Posts Tagged ‘John F Murray’

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.”
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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.

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.

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.

FIGHTING IN HOCKEY IDIOTIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

`Playing With the Dinosaurs’

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

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

Steve Moore isn’t laughing.

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

There’s a Connection

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

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

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

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

No Statistics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pleading Guilty

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

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

SMART TENNIS BOOK RECEIVES TOP RATING

Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game – Oct 4, 2005 – John F. Murray – ISBN 0787943800 – Reviewed by David Williams – Have you ever had a form slump on the tennis court? Did you wonder why you had seemingly forgotten how to hit the ball properly – apparently lost all that hard earned skill overnight?

Well, John Murray’s Smart Tennis may provide the answer. It’s likely that your sudden loss of form has more to do with your mind than your body. His book assists in determining your mental strengths and weaknesses and provides practical remedies for ailments like a loss of confidence, poor concentration, anger, nervousness and a general fear of losing. He also provides ways of harnessing appropriate amounts of energy, and improving performance by having well developed breathing techniques.

All sounding a bit hard? A bit too serious? Well, it’s not really. Smart Tennis presents simple descriptions of on-court and off-court problems, and practical tips that are equally relevant for the weekend player as the professional.

In saying that, the book is not a quick and breezy read. Keen tennis players are likely to find themselves constantly drifting off, thinking about the specifics of their tennis game and how the book applies to them. But that’s the idea isn’t it?

If you have spent countless hours trying to hone that backhand volley or a less than consistent second serve, perhaps it’s worthwhile considering that tennis is a game that is thought to be 75% mental. And if you think that your game could be improved by devoting a little more time to the mental aspects, then Smart Tennis is the book for you!

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

Rating: Highest – 4 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPADEA’S GUARANTEE IN TENNIS CELEBS

Tennis Celebs – Sept 23, 2005 – Pro Tennis Player Vince Spadea Guarantees Top 10 Ranking with Help from Sport Psychologist – Vince Spadea promises that the best is still to come. This is a promise from a player best known for his determination as a tenacious scrambler on the court. To prove his new commitment, Vince recently began working again with his sport performance psychologist. He now guarantees that mental coaching will help him achieve his highest career ranking ever, top 10 in the world.

Spadea, rarely a stranger to adversity, recovered from the longest losing streak ever (21 straight) before winning his first ATP Tour title in Scottsdale last year. He beat James Blake and Andy Roddick en route to victory. In his comeback, Spadea rose from 229 to a career-best 18 in the world.

Injuries and adversity returned this year as Spadea dropped to 49 this week even after reaching the finals in Newport, RI a couple months ago.

“Rather than get discouraged or depressed, it’s a gift that I’m as high as 50 compared to where I was when I began the previous comeback,” Spadea declared.

“My rise will again be accomplished with help from my sport performance psychologist, John F. Murray, who formerly helped me back from my longest losing streak.”

Spadea got the idea of daring to make a public guarantee after thinking about great accomplishments and history. “Joe Namath guaranteed a Super Bowl victory when no-one believed in him; the 1980 USA Hockey Team truly believed; nobody thought David would slay Goliath. Even my performance psychologist stuck his neck on the line and lost 64 pounds after he made a public guarantee.”

Spadea claims that his public guarantee will help strengthen his resolve and commitment. “Comebacks are never easy, but they are a part of sports, and I’m quite ready and excited about this new challenge. I will achieve Top 10 in the world. I guarantee it!”

Spadea was known as the “giant-killer” a few years back after compiling the best record in the world against top-10 ranked players. He has beaten many legends of the game including Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. His backhand is regarded as one of the best in the game.

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

LET’S HEAR IT FOR OUR LOSS LEADERS

Financial Times of London – Simon Kuper – Sept 17, 2005 – The Kansas City Royals were already the worst team in baseball, but on Tuesday they had their worst moment of the season. When a Chicago White Sox batter hit a fly ball, two Royals outfielders settled beneath it. Both began jogging to the dugout, each assuming the other would catch it. The ball dropped for a double. The Royals lost.

They aren’t even the years worst losers. The Royals recent 19-game losing streak, baseball finest in 17 years, was bettered last Saturday by the English football club Sunderland, who have now lost 20 consecutive Premiership matches, counting the last time they graced the division in 2003.

Losing is sports great neglected topic. All attention goes to the winners, but it’s losers who represent the human condition. The sports annual cycle is hope (this could be our season), disappointment (I cant find my form), renewal (theres always next year), and finally exit prompted by physical decay. The ‘parallels with life are uncanny. Today, when sport means big-market teams thrashing small-market teams, there are more losers than ever.They merit serious study.

This is not to forget the long-dead losers. Who could forget the 1899 Cleveland Spiders baseball team, whose owner shipped all their best players to his other club? Losing 40 of their last 41 games, the Spiders drew only 6,088 spectators all season, whereas Kansas City got 9,535 last Tuesday night alone.

Nobody has forgotten the 1962 New York Mets, who may have been a Marx Brothers tribute team. The Met outfielder Richie Ashburn, tired of always crashing into his Venezuelan shortstop when chasing the same ball, finally learned to shouœI got its in Spanish. When the next popup came, he yelled Yo lo tengo!. The shortstop duly stopped, and Ashburn was instead knocked over by Anglophone leftfielder Frank Thomas. A friend of mine, a Sunderland fan, admits: At a certain point you become so bad that it becomes comic. Almost.
Then there is Luxembourg’s national football team. When their manager, Paul Philipp, was finally released in 2001 after 17 years of losing more matches than any other international football manager ever, I asked him if it hadnt been depressing. I wouldn’t have missed a second of it! Philipp replied. At times we only narrowly lost to the big nations. And there had been the 1-1 draw with Belgium in the 1980s, the 0-0 against Scotland and, well, so on.

The truth is that losing builds character. Winners never quit, says the clich, but its easy not to quit when youre winning. Only when youre losing does getting out of bed require courage and persistence, especially if you are a professional athlete. These people are born winners. They were stars at school. They have mansions and groupies. Then suddenly they feel worthless. Losing, in short, teaches them about life for normal people. When I put this to my friend the Sunderland fan, he muttered: The difference is that in football you lose in very stark fashion: you get no points. Losing in life is a little more nuanced.

That is why losing in sport “ no ambiguities “ is the best practice. I realised this while studying economics. It was bewildering. One day I was trying to figure it out with a friend – a woman who could do everything “ when she broke down crying. She had never failed before. I felt morally superior, because sport had taught me losing. Driving with teammates to a soccer game around that time, a new song came over the radio: im a loser baby (so why dont you kill me?) Within 30 seconds the whole car was singing along. Loser became an anthem. As Beck, the singer, later noted: “The vacuous 80s pop song has a sense of winning and being on top. In fact, its worse: the mass media are a conspiracy to promote the ideology of winning.

Losers should embrace losing. I think it was Darlington soccer fans who chanted, “You thought you had scored, you were right, you were right,and in the 1980s, while the Columbia University football team was losing 44 straight, the band would play the Mickey Mouse Club theme when the players ran out.

When losers win, they know how to appreciate it. They arent instantly off on lantern-jawed quests for the next trophy. Instead they release in the moment. Nick Hornby, in his fan’s memoir Fever Pitch, describes supporting Cambridge United the day they won their first match in six months. “In the last five minutes, with Cambridge thumping the ball as far into the allotments as possible, you would have thought that they were about to win the European Cup. At the final whistle the players (most of whom had never played in a winning team) embraced; and for the first time since October the club DJ was able to play, Ive Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.

However, if you find that losing just isnt for you, you can change. Adequacy is always lurking around the corner, like a mugger. John Syer, a sports psychologist formerly with Tottenham Hotspur football club, told me that in a losing streak players forget what winning is like. But they can learn to visualise winning. “There are few athletes who have not had an experience of winning, says Syer. “The obvious thing is to go back to a past occasion and remember what it was like. Most athletes do visualisation very well because they are in tune with their own bodies.

Some losers become winners. The tennis player Vince Spadea lost 21 straight matches in 1999-2000, but rebounded to hit 18th in the world this February. John Murray, Spadea’s sports psychologist, told me an athlete can acquire confidence even if reality “ lost matches“ tells him otherwise. The trick is to ignore that reality. Murray explains: you have to believe you are the author of your thoughts and feelings. You have control over the mental world you want to create. You are not controlled by the past. He sighs: Animals will catch the ball jumping out of the pool, because they dont have mental baggage. We human beings have mental baggage.

This week Spadea came up with a guaranteed: aged 31, battling injury, ranked 59th and sinking, he pledges to make the top 10 for the first time ever. Its the sort of magnificent disregard of reality that ruins a good loser. Click for Photo of Vince Spadea and John Murray as Vince Makes the Guarantee in Boca Raton September 15

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

NO FEAR – OVERCOMING CHOKING

Input Fitness Magazine (Australia) – September 8, 2005 – Arthur Kelly – Athletic performance is linked to the way you talk to yourself before you compete. Let go of the anxiety, abandon negative self-focus, learn to love the process and choking will become something the other guy does. It’s a moment embedded in the minds of sport fans everywhere â€?American golfer Scott Hoch’s failure to make an 18-inch putt on the final hole of the 1989 Masters a miss that denied him certain victory and made his name synonymous with choking. His is not an isolated case. Choking occurs with depressing regularity at every level of sport.

Whether it’s Canadian speed skater Jeremy Witherspoon falling at the start line of a race, as he did at the 2002 Winter Olympics, or someone missing an easy out at home plate during an industrial league softball game, the same dynamics are at play. “Choking is universal,” says Dr. John F.Murray, a clinical and sport performance psychologist in West Palm Beach Florida (https://www.johnfmurray.com).

“Everyone has experienced it, even the best athletes in the world such as Tiger Woods will choke occasionally, but he does it less frequently.” Typically with choking, a person perceives the event as extremely important, and their focus turns inward, becoming internal rather than appropriately external, he notes. “Their brain starts firing off too much, causing them to lose that smooth and automatic level of physical skill that usually characterizes their performance. They become much less fluid, not only in their performance, but also in their thinking. They become distracted by those internal sensations and thoughts. It’s like tunnel vision. Choking is always a self-inflicted problem.” Having counseled U.S. Olympic springboard diver Michelle Davidson, and many other elite athletes,

Dr.Murray is keenly aware of what transpires in pressure situations: “During practice you’re just kicking balls, but in the Super Bowl with two seconds left and you’re in position to make a winning field goal, an inappropriate focus arises, disrupting motor skills, even though you’re done it a million times, and can do it in your sleep. Choking is very much a disorder. Athletes choke on too many thoughts, whereas panic is the exact opposite. In panic you lose all your thoughts. It’s a non-thinking process. Choking occurs at a very high level of sophistication in which we over think, over analyze and we over worry. It’s a different process then panic, but both lead to performance failure.” Choking’s complexity is apparent in a groundbreaking Australian study that found a connection between pre-competitive anxiety and depression. Researchers theorize that many athletes equate happiness with success.

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

Dr. Mummery and his colleagues drew on the views expressed by participants in the 2001 New Zealand Ironman competition. Typically, athletes who set conditional goals are more likely to experience high levels of anxiety before competition, which can negatively impact their performance. “For the most part any anxiety is a bad thing,” notes Dr. Mummery. “Arousal and anxiety are subtly different. Athletes need to achieve their optimal level of arousal to ensure top performance, but anxiety is normally associated with a reduction in performance. Worry or anxiety negatively affects the concentration on the task at hand and has associated physiological responses that impair performance. I agree that maladaptive self-talk is often the basic problem that leads to choking. Focusing on the outcome, rather than the process (I need to make this putt, versus this is what I need to do to make this putt), often leads to sub-par performances in situations where the athlete would normally expect to perform well.”

According to Dr. Murray, pre-competitive anxiety is not gender biased, but is more readily apparent in those who exhibit obsessive traits. He identifies the best possible mind set for athletic success: “The ideal mental state is to have no fear, and a complete excitement for competition. Love that even above winning. Competition is what you have to love, irrespective of outcome. Easy to say, harder to do.” Let the Head Games Begin: To help his clients stay cool under pressure, Dr. Murray employs these helpful relaxation techniques and imagery: * Imagine yourself mastering very difficult situations before important competitions: “Envision an imaginary miner’s lamp on top of your head. Choking is when you turn the lamp towards yourself; proper performance is when you turn the beam outward. Rather than get caught up in your thoughts, get focused on the environment.” * Utilize a process of self-examination: “I talk about chronic and acute causes of anxiety. Athletes need to know and understand how arousal and anxiety affects them personally, then incorporate a positive habitual routine into their pre-competitive preparation. This is done over years of development with the assistance of a good coach.” Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.