Happy Herald – Sports Matters Column – Mar 1, 2006 – By John F. Murray – From his office in Palm Beach, Murray provides both counseling and
performance enhancement services to athletes and executives. He is
author of the best-selling smart Tennis and a frequent speaker.
Please inquire at: 561-596-9898 or
Dr. Murray’s website is at:

In part I of our creativity series, we saw fluency help an NFL quarterback break a slump and help his team win again. This month, we turn to the world of Olympic diving and the notion of mental flexibility as a source of creativity and improved performance.

The originality of thought or expression that epitomizes creativity was illustrated a few years ago when I began working with one of the nations top pre-Olympic springboard divers. This very talented young lady needed to finish in the top two to earn her right to represent Team USA in Sydney.

She was nervous and negative about the upcoming competition that would either make or break it for her. Her thinking was narrowly focused on the difficulties of a totally new arena and competing against the best divers in the country. Expectations from coaches and parents were great and her self-esteem and confidence were fragile.

By helping her release false assumptions about what others expected of her, she become much more flexible mentally. Rather than intimidated by the upcoming competition, she began to embrace the challenge as an exciting dress rehearsal for the more significant events in Sydney.

While the others divers were nervous and self-conscious, my client went about it with the relaxed confidence of a veteran diver who had already made the team (that was the imagery!).

As she became more flexible mentally, she released false and negative assumptions, and dove with brilliance. Her poise resulted in accrate dives. She finished no. 2 in the event and earned her place on the USA Olympic team!

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