scandal in which eight members of the White Sox allegedly were paid by gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series.

Say it ain’t so, Ozzie.

In Game 2 of the recently- completed ALCS, White Sox batter A.J. Pierzynski swung and missed a low pitch for strike three with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Pierzynski took a step toward the dugout before racing to first base after Angels catcher Josh Paul flipped the ball toward the mound.

Umpire Doug Eddings, who seemingly called Pierzynski out on strikes, ruled that that the ball was trapped by Paul. Thus, Pierzynski was safe at first.

Replays appeared to show that Paul caught the ball on the fly, which made Joe Crede’s game-winning double a few moments later a bitter pill for the Angels and their fans to swallow.

“I didn’t fake them out,” Pierzynski said. “I was off balance. I took one
step to the dugout and realized he didn’t tag me, so I ran. There’s no
faking.”

In Game 2 of the World Series, White Sox slugger Jermaine Dye was awarded first base when umpire Jeff Nelson incorrectly ruled that a pitch from Astros reliever Dan Wheeler hit Dye instead of his bat.

That set up Paul Konerko’s grand slam and a White Sox come-from-behind victory.

CHEATING STARTS EARLY

There’s a huge chalk line of distinction drawn between cheating and taking advantage when umpires make bad calls. But the concern is that cheating has already dripped down to the Little League level.

A coach of a T-ball team in a Pittsburgh suburb was charged this summer with paying off a 7-year-old player on his team to injure an autistic teammate so the latter wouldn’t be able to play in a big game.

It has been nearly five years since a scandal rocked the Little League World Series when it was discovered that the father of Danny Almonte, a left-handed pitching phenom for a Bronx All-Star team, had forged his birth certificate, saying his son was 12 instead of 14, or 2 years older than the limit.

Marlins reliever Todd Jones has admitted using pine tar on his glove to get a better grip on the ball when he pitched for the Rockies. He also has described the art of scuffing a baseball in a column for Sporting News.

“Tell your Little Leaguer you shouldn’t do it because you’re playing for
fun,” Jones said.

“When you’re playing for keeps in the big leagues, you’ve got to try and be creative as you can. It just depends on where you draw the line.”

The baseball rulebook specifically prohibits using foreign substances on
the ball (or glove) with a potential penalty of ejection and suspension.

Cheating was under scrutiny this season after Nationals manager Frank
Robinson correctly accused Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly of using pine tar. Donnelly was suspended for 10 games, but it was later reduced to eight.

“That’s the tightrope you walk if you’re going to cheat,” Robinson said.

JUST DON’T GET CAUGHT

So why shouldn’t pitchers and batters stock their locker with products from Home Depot and Walgreens when spit, Vaseline, shaving cream, pine tar and sandpaper have not only been accepted but rewarded for decades?

Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry won 314 games and wrote an autobiography entitled Me and the Spitter, as baseball’s hierarchy looked the other way.

“There’s an old saying, `If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying,’ so
you’re always looking for an edge,” said retired knuckleball pitcher Charlie Hough. “It’s not like it’s the end of the game.”

Marlins pitcher Brian Moehler was with the Tigers in 1999 when he was
caught with sandpaper taped to the thumb of his pitching hand while dazzling the Devil Rays through six innings. He was ejected and suspended for 10 games.

“I knew it was wrong,” Moehler said. “I was kind of persuaded into it, and obviously, I’d never do it again. It’s amazing that after it happened how many guys come up to you and say you should try it this way or that way.”

PAYING THE PRICE

Cheating has been part of the game for nearly a century, so why the sudden outcry, particularly concerning steroid use?

“Players used to fly in with their spikes high, and they fixed the World
Series, so I don’t think this is the most corrupt period in baseball, period,” said Randy Cohen, author of The Ethicist, a regular feature in the New York Times Magazine. “But the steroid issue, well, fans want the games to be played by human beings or otherwise there’d be giant monster robots on the field.

“There’s an ethical code in sports that everyone agrees to when they decide to play. Players have an obligation to obey the rules or the sport will cease to exist.”

Former Cubs favorite Sammy Sosa, now with the Orioles, tarnished his
pristine reputation when his bat popped its cork during a game two seasons ago.

“If you get caught, it’s just like committing a crime in the streets;
you’ve got to pay the price,” Marlins pinch hitter Lenny Harris said. “It’s
embarrassing.”

Astros manager Phil Garner still laughs when recalling the time 221-game winner Joe Niekro was frisked on the mound and an emery board fell out of his back pocket during a 1987 game.

“Corked bats do absolutely nothing but make the bat lighter. But I faced
[Don] Sutton, and you could see the mark on the ball where he [scuffed] it,” Garner said. “Yeah, it’s cheating.”

EVERYONE DOES IT

Late in the season, White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle claimed that the Texas Rangers were stealing signs electronically and then signaling them to hitters using a high-tech light system from center field at Ameriquest Field.

Former Marlins manager Jack McKeon believes stealing signs from the
opposition is within the rules, but not if you need a telescope from the
center-field bleachers as the Giants allegedly did to help them “steal” the 1951 NL pennant from the Dodgers.

“Everyone who says they haven’t cheated is crazy,” McKeon said. “You cheat in school or driving down the highway exceeding the speed limit or not wearing your seat belt.”

Other than the obvious financial carrots, what possesses wealthy, talented players to resort to cheating?

“It can help or hurt an athlete depending on how it is done and when,” said Dr. John F. Murray, a West Palm Beach sports performance psychologist.

“Reputation is also important in sports, so an athlete or a team who engages in unfair behavior too much can actually reduce their chances of winning over time as referees and officials will be less accepting, and opponents can gain a motivational advantage.”

Marlins broadcaster Tommy Hutton, who batted .248 during a 12-year
big-league career is fed up with the bandwagon-jumping critics of baseball shortcuts.

“When the pitching rubber got muddy, pitchers used to stand three inches in front it,” Hutton said. “Everyone knew [Perry] threw a spitter and that Sutton and Rick Rhoden scuffed the ball. Nothing was ever done about it.

“[Cheating] is done in every sport. In basketball you get an offensive foul by bringing the guy into you. All of a sudden we’re a society that’s all concerned about that stuff.”

SAY IT AIN’T SO? From top, Shoeless Joe Jackson went down in history as a cheater, while A.J. Pierzynski, at left with Scott Podsednik, will be remembered as a sly opportunist. Sammy Sosa and Jose Canseco saw their stars tarnished by scandalous behavior. File photos

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

SPADEA STOPS LJUBICIC IN LYON

Tennis Week -Oct 26, 2005 – Last month, Vince Spadea boldly guaranteed he will crack the top 10 and reach his highest career ranking in the coming year. Today, the 66th-ranked Spadea commenced his climb back up the rankings with one of his biggest wins of the season. Spadea defeated fourth-seeded Ivan Ljubicic, 7-6, 7-5, to advance to the second round of the Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon.

Drained by his grueling duel with second-ranked Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s Madrid final in which the top-seeded Spaniard rallied from a two-set deficit to earn a 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) triumph that spanned three hours, 51 minutes, Ljubicic was understandably weary playing his 16th match in the last 22 days.

The 11th-ranked Croatian, who captured consecutive championships in Metz and Vienna prior to reaching the Madrid final, had won 16 of his last 17 matches (including two Davis Cup singles victories in Croatia’s semifinal conquest of Russia) but encountered a stubborn Spadea who stood up to Ljubicic’s power-based baseline game and put returns back in play.

“I haven’t had enough time to recover from my week in Madrid. I lacked energy,” Ljubicic said. “I gave everything I had but it was not enough. I was not very optimistic after the draw here. I knew that Spadea was one of the few players on the circuit capable of returning my serves well. He confirmed it today.”

Since falling to Greg Rusedski in the Newport final in July, Spadea stumbled to 3-9 record and exited in the opening round in six of his last nine tournaments. But the strong-willed Spadea took the court carrying the confidence of a man who had won two of his three career meetings with Ljubicic, including a 6-4, 7-6 victory in the 2004 Lyon round of 16 en route to the tournament semifinals. Ljubicic’s lethal one-handed backhand is his best ground stroke, but Spadea used his two-handed backhand to repeatedly repel Ljubicic in the cross court backhand exchanges.

The 31-year-old Spadea will face French wild card Michael Llodra for a place in the quarterfinals. Llodra was a 7-6, 6-3 victor over Xavier Malisse. Spadea has won two of three matches with Llodra, but the left-handed Llodra won their last meeting in the 2004 Adelaide quarterfinals.

Spadea, top-seeded Andy Roddick and eighth-seeded Robby Ginepri are the lone Americans left in the Lyon draw.

In other opening-round results: France’s Fabrice Santoro defeated American Taylor Dent, 6-3, 7-5.

Spadea, who recently completed a book with Tennis Week contributing writer Dan Markowitz that is a behind-the-scenes look at life on the ATP Tour, told Tennis Week last month he will reach his highest career ranking in 2006.

“Comebacks are never easy, but they are a part of sports, and I’m quite ready and excited about this new challenge,” said Spadea, who has resumed working with sport psychologist Dr. John Murray in an effort to aid his comeback. “I will return to my highest ranking ever. I guarantee it!”

Related Story: Spadea Issues Top 10 Guarantee

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

NY YANKEES SUPPORT SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY

Jun 12, 2005 – The NY Yankees have sent a brief supportive letter in favor of Dr. John F. Murray’s mission to tear down the stigma associated with sport psychology and mental health.

Thanks Yankees! Growing up, I was an avid Yankees fan in the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida area in the 1970s where they held Spring Training.

Alex Rodriguez, George Steinbrenner, and the NY Yankees organization should be commended for their support of sport psychology!

A-Rod is the best baseball player in history and the Yankees are the most successful sports franchise ever. It’s interesting how the best usually speak up first on important issues of needed change!

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

ON FITNESS: TUNED IN

Seattle Times – Oct 22, 2006 – Richard Seven – Missy Boone listens to music on her iPod during her running workouts. Studies suggest that listening to music while exercising improves the results.

Dance with a Box: Tricia Gomez, designs and markets “Hip Hop in a Box,” a way to teach movement to children. It comes with DVDs, CDs, a workbook and flash cards. Gomez, a former Laker Girl, has been a dancer for 28 years and opened her first studio at 17. Her product is aimed mainly at children younger than 10. She says it is about giving kids direction without squashing their creativity. (www.danceinabox.com).

MY FIRST INSTINCT was to make fun of “Drums Alive” when I saw it at a fitness conference in Las Vegas. The inventor, Carrie Ekins, was flanked by two slim women in matching black Spandex and wristbands. They were using drumsticks to pound anchored fitness balls. The ballroom was packed and all the participants were mimicking every move, slapping the orbs, stepping here, twirling there, pounding balls with rhythmic precision.

A marching band with nowhere to go, I thought.

But as I sat back and watched, I recalled what powerful things drumming and music are. The focus was dead-on. The louder Ekins shouted over her headset the louder the crowd responded.

I’ve always appreciated the power of music as a motivator and leader, but “Drums Alive” led me to look a bit closer and realize it is more than a distraction, which is how I tend to use it.

Stacey Richards, fitness product manager for Power Music, estimates the U.S. and Canadian group-exercise market at about $15 million a year.

“There were 40 million club members in the U.S. as of 2004 and 50 million iPods sold by Apple,” Richards says. “Put the two together and you have a very large potential market for personal exercise music.”

Power Music is one of the largest and more established vendors. But there are many. At the same convention, I saw six music companies showing their wares, exhibiting titles like: “Feel My Energy #1” (145 bpm), “Ticket To Ride” (134 bpm) and “La Cumbianchera” (136 bpm). BPM is a measure of musical tempo or speed of a song. A song at 120 BPM contains two beats each second. The BPM is tailored to a specific activity. For example, a step workout is safest and most effective in the 120-to-130 bpm range, and a cardio floor workout can be anywhere between 130 and 160 bpm. A bpm in the 122-to-140 range is great for mid- to fast-paced workouts, such as walking, elliptical and cardio machines.

“It’s about body mechanics and matching tempo to the movement,” says Richards. “The effectiveness of the music in the workout will depend on the energy of the individual song choices, the flow and energy of the song order and the ideal beats per minute related to the intended use or workout.”

Seattle’s Karen Moyer uses Power Music (www.powermusic.com) tapes to power the spinning classes she teaches at her Magnolia studio, Go Legs (www.golegs.net).

“My classes are all about the music,” she says. “It gets me and everyone else excited and into it. It makes all the difference.”
advertising

Does it really make a difference? Some studies suggest so. One by Farleigh Dickinson University, tracking 41 overweight or obese women, found that women who used portable CD players on their walking workouts lost more weight and body fat than those who didn’t use the devices over a six-month period.

“Walking to music seemed to really motivate the women in our study to get out there and stick with the commitment they made,” wrote researcher Christopher Capuano.

Another study looked at the effect of different music tempos on athletic intensity and performance. Subjects pedaled a stationary bicycle for an hour while listening to music of varying tempo. The subjects were free to ride as hard or easily as they felt. Predictably, speed and power output increased as the tempos did.

The music companies emphasize the optimal fitness music beat, but many of us tend to be more informal. I always listen to an iPod when I walk or jog. It distracts me. I forget about the chore and drift off. I also subtly ramp up with faster songs and chill on the slower. You could call it my own informal and unscientific bit of interval training.

Sports performance psychologist John F. Murray uses music with his athletes. It inspires, soothes and provides focus. But too often, he said, we use it strictly to tune out, which is not always a good thing. Sometimes, you need focus. You also need to be in touch with your limits on each particular day or outing. You can’t let Bob Dylan, of all people, to push you too far. Also, turn the sound down a smidge and save your eardrums. Also, don’t get so taken with the music that you forget your surroundings. Cars and creeps are out there.

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.

PURPLE THERAPY (PSYCHOLOGY OF MINNESOTA VIKINGS)

Pioneer Press, Grand Forks Herald – Oct 9, 2005 – Sean Jensen – MIKE TICE – The reeling Vikings sought professional help this week, recruiting consultants Jerry Rhome and Foge Fazio to help address their misfiring offense and inconsistent defense.

Because the team is on the couch today, enjoying its bye, the Pioneer Press decided it was a good time for a football intervention.

We put together a panel that includes a Hall of Fame coach, a pair of psychologists, a local sports analyst and a leadership consultant to gain insight into what ails the Purple. Our panel will use word association to dissect what prompted the Vikings’ 1-3 start and how the team can rebound to win the wacky NFC North.

Our group of therapists includes:

Marv Levy â€? NFL coach for 17 seasons. Helped the Buffalo Bills to an unprecedented four straight Super Bowl appearances (all losses) and some of the NFL’s most impressive comebacks.

Jeff Janssen � Provides leadership advice to college programs such as Arizona, North Carolina, Stanford and Duke.

Dr. Charlie Maher � Has been involved with the NFL as a sports psychologist for 15 years. Currently works with the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Dr. John F. Murray � A sports performance psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla.

Greg Cylkowski � The St. Paul native is a sports analyst for Athletic Achievements based in Little Canada.

Now, let our session begin Levy said the difference between NFL clubs is minute, which is why he
empathizes with Tice.

“Every coach has been in that situation,” Levy said of the Vikings’ disappointing start. “Honestly, there were times in Buffalo where we went on a bad stretch, and fans wonder, ‘Is he over the hill? Has the game passed him by?’ Then you win a couple, and everyone forgets and it’s wonderful again.”

Levy said the solution is simple.

“Just persist. Don’t start shaking up the Coca-Cola bottle,” he said. “Then, you really are going to foul things up.”

Levy offered a template for turning the team around: Mourn. Own up to mistakes. Recognize the good. Make a plan. Then go to work.

Levy said finger pointing can’t occur and that the head coach should privately meet with any players or coaches who are problematic.

During rough stretches, Levy said he and his assistant coaches would identify “one thing” that he wanted the players to hone in on.

“Identify one factor that really impacts the outcome, and convince them that’s true, and really go after that,” Levy said. “Then when you first succeed in that area, drive home the point.”

Janssen said Tice made a poor decision, albeit an understandable one, when he told the players during a meeting Monday that he contemplated resigning hours after a 30-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

“Where he might have been coming from is, leaders have to be human too and admit that they’re frustrated,” Janssen said. “But they have to be careful how they show that to the rest of the team because the players take their cues from their leader.”

Cylkowski said this year’s team was doomed to fail because a championship drive cannot be orchestrated by a coach “who is on the job training.”

“He’s breaking all the leadership rules,” Cylkowski said. “The holes in the dam are coming apart. When guys don’t buy into what you’re doing, that’s the first step to failure.”

Murray said Tice must convince his players and coaches not to get ahead of themselves and sell them on the team’s direction.

“Having one voice, which comes from the head coach, is essential to establishing the mindset of the team,” Murray said. “It’s like a company. What are you as a company? What do you represent?”

MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Levy said the NFL has an equitable scheduling system in place.

“You play eight games at home and eight on the road, just like every other team,” Levy said. “If you lose eight and win eight, you’re not going anywhere. Part of the fun is overcoming the odds.”

That’s not the attitude the Vikings embrace when they leave the Twin Cities.

Under Tice, they are a woeful 8-18 away from the Metrodome.

Levy said the discomfort and the inconveniences of traveling are disconcerting, and the noise at opposing stadiums lessens the visiting team’s chances of winning.

“Nevertheless, if you’re going to be a champion, you’d better win on the road,” Levy said.

In Levy’s first season with the Bills, the team’s road losing streak grew to 22 games. Before the team’s first road game that year, Levy told his players a story about World War II.

” ‘You know why Hitler lost the war?’ ” Levy asked his players. ” ‘He couldn’t win on the road.’ ”

Cylkowski said the Vikings’ issues are mental.

“It’s their belief system,” Cylkowski said. “They do not struggle at Lambeau, because they really believe they can win there. The rest of the time, you never hear that (same confidence).

“You’ve got to enjoy being there (on the road),” Cylkowski said. “You’ve got to want to be in that situation and be prepared to be in that situation. When I see them at Lambeau, they have that type of mentality. You don’t hear them talk that way heading into any other stadium.”

This season’s Vikings have been road worriers. They have compounded errors with more errors after falling behind quickly in Cincinnati and Atlanta.

In Buffalo, Levy coached some of the greatest comebacks, although two of them were at Rich Stadium. But the Bills also pulled out an overtime victory in Miami after falling behind 21-0.

“First of all, you’re not going to do it often,” Levy said, “but it can be done. It has been done. You take some risks, and you have to have players of character who make plays.”

Cylkowski said the Vikings, present and past, lack playmakers.

“The team has been plagued with a lot of great athletes and a lot of wins but no championships because we haven’t had a go-to player or a real championship performer,” Cylkowski said. “We haven’t had those clutch guys.”

Cylkowski said former receiver Randy Moss is emblematic of the Vikings, failing to step up in the key games.

“Against Chicago (on Dec. 14, 2003), he makes a little fade catch in the end zone, and we make the playoffs,” Cylkowski said of Moss, who failed to make the catch. “That play epitomizes his career. In a situation where he has to make a catch, he didn’t.”

In addition to players, though, Maher said the head coaches must instill confidence throughout the team to overcome deficits in games and funks during a season.

“That comes from the top on down,” said Maher, who has worked with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. “Take it play to play, series to series, game to game. The players have to believe in that. The only way they believe in that is if they believe in the coach.”

DAUNTE CULPEPPER

Last season, Culpepper was an NFL most valuable player candidate with 39 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Through four games this season, Culpepper is one interception short of last year’s total, with just four TD passes. He is the 29th-rated passer in the NFL heading into today’s games.

Before next Sunday’s game in Chicago, Maher suggested the coaching staff have Culpepper watch game tape of his dominant play last season.

“It’s always important to get the player back to the time he was doing well, to recapture that feeling,” Maher said.

Added Janssen, “Let him know that the same talented player is still inside.”

Then, Maher said, the coaches must stress to Culpepper the importance of focusing on the process rather than the outcome. In other words, Culpepper cannot press when the Vikings fall behind or the offense makes a mistake.

Levy downplayed Culpepper’s struggles, noting the quarterback played well against the New Orleans Saints.

“No one is just going to be just absolutely dominant all the time,” Levy said. “The competition is too good. There are going to be some bad days. But you have to fight through the discouragement that comes.”

When one of his key players was struggling, Levy said he would watch film with him and review pros and cons.

“Teaching rather than ranting,” Levy said.

Cylkowski, though, is not convinced Culpepper will ever lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl.

“The minute you get him into a tight situation, he folds like an accordion,” Cylkowski said. “He will not be the reason the Vikings go to the Super Bowl. He’ll be a complementing reason a team goes to the Super Bowl.”

Cylkowski pointed out that Culpepper has only led the Vikings to nine fourth-quarter comebacks in his five NFL seasons. Although he’s played 11 fewer games, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has led his team to 18 fourth-quarter comebacks.

“Is Daunte a great human being? Is he a great athlete? Yes,” Cylkowski said.

“But where does he show that he’s a bona fide leader? Where is the example that he’s a bona fide playmaker? It’s not there. Daunte has all the tools. But I like Tom Brady because he’s a proven commodity.”

With 12 games remaining, Levy said the Vikings have plenty of time and opportunities to bounce back this season. But he offered another thought if more adversity comes their way.

“When you’re going through hell, keep on going,” Levy said. “Don’t wither up, and don’t lie in the fetal position.”

Time to get off the couch.

Sean Jensen covers the Vikings and the NFL. He can be reached at sjensen@pioneerpress.com.

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

MEASURING NFL FOOTBALL GAMES MORE ACCURATELY

Oct 7, 2005 – Bloomberg Radio, CNN Radio (derived from 2003, 2004, and 2005 on-air interviews of John F. Murray by Bob Goldsholl, host of Bloomberg on the Ball, and others) – The Mental Performance Index or “MPI” is the first ever measure of mental performance used in sport, in this case American Football.

The index was developed by Dr. John F. Murray, a licensed clinical and sport performance psychologist in 2002 to demonstrate the importance of mental factors in football such as “pressure management,” “focused execution,” and “reduction of mental errors.”

In three major public tests of the accuracy of the MPI on radio and television stations worldwide, the MPI has accurately estimated the performance of the teams in the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXXVII 2003, Super Bowl XXXVIII 2004, and Super Bowl XXXIX 2005), beating the spread each time, going counter to public opinion, and correctly estimating the ultimate course of the games.

In 2003 the Oakland Raiders were favored to win easily over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The MPI showed that Tampa Bay, by contrast, was much better.

In 2004 and 2005, the MPI analysis showed the teams to be relatively equal with a very close contest even though the New England Patriots were predicted to win by at least 7 points in each game.

The 2004 game was tied with 4 seconds remaining (3 point New England win) and the 2005 game was the first game in Super Bowl history to be tied entering the final quarter of play. New England won by 3.

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.