Happy Herald – Sports Matters Column – May 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 Tennisand a frequent speaker.
Please inquire at: 561-596-9898 or
Dr. Murrays website is at:

I experienced both the theory and reality of mental strength recently. ABCs Good Morning America and the ABC Radio Network invited me on shows to discuss choking in sports and why some of our greatest failed to succeed at the Winter Olympics. Proper focus is about doing it, not thinking about the implications of winning or losing. That was the theory part.

Reality is a fellow named Andre Agassi. He has avoided choking more than most. On one painful afternoon in Delray Beach, I experienced the reality of his powers painfully. I was the mental coach for Ramon Delgado, a top ATP tennis pro from Paraguay. Ramon applied his mental lessons brilliantly in defeating Bobby Reynolds in the first round. Next up was Agassi.

Delgado won the first set and had two match points against this legend. I nudged his coach in excitement. Rather than indulging in implications, Agassi changed his game. He raced the net twice, and each time landed precision volleys on the line for winners. Poise under pressure prevailed! The Las Vegas native was staying back all day. On the verge of a major upset against an icon, it all tumbled down.

I congratulated Andre in the players lounge. I shook his hand and told him that his smiling photo would occupy an even more prominent position in our power-point workshops at Wimbledon.

Delgado was devastated, but very proud of a near upset as reflected in his letter to me later:

hello John, Thanks a lot for your help this week. You definitely are part of this great performance!!!”

Theory is great, but Agassi is real and his mind really good! It was painful but awesome to be so close to a career upset over a legend.

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