Posts Tagged ‘John F Murray’

The “Tough Guys Talk” Initiative

Sports Psychology Excerpts – from pages 54-55 of the book “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” by John F Murray (World Audience, 2011):

Stephan and I had often discussed the misconception about talking to a psychologist or counselor that seemed to exist in our society, and especially in some of the more powerful quarters. It needed to change. The supposedly tough types that we often saw in business and pro sports, like the CEOs, NBA stars, or head NFL coaches had somehow learned to associate “toughness” with grueling schedules, physical pain tolerance and the hesitancy to open up about problems or seek counseling. But once they did open up it was clear that this repression had exacted a toll and they were filled with more needs than most. Examined closer, it just jumps out at you that what is really going on when an athletic or business culture fails to encourage help seeking, or when anyone avoids dealing with a serious issue, it is anything but “tough” and more accurately quite “weak!” Not meeting issues head on is actually rooted in deep fear and insecurity.

One example that was recently brought to my attention was when NFL hall of fame quarterback Warren Moon wrote a book in which he admitted that he was seeing a therapist for many years and sneaking in the back door of his therapist’s office at night so that nobody would notice he was seeking help. Pro football hall of famer, Lesley Visser, who writes a beautiful epilogue in this book, called to tell me the news of Warren Moon’s admission. I thanked her and told her that I would make sure to convey the message in this book that the toughest among us are those who when faced with problems and are not afraid to seek help, and I called it “tough guys talk.” Warren Moon should be proud that he faced his issues, but societal pressure made it harder for him to share the benefits he was receiving with others until now.

I have a solution, and it starts with every top executive in major sports as a campaign to encourage star athletes to face problems head-on and talk with a counselor or sport psychologist when needed. Every senior executive and coach or manager in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL should institute a program and call it: “Tough Guys Talk” with a poster and just these words on top in bright bold lettering. It should be posted in every locker room listing some of the great players who won national championships while talking with a sports psychologist or counselor. The list would be most impressive because some great athletes do seek help but then don’t talk about it because of the stigma that they will appear weak. Hogwash! These leaders would in one fell swoop begin to eradicate idiocy and allow more players to access care and be tough by talking rather than running like little children in fear of being ostracized.

The program I propose would start with just one team’s GM. And since I am related to one of the greatest ever and feel that he can have an enormous impact like none other, I personally and cheerfully challenge Cousin Bill Polian to institute a “Tough Guys Talk” program with the Colts. When Mr. Polian or another top executive in sports does this he will establish himself even more as a visionary who cared enough for his people to allow them to develop and improve.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Sports Psychology.

What it Took to Become a Sports Psychologist

Sports Psychology Commentary – John F. Murray – July 31, 2011 – Hello everyone. I get a lot of students contacting me every year about the profession and science of sports psychology, and I try to get back to them all. Often they will ask me what school to go to or what the requirements are to become a sports psychologist, and it is this latter question that I will try to answer as briefly as possible here. I also recently posted this kind of message in an amazon.com discussion forum on the topic as I was promoting my two sports psychology books “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game” and “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.”

Back in the 1980s I was a tennis pro and was coaching the sport worldwide. In around the mid-1980s we started putting on mental training sessions for our tennis clientele, and sports psychology to me then was what was contained in books such as the Inner Game of Tennis, Flow, and books for specific mental training in particular sports. I was fascinated by the subject, and with a bachelors degree in psychology I decided to go back to graduate school and become a sports psychologist. I left a great career in tennis when I returned to America in 1990 and enrolled at the University of Florida Department of Exercise and Sports Sciences in the Spring of 1991 to become a sports psychologist.

As I got into their great program there, and played tennis almost daily with the department chair Bob Singer, I quickly learned that if I was going to realize my dreams of becoming a practicing sports psychologist, I would need to also first become a licensed psychologist. The exercise science folks were great academically, but there was simply no training model in place to train sports psychologists within academic sports science programs. By contrast, psychology had been doing it for 50 plus years.

So after a masters degree specializing in sports psychology, I enrolled in the Fall of 1992 at the University of Florida’s Department of Clinical and Health Psychology. They were also excellent and they were able to provide me not only the overall background I needed in psychology to understand, assess, and treat problems clinically, but the only way you are going to become any kind of practicing psychologist (I wanted to do it rather than research it) then and today is by getting a state license, and that requires graduation from a psychology doctoral program. Thankfully, they allowed me to continue to pursue my passion for sports psychology, and I conducted my PhD dissertation on the football team that won the national title in 1996.

The following year I went on internship, and was able to secure the only APA approved internship in the country that had a full year rotation in applied sports psychology at Washington State University. I came back after that year, defended my dissertation, and then realized that in order to become a sports psychologist (or any kind of psychologist) there was still a requirement to complete 2000 hours of supervised clinical work after the PhD. So I secured a postdoctoral fellowship at Florida International University and after 14 months had the required hours, sat for the licensing exam and passed it, and became an officially licensed psychologist (and sports psychologist too since my academic and practical training was also in that area).

If you are exhausted having read all that, imagine how I felt in this pursuit from 1991 to 1999! The clear reality is that there is a way to become a legitimate sports psychologist. I have done it. But it takes almost forever. Why should this be surprising? To be able to best understand human beings, it makes sense to study human beings (and not just athletes). To know athletes it also makes sense to study athletes, sports sciences, and all those good things. Elite athletes have worked their entire lives to be able to play a sport, so it makes sense that we sports psychologists have to grind too … at least our athlete clients will respect us better as we know the value of sacrifice and dedication the way they do to get to the top.

While there is room for everyone to help athletes in some way or another, the truth is that becoming a sports psychologist is a daunting proposition that requires years of hard work, financial delays, luck, and creativity. I stayed with it because I was extremely passionate, and I am glad I did. But if you miss either the sports science side of the equation or the psychology side, you are missing too much, and you are not really going to be fully qualified as a sports psychologist.

It is true that the bare minimum to use the title in most every state is a psychology license to practice, and that is the hardest part to acquire because you have to go through a formal psychology program which takes 5 years overall at a minimum and requires a very high score on the GRE to get into the program in the first place. I was low, as I only scored 1300 which was around the 95th percentile then from what I can recall. Some say that doctoral programs in psychology are harder to get into than medical school. But even with the psychology training and license, you cannot open shop independently and hold yourself out to the public as a sports psychologist without the course work and other academics in the sports psychology/sports sciences realm as well as a ton of supervision by another qualified and licensed sports psychologist! To do so otherwise would violate the ethical requirement to practice within your established area of competence and training.

In any event, my book Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game (Smart Sport Series) aims at helping tennis players and all athletes really to play the game better mentally, whereas my book just released this year The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History is a much more comprehensive book that is part auto-biography, part new discovery, part social change agent, part football lover’s guide to the Super Bowl, and part coaches manual for success with a team. I think you will love this latest book and you will also like Smart Tennis if you want to improve performance in a specific sport.

I know that was a long one, and I am sorry if some of you had to go take a bathroom break before finishing 🙂 … but I wanted to share my story – and I go into great depth about all this in The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History … the bottom line is anyone who is ambitious and bright enough can become a sports psychologist, but your really need almost 10 years to do it right. There are very few practicing sports psychologists like myself out there, so it’s hard to gain the supervision … but it is a great profession and I am daily stimulated by a variety of challenges.

Thanks for listening!

John F Murray, PhD
Clinical & Sports Psychologist &
Author of The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History
Author of Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game (Smart Sport Series)

I hope you enjoyed that little trip into the world of education and sports psychology.

Dimension V: Why Coaches Often Avoid Sports Psychology

I am the author of ““The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History”” which gets into the topic of why coaches and teams often avoid sports psychology to their own detriment.

The truth is that there are deep historical roots behind this stance, so this book makes an effort to understand the biases and remove wrong assumptions so that sports psychology is more accepted and user friendly as simply the science of success.

The book also introduces a paradigm shift in sports by showing how essential mental coaching and mental performance is to winning. Extensive data to back up the assertions is cited, and this data was produced only after carefully analyzing every play in Super Bowl history. In this way, the book is quite useful to the mental health care provider or sports scientist who is trying to help, and also useful to the coach in order to provide another perspective that will help his or her team. The author did his graduate work at University of Florida’s Department of Clinical and Health Psychology as well as their Department of Health and Human Performance, so he offers a rare view that covers both the sports sciences that emerged from academic departments of physical education, and the more traditional psychology with roots way back to the 19th century.

There are many reasons why for centuries the mental part of daily life took a back seat to the physical, but when you examine it more closely from a neuropsychological perspective you come to realize that “mental” is very much physical and real, and in fact more real than the more limited actions or body movements that are an invention of the brain, mind, and mental activity. The practical coach and athlete as well as the deep thinker and academician will appreciate “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” and see the world in a slightly different way after taking the time to invest in the discoveries made.

I hope you enjoyed this journey into the world of sports psychology.

Dimension III: 4-Time Super Bowl Winning Tom Flores’ Take on the MPI

I am the author of ““The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History”” which is supported by 4-Time Super Bowl winning coach and player Tom Flores, who wrote the forward to the book. He has an interesting view about the MPI and sports psychology and I wanted you to know it.

I chose Tom Flores for my forward (and was thrilled when he accepted) because I wanted to find the most successful people in Super Bowl history to get behind the book and concepts. Tom Flores fit the bill well. Flores has a perfect 4-0 record in Super Bowls, making him unquestionably one of a handful of the most successful persons in NFL history. He is the only one to win a Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach, and two times as a head coach with the Oakland & Los Angeles Raiders.

Flores has been around football for over 50 years, so it should be very interesting to hear his views. In my book “The Mental Performance Index,” Flores writes the following in his forward: “Dr. Murray has developed a system that is part of the evolution of football: The ability to identify, quantify and utilize a grading system that will aid coaches and players. It is a method of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of every aspect of a team and or individual. It is a system that can point out the direction needed for improvement. Sports have come a long way in the past century. The future, compared to the past, is vast. Innovation was frowned upon for years but not any longer. Teams, coaches and players are always looking for an edge and a way to stay ahead of the field. Dr. Murray’s Mental Performance Index can be and will be the next part of sports evolution in the 21st Century.”

For more information about this book and what Tom Flores has to say, please scroll back up and click on the link to the book. And by the way, if Tom Flores is not in the Hall of Fame soon, there is something terribly wrong with that picture. Enjoy the book!

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of sports psychology.

Dimension II: The Role of the Sports Psychologist on a Team

I am the author of “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” which addresses the role of the sports psychologist in football. It occasionally occurs that there are fears that some coaches have about mental coaching and sports psychology.

While I cannot speak for other sports psychologists, I always start with the assumption that the coach is the captain of the ship and I am there to provide a needed service just the same way any professional would, all the way from the team physician to the dentist, trainer, assistant coach, and massage therapist. I am not and have no desire to be the head coach. He brings me in to help with his own philosophy of football. I am there to adapt to his needs to help him and help the team achieve worthy goals.

If you would like to read more about this coach/sports psychologist relationship and how to ensure that everything goes smoothly to best help the team, how coaches are respected as the boss, how problems are prevented before they occur, and much more, you will want to read “The Mental Performance Index.”

Book Dimension I: Training a Football Team Mentally

Is winning important to you? If so, read on, as I recently wrote a book to help teams win called “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.”

Anyone seriously interested in football wants to win. This applies to the head coach of an NFL team just as much as it does to the high school player trying to make his varsity team for the first time and to fans in every major city. It applies also to what I do, and it is the main reason why I developed the Mental Performance Index statistic. I want to help teams win.

If football and other sports did not have this innate competitiveness, I would find a more worthwhile way to spend my time. Human beings reach their highest states when striving for great achievements. I honestly developed the MPI so that I could one day stand on the sidelines with an NFL team as the head coach was receiving the Lombardi Trophy and know that my contribution played some small role in that team’s achievement.

My fascination with the ultimate accomplishment applies to other sports too. I’d also love to someday do my part to help teams win Stanley Cups, World Series titles, NBA championships and why stop there? But football holds a special place in my heart and mind, so I developed the MPI for football first. There will be future extensions of the MPI to other sports, but let’s do football first.

To learn more about how to help your team win with the MPI and sports psychology, how to view the relationship between the sports psychologist and head coach, how the knowledge of the MPI gives a football coaching staff more power and increases player confidence, and how to use the MPI to set and achieve better goals for the team, you will want to read my new book “The Mental Performance Index.”

The Many Dimensions of a Book

Sports Psychology Commentary – A Warm Palm Beach Evening in Late July, 2011 – By John F Murray – In writing “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History” I really feel that I hit on multiple dimensions of the athletic experience and the role of mental skills, mental training, sports psychology, and its overall relationship with football coaches, teams, and fans. The book probably doesn’t fit neatly into any one category, so I will be blogging over the coming weeks about the various areas it covers and questions it answers. It is an autobiography of sorts in the first 90 or 100 pages, and I would like to think that it is a book of inspiration, discovery, and social change too.

Ordinarily, a book like this might appear to be biting off more than it can chew and not deep enough. I do not believe this is the case here. It’s just that the topics lend themselves to many applications and there has been negligence in this area for so long that a lot had to be said. Everyone so far who has given feedback on amazon.com or told me directly has expressed great admiration for this book, saying that it flows well, is practical as well as deep, and that it is long overdue. Of course there will be critics, and that is fine, but the consensus so far is uplifting!

The coming blogs will be titled “Dimension I,” Dimension II etc… to separate the topics. There will be a total of 24 separate blogs after this one, each covering a different aspect of what this book is all about. I hope you enjoy this 25 part series of blogs from the world of sports psychology.

This Book Description Says it Well

Sports Psychology book description of: “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” by John F. Murray, Ph.D., Published by World Audience, 2011.

In “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” clinical and sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray shares his fascinating personal journey and many interesting people and situations inspiring him to love American football and later become a sports psychologist.

Growing up in South Florida in the early 1970s, it was impossible for him to ignore the influence of the “perfect season” of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, or Don Shula’s constant insights. Later as a sports psychologist, he explains how he wanted to help athletes by measuring how they had performed in a more comprehensive way that accurately included their “mental performance” too. Murray reasoned that since he was constantly telling his athletes to stay focused on “performance” and “process” rather than on “outcome” or “scores,” he needed a way to measure how well his clients had complied, and also to verify quantatatively that what he was saying was true!

From the earliest caveman days when the first spear thrower attempted to kill a Buffalo so that his village could eat and survive, that person’s performance under pressure, or the quality of his mental skills, had been a matter of deep discussion and evaluation. Some, like our modern-day Joe Montana or Tom Brady, handled pressure well and thrived, while others choked, but that quality of “smart play” was never doubted to be important.

Despite this universal understanding, Murray jumps out of his shoes when he realizes that nobody in history had taken the time to measure or quantify this “smartness” of play or “mental performance!” He quotes Hegel in Chapter 1, as Hegel once said “Because it’s familiar, a thing remains unknown.” So the author created a new statistic over eight years to correct this historical oversight and called it “The Mental Performance Index.” Indeed, what had been missing since the early cavemen is now finally corrected in this book as we have a way of quantifying mental performance that enhances our understanding of team performance, and it will launch a paradigm shift in sports.

With this new statistic, and a way to capture performance that includes mental aspects (seen in “smart play” or its opposite in carelessness, choking etc.), the author reviews every play in Super Bowl history. His results reveal this statistic to be the best predictor of success in the Super Bowl by far when compared with all the other more traditional team performance stats! The MPI even predicts success better than points scored or given up, further highlighting that what had been ignored in team sports can no longer be ignored, and confirming the truth that it is smart to place “performance” over “outcome” when training a team or an athlete.

The mental game is no longer some murky, intangible or complicated factor after this book. When it is measured along with overall performance it is the key to success. Knowledge is power, and with a new and more accurate way to rate and understand team performance, coaches and teams have the potential for vast improvement using this system. This book shares a passionate and important discovery in sports and the thrust of this book is what led forward writer and 4-time Super Bowl champion Tom Flores to write: “Dr. Murray’s Mental Performance Index can be and will be the next part of sports evolution in the 21st century.” Epilogue writer Lesley Visser, the only female inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame, explores the genius of Bill Walsh and his San Francisco 49ers teams. Finally, Murray ranks all teams based on MPI statistics as well as more traditional measures, tells us which teams were the best ever, and provides key lessons of success that anyone can apply from each Super Bowl played between 1967 and 2011.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the realm of books on sports psychology.

NFL Trivia: Colt’s President Bill Polian and Sports Psychologist John F. Murray are 3rd Cousins

Sports Psychology Special Feature to JohnFMurray.com – July 26, 2011 – By John F. Murray, PhD – Every now and then I insert a fun article, music video or photo album to the site at JohnFMurray.com, and this one fits the bill precisely, especially since the NFL lockout is over and our sport is back. The effort is usually well received as a refreshing break from more usual mental coaching angles designed to help NFL teams or other athletes win, or the more serious commentary on news or mental illness that is often sought by major media outlets. So here I go again, throwing caution to the wind, and sharing what I consider a fascinating personal story given my passion for and involvement with NFL players. It’s just one more example of how small the world really is and how we are all so closely connected and we might not even know it. Since I also love time travel and learning about the past, this sort of fits into that genre too!

We Americans usually prefer to look forward rather than back into the past. After all, our country is only 235 years young, and most of our ancestors left horrible circumstances in hopes of finding a better life. Rarely were these early years as an immigrant filled with prominence and comfort, and more often our arriving great-grandparents struggled to exist in a world of minimum wage sweat shops, dangerous coal mines, and noisy factories. Yet as inquisitive, determined and proud people, we often rose quickly in this land of opportunity, and more quickly than others at the bottom rung of society in so many other countries. In fact, it is not at all surprising for the son or grandson of a peasant coal miner in this American system to go on to own a multi-billion dollar company, gain international acclaim in the arts or sciences, or in the case of Bill Polian to become the most successful and respected executive in NFL history from a history of Irish immigrants in NY City. Another fellow that Polian does not yet know (that fellow is me) went on to get the first PhD in his family’s recorded history of some 400 years, and works today as a sports psychologist to NFL players and others.

Bill Polian built three Super Bowl teams in Carolina, Buffalo and more recently Indianapolis. He apparently did it with remarkable insight and well oiled management skills, and he has received many NFL awards for his accomplishments. I first heard of Polian in the late 80s and early 90s as a wild Miami Dolphins fan because I was jealous of his ability to find great players like Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas to terrorize my beloved team. So I had heard of him, and knew about his skills, but to me he was like “my team’s nightmare come true” and never in my wildest imagination would I think that guy would end up being my cousin! He didn’t wear aqua and orange … so he couldn’t possibly be related …. but I am wrong, I found out recently that my enemy was all along my cousin! (Note: Polian is not really and never was really my enemy and I have not even met or talked with him yet).

Like Polian, I love the NFL and have consulted at the highest levels including to NFL quarterbacks and coaches as a licensed clinical and sports psychologist. Before all this, I conducted my doctoral dissertation on the Florida Gators football team that won the national title in 1996. I even wrote my second book this year on the Super Bowl and have probably contributed to over 300 stories on football in the general media in the past 10 years. So it truly amazed me when I discovered that this mega NFL influence and talent evaluator and I are third cousins! What is even more amazing is that Bill Polian does not even know this yet, or perhaps he doesn’t want to know it, but why? It’s great trivia! Maybe nature is indeed stronger than nurture and we share a rare football passion and football player evaluation gene or something!

Well into his 60s and having already achieved fame and fortune for his talent in finding the right players for his teams, what need would a guy like Polian have to give the time of day to a newly discovered cousin sports psychologist dubbed “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post who is the author of a book that quantifies mental performance in American football called “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History.” Tom Flores wrote my forward and he told me that he plays golf with Polian and loves him. Lesley Visser wrote the epilogue of my book, and she knows everyone in football and is the only female in the pro football Hall of Fame. Still, I’ve never even talked with my cousin the NFL genius!

I’m actually pretty good with communication. I sent Mr. Polian a nice letter telling him of my interesting discovery and even spoke with his secretary at the Colts team headquarters on two occasions. I wished him well in a Christmas card to the team in December, 2009 when the Colts were getting ready to make a move in the playoffs (and would eventually play the Saints in the Super Bowl) and this year I sent him several signed copies of my new book when it came out. I am a little puzzled that I have not once heard back from Polian about whether he liked the book or not, and he has never once even commented on my fun family discovery even though I had sent him a chart of our ancestral connections.

I love sharing a good mystery, so I thought it was time to share this trivia. Maybe he’ll read this and realize that I was never some grovelling fan or ailing coach seeking employment with the Colts by trying to play the family connections game. For 12 years now I have been professionally satisfied and fully engaged in working with some of the best teams and athletes in the world, and while it would be phenomenal to help any team win a Super Bowl with my rare skills in an emerging profession, I considered this story more worth telling since we are both so obviously interested in elite football player evaluation and talent development. Maybe we’ll meet for coffee or lunch some day and laugh about this and how busy he has been with the Colts, or how his secretary never gave him the messages, but as I type away this article, that day has not come yet and I’m not sure it ever will.

How did I discover the connection between Murray and Polian? It started as a favor to my mother. My mother’s brother was about to celebrate his 80th birthday at a big party in New Jersey and my mother wanted to surprise him. For almost 100 years, my mother and her brother had no idea about the whereabouts of their maternal grandmother, my great-grandmother, Catherine Tiernan. It was as if she had simply disappeared while my grandmother was still a child, and they did not know if she had died in the Spanish Influenza of 1919, went missing, or had experienced something so shameful that family had covered it up. It was a major family mystery, but my mother knew I was good at research, having completed two masters degrees and a PhD, and she was confident that when I put my mental skills to work I usually get good results. I did.

I put my thinking cap on, subscribed to Ancestry.com, and posted a note about the whereabouts of my great-grandmother. A few days later I received an email from a law librarian and genealogy buff in California who had been searching in vain for my grandmother, Natalie (Catherine Tiernan’s daughter) and had all the information about Catherine! He told me that he was my third cousin. This led to a six hour phone conversation and some amazing sharing. We helped each other with each other’s mystery! When I told this librarian about my love of NFL football and NFL consultation work, and my upcoming NFL book, he told me that Bill Polian, the famous executive with the Indianapolis Colts, was my third cousin. I have since verified it to be 100% true from several other sources.

The following shows how I am related to Bill Polian, President of the Indianapolis Colts:

1. Bernard V. McLaughlin (1833-1892) married Julia Mullaly (1830-1895) and two of their children were Julia McLaughlin (1868-1899) and Bernard S. McLaughlin (1858-1905). Julia and Bernard S. were brother and sister.

2. Julia McLaughlin married Joseph Tiernan (1858-1886) and they had a daughter named Catherine Tiernan (1886-1916), and Catherine is my mother’s long sought after grandmother and my great grandmother!

3. Bernard S. McLaughlin married Johanna Stokes (1867-1895) and they had a son named Joseph J. McLaughlin (1891-1951) who married Cecilia A. Casbay (1895-1976). They had a daughter named Bernice Julian McLaughlin (1915-1997).

4. Bernice Julian McLaughlin married William Patrick Polian Sr. (1907-1995), and William is the father of Bill Polian of the Colts. Thus, Bill Polian and I are third cousins once removed!

Presidents Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt are often referred to in American history as cousins, yet they were distant 5th cousins. Third cousins are much much closer, and the fact that my grandmother was Bill Polian’s second cousin makes this even more compelling. The timing is a little asynchronous historically, as Bill is now in his late 60s and I am in my late 40s, but the facts remain true. I am not too far removed to the greatest talent evaluator the NFL has known. I discovered it by accident and with luck thanks to another third cousin who loves ancestry research and does it well.

I do not expect anything from Bill Polian, but it would be fun to meet him some day. I was the one who reached out, not he. I sent him a copy of my football psychology book, told him about the family connection, and wished him well in the Super Bowl. Whether he ever read my book or not is unknown. If not, he is missing a direct fun challenge that I gave him in the book. It is a a challenge that would help improve the landscape for all pro athletes by removing a ridiculous stigma about psychology in sports that keeps teams from getting better, and keeps players from getting help when they need it.

Anyone who is interested in my new NFL book, and the challenge I proposed to Mr. Polian, can find it at amazon.com at the following link.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this fun article from the world of sports psychology!

No. 2 Odesnik Wins Over Lexington Fans by Topping No. 1 Ward

Sports psychology and tennis news from the world of sports psychologist John F Murray at JohnFMurray.com:

Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships – July 24, 2011 – Jim Durham, Lexington Challenger Media Director, Lexington, KY – Second-seeded Wayne Odesnik showed many flashes Sunday of why he was ranked No. 77 in the world two years ago, clamping down on top-seeded James Ward 7-5, 6-4 for the 17th annual Lexington Challenger men’s title.

Odesnik was the man on a mission – trying to get back under that 200-ranking mark (he’s No. 206 currently) and then take aim at the sub-100 territory again. “I hope I’m on the way back…I’m trying. Starting with Futures (this year) and no ranking – from nothing to 160 is an exceptional run for me,” said Odesnik, referring to his expected new ranking Monday.

Ward had two break points at 4-4 in the first set, and three more (love-40) at 5-5, but couldn’t cash in. But, when Odesnik had Ward on three break points (love-40) at 5-6, he seized set point with a sharply flicked, high over-the-shoulder backhand.

“I was more solid on the big points…(in fact) in the big moments, I served well all week,” Odesnik said. A disappointed Ward, who had beaten Odesnik earlier this year, allowed, “This was still a positive week for me…a good first week in the States.”

Indeed, after looking like a man with a plane to catch while spotting Odesnik a 5-0 lead in the second set, Ward rediscovered his pride and ran off four straight games. But, the eventual winner again claimed a couple of those “big points” to close out this USTA Pro Circuit event.

Just as big for him, he said this week, was winning back the respect of tennis fans and fellow players that he lost in 2010 when he was charged with possession of HGH when entering Australia and then banned briefly from the tour. BIG for him has been the support of “my team” – including coaches Guillermo Canas, a former Davis Cupper for Argentina, and Juan Pablo Sangali (Canas Tennis Academy in Key Biscayne, FL) and sports psychologist John Murray.

Can he return to the Top 100 and climb back into the 70s or higher? “I’m not focusing on ranking…but on enjoying tennis.”
Ward (at No. 202) also appears to be a man who won’t be kept “down on the farm.” The British Davis Cupper said he’s striving for that next level, “working on things…because sometimes you have to take a step backward to go forward.”
And, yet Ward would not admit to any real holes in his game. “If there was one thing I was bad at,” he said, “I’d think Wawrinka (currently No. 16 in the world) and Querrey (now no. 50) would have picked up on it.”

Where to NEXT? Odesnik is headed for the qualies of the ATP in Washington, D.C. And, he and Ward both will play the Binghamton (NY) Challenger.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the world of tennis and sports psychology.