Archive for the ‘News & Events’ Category

MIND GAME: CROSSWORD CRAZE HITS DEVIL RAYS’ CLUBHOUSE

Bradenton Herald – May 15, 2005 – Roger Mooney – One across: Nickname for rebounder Rodman. Lance Carter moved to another clue. Boston hockey great. Three letters. “Orr,” Carter said, and with a pen, he wrote the name of Hall of Famer Bobby Orr in blue ink.

It was four o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon in mid-April. The first pitch for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ game at Tropicana Field wasn’t for another 3 hours, 15 minutes. Carter and fellow Rays pitcher Travis Harper completed a long-toss session 20 minutes earlier. The players didn’t have to be on the field to stretch before batting practice for another half-hour. Now what? Why not warm up the brain? Crossword puzzles.

“In baseball there’s a lot of downtime,” said John F. Murray, Ph.D., a clinical and sports performance psychologist from Palm Beach. “Anything players can do in between, cross-train mentally, I call it, can give them a little breather and help them come back stronger.”

Crossword puzzles?

“I think it makes sense,” Murray said.

Baseball, it’s been said, is a timeless game.

If you believe that, you should watch time drip by before a game.

Players reach the clubhouse at least three hours before game time. Some arrive one to two hours earlier than that. Batting practice is scheduled for 1 hour, 15 minutes. That leaves nearly three hours of free time. Some players need that time to receive treatment for injuries. Others lift weights. Some watch film of the opposing pitchers or of themselves hitting.

Subtract another 15 or 20 minutes for a pregame meal, and you still have a lot of time to fill.

What to do . . .?

“Being bored can be a problem for athletes,” Murray said. “You can lose your edge. So anything you can do to occupy your mind is good.”

After his throwing session with Harper, Carter began a ritual he follows almost daily, at least when the Rays are home. He showered and changed into his batting practice attire – white uniform pants, green Rays T-shirt and green pullover warm-up jacket. He grabbed the classified section of a local newspaper, opened to Page 2, folded the paper into a small rectangle, reached for a pen and sat down in front of his locker.

Soon Harper appeared at his locker, which is to the left of Carter’s. Then Trever Miller, another member of the Rays’ bullpen whose locker is next to Harper’s, joined in. Together, they work through a crossword puzzle.

“I’m not very good at these,” said Carter, the former Manatee High and Manatee Community College standout. “I usually wait for Trever.”

There are four televisions in the Rays’ clubhouse. On this afternoon, players had their pick of the Cubs-Padres on one screen and ESPN Classic on another. One set was tuned to a music video channel. The one closest to Carter’s locker, for some unexplained reason, showed an infomercial touting a revolutionary new mop designed to make our lives easier.

Carter ignored the miracle of the once-dirty floor now sparkling clean. He was deep into his puzzle.

“I do these to kill boredom,” he said. “And to avoid sports writers.”

His wit obviously sharp, it’s his word power that could use some building.

“I’m learning a lot from these,” Carter said.

Like . . .

“Well, first and foremost, how to spell,” he said. “Different meaning for phrases and words.”

Harper leaned over.

“Worm,” he said.

“Worm?”

“One across. Dennis Rodman’s nickname. Worm,” Harper said.

“Dangit. I knew that,” Carter said.

Card games are popular in some clubhouses. Former Rays Esteban Yan and Felix Martinez used to play dominoes.

On a counter just inside the Rays’ clubhouse and on a table inside the visiting clubhouse, you’ll find a small stack of the newspaper sections that carry the crossword puzzle. Grab one quick. They go fast.

Greg Maddux, when he was with Atlanta, was spotted in the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field breezing through a crossword puzzle as if he were writing out a postcard.

Former Rays coach Frank Howard used to find a quiet corner in the tunnel under the stands and make his way through a puzzle. Once he found himself the answer to a clue.

New York Yankee Tino Martinez, who played in Tampa Bay last season, likes his pregame crossword puzzle.

So do current Rays Rocco Baldelli, Josh Phelps and Travis Lee.

“There’s a lot of dead time in this game,” Miller said. “You need something to fill up the time. Crosswords are as good as any. I think if baseball players took all the dead time in this game and used it to study, we’d all be doctors and lawyers.”

Carter shook his head.

“Not all of us,” he said.

Rays manager Lou Piniella occasionally works through a puzzle in his office while talking with reporters before a game, sometimes paying more attention to the clues than the questions.

“What do you think about your next series with the White Sox?” he was asked.

“Hmm?” Piniella said while filling in a word that sometimes can be used to describe himself.

“Testy.”

“I do them to take my mind off the game,” said Piniella who started the habit during his playing days with the Yankees.

A June 2005 edition of Dell’s Crossword Puzzles sat on the top left corner of his desk blotter.

“I can finish the ones early in the week,” Piniella said. “On Sunday, I can only do half.”

The puzzles, for those not in the know, become increasingly harder as the week moves on, with Sunday being the toughest.

Studies have shown crossword puzzles and other games that force participants to think, like chess, checkers, backgammon and word jumbles, can lower the risk of dementia as we grow older. Even ballroom dancing has its benefits.

A study published in the June 2003 issue of the “New England Journal of Medicine” found the risk of dementia in senior citizens who do four crosswords a week was lower then those who did one crossword.

If puzzles help the old, can they also help the young? Especially a major league pitcher who has to use his mind as much as his arm during a game?

Remember, Yogi Berra said 90 percent of baseball is half mental. But then Yogi read comic books before games, and Superman and Flash Gordon didn’t seem to hold him back.

“No,” Piniella said. “(Crosswords) don’t help like that. It’s just to take your mind off the game.”

That alone, Murray said, means they work.

“What can it hurt? It keeps you relaxed. It keeps your mind off the task,” Murray said. “And there’s nothing wrong with taking your mind off the task.”

Especially when that task includes pitching to a lineup that features Miguel Tejada, Sammy Sosa and Javy Lopez or hitting against the likes of Jon Garland and Johan Santana.

Or managing the Devil Rays.

It can’t be all baseball all the time.

Otherwise, one can become, uh, testy.

Murray, who works with athletes from different sports, knows of tennis players who turn to video games during a match that’s delayed by weather.

“Same thing,” Murray said. “They’re just trying to stay sharp.”

Miller, the unofficial crossword champion among the players (assistant trainer Ron Porterfield is champs among all Rays) sees the mental benefits from the puzzles.

“Like anything else in life, if you don’t use your mind, you lose it,” Miller said. “With crosswords, you have to go back and find things in your memory, unlock doors from high school.”

But, Miller said, he doesn’t think doing a crossword puzzle in the afternoon will help him retire David Ortiz with the bases loaded that night.

“I don’t think this area of your mental ability will translate to how you play on the field,” Miller said. “I would say chess. The ability to play a few moves ahead, to develop strategy.”

Miller played chess before games during a few of his minor league stops.

Chessboards are not found in the Rays’ clubhouse, just TVs and crossword puzzles.

Miller’s choice is the crosswords, confident they will help him long-term, but not so sure they will help him in a few hours, even if Murray said thinking through a puzzle, much like Carter’s mid-afternoon long-toss with Harper, “is warming up the brain.”

Miller pointed to a clue, mentioned the answer and watched as Carter filled in the boxes.

“I’d rather be doing something like this,” he said, “than sitting in front of a TV set watching SportsCenter for the 15th time today.”

Loren Nelson, Sports Editor

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

JAMES BOND FILM ACTOR ENDORSES SPORT PERFORMANCE PSYCHOLOGY

Palm Beach, FL. May 14, 2005 – While many view the benefits of sport performance psychology as limited to sports and business, an accomplished movie actor recently offered a different glimpse into how these advisory services can help those in the film industry.

Rik Van Nutter, the actor who appeared alongside Sean Connery in the James Bond movie Thunderball, (as CIA agent Felix Leiter), with NFL legend Jim Brown in Pacific Inferno, and with Peter Ustinov and Sandra Dee in Romanoff and Juliet, indicates that people in all walks of life benefit from this “science of success.”

Van Nutter writes: Dr. John F. Murray, my good friend and advisor, has helped me a lot. He is well known and respected in his work with professional athletes, executives and celebrities and Im happy to be able to make these comments. His performance psychology services would be very useful in the high-demand film industry, and in many other endeavors where an indiviudal desires more success.” As a footnote, Rik was married to the film star Anita Ekberg in the 1960s and 70s.

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

CHICAGO WONDERS: CAN CURSE-BUSTING CATCH ON?

Sun Sentinel – Apr 3, 2005 – Mike Berardino – Watching the Boston Red Sox end the Curse of the Bambino last October, Ryne Sandberg couldn’t help but smile.

You know Sandberg as the former Chicago Cubs second baseman, maybe the greatest ever to play the position. You probably remember his disappointments in the National League playoffs of 1984 and 1989, how even the great Sandberg was unable to return the Cubs to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

But you probably didn’t know Sandberg has been a closet Red Sox fan all these years.

“I had great feelings [watching Boston win],” Sandberg says during a break at Cubs spring training in Mesa, Ariz. “In a lot of ways, I’ve been a Red Sox fan for a number of years, just pulling for the underdog. I just wanted to see them win finally, which I can relate to here with the Cubs.”

Although the Red Sox hadn’t won the World Series since 1918, Cubs fans have been suffering even longer. Their last championship came in 1908, when it was Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance around the infield and Teddy Roosevelt in the White House.

Their most recent tease came two years ago, when they were five outs from besting the Marlins for the National League pennant with Mark Prior on the mound. Before you could say “Steve Bartman,” the whole crazy notion of a Cubs championship collapsed beneath the weight of history and a stirring Marlins comeback.

Wasn’t a part of Sandberg saddened the Red Sox got to the mountaintop before his beloved Cubbies? That the Curse of the Bambino was toppled before Chicagoans could lay waste to the Curse of the Billy Goat once and for all?

Apparently not.

“I thought it was great to watch,” Sandberg says. “I had a good feeling about it. To me it kind of brings hope to the Cubs getting to the World Series and winning the World Series. It can happen. If you’ve got the right guys, and you’ve got them all playing like a bunch of wild guys like the Red Sox were doing, it works. That brings optimism for me.”

Extending the thought, perhaps the entire city of Chicago should be more hopeful than ever in light of Boston’s Band of Idiots’ unlikely success. Baseball’s second-longest championship drought belongs to the pride of the South Side, where the White Sox haven’t won since 1917.

There have been five postseason appearances since Pants Rowland managed those Sox to the title, but each — most recently a three-game sweep by Seattle in 2000 — has ended in disappointment. Most painfully, 1919 brought the Black Sox Scandal in which eight players were exiled from the sport for their role in fixing a World Series loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

One city. One sport. Two franchises. Two excruciating waits for a modern-day championship.

Maybe that’s why White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen admits he, too, was uplifted by Boston’s comeback from a 3-0 American League Championship Series hole against the hated New York Yankees and subsequent four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

“My reaction was that it was a great thing for baseball, and the way they did it was great, too,” says Guillen, a White Sox shortstop on their 1993 playoff team. “The Red Sox were down and out. All of a sudden they wake up and win.”

To hear Guillen talk, Boston’s victory stirred him into heightened consciousness as well. You can almost picture him sitting bolt upright on his couch in Miami and realizing his destiny was at hand.

“It made me feel like, `Wow, it’s time for us to turn around and do it,'” Guillen says. “It’s just something that you look up and say, `Wow, now it’s the White Sox’s and Cubs’ opportunity.’ We should look at that as an inspiration.”

Breeding confidence

The theory is calling “modeling,” and it has nothing to do with a handful of Red Sox players showing up this season on Queer Eye For the Straight Guy.

According to the concept, which originated in the 1960s with psychologist Albert Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy, the success of one team or individual can improve the confidence and, in turn, the results of another.

Dr. John F. Murray, a South Florida-based sports psychologist, says he “absolutely” would use the theory if he were hired to assist either Chicago baseball team.

“With modeling we can see somebody else like the Red Sox who have finally broken down that door,” Murray says. “We then say, `Hey, I’m a White Sox person. If the Red Sox can do it, now I can do it.’ Confidence can come from others if you do it right.”

Murray has helped expedite psychological breakthroughs before. He helped tennis pro Vince Spadea overcome a 21-match losing streak and rise to his highest career ranking.

In 1997, Murray and Dr. James Bowman, now working with the U.S. Olympic program, conducted regular sessions at Washington State University. The Cougars tennis team spent three months doing mental imagery in an effort to end a long losing streak against its archrival Washington Huskies.

When the breakthrough finally came, the Cougars won by the exact score the team had envisioned.

That same year, the Washington State football team, which also worked with Bowman and Murray, reached the Rose Bowl for the first time in 67 years.

“When you talk about losing streaks or breaking down barriers, you’re talking about the whole concept,” Murray says. “It can almost be like a slump, but a historical slump. How do you break that wall?”

The answer comes from within, although Murray cautions every player on a given team could have a unique set of mental challenges.

“You have to believe in yourself,” Murray says. “It’s critically important. It’s not the only thing that’s important. You also need talent. But confidence is a component that’s relevant.”

`It wasn’t us’

Not everyone buys into this psychological connection between the two cities, or at least not into the notion that the Red Sox’s breakthrough somehow makes the quest more attainable for the Cubs or White Sox.

Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux, who returned to the club in 2004 after 11 years in Atlanta, says watching the Red Sox win was “no different than being in Atlanta when the Yankees won. It wasn’t us.”

Says White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko: “I don’t draw anything from it other than the Red Sox are off the hook. They don’t have to worry about people getting on them anymore or calling them whatever. I guess it just moves to the next couple teams that are in line that haven’t won in a long time, which would be us and the Cubs.”

Former Cubs television analyst and White Sox pitcher Steve Stone downplays the connection as well.

“I think the Red Sox winning has absolutely no bearing on what the Cubs will do,” Stone says. “I just don’t really believe in curses and I don’t believe when curses are broken, it helps other people. It certainly helped the Red Sox, but so did having Pedro [Martinez] and [Derek] Lowe come on and adding [Curt] Schilling to that group. They had a very good team who got hot at the right time and refused to quit, but there’s no bearing on the Cubs.”

He smiles and points down the hall toward the Cubs’ clubhouse.

“If Kerry Wood and Mark Prior go down the first week, how do you think it will affect the Cubs?” he says. “A lot more than the Red Sox winning will.”

Personnel key

Indeed, the fragile co-aces of the Cubs pitching staff have spent much of the spring battling arm problems. No amount of Beantown idiocy would likely lift the Cubs past that sort of hardship.

Along those same lines, trading Sammy Sosa and losing Moises Alou via free agency this offseason wouldn’t seem to bring the Lovable Losers any closer to ending their nearly centurylong drought. At best, the Cubs are expected to have a ferocious battle with the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros for the top spot in the National League Central.

Moreover, the White Sox must open the season without their best hitter, Frank Thomas, still recovering from offseason ankle surgery. Most preseason forecasts picked the Minnesota Twins to win their fourth straight American League Central title, with some placing the White Sox below the Cleveland Indians and even the improving Detroit Tigers in a relatively weak division.

But that doesn’t mean people in Chicago can’t dream. The Red Sox breakthrough was that significant.

“I guess this is one of those things over the years: Boston and the Cubs haven’t won in so long, people just tie the two together,” says Cubs Hall of Fame outfielder Billy Williams. “They got rid of the Curse of the Bambino, so we should get rid of the Curse of the Goat and all that kind of stuff. I know this: When you’ve got good ballplayers, no curse could stop you.”

But does Boston winning make things any easier for those in the Second City?

“It depends how you look at it,” Sandberg says. “It can bring hope or now maybe it can bring more of a spotlight and more pressure. It all depends how it’s perceived and how it’s taken. But I look at it as a positive, as there is hope. Now it’s the Cubs and the White Sox, both in the same city, that haven’t been to the World Series in a long time.”

Count Cubs superscout Gary Hughes, one of the early Marlins architects, as a proponent of the “modeling” theory. He sees no negatives whatsoever in the Boston victory.

“If there was doubt before, there can be no doubt now,” Hughes says with his trademark chuckle. “The Red Sox have done it. We still haven’t. So it’s our turn. All those people saying, `It’s never going to happen.’ Well, it just happened. Why not again?”

Then there’s Guillen, who admittedly has daydreamed about a championship parade in the Windy City and what it would mean to his life.

“Having played there for so many years, being one of the biggest White Sox fans in the history of baseball, that’s one of my dreams,” Guillen says. “I told my wife and my family, if we win the World Series in Chicago, I’ll quit managing baseball.”

Wouldn’t that be pretty drastic?

“I’ll be running for mayor in Chicago,” Guillen says. “Whoever wins first is going to own the city.”

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

CHILDREN LEARN FUNDAMENTALS OF THE GAME AND SPORTSMANSHIP

The News Journal (Section: DELAWARE PARENT) – Mar 27, 2005 – Many children are involved in sports through their school or athletic league. Playing sports helps to build character and teaches children to work hard toward a goal.

But how do you explain to a child he or she should be a good sport when the news is filled with professional athletes fighting among themselves and with spectators?

“Parents have a great responsibility to ensure that their children get what they need in terms of support and encouragement, and not place unnecessary pressure on them to win,” said Dr. John Murray, a sports psychologist and author of “Smart Tennis.”

“Children can be taught to be good sports, especially when they face a defeat or a loss. Parents must model good behavior and encourage them to stand tall, smile, congratulate their opponent and look forward to the next game.”

At the YMCA in Glasgow, sports and program director Jerome Garrett coordinates dozens of athletic games and events for children of all ages. He agrees that parents have a responsibility in teaching their children good sportsmanship.

“I feel we can teach children to be good sports mainly by being good role models,” he said. “Children are influenced by the actions of adults that they are around. As adults, we need to conduct ourselves in a way that will be a positive influence on children.”

Adults can instill a sense of fair play in kids who play sports by putting more emphasis on good sportsmanship and the importance of learning how to play sports correctly instead of concentrating on making sure their kids get more playing time than the other kids on the team, Garrett said.

“The YMCA’s sports programs are designed for players of all skill levels,” he said. “We instill the importance of having fun while teaching the character values of honesty, respect, caring and responsibility.”

Adults who serve as coaches also have a responsibility, as parents and as leaders in the sports community.

“It is a coach’s responsibility to try to raise the self-esteem of every player on their team, regardless of their skill level,” said Garrett. “If a coach fails to do this, we run the risk of taking the desire to play sports out of the child. The bottom line is parents just need to get involved.”

SPORTSMANSHIP TIPS

I will follow the rules of the game.

I will avoid arguments and fights.

I will play fair.

I will follow the directions of the coach.

I will respect the other team and officials.

I will play my best.

Source: Dr. John Murray, sports psychologist

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

MIND THE BEND: GELLER BENT A WILSON T-2000 RACKET MADE FAMOUS BY JIMMY CONNORS

BBC – Mar 16, 2005 – Geller bent a Wilson T-2000 racket made famous by Jimmy Connors

Celebrity spoon-bender Uri Geller has proved it isn’t just cutlery he can manipulate with his mind.

At a workshop on psychology in tennis, Geller succeeded in bending a Wilson aluminium T-2000 racket (as made famous by Jimmy Connors) using only the power of thought.

He also took on and beat former British player Barry Cowan in a battle of positive thinking.

The workshop, in Raines Park, London, was organised by Dr. John F. Murray – who famously helped Vince Spadea end his record losing run of 21 matches in 2000.

WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE AND MPI 3 FOR 3 AGAINST SPREAD

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

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

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

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

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

Could be a close game.

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

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

TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS

Tennis-X.com – Feb 5, 2006 – Vince Spadea’s sport psychologist, Dr. John F. Murray, on his student in Delray Beach: “Vince is striking the ball down here cleaner and earlier than I have ever seen before. It is amazing. This is the result of many months of increased work ethic and seriousness, and in part due to the determination that comes from wanting to make good on a contract he signed with me last year to guarantee to reach Top 10 with sport psychology.

This exemplifies the power of goal setting and commitment — basic tools in psychology 101. I am confident that Vince will indeed make Top 10 if he stays injury free and doesn’t waver in his focus. He might even make Top 5 playing this well.”…

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

DR. MURRAY’S FAMOUS FRAT BROTHERS

Feb 4, 2005 – Verbatim from From the Alpha Delta Gamma National Fraternity Newsletter Section: “The Famous AlphaDelts”

Sports

George Brett – MLB Hall of Fame -Kansas City Royals
Babe Ruth – MLB Hall of Fame
Ollie Matson – LA Rams All Pro Linebacker/ Football Hall of Fame
Hunter Wendlestadt – Major League Baseball Umpire

Government / Business / Religious

Harry Wiggins – Former State Senator of Missouri
Harry S. Truman – 33rd President of the United States
Emile “Peppi” Bruneau – Louisiana State Senator
James P. Delaney – Multi- Millionaire Philanthropist
Edward Derwinski – US Cabinet member
J. Skelley Wright – Judge, US circuit Court of Appeals
de Lesseps “Chep” Morrison, Mayor of New Orleans
Victor H. Schiro – Mayor of New Orleans
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick – Archbishop of Washington
Harry Quadracci – Quad Graphics
Michael Quinlan – Chairman and CEO McDonald’s Corp.
William Smithburg – President and CEO, Quaker Oats Co.
Benjamin Aranda III Justice Pro Tem of the California State
Court of Appeals Donald Lamontagn
Mike Kurz – Administrative Law Judge, State of California
Lieutenant General Donald Lamontagne (Retired, USAF)-
Commander of Maxwell Airforce Base, Alabama and former
member of the US Joint Staff. Bio Link
George Jelen – Former President, NIC (North American
Interfraternity Conference)

Entertainment

Jeff Keirns – TV Co-Executive Producer(MTV Reality Shows Sorority
Life & Fraternity Life).
Patrick Wayne – Actor, Filmography Link
Carl Sandburg – Famous Poet/ Author
Phillip Woolpert – Head Basketball Coach University of San
Francisco Dons – Bio Link
Eric Spagnoletii – Film & TV Editor
Dr. John Murray Sports Psychologist and Sports Radio Personality

(Dr. Murray’s Reply: Thanks national HQ … but I still can’t remember who I paid for this! Maybe it was the 30 yard catch in the corner of the end zone as time expired to destroy our hated rivals – PKT? … LOL)

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

SUCCESS IS MUCH MORE THAN TALENT

Cincinnati Enquirer – Jan 29, 2005 – John Eckberg – THE BENGAL SYSTEM Sport psychologist John F. Murray figures that nobody likes discipline less than a player in the National Football League.

And Murray, who has consulted for NFL teams – that he refuses to name – says Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has a bead on performance that should pay off.

Lewis gives players three strikes before they are out. The first strike is a breakdown that leads to a meeting with the head coach. And the meeting itself is the second strike. So if you’ve screwed up one time, you’ve really screwed up twice.

The third strike is when the same thing happens again.

“I like Marvin Lewis’s disciplinary approach,” Murray said. “NFL players respond to that. They want direction. They want to feel like somebody is in charge of the ship. The problem with a lot of coaches is that they try to please everybody.

“There has to be a little fear, consequences that are real. There has to be a bite – otherwise you’re just barking.”

Today’s Super Bowl XXXIX brings local sports fans one final evening of professional football from a 2004-2005 season that was disappointing for avid Cincinnati Bengals fans but fairly entertaining for everybody else.

Performance expert and sport psychologist John F. Murray of West Palm Beach, Fla., believes the Super Bowl is an annual event that gives everybody a chance to look for lessons into achieving peak performance.

This year Murray picks the Philadelphia Eagles.

He arrived at this conclusion by extrapolating from the play-by-play behavior of players and teams’ mental make-up during the intense pressure of post-season playoffs.

He calls his gauge the Mental Performance Index and used it last year to correctly predict that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would upset the Oakland Raiders by at least two touchdowns.

The Bucs won 48-21, a margin of about four touchdowns.

“When you think about it, performance enhancement is far more important in business than in sports,” said the sport psychologist who is known as the “Football Shrink.”

“In business, money is on the line. And like professional football it’s extremely competitive.”

Keys for success

Murray has worked with NFL teams and has testimonials from many sports figures: Dave Wannstedt and Jimmy Johnson, former head coaches for the Miami Dolphins, plenty of college tennis coaches and tennis pro Lindsay Davenport.

Though Murray, 43, can talk for hours on the topic of performance under pressure, he says his strategy has eight broad, mental keys for success:

Discipline and hard work.

Passion and having fun.

Resilience or bounce-back.

Confidence and expectations of success.

Intense focus on the task at hand.

Setting and achieving goals.

Controlling emotion and energy levels.

Visualization and imagery.

Dealing with pressure

But nothing separates peak performers from the almost-as-good as the crucible of pressure.

“When lights are shining and the moment is there, super performance can emerge more easily,” said Murray, the author of “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game” (Jossey-Bass).

Companies that want to encourage peak performance should order up ground-zero evaluations of individuals and then treat people as individuals, not as a group, since the best approaches spurn one-size-fits-all.

When asked to choose one aspect that companies should focus on, he did not hesitate:

“Taking care of the customer is No.1,” Murray said. “Do you give them what they need? Do you find out what they need and provide quality service that is focused and passionate?”

Forget about talent, creativity, goals, vision and leadership.

I would not agree to “forget about” those other factors, but assert that customer service is indeed top priority!

“Finding out what a customer needs and then filling that need is by far the most important action that companies can take to achieve peak performance,” he said. “Talent is not everything. It’s the intangibles that are sometimes ignored that are important.” Dr. Murray’s Bio

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED LETTERS

Jan 27, 2005 – Sports Illustrated Letters – “Alex in Wonderland” – A-Rod demonstrates that seeking counseling is a sign of strength, not weakness. Eventually, getting sports-psychology services will be just as accepted as seeking help for a twisted ankle. John F. Murray, West Palm Beach, Fla. (in Palm Beach, Florida since 2006)

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