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Mental Equipment
September 1999 Article

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Mental Equipment Archive

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Sport Psychology Behind the Scenes

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Dr. John Murray

As US Open fever builds, let's take a brief look at psychology this month and how solutions are generated for individual tennis players and performers in many other situations too. I'll be in New York for the Open this year, and hope to see many of you there.

The field of psychology has grown to encompass many areas such as business and sports to help people achieve their best. As a source of individual knowledge and assistance for tennis players, psychology is perhaps the finest profession and science available. In sport psychology counseling, growth occurs when players begin living up to their mental capabilities. Players are excited as they find new solutions to old problems, so this is a fun and effective means of improvement.

Whether at a tournament or in my office, consultation begins by getting to know the person, how they're excelling, and where they are still struggling. In a completely confidential manner, everything is discussed from competition to everyday life circumstances, and observation on the tennis court and brief questionnaires help clarify issues. For example, I often encourage players to complete the Tennis Mind-Body Checklist (TMBC) that I developed. The TMBC helps you identify your relative mental strengths and weaknesses and is included in the first chapter of "Smart Tennis." It can be self-administered and scored, and additional information is gained through discussion.

Following this introduction, an individual treatment plan is developed for each player's unique needs. Although a few treatment sessions usually helps in the short-term, much more lasting improvement takes longer, with follow-up sessions as needed. Just as in physical training, new mental skills are sometimes hard to master, so repetition and accurate feedback is crucial.

Even if you are not competing in the US Open this year, and compete on a much lower level, mental skills are still needed and you'll want to have regular sport psychology checkups. How many times do you see the dentist each year? Why not improve your overall well-being and performance, or deal with a more serious problem at the same time? Psychology offers something for everyone, from the emotionally disturbed to the super-functioning needing only minor adjustments.

When you decide to seek sport psychology services, what will you gain besides improved performance? One of the biggest benefits is a better understanding of yourself, your circumstances, and how to manage them more effectively now and in the future. There may be lifelong issues impacting your well-being and performance, or stress needing relief through various techniques. Problem-solving discussions often help too.

Modern day psychologists often encourage brief focused solutions rather than painful explorations of past events or unconscious impulses. Although hard work is needed for any success, I've found that athletes benefit from a positive action focus rather than deep psychotherapy. This is not to say that more intensive therapy is not available - it is - but it is often not needed with athletes seeking performance enhancement.

While not discounting the past, I prefer to focus on the present, and on aspects of an individual's behavior, thoughts, feelings and sensations that will help them grow and reach their full potential. Why mortgage your house to afford a couch for the next five years if you don't need it?

I hope you've enjoyed this brief glimpse into the profession of psychology and sport psychology counseling. Whether you're seeking enhanced well-being, counseling for a serious problem, or sharpened mental tools to take to your next tennis match, you're in good hands with psychology and Mental Equipment. The 21st century will be owned by those who seriously and regularly train their mental skills.

My Predictions for a truly US Open: Repeat Champion Lindsay Davenport & New Champion Vincent Spadea! See you next month...

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Mental Equipment Archive

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This column is copyrighted by Dr. John Murray, all rights reserved.

Dr. John F. Murray is currently a licensed clinical psychologist and sport psychologist in Florida. In addition, he is a tennis professional (having taught tennis internationally in North America, Hawaii, Europe, Middle East), formerly certified with both USPTA and USPTR. He has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and masters degrees both in Clinical Psychology and Exercise & Sport Sciences from the University of Florida. He maintains a personal web site at http://www.johnfmurray.com/.

Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to John by using this form.


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