Archive for the ‘News & Events’ Category

KNOWING WHEN TO STOP KEY IN SPORTS

Orlando Sentinel – Jul 12, 2005 – George Diaz – Cyclist Lance Armstrong has a chance at a perfect ending to his career. Some other high-profile athletes haven’t been as fortunate.

It seems so much easier to walk away with your dignity unscathed, and your knees not screaming in pain when you get up every morning.

The ache in body and soul reflects the passion of many professional athletes who can’t face the consequences of deteriorating skills. They bury the rough edges in their mind, clinging to a revisionist history.

It gives us all the more reason to celebrate Lance Armstrong.

He churns through the mountains in France, each spin of the bicycle wheel moving him closer to the opportunity to script the perfect ending to a marvelous and poignant career.

Already a six-time winner, Armstrong quite possibly could capture an unprecedented seventh Tour de France title. The three-week odyssey concludes in Paris July 24 after 2,242 miles. Win or lose, Armstrong has said he will retire.

“I feel excited and obligated to win,” Armstrong said during the early stages of competition.

Despite surrendering the overall lead in the ninth stage Sunday, Armstrong is primed to regain his top-dog status in the Alps when the tour continues today after Monday’s brief break.

Assuming he snags another title, Armstrong won’t have much company in the historical sports archives.

John Elway walked away with a Super Bowl trophy to celebrate the 1998 season and didn’t bother messing up the perfect ending. Charlie Ward celebrated a Heisman Trophy and national championship in 1993 before shutting down his football career to make a living in the NBA. Heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano retired undefeated.

A few others have walked away in their prime: Marvin Hagler lost a controversial decision to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987, and moved to Italy, leaving million-dollar paydays behind. Barry Sanders could have become the NFL’s all-time rushing leader, but abruptly retired in 1999 after gaining 1,491 yards during the 1998 season.

Most often, the story swings the other way.

The memories are not pleasant.

We like to think of Muhammad Ali as a skillful, sharp-tongued artist in the ring, instead of an old man sucking for air between rounds of his last fight in 1981 in Jamaica. The image we have of Michael Jordan has him flying through the air in a Chicago Bulls uniform instead of his plodding along with a mediocre team in Washington. Johnny Unitas wearing a San Diego Chargers uniform? Please.

“Athletes are often times the last person to know,” said John Murray, a sports psychologist based in Florida. “They have the skills, that competitive drive that got them to the top. That is the same thing that clouds their thinking. But again, it’s an individual choice.”

The choices are often thought to be poor ones, although those assumptions are not necessarily fair. Athletes have a limited shelf life, are extremely competitive, and at times do not properly prepare for a life outside the lines.

This volatile mix clouds an athlete’s vision. He or she sees one more dramatic run at scripting a perfect ending. More often than not, reality crushes those aspirations. They are left scraping for relevant time on the playing field, or alone in a boxing ring with slowing reflexes that no longer can defend against a younger man’s power.

“In reality there are few walk-off home runs, and I think the passion for competition and that underdog euphoria that comes with overachieving is very hard to replicate,” said Reggie Williams, who played linebacker with the Cincinnati Bengals for 14 seasons. “That’s why a lot of us — myself included — maybe went a little longer than we should have. I played my 14th year when there was an opportunity after just missing a Super Bowl victory, but I just couldn’t go out that way. Being close to the mountaintop wasn’t enough. I needed to try again.”

Williams gave it one more run, and the Bengals fell short of the Super Bowl.

He is now vice president of Disney Sports Attractions.

Armstrong fits within the team sport concept only in loose parameters. The cadre of other cyclists on his Discovery Channel team are basically there to watch his back and defend against attacks. They didn’t help him during the eighth stage of the competition, which Armstrong lost because he had no tactical help.

His dominance in competitive cycling reflects the strength in fighting a greater battle — overcoming testicular cancer that had metastasized, spreading to his lungs and brain.

His bike is decorated by New York graffiti artist Lenny Futura and engraved with the numbers “10/2” — marking the day, Oct. 2, 1996 — when doctors informed him that he had a 50 percent chance of dying.

Armstrong did not compete in 1997 and 1998 while he was recovering from cancer. He chose invasive surgery to remove brain lesions, and a severe course of chemotherapy. Standard chemotherapy would have meant the end of his cycling career, because a known side effect was a dramatic reduction in lung function.

Armstrong made a triumphant return in 1999 to become only the second American after Greg LeMond (1986, 1989 and 1990) to win the event.

No racer had won more than four straight or five overall before Armstrong etched his dominance on the tour. His streak of six consecutive titles, coupled with his fight against cancer, has made him an international celebrity.

Just look at how many people are wearing “Livestrong” yellow wrist bracelets, commemorating the fight against cancer. Armstrong has since called the 10/2 anniversaries his “Carpe Diem Day.”

The Latin phrase means “seize the day,” reflective of Armstrong’s tenacious approach toward defending his titles six times.

“What it teaches is this: pain is temporary,” Armstrong said. “Quitting lasts forever.”

His miraculous comeback has not been without controversy. Armstrong has long been dogged by allegations of using performance-enhancing drugs, though he has never tested positive for any illegal substance. Armstrong did take one of the banned substances — EPO — to help in his recovery during his cancer treatment, but that was an approved medical use.

Citing family obligations, Armstrong announced his intentions to retire in April. He missed considerable time with his three children — a son (Luke) and twin daughters (Isabelle and Grace) — while training in Europe over the years.

“It’s time for me to not miss key moments in their lives,” he said then.

Assuming he retires on top, he will also share a few precious moments with a legion of fans cheering for him.

“I admire him because of consistent excellence,” Williams said. ” I used to do nothing but bicycle during the offseason because my knees were so bad. It pales in comparison to what he has risen to, but I know the pain I went through just to stay in shape.

“He’s the best in the world. Hopefully he will finish on top.”

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

NEW DIET PROMOTES MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Cox News Service – Jul 10, 2005 – New diet promotes mental toughness for weight loss – By Jane Daugherty – WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.â€? It dawned on me that if you could focus in a positive way on your health and weight to cultivate a healthy narcissism, it could lead to dietary and exercise choices that make you feel better about yourself.

One of those rude, middle-aged awakenings punched sports psychologist John F. Murray right in the solar plexus.

There he was on network television being interviewed as an expert who resurrects star athletes’ careers. But watching the replay, Murray realized he looked like, well, the Michelin tire man.

From the pain of that moment, the Palm Beach Narcissism Diet was born. Murray, 43, applied the same motivation he used on flagging tennis and football careers to reshaping his own body. He calls it “healthy narcissism,” a focus on loving yourself enough to make lifestyle changes and stick to them because you’ll look and feel better if you’re not fat.

Murray is not alone: An estimated two out of three adult Americans are overweight or obese. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April released figures attributing more than 100,000 deaths a year to obesity. Being overweight also is blamed for contributing to adult-onset diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and some forms of cancer.

But with Americans already spending $33 billion annually on weight loss foods, products and services, according to the American Dietetic Association, is another diet needed? Current popular plans include the Atkins Diet, Suzanne Somers’ Get Skinny on Fabulous Food, The Zone Diet, and, of course, the still hot South Beach Diet.

Murray decided none of those diets would work for him in the long run because they lack the mental focus that makes sports psychology successful for star athletes.

“It wasn’t just my food intake that was messed up . . . I was jetting to London to do a seminar, hopping out to California to give a speech, running down to Miami for a coaches meeting,” Murray recalled in his West Palm Beach office.

“I’d grab some ribs for dinner at a great restaurant, eat fast food for lunch in my car, consume way too many calories for breakfast, and the only exercise I got was walking to my car.”

Murray, almost Ken-doll handsome when he is trim at 175 pounds, went from looking like the ex-tennis pro he is to a middle-aged pudge who tipped the scales at 261 in January.

So he stewed, brooded and went through some self-loathing � none of which was productive, Murray says in retrospect.

Then he began to mentally convert some of the principles he included in his book, “Smart Tennis,” to winning his battle with the bulge.

Murray recalled his work with tennis pro Vince Spadea. In the middle of a huge slump, Spadea came to Murray for help. Ranked 19th in the world in 1999, Spadea had lost 21 matches in a row and, by 2001, his ranking had fallen to 229th.

“I had to convince him that as tough as things can get, the mind is tougher,” Murray said, “Spadea was ready to quit tennis. The thrill was gone. He lived for a year and a half in a cellar. He seriously needed to believe in himself again.”

Spadea, 30, won his first ATP tournament last season in Scottsdale, Ariz., beating Andy Roddick in the semifinals. Spadea ended last year ranked 18th in the world.

“In a way, my experience in confronting my weight was similar. I had to finally admit that I was the one who was doing this to myself,” Murray said, “And on some level it was, because I cared about everything else more. My work, my family, my travel arrangements, all were more important than what I was eating and drinking.”

His doctoral work at the University of Florida introduced him to various modern-day pathologies, including narcissistic personality disorder, in which normal development is arrested and a person comes to focus all their efforts on gratifying and aggrandizing their false sense of self.

“It dawned on me that if you could focus in a positive way on your health and weight to cultivate a healthy narcissism, it could lead to dietary and exercise choices that make you feel better about yourself,” Murray said.

He also decided that he had to cut off excuses and escape paths.

“I set a very ambitious goal to lose 2-2.5 pounds a week and posted it on my Web site and sent it to my newsletter audience of over 15,000 people,” he said. “That’s pretty much hanging it out there along with my ‘fat picture.’ If I fail to lose weight, it will be very public. A little fear of failure comes in handy. I post my weight on my Web site every Wednesday â€â€? that public exposure helps keep me motivated.”

Murray’s approach is dramatically different from the high-protein, low-carb Atkins diet, and has a much larger psychological component than the very successful South Beach Diet.

“Contrary to what most other diet programs say, I think you should weigh yourself daily at the same time in the morning,” he said, “By weighing each day you will know how hard to be on yourself each day, which is better than waiting for a whole week to weigh again.”

He advocates enlisting family and friends to support healthy eating and exercise and getting an informal coach who will check on your progress two or three times a week.

“Your family has to be on your side in this â€â€? and in the end they benefit, too,” he said.

Diet experts weigh in

The intellectual approach of the Palm Beach Narcissism Diet makes a lot of sense to Barbara J. Moore, Ph.D. and president and CEO of Shape Up America!. Moore heads the national nonprofit initiative designed to raise awareness of the importance of healthy eating and increased physical activity founded by former U.S. Surgeon C. Everett Koop in 1994.

Not much has been written about the psychological areas of successful weight management that Murray is talking about, Moore told The Palm Beach Post, “One, weight management requires the right mind set.

“Attitude is everything . . . Not nearly enough information is available about the right mind set. For example, consider the typical attitude that demands instant gratification: It took years to gain the 30 pounds you are carrying around, but you want to lose it all in 30 days? Accepting that slow weight loss will probably characterize your journey is part of the process of recovery that Murray seems to allude to.”

Moore, a former professor of nutrition at Rutgers University who headed program development for Weight Watchers International, worked at the National Institutes of Health on government weight-loss promotion efforts immediately before joining Shape Up, America!. She said one of the things she likes best about Murray’s approach is toughness.

“Discipline is not a dirty word,” she said, “It is essential for weight management.” Murray likely knows a great deal about that because discipline is essential in sports performance.

“Mental toughness is needed to stay focused and to say no to the distractions that will encourage you to make bad choices . . . Murray gets that.”

The food consumption recommended in Murray’s diet “seems fundamentally sound,” said Dr. Beth Reames, a professor of nutrition at Louisiana State University’s AGCenter. Reames has researched and written extensively on fad diets.

Asked about the key components of the Palm Beach Narcissism Diet, Reames said, “He’s not going for the quick fix, it includes regular exercise and healthy foods in reasonable portions.”

Reames said her research shows that most American adults need an hour of physical activity a day to maintain a healthy weight.

“There’s no easy solution,” she said, “It’s a lifetime commitment and diets that recognize that can be successful.”

The skinny

Specifically, Murray advocates eating three balanced meals a day with little or no snacking and little or no alcohol consumption. He doesn’t drink, but says for those who do can have an occasional glass of wine with dinner if their weight loss progress is good.

Like South Beach and Atkins diets, Murray regards refined sugar, potatoes and bleached white flour as enemy combatants which can be virtually eliminated from adult diets with no ill effects.

He favors fruit, especially melons, berries and tomatoes, as part of a healthy breakfast with egg white omelets or yogurt for protein. Lunch should usually include plenty of fresh greens in a salad topped with grilled chicken or shrimp. Broiled fish, lean beef or skinless chicken with ample portions of steamed vegetables, especially broccoli and carrots, are his usual dinner.

Use olive oil for cooking, he said, and avoid butter, cream and sauces with high sugar or salt content. Mustard, balsamic vinegar, lime or lemon juice and a little low-sodium soy sauce add flavor without significant calories or salt, he said.

Murray said he also discovered that his weight loss has been hastened by drinking lots of water and dramatically reducing consumption of coffee, tea and soft drinks, which contain caffeine that stimulates appetite.

Does the Palm Beach Narcissism Diet really work? So far, Murray is down to 215 pounds, a loss of more than 45 pounds in less than four months. The real test may come on Sept. 15 when he promises to tip the scales at 185. By Christmas, he wants to be back to his pro tennis-playing weight of 175â€? “that will be my Christmas present to myself,” he said with a narcissistic wink.

Jane Daugherty writes for The Palm Beach Post.

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

VINCE SPADEA IN FINALS TODAY

Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships – Newport, Rhode Island – Jul 10, 2005 – Vince Spadea defeated Paul Goldstein 7-6(6), 6-2 in the semifinals and advances to today’s finals vs Greg Rusedski, the 2004 champion

Two 30-year-olds will meet in an ATP final for the first time since 2003 when 30-year-old Vince Spadea plays 31-year-old Greg Rusedski in the title match of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships in Newport. The last all-30-year-old final on the circuit was in San Jose
in 2003 when 32-year-old Andre Agassi defeated 30-year-old Davide Sanguinetti.

Spadea reached his first final of 2005 and the fifth of his career with a 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over Paul Goldstein. Serve was held just six times in the 20 games between the second seeded Spadea and seventh seeded Goldstein. Spadea went up a hold, breaking Goldstein twice in the first three games of the match to go up 3-0.

The players exchanged breaks, allowing Spadea to hold a 3-1 lead. A pair of breaks and a hold from Goldstein allowed him to rally and level the match at 4-all. Another exchanges of breaks, and then a pair of holds pushed the set to a tie-break. Spadea jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the breaker, but once again Goldstein rallied, tying things up at 5-all. Spadea would prevail to claim the opening set.

Holding serve in the first and fifth games of the second set and breaking Goldstein three times allowed Spadea to go up 5-1 lead. The players xchanged breaks to end the set. Both players double faulted four times, and Spadea hit the lone ace of the match. Spadea won just 48 percent of his points on serve, compared to 38 percent for Goldstein. Spadea converted all eight of his break chances, while Goldstein got six breaks in nine attempts.

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

PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST UNVEILS PALM BEACH NARCISSISM DIET

July 7, 2005 – Jane Daugherty, Pulitzer Prize finalist and Palm Beach Post staff writer, writes an article entitled: “John Murray says you can love yourself skinny with the Palm Beach Narcissism Diet.” To read, go to Palm Beach Post

In the article, Dr. Murray explains that the Palm Beach Narcissism diet is a way of motivating yourself and a diet plan. Principle No. 11 of the diet is, ‘Remind yourself several times a day what weight you want to be in four months. That probably involves thinking about yourself more than you are accustomed to, but it is healthy narcissism.’

To see more and follow my personal progress, and the progress of others who have made a public weight loss guarantee, go to:
Palm Beach Narcissism Diet

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

TIGER WOODS’ PUTTING

Associated Press – Jul 5, 2005 – Jim Litke – Putter sabotages Woods at Open – LEMONT, Ill. – Turns out everybody looking for the Kryptonite in Tiger Woods’ bag the last few years was probably focused on the wrong club. It wasn’t the longest stick in there sapping the strength of the world’s best player, but likely the shortest one.

The putter sabotaged Woods again Sunday afternoon, and with it, his chances of stealing the Western Open from Jim Furyk.

Losing a tournament that he’s won three times already may not have crushed Woods’ ego, but it can’t have boosted his confidence with two weeks left before he tees it up at St. Andrews in the season’s third major. Especially not after a three-putt on No. 17 at Pinehurst two weeks ago doomed him to a second-place finish behind Michael Campbell at the U.S. Open.

After he shot a 66 at Cog Hill to finish two strokes behind Furyk, someone asked Woods what part of his game he’d improve immediately if someone handed him a magic wand. He didn’t hesitate. “Everything,” he said. “Everything is key at the British Open. You have to drive it well and position your irons well.”

More telling, though, was the 90 minutes Woods spent on the practice green Thursday evening after taking 29 putts en route to an opening-round 73 that left him dangling perilously close to the cut line.

Talk about paying immediate dividends: Woods vaulted back into the tournament Friday and Saturday, with nary a three-putt in either round. He began the final day five shots behind Furyk, but a birdie-birdie-eagle binge on Nos. 9-11 pushed him to 13-under and into the unlikely co-leader’s spot for all of 10 minutes.

Then, Furyk rolled in a second birdie of his own at the 11th, plowed in a third straight at No. 12, right about the same time that Woods three-putted the 13th – and the tournament was effectively over.

“This year,” Woods said afterward, “either I’m putting great or I’m struggling. Nothing in between. Either I’m rolling them in from everywhere or I’m three-putting.”

That’s hardly news, but neither is it the exaggeration it might sound like. Woods has wrestled with his driver since he exploded on Southern California’s loaded junior amateur circuit, and for all his awesome power, the plain fact is that he’s never been precise. For all the fuss that’s been raised about his wildness off the tee, the most telling numbers have always been those he’s rolled up on the greens.

Last year, for example, Woods ranked ninth on the PGA Tour in distance, averaging 302 yards, but 182nd in accuracy, finding the fairway just 56 percent of the time. He offset much of that wildness by finishing second in putting average, and really limited the damage by taking just 23 three-putts all season.

Coming into the Western, though, Woods already had 20 three- putts this season. He chalked up No. 21 on Thursday, but after the lengthy practice session, appeared to have put the problem behind him. Then came Sunday. With Furyk playing in the twosome behind him and applying pressure most of the way around, Woods three-putted Nos. 6 and 13 for bogeys. That saddled him with 23 this season – as many as he had all last year.

To top it off, Woods made a third bogey by leaving a sand shot in the bunker at No. 14. That many mistakes in the final round made Woods seem more like a flinching Tiger than a crouching one. Either way, it caught Furyk off-guard.

“I would say it surprised me,” he said, “because he’s such a good player. That’s one negative of being the best. Everyone expects you to be perfect. If he makes a mistake, it sticks out more than anyone else. People pay notice to it. People will mention it to him. He has to relive those moments a little more critically than everyone else, because the spotlight is on him.”

That was apparent when someone asked Woods about the number of three-putts this season versus last. He didn’t even wait to hear the entire question.

“I knew that,” Woods said.

“It’s speed,” he continued. “You’re not going to misread a putt by 8 feet. If anything, you’re going to have poor speed.
Poor speed always leads to three putts, not misreads.”

Conventional wisdom is that pro golfers are so close in the skills necessary to play the game that each week comes down to a putting contest. By spending more hours at the gym, visiting their sports psychologists religiously and applying every bit of technology that club and ball manufacturers have developed in recent years, the pack chasing Woods neutralized his distance advantage.

None is his equal yet in the mental-toughness department. But it’s clear that Woods can’t will the ball into the hole every time he needs to – and certainly not the way it seemed he could once. Spraying tee shots all around the grounds has made Woods seem beatable. But the golfers trying to do just that know Woods is never more vulnerable than when he’s wrestling with a balky putter.

“He’s human,” Furyk said a second time. “Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, but he’s human.”

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

FOCUS GIVES LANCE HEAD START

USA Today – Focus Gives Lance Head Start as Tour de France Nears – Jul 4, 2005 – Sal Ruibal – On Saturday, Lance Armstrong will begin an unprecedented attempt to win a seventh consecutive Tour de France, besting the record he set last year in the world’s biggest cycling race.

Much has been written and said about his prodigious physical skills and ability to generate tremendous speed on his bike. But those who know him best â€? his mother, his coach and his team say the key to Armstrong’s success is not in his well-muscled legs or bellows-like lungs but in the deepest core of his personality, a burning competitive drive that leaves no detail unexamined in the pursuit of a goal.

The physical embodiment of that focus is his intense stare during critical portions of a race. His blue eyes open wide as he directs all of his energy to the task at hand.

“I am focused,” Armstrong says. “I’ve always been that way, even as a kid. That’s because I have a responsibility to perform at my best. … I’m paid to be obsessed. I’m paid to win.”

It is a trait that has served him well in his more than 20 years of athletic competition, a span that began with neighborhood runs and swimming races in Plano, Texas, and will end at the finish of this year’s Tour when he will retire from the sport that has made him a global household name.

‘Mr. Millimeter’

For Armstrong the superstar athlete, his slavish attention to minute detail is much more than an amusing or frustrating personality quirk. It is a way of life.

A small detail, such as his daily routine of measuring his bicycle to make sure the finely tuned geometric relationships of saddle, handlebars and pedals are exact, can make a significant difference in his efficiency on the bike. In a race in which, after three weeks and more than 85 hours of high-intensity racing, the gap between winning and losing has been as little as eight seconds, he truly believes every second counts.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that ‘Mr. Millimeter’ stuff,” he says. “This is a natural obsession. Some people are very detail-oriented, and others aren’t. I’m a stickler, a stickler about the facts. In sports, it is easy to compare the facts: You have the same bike, the same power meter, the same course. You can compare year-to-year.”

Lance Armstrong is going for a seventh consecutive Tour title, so interest in what might be cable’s longest-running reality show is still high. What has changed for 2005 is that Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service Team has switched sponsors and is now the Discovery Channel Team. For viewers at home, that means new uniforms to find in the fast-flowing pack of riders (white with bright blue trim instead of Postal’s dark blue and red) and more Armstrong-related programming on the Discovery channels to go with the traditional live coverage on the Outdoor Life Network.

OLN will have all-day coverage from Saturday through the finish July 24 in Paris. Prerace programming runs from 8:30 to 9 a.m., with the race live from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Race repeats are noon-2 p.m., 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. The prerace show will repeat from 8 to 8:30 p.m., followed by prime-time coverage from 8:30 to 11. That show will repeat from midnight-2:30 a.m.

All times are Eastern. Go to OLNTV.com for the detailed schedule.

Lance Week began Monday on Discovery’s multiple channels, but there’s plenty of opportunity to catch repeats of The Science of Lance Armstrong on the Science Channel and the five-part Chasing Lance series on FitTV and Discovery HD Theater.

To stay up-to-date throughout the Tour, go to usatoday.com for live-text coverage of the race, Le Blog de Tour and audio clips.

It won’t be easy to find comparisons with this year’s Tour. No other rider has been in position to win a seventh Tour, and, at 34, Armstrong is almost a senior citizen in the professional cycling world.

He had planned to skip the race to spend more time with his three children � Luke, 5, and twin daughters Grace and Isabelle, 3 � and rock star girlfriend Sheryl Crow. But with his new title sponsor, The Discovery Channel, investing millions in his team, Armstrong changed his mind in April.

The Tour covers a different route every year, and this year’s 21-stage, 2,241-mile course undercuts Armstrong’s strengths by offering shorter individual time-trial stages and just three mountaintop stage finishes. His rivals are younger and have fresh legs, while Armstrong concedes his “acceleration skills” have declined. He has used powerful bursts of speed on mountain ascents to gain an edge.

Armstrong says “there’s not the same sense of urgency that I had last year” and readily reveals he’ll be just as happy “if the race dictates that someone else from Discovery wins.” That could happen. Recent Tour of Italy winner Paolo Savoldelli is on Discovery this year, as is Yaroslav Popovych, a lanky Ukrainian whom Armstrong already has singled out as his likely successor.

But should his rivals � or his teammates � be dreaming of wearing yellow in Paris when the race ends July 24?

“There are many cyclists out there with great genetic gifts,” longtime personal coach Chris Carmichael says. “But none of them have his ability to focus on all the details it takes to win.”

Armstrong’s mother says his analytical obsession began at age 12, when he started logging data from every 6-mile training run onto a desk calendar.

“After a run, he’d come back to the house and start writing down all the details: his split times, his intervals, weather and temperature,” Linda Armstrong Kelly says.

“Before his races, I’d drive our old pickup truck while he ran the course, memorizing every inch.”

Although he was raised on “my home cooking, biscuits and gravy and club sandwiches,” Armstrong Kelly says, he soon adopted the eating habits of European cyclists, especially pasta.

“I made the sauce,” she says, “but Lance would make his own spaghetti for a snack after school or training. He insisted on making it the Italian way, al dente. So he’d boil it, then throw pieces of spaghetti against the wall. When it stuck, it was ready. Lord, we had spaghetti all over the wall.”

Armstrong retains some of that habit in his adult insistence on having his coffee made the same way every time, every day. “Peet’s Major Dickason’s blend, brewed only with Dasani bottled water,” says Mark Higgins, Armstrong’s sidekick and media coordinator. “That’s the winning formula.”

A million parts

Armstrong didn’t set out to obsess over what he now calls the “million parts to the puzzle” that is the Tour de France.

In the early 1990s, he was a one-day race specialist and was considered by his coaches to lack the endurance and climbing skills needed to win a three-week grand tour.

It wasn’t until he emerged from cancer treatment in 1996 that he began to see the bigger picture. Cancer had reduced his muscle mass, and the resulting weight loss now made it easier to climb the steep mountain stages essential to winning the three-week grand tours of Italy, France and Spain.

He also met Johan Bruyneel, a top Belgian racer who in his 12-year career won two Tour stages and wore the race leader’s yellow jersey for one day in the 1995 Tour.

It was a perfect match.

In Bruyneel, Armstrong saw a brilliant, detail-driven strategist with a consuming desire to win.

In Armstrong, Bruyneel saw a rider with tremendous physical gifts, a detail-oriented focus and an all-consuming desire to win.

In 1998, Bruyneel retired from racing and became the director of Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service team. Armstrong’s streak of Tour wins began in 1999.

“It was not difficult to make the transition from rider to director,” Bruyneel told USA TODAY in a 2002 interview. “As a rider you do what the team wants you to do, but all of that time I was thinking about these things.”

Those “things” were a detailed template for winning the Tour de France. At its simplest level, that plan called for a strategy of staying out of trouble in the flat stages, building a lead in time trials and establishing big margins over rivals in the mountain stages.

The Discovery Team will use that same plan this year with a few changes, most notably the addition of more climbing specialists to assist Armstrong in his efforts to wring out every second of time advantage in the Alps and Pyrenees.

From the start of their relationship, Bruyneel and Armstrong wanted to make sure their plan could survive surprises such as mechanical problems or crashes. They have examined every aspect of the race in search of valuable seconds that could be shaved as a cushion against the unexpected.

That meant annually investing in $5,000-an-hour wind tunnel testing to perfect Armstrong’s position on the bike, pushing bike manufacturer Trek to reduce the weight of the team’s equipment while maintaining structural soundness and developing race uniforms with Nike that would slip through the air while also cooling the rider.

Sometimes there were painful confrontations.
Winning margins
Lance Armstrong begins his quest Saturday for his seventh straight Tour de France win. A look at his winning margins in his six victories:

1999: 7 minutes, 37 seconds
2000: 6:02
2001: 6:44
2002: 7:17
2003: 1:01
2004: 6:19

Just before last year’s Tour, Armstrong rejected a new Trek time-trial bike and went back to the previous year’s model because the narrow-framed machine caused him to produce slightly less power.

Tests showed there was potential for greater speed on the new bike, “but the possibility of losing even a few seconds was totally unacceptable to him,” Trek team liaison Scott Daubert says.

Armstrong is riding a new Trek TTX time-trial bike this year, and it has translated into bigger sales for Trek. The TTX is not available to the public, but Daubert says Trek factories are working double shifts to meet consumer demand for the 2005 Lance-inspired Madone road bikes, which cost $2,999 to $7,699.

Armstrong’s obsession also covers seemingly mundane issues, such as his eyewear and saddle.

For the last 10 years, Armstrong has insisted on wearing Oakley M-Frame glasses with a special lens that originally was designed just for golfers. Despite Oakley’s efforts to get Armstrong into a more current model, he won’t budge.

“His attitude is always, ‘Why fix it if it isn’t broken?’ ” Oakley’s Stephanie McIlvain says. “He’s always been a little picky, even when he was younger. But sometimes he’ll reject something, then come back months later and say he wants it. But that’s Lance.”

Armstrong will place his millionaire bottom on a $59.95 Selle San Marco Concor bike saddle, a 20-year-old model that had been discontinued but has been kept alive because of Armstrong’s interest.

Coach Carmichael says Armstrong insists on seeing a map of his daily training workout route before riding it even if he has done it many times. He rides his time-trial bike at least once every week and gets a massage every day during the eight weeks leading up to the Tour.

“You can’t argue with him about it,” Carmichael says. “You’ll never win.”

The payoff

To those who scoff at his obsession, Armstrong points to the 2003 Tour.

His usual attention to detail failed him when the team established a time-trial warm-up spot under a grove of trees in the south-central France town of Gaillac. The weather was sunny and very hot, but Bruyneel felt the shade of the trees would be an advantage.

In his warm-up ride on a stationary bike, however, Armstrong began to sweat profusely in the stifling 95-degree heat. Team buses and crowds of onlookers blocked a breeze from reaching Armstrong.

His main rival, German Jan Ullrich, had established a warm-up area in an air-conditioned bike shop.

A dehydrated Armstrong wilted on his time-trial ride, finishing second to Ullrich and losing 96 seconds to his archenemy. His lead had shrunk to 34 seconds, and the steep Pyrenees were coming up.

Armstrong later would give the most dramatic performance of his career on the last mountain stage of that Tour, surviving a scary crash, then storming past all of his rivals to win the stage at Luz Ardiden. That 67-second margin lasted into that Tour’s final time trial, where a desperate Ullrich crashed in the rain trying to catch Armstrong.

Armstrong won the overall race by 61 seconds, the closest of his six wins. “Looking back at that first time trial in Gaillac, it was the worst performance in my athletic career,” Armstrong says.

“I gave up lots of time, but I was still ahead. If I had not paid attention to all those little details, I would not have had that cushion and the situation on Luz Ardiden would have been more serious.

“If it hadn’t been for that focus on all of those details over the years, we would be talking about winning only three or four Tours instead of six.

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

Press Enterprise

Jun 9, 2005 – Jim Alexander – The most important talisman of Cal State Fullerton’s run to the 2004 College World Series championship may have been the toilet.

You probably saw it if you watched any of ESPN’s coverage last June. It was a tiny porcelain replica, perched on a shelf in the dugout whenever the Titans played. The object wasn’t to take a bat to it after a particularly aggravating strikeout, but to use it as a reminder to flush away a bad at-bat or a bad pitch — to focus on the task at hand and not be distracted by previous failures.

The powerful reminder was the work of Ken Ravizza, a professor in the school’s Division of Kinesiology and Health Science. The success that followed was another boon to the growing, maturing relationship between sport and psychology.

“Mental skills training,” it’s called. Athletes spend a lot of time on strengthening their bodies and honing their mechanics, but there’s also an increasing emphasis on the way the brain affects performance.

Yes, it may be too new age in some quarters, where the macho, I-can-fix-my-own-problems attitude still applies and some coaches and managers feel threatened by outside advice.

Still, when the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez recently acknowledged that he was undergoing therapy to deal with personal issues, it may have busted some more barriers.

“I think it’s definitely becoming more and more accepted, simply because of the influence that the mental side has on performance,” said John F. Murray, a sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla., in a telephone interview. “Often, the difference between winning and losing, or between performing well and not performing well, is how you manage the enormous amount of potential distractions.”

Fullerton’s baseball team, which continues defense of its national title in an NCAA super regional at home against Arizona State beginning Friday, seems a classic example of what happens when you tend to the mind as well as the body.

Flash back to early April 2004. Ravizza, who teaches courses in sport philosophy, applied sport psychology and stress management at Fullerton, received a call from Titans coach George Horton seeking help. Nothing else was working: CSUF was 15-16 and out of the national Top 25, and Horton was out of ideas and out of patience.

Ravizza’s first words to the team: “I don’t know why you are feeling so sorry for yourselves. You have the chance to make the biggest comeback in Cal State Fullerton history.”

In individual and group sessions, Ravizza worked on players’ confidence, focus and sense of team, while providing methods to cope with pressure and stress. He started the momentum and the team took it the rest of the way, winning 32 of its last 38 games and the school’s fourth national championship.

“I saw guys who were insecure, who had lost their confidence,” Ravizza said in an interview with Athletic Management magazine. “I saw guys who couldn’t focus. Mostly, I saw guys who were trying too hard and not getting results. And the harder they tried, the worse it got. And as it got worse, they had no strategies except to try even harder. And ‘try harder’ never works. You have to have something else to go to.”

Ravizza has worked with the Angels, the Nebraska and Arizona State football programs, UCLA’s softball team and a number of U. S. Olympic teams in different sports. And he’s pulled off the neat trick of advising both Fullerton and its baseball arch-rival, Long Beach State.

“He’s really wonderful at rolling up his sleeves and digging up the dirt with the guys,” said Sue Ziegler, a sports psychologist at Cleveland State University, in a phone interview. “He’s a guy’s guy. He’s very effective in terms of communicating, giving you quick and easy strategies that you can implement right off the bat.”

The lessons continue with the 2005 Titans. During last weekend’s regional tournament at Fullerton, Titans outfielder Sergio Pedroza was asked about dealing with a recent hitting slump and whether his approach changed.

“I did the same thing,” he told reporters. “I stuck with the process. I wasn’t getting rewarded. Sometimes it happens in hitting. I talked to Ken Ravizza and he told me it (slump’s end) was going to happen eventually as long as you don’t let it get to you.”

The field of sports psychology, or at least the study of the mind’s effects on performance, goes back as far as the early 1900s, when Indiana University psychologist Norman Triplett determined that cyclists rode faster in groups or pairs than they did when alone. Coleman Griffith of the University of Illinois began more expansive research on sports in the 1920s, and actually did some consulting for the Chicago Cubs for a time in the late 1930s.

But sports psychology didn’t take off until the 1970s, after Eastern Bloc success in the Olympic Games prompted people in this country to take a closer look at the techniques the other side was using.

Today, athletic departments such as Penn State and Oklahoma employ full-time sports psychologists. Most other schools — such as Fullerton, with Ravizza, or UC Riverside, which borrows Bob Corb from the school’s Counseling Center — will use a sports psychologist on an occasional or as-needed basis. Some professional organizations retain psychologists as consultants, and a greater number of individual sport athletes have sought help.

“(Golfer) Brad Faxon said that in 1984 if you worked with a sports psychologist, people thought you were weird,” Murray said. “Now if you don’t work with a sports psychologist, people think you’re weird.”

After all, the most important muscle is often the one between the ears.

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

SEATTLE TIMES BATS FOR SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY

Seattle Times – Jun 1, 2005 – Steve Kelley – Fear doesn’t strike out as A-Rod steps up to the plate – Every player talks about the transforming magic of the Yankees’ pinstripes. Each gushes about the sanctity of Yankee Stadium.

But the players also understand the enormous expectations and the pressures that come with those pinstripes.

Eventually every Yankee, even Derek Jeter, will experience the wrath of a stadium crowd. It’s as inevitable as a delay on the D Train.

In a little more than a year as a Yankee, third baseman Alex Rodriguez already has run the emotional gantlet. He has experienced the exhilaration of a pennant race, followed by the devastation of a history-making playoff loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Who knows what it is like to be A-Rod in New York?

To carry all those heavy expectations every day. To listen to the boos that tumble on him from almost every park in the American League. To feel like he has to play like a Hall of Famer every game to justify the largest contract in big-league history.

This season, he has been exceptional. Rodriguez is leading the American League in home runs, runs scored, RBI and slugging percentage. He is third in on-base percentage and fourth in batting average.

So who knows what combination of stresses and successes led him into therapy? But last week Rodriguez, perhaps the world’s most image-conscious athlete, announced he is seeing a shrink.

“A-Rod making a statement like that, an athlete of his stature saying that, could advance sports psychology by 10 years,” Dr. John Murray, a sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla., said by telephone this week. “A-Rod’s efforts will hopefully go a long way toward removing the stigma of getting the help of a sports psychologist, be it for simple mental skills training, or serious counseling.”

Murray, 43, worked with Jim Bauman (now a U.S. Olympic Committee psychologist) at Washington State in 1998, and has worked with the University of Florida and the Miami Dolphins. In his private practice, he has counseled numerous golfers, cyclists and football and tennis players. This week he started a Web site “CongratsARod.com”  he hopes will take the psychological pulse of the athletic community.

“I see it a lot of times, especially in the traditional sports like baseball and football,” Murray said, “where the players might be somewhat reluctant to seek the counsel of a sports psychologist when they’re feeling panicky, or they’re choking, or they’re losing the motivation and wanting to quit. It’s a case where we need to break down barriers.”

Baseball, probably more than any other team sport, is susceptible to psychological problems. The daily seven-month grind, the contemplative pace of the game, the fact that, at its heart, baseball is a one-on-one sport, can make players emotionally vulnerable.

In 1971 Pittsburgh’s Steve Blass pitched two complete-game World Series victories. The next year, he won 19 games. The next year, he walked 84 batters and struck out only 27. And in 1974, his last season, he pitched one game, walked seven and never pitched again.

St. Louis’ Rick Ankiel, who is attempting a comeback as an outfielder at Class AA Springfield, never rediscovered the strike zone after his infamous playoff implosion in 2000.

Reliable-fielding second basemen Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch, all of a sudden, had difficulty making the simple throw to first. Catcher Mackey Sasser often had to double-clutch just to throw the ball back to the pitcher.

“What starts as a slump, like going three games without a base hit because of a slight technical or mental flaw, suddenly takes on a life all its own,” Murray said. “Players can lose confidence. They can lose focus. They have trouble managing their energy problems, which leads to anger, fear, even apathy and boredom.

“What players need to know is that there’s nothing to be ashamed of in seeking counseling. Why should there be a stigma? Hopefully, some day we can get to a place where seeking help is commonplace.”

Murray said athletes have to remember a simple message: “As tough as things can get, the mind is even tougher.” And he offers the case of tennis professional Vince Spadea as proof.

In the midst of a record-breaking slump, Spadea came to Murray . Once ranked as high as 19th in the world in 1999, he lost an ATP-record 21 matches in a row and, by 2001, his ranking had fallen to 229th.

“He was ready to quit tennis. The fire had died,” said Murray. “He spent a year and a half living in a cellar. He needed something to re-ignite the fire that was the reason he became a tennis player in the first place. He needed to believe in himself again.

“When he was winning, I don’t think he really appreciated how great he was. I think success happened so quickly, he didn’t realize how good his life was. He was very reluctant to come to me, but he listened. All he really needed was a pep talk.”

Spadea, 30, won his first ATP tournament last season in Scottsdale, Ariz., beating Andy Roddick in the semifinals. He finished 2004 ranked all the way back to 19th.

Spadea needed to hit rock bottom before he sought help. Who knows what moved A-Rod to seek therapy?

Maybe he too needs a pep talk. Or maybe he needs to talk about a childhood where his father left the family when Rodriguez was 9 years old.

Whatever the reason, it took courage for him to make public this very private part of his life. And for this, all of us who have jeered A-Rod now should cheer him.

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

SPADEA HIP-HOPS HIS WAY TO THE CLAY

Palm Beach Post – May 24, 2005 – Charles Elmore – PARIS â€? Here, truly, is a clash of the old world and the new. Albert Costa won the 2002 French Open. He grew up on clay courts in Spain. He likes to play cards, and supports soccer teams in Lerida and Barcelona. His favorite movie is Ben-Hur.

In his path today stands Vince Spadea, ranked No. 41, who came of age on the hard courts of Boca Raton. Along the way, Vince acquired the occasional urge to bust a rhyme.

Spadea offered this Roland Garros rap by e-mail in response to a request from The Palm Beach Post:

“Ladies and gents will be jumping the fence to catch a glimpse of Vince at the French, he’s so intense, doesn’t give you an inch!

I went from sitting on the bench with a dollar and fifty cents, to a corporate account at Merrill Lynch,

But let me know what yous think, when you see them dragging me off the links, at Roland Garros,

‘Cause Spadea will break you down, like a broken arrow, a golden pharaoh, fighting to be the hero at Roland Garros,

I’m tennis’s Robert DeNiro, and I’m representing South Florida, champagne pouring out, that don’t rhyme?

Shore it does, trying to keep up with the Joneses like Norah does… “

Sure, Costa knows how to slide on clay.

But can he hip-hop?

Spadea has advanced as far as the third round in Paris three times.

He offered this breakdown of today’s first-round matchup with Costa: “He’s a clay-court specialist who has been on tour for as many years as I have. No doubt there are better draws out there, but at the same time, he has dropped his ranking and performance a great deal from his win at Roland Garros, has showed signs of apathy, injury and inconsistent results on all surfaces, including clay. I see this as a good opportunity for me to see how well I can play against a well-established clay-courter. I know I’ve made improvements in the past year, and I welcome this challenge.”

Costa has won two of three times they met, but interestingly, Spadea won the last one, in the same year Costa won the French Open, 2002. Spadea triumphed on hard courts during the round of 64 at Tennis Masters Canada 6-3, 6-1.

Shoulder tendinitis kept Spadea out of action recently for about three weeks. He has packed plenty of Fig Newtons and Balance bars to keep his energy up.

“My biggest challenge going into clay-court events, especially Roland Garros, will be the grueling physical and mental demand it places on me,” Spadea said. “There are no free or easy points on clay. The three out of five sets at Roland Garros forces your fitness level to be at the highest standard. It’s just a war of attrition on clay. Difficult to win pretty. A strategy adjustment I need to make is to hit my strokes with more topspin for consistency and play percentage tennis, and use angles and drop shots to win extra points.”

A new Web site, vincespadea.com, features photos and updates on all matters Spadea. Among the links is one to sports performance psychologist John F. Murray of West Palm Beach, who has worked with Spadea.

This is the sort of advice Murray says he gives athletes looking to regain confidence after an injury: “Adapt your style to the injury. Set difficult, yet realistic, goals on how you want to play the upcoming match based on the possible effects of the injury. For example, if your shoulder is hurt and you cannot serve hard, you might plan to play a gritty match with many long points and win the battle of attrition. If the injury affects your forehand but your serve is fine, you might plan a more aggressive serve and volley game where you end points sooner. “

Another way of putting that might be: break you down, like a broken arrow, a golden pharaoh, fighting to be the hero at Roland Garros.

Costa is ranked No. 72 but holding every former champion’s suspicion that he has one more title in him.

By this time tomorrow, one of these two men, representatives from the old world and the new, will be tapped out or rapped out in Paris.

“Peace out, I gotta start jump roping, before I leave Paris without the crown at the French Open… â€?spadea”

Because at the end, only one man can be Le Shizzle.

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

TUNE IN TO YOURSELF

Newsday – May 24, 2005 – John Hanc – Heading out for some exercise? Try leaving the headsets behind for a change. You’ll be safer, and you can still get in a great workout. Here are some tips that can help you tune in during your workout without turning on the iPod:

Be sensible: Use all your senses … not just hearing. “Visually, a runner or walker can focus on their surroundings,” says sports psychologist Jack Bowman of Port Jefferson Station. A beautiful day in spring can be a sensual feast. Feel the cool breeze; listen to the waves of the ocean or the chirping of birds. Don’t stop, but do smell those roses.

Exercise your mind: “Review what is working well in your life and what you would like to change,” says sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray of West Palm Beach, Fla. “Be specific and set goals. Come up with new ideas and refine them. Invent something. Solve one or two problems.” And if all that is giving you a headache, he says, “just unwind, enjoy the process and get your body in tune with nature.”

Tune in to your own channel: Technical race director David Katz has met a lot of elite runners in his years working at the Long Island and New York City marathons. He’s learned something about mental endurance. “The really good runners tune into themselves,” Katz said. That is, instead of “disassociating” themselves from the activity through music or other distractions, they monitor their bodies during performance, tuning into the rhythm of their own breathing, heart-rate, foot strike. You can do the same no matter what your activity or proficiency.

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