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Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood?

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Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « on: February 11, 2011, 01:38 PM »
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To seek or not to seek help from behavioural/sports psychologists? For Andy Murray, looking suitably dejected after his latest grand-slam final disaster, that is the question.

To most tennis observers, it's becoming increasingly obvious that Murray struggles with his form from time to time, most notably in grand-slam finals. But why is this?

Many are saying that the underlying cause or theme of his on-court disappointments is his mental strength – or lack of it, at times. It's clear he needs to develop greater consistency in this area.

Pressures

The modern game throws up many pressures – such as media responsibilities and expectations, fans, the British public and tournament directors. And the biggest pressure of all could be the one he places on himself.  

These all conspire to affect his mental state. At 23 years of age, Murray is a young man desperate to succeed in his chosen profession, and we've already seen glimpses of his genius. Nevertheless, the question remains: does he have what it takes mentally to go right to the very top of men’s tennis? Or will his Achilles heel (his mental frailty) forever hold him back?

At the sharp end of modern men’s tennis, the technical margins separating the best from the rest have shrunk. It's now less about how a shot is executed and more about a player’s mental strength and wellbeing both on and off court.

This is where support teams become invaluable. These entourages typically comprise a principal coach, fitness advisors, hitting partner, a nutritionist and family. In some cases, one person takes on many functions. They work together to ensure the optimum level of performance of their charge. Among these teams, you'll sometimes find the dark arts of a behavioural/sports psychologist at work.

Banished

Since winning his maiden grand slam title in 2008, Novak Djokovic has been in and out of form. But it's been reported that he recently took on a psychologist to help strengthen the mental side of his game. By winning his second Australian Open title against Murray at the end of January, he showed us he had banished the mental frailties he once had.

This was a more confident, more self-assured Djokovic. There was a certainty about the way he imposed himself on his opponent's game. The same could not be said of Murray. His own mental frailties became more apparent as the match wore on.

Strangely, though, in Masters, ATP 500 finals and other matches, Murray keeps a relatively calm, positive demeanour. Although prone to the odd mid-set wobble, he more often than not finds a way back. So the question remains: why can't Murray translate this attitude to the five-set format?

Behavioural/sports psychologists are commonplace, and most sportsmen and women now use their services to gain a mental edge over their opponents. Brad McCollum, PGA Director of Golf, speaks on the importance of behavioural/sports psychology: “For an athlete at any level to reach their full potential, they will need to work on both the physical and mental hurdles that stand in their way".

Badri Narayanan, tennis coach in Salt Lake City, Utah, adds: “If I could somehow translate the importance of working on mental skills to [my] students, it will help them become not only better tennis players but also champions in life".

More prevalent

With the mental side of the game sharing top billing with ball-striking, behavioural/sports psychologists seem set to become even more prevalent in men’s tennis. Murray could benefit from behavioural therapy to help him manage the internal struggles he endures during some of his matches.

The Scot often aggressively hits his racket head with his fists, on occasion drawing blood. Add to this his constant wide-eyed, answer-seeking glare in the direction of his box, the way he berates himself and mentally unravels, and a picture emerges of a young man who, in that moment, is directionless, frustrated and not focused on the task in hand.

Conversely, at times, he can appear calm, focused and in control, managing his emotional outbursts appropriately. In those moments when he roars out loud after playing a spectacular shot – pumping himself up and grabbing back the momentum of the match – he produces some of his best tennis.

Between Murray's week-one performances at the 2011 Australian Open and his second-week efforts, a shift in on-court demeanour was obvious. Should we put his out-of-sorts manner down to the higher-ranked opponents he was facing as the tournament moved to its conclusion?  

Or should we dare to consider the unthinkable? That Murray realises he is in an era where men’s tennis has never been so keenly contested. Perhaps he has doubts about his game and ability to get to the top. Is he prepared to sacrifice himself completely to this cause? Does he have the mental drive for such a sacrifice?

Winning mentality

It seems that those who do rise to the top of their professions not only sacrifice themselves to their cause but also have a unique winning mentality. They ooze a never-say-die mental strength, and never show frailty on court. Look at Rafael Nadal on the men’s tour and Serena Williams on the women’s tour and you'll see mental strength and inner confidence at their best.

When fully fit, these players rise to the physical and mental challenges of the game, raise their level of play, and become truly focused on every shot and every point until they win. To them, it's not a lost cause until the match is over. It's almost as if they dare their opponent to beat them.

For all Murray’s prowess, he has weaknesses. The one that seems to manifest itself when he is at maximum stress is his mental frailty. When he is playing uninhibited tennis, he has incredible self-belief and determination.

But still those doubts and frustrations creep into his game, often because of self-inflicted pressure, pressure from his opponents, or from variables he simply can't control, like wind or crowd noise. We've all seen him implode and vent his frustrations on court inappropriately, at cost to himself, or just simply underperform. At these times, his nerves inhibit every aspect of his game, creating mental discord and inconsistency.

Internal struggles

So how could a behavioural/sports psychologist help? He or she could help Murray find ways to deal appropriately with these nerves and internal struggles. They could work with Murray and his support team to identify why these issues manifest themselves to such an extent, particularly in grand-slam finals.

But first he has to recognise that he needs help. However, many fear that Murray’s obdurate tendencies and his desire to work things out for himself will perhaps stop him from taking this step. In the meantime, his fans will hope he gets the support he so needs and finds a constructive way to deal with his inner struggles, which sometimes do his game no justice at all.

Times are changing. No longer is it taboo or a sign of weakness to admit you need psychological help. Murray's fans will be hoping that he and his support team will at least consider the idea of introducing a behavioural/sports psychologist into their set-up.

After all, what is there to lose? Except, perhaps, another grand-slam final.
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Mark
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Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #1 on: February 11, 2011, 01:44 PM »
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Great column!

It's a shame Murray doesn't have any respect for this type of help, hopefully people around him will be able to convince him otherwise.
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iamabritt
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Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #2 on: February 11, 2011, 02:49 PM »
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Really enjoyed this column,just wish our Andy could read it ,maybe someone from his camp will though and suggest it to him.
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Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #3 on: February 11, 2011, 02:50 PM »
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This is somewhat of interest to me, given that watching Andy Murray pretty much inspired me to look into Sports Psychology as a career (not sure if I'm still going to go that way, mind you).

Given that Djokovic has used one, and their friendship off court, we may see Murray become more accepting of this. I can't see how it would harm him, at least. He's shown some willingness to try different things in the past, so why not this?
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Damian
Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #4 on: February 11, 2011, 02:54 PM »
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I am a sports psychologist the quick answer is and respectfully put hes just not good enough and never will be, its a fact its already proven. Boris Becker never needed help of this kind he was a winner and he still is on and off the court. To conclude take pride and massive satisfaction of bieng top 5 in the world live a life of happiness on that point alone get used to bieng content, and maybe just maybe bit by bit this superb professional will gain the single most important ingrediant needed to win on the biggest stage of all, supreme belief in ability and complete contempment with your life
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joe1211
Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #5 on: February 11, 2011, 03:01 PM »
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I thought this for a long while , andy needs to learn the release technique , or similar , maybe get someone who can  help. I understand when you have stress /anxiety feelings you can just let go and be more focused . I really think this is the thing holding andy back , I hope and pray he gets it.
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Louise Innes
Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #6 on: February 11, 2011, 03:02 PM »
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Agree with all above.  Andy will never do it.  He has not got the right mentality.  You could see when he walked on the court for the Australian final that he was down before he even started.  Then there is his swearing - which I think is awful.  His mother doesn't help either as her attitude is aggressive to say the least.  He will never win a Grand Slam.  He has the wrong attitude - see how Nadal and others behave.  Should be like them.  Sorry that he is a Scot - as I am as he just let's us down with his swearing and antics on court.  Grow up is what I would say.
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Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #7 on: February 11, 2011, 03:04 PM »
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Agree with all above.  Andy will never do it.  He has not got the right mentality.  You could see when he walked on the court for the Australian final that he was down before he even started.  Then there is his swearing - which I think is awful.  His mother doesn't help either as her attitude is aggressive to say the least.  He will never win a Grand Slam.  He has the wrong attitude - see how Nadal and others behave.  Should be like them.  Sorry that he is a Scot - as I am as he just let's us down with his swearing and antics on court.  Grow up is what I would say.

How is Judy Murray aggressive? Because she fistpumps in the stand?

I've seen interviews with her and she seems a very sweet-natured woman.
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joe1211
Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #8 on: February 11, 2011, 03:06 PM »
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btw andy is good enough , just got to believe in himself , and stop letting his mind tell him otherwise
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Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #9 on: February 11, 2011, 03:19 PM »
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This is somewhat of interest to me, given that watching Andy Murray pretty much inspired me to look into Sports Psychology as a career (not sure if I'm still going to go that way, mind you).

Given that Djokovic has used one, and their friendship off court, we may see Murray become more accepting of this. I can't see how it would harm him, at least. He's shown some willingness to try different things in the past, so why not this?

Hi strider, well all i can say is i too shared your interest in human behaviour (why it is we do what we do), and so chose to study Psychology, if you do decide to study sports psychology i know you'll find it enlighting aswell as challenging. You'll see there are many strands to Psychology some less obscure than others. Enjoy and good luck

 yay

Oh and to Damien - Andy is good enough he just has to really believe it - no doubts Just complete syncronisation of the mind and body, of action and thought. The power of the mind should never be underestimated, we still do not understand it fully and how it impacts the body.
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Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #10 on: February 11, 2011, 03:25 PM »
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I am a sports psychologist the quick answer is and respectfully put hes just not good enough and never will be, its a fact its already proven. Boris Becker never needed help of this kind he was a winner and he still is on and off the court. To conclude take pride and massive satisfaction of bieng top 5 in the world live a life of happiness on that point alone get used to bieng content, and maybe just maybe bit by bit this superb professional will gain the single most important ingrediant needed to win on the biggest stage of all, supreme belief in ability and complete contempment with your life

How the f**k do you make a living then?

A sportsperson comes to you for help with their self-belief and confidence while playing...

Sportsperson: "Hello Damian, I'd like to make use of your expertise in my quest to win a huge title in my chosen sport."

Damian: "You're sh*t, nothing I can do will help you, accept this now. Maybe if you potter around a bit, with some luck everything might fall into place."

Sportsperson: "Er, ok... thanks for that."

Damian: "That'll be £2000 please. It was one of my intensive coaching courses."
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Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #11 on: February 11, 2011, 03:36 PM »
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How the f**k do you make a living then?

A sportsperson comes to you for help with their self-belief and confidence while playing...

Sportsperson: "Hello Damian, I'd like to make use of your expertise in my quest to win a huge title in my chosen sport."

Damian: "You're sh*t, nothing I can do will help you, accept this now. Maybe if you potter around a bit, with some luck everything might fall into place."

Sportsperson: "Er, ok... thanks for that."

Damian: "That'll be £2000 please. It was one of my intensive coaching courses."
Well said Joe,my thoughts exactly!
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Patricia Kelly
Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #12 on: February 11, 2011, 03:41 PM »
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I think Andy Murray, when on form, is a brilliant tennis player, he has demonstrated that many many times against his opponents including Nadal, Federer, etc.  Yes, it seems he most definitely needs some psychological coaching, his performance at the Australian Open final was disasterous, he made it a cake walk for his opponent and I don't understand why really, he has shown he has the capabilities to win tough matches, yet he continues to die in grand slam finals.  If he had spent less time berating himself at the final of the Australian Open he could have spent that energy on upping his game.
 
So yes Andy, get the psychological assistance you need including a good tennis coach, you not only deserve to win a grand slam final, but you can do it.  GO FOR IT.

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Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #13 on: February 11, 2011, 03:41 PM »
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Well said Joe,my thoughts exactly!
when i read his (damiens) post ,i thought this just doesn't make sense to me.hope his patient's fare better.
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Re: Can dark arts lighten Murray's mood? « Reply #14 on: February 11, 2011, 03:42 PM »
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hope his patient's fare better.
lol
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