Posts Tagged ‘john murray’

Mind Games: Miami Must Get Better on Defense

Sports psychology in Canesport Magazine – October 4, 2011 – John F Murray – Publisher’s Note: “Mind Games” is a column written for CaneSport each week by John Murray, a noted sports psychologist and author who has developed an index for evaluating the mental performance of players and coaches in games. We think it will provide all of us with a unique viewpoint as the Hurricanes navigate through the season.

While many Miami faithful squirmed and complained early during the recent victory over Bethune-Cookman, and rightly so, all’s well that ends well in this convincing 45-14 victory.

It was a win more than needed for this team and community and new head coach. The devastating loss to Kansas State by inches after having a first and goal on the two stung for a long time, but the win over “boys who wanted to play for Miami but got snubbed” sort of righted the ship. “Sort of” implies that we are far from out of the woods with the daunting task of V-Tech in Blacksburg looking like a very rough assignment.

But isn’t this what we live for in sports? Challenge is what it is all about. So bring on the mighty Virginia Tech program. Bring them all on. This is the “U,” and while this U might not be as successful as the great teams of the past, there is no shortcut to greatness. We might as well shut up, face as many great teams as possible, and get used to it.

But before we jump into the line of fire too quickly, remember that all great athletic (like military) accomplishments must be led by intelligence and wisdom. By understanding our recent clashes, we are in a better position to battle hard in the upcoming skirmish. And the MPI combined with traditional statistics and percentiles gives us an edge over all those other fans, coaches, players and teams who do not use the MPI. It helps us to see more precisely what really happened so we can prepare for V-Tech by knowing how our team is doing in a precise way that also includes mental performance.

While Bethune Cookman was having its way with Miami early in this game, several angry fans posted all sorts of crazy messages on the message board at Canesport.com. I enjoy rating these games in my favorite sports bar with wi-fi, so I got in on the action and encouraged fans to relax and look at the MPI stats. Once Miami scored, I predicted a 42-14 blow-out win, and I was not far off from the 45-14 final score.

The point is not to brag, but to demonstrate again that the numbers I get show what is likely to happen in a game. In all of Super Bowl history, for example, teams that perform better on the MPI-T (total performance) win about 90 percent of the time (see this all in my new book “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History“).

Performance does not lie. It is not always aligned with winning, but it seems to be about 9 out of 10 times. Performance (including mental performance) is the best we have at rating a team and I had noticed that despite Bethune’s success the trend was changing quickly in Miami’s favor. As Bethune started playing worse, Miami performed better and I sensed a blow-out win even with the score tied at seven. This was less hunch, and simply performance related statistics!

Keep in mind that Bethune-Cookman has a lot of talented players. While they are no match for a team like Virginia Tech, they were hardly a teenage girl’s touch football program either. They were damn good, and many were transfers from big division one schools! Miami should be proud of the win and the way they won, and that is what we are going to now analyze

The first thing that jumps out at me is that Miami’s special teams, which started slowly, ended up dominating this game in a manner that is seen in fewer than 1 in 1000 games! Miami (MPI-ST=.661) has been playing great on special teams all year, and combined with Bethune’s horrific showing (MPI-ST=.266), this unit dominance of almost 40% represents the 99.9th percentile for the Hurricanes. It is almost unheard of in football. The significance of this, however, is probably not appreciated by the vast majority. But you are Canes fans!

The second most influential factor was the number of penalties committed by Bethune (12) along with two turnovers and -1 takeaway minus giveaway statistic. This is a very sloppy performance and this team was not going to get away with it against a more talented team like Miami. Their penalty total alone places them at the 99.6th percentile in number of penalties (higher percentile being bad in this case).

As you can tell from the first two most important factors, Bethune shot themselves in the foot more than Miami cleaned them up. In fact, time of possession was a huge advantage for Bethune (at the 96th percentile) but it did not matter because they made so many mistakes and could not cash in with their skill players the way Miami did.

The third decisive factor was Miami’s offensive unit (MPI-O=.585) which achieved in this game at the 88th percentile combined with Bethune’s overall lousy play on offense, defense and special teams (MPI-T = .437), at the 8th percentile only for total performance.

Neither defensive unit performed well (Miami’s MPI-D = .493, Bethune’s MPI-D = .411) but Bethune was much worse, and made worse too by Miami’s skilled passing attack and Lamar Miller’s exceptional running (over 100 yards again).

In summary, Miami won this game on special teams, on mistakes by Bethune Cookman, and on offensive firepower. And this scares me a little as the Hurricanes prepare to face Virginia Tech.

Had Bethune-Cookman played only average on special teams and reduced their penalties greatly, the game could have been much closer. Thank goodness that Jacory Harris and his receivers are beginning to sync up, but there is an obvious talent difference between Miami’s explosive passing attack and Bethune’s woeful secondary.

To Miami’s credit, it reduced penalties to six, only committed one turnover, and had a plus 1 takeaway-giveaway statistic. The more talented team prevailed because it made many fewer mistakes, killed the opponent on special teams, and got the offense rolling against an inferior opponent. I am concerned about the defense entering Blacksburg.

Let’s take a comparison look at a Miami’s MPI scores on offense and defense in its first 4 games. The defense is performing 6.8% worse than the offense.

In game one, the Miami offense scored .479 compared to .424 for the defense.

In game two, it was .551 compared to .518.

In game three against Kansas State, it was .533 on offense and .439 on defense.

Against Bethune-Cookman, it was .585 for the offense compared to .493 for the defense.

The averages come out to .537 for the offense and .469 for the defense.

These numbers really bring to life the truth so far about the 2011 version of the Miami Hurricanes football program. The have an above average offensive performance overall and a below average defensive performance overall and the offense is performing 6.8% better than the defense.

What does this say about this Saturday?

Virginia Tech is ranked 34th in rushing in the country, 15 spots better than Miami’s 49th-ranked rushing attack. Virginia Tech is much better in points against, ranked eighth overall compared with Miam’s No 28 ranking. The offenses are similar in terms of passing the ball and points for. Given the MPI defensive weakness in Miami combined with the Virginia Tech rushing attack, Miami is going to be in for a long long day if it does not get some things fixed on defense in a hurry.

I know that Clemson had its way last Saturday in Blacksburg, but this should do very little to make Canes fans feel comfortable. This will only strengthen the resolve of the home opponent. If I were advising Coach Golden, I would do everything and anything possible this week to improve the defense, especially against the run, keep encouraging the offense to find the big play, and encourage the special teams unit to keep winning games for this team.

Blacksburg will be an epic battle and I am excited to watch it. It is a chance for Miami to grow-up a little bit more and totally erase the bad feelings from the KSU and Maryland losses, and look forward to a much brighter future soon or a wake-up call of continued suffering.

FOCUS ON BETTER DEFENSE is my final message to the team this week.

Dr. John F. Murray, described as “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, is a South Florida native and licensed clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach. He provides mental coaching and sports psychology services, counseling, speeches and seminars. He recently authored his second book, “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” destroying stigmas about the mental game in sports and showing football teams how to perform better and win more games by enhancing team performance assessments and training. For further information call Dr. Murray at 561-596-9898 , visit johnfmurray.com or email johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

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.

Energy Bracelets Turn Athletes to Stars, If Only in Their Heads

Bloomberg – October 5, 2010 – Mason Levinson and Tom Randall – Philadelphia Phillies pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs says he has no idea whether energy-enhancing jewelry that’s being worn by athletes from Little Leaguers to basketball icon LeBron James really works.

Yet, for the last month, Dobbs has worn a different brand of energy bracelet on each wrist. “I want to stay impartial,â€? Dobbs said with a chuckle. “Maybe my left side will feel better than my right side.â€?

As Major League Baseball’s postseason opens tomorrow, each contending team is likely to field several players wearing some type of energy-flow bracelet, necklace or apparel.

Sales of the accessories have tripled in the U.S. since 2008, according to research group SportsOneSource. Closely held Phiten Co. said its worldwide sales topped $200 million last year. Bracelets made by Power Balance LLC have been spotted on soccer star David Beckham, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez and Hollywood celebrities Robert De Niro and Sean “Diddyâ€? Combs.

The jewelry’s makers say their products use processed titanium and holograms to improve balance, energy, recovery time and flexibility. Critics say the sellers are perpetrating a scam older than professional sports itself.

“This is utter nonsense,â€? said Steven Nissen, head of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic. “There’s absolutely no scientific reason why this would work. Unfortunately, we’ve not done a good job as a society in keeping people from selling snake oil.â€?

Placebo Effect

Nissen, an advocate for evidence-based medicine who has helped shape U.S. regulations for pharmaceutical companies, said the main reason for the popularity of the jewelry is the medical phenomenon known as the placebo effect.

“If you come in to see me as a patient and tell me that you have a terrible headache, and I give you a placebo sugar pill and tell you that it’s going to relieve your headache, there’s a 35 to 40 percent chance that it will relieve your headache,â€? Nissen said in a telephone interview. “That’s called the placebo effect. It’s very powerful, and that’s what allows quackery to exist.â€?

Erica Jefferson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said none of the bracelets have been approved for medical use, and any claims to reduce symptoms or treat a condition must be backed by scientific evidence and reviewed by impartial scientists.

“The agency encourages consumers to report side effects, product defects or health fraud to the FDA — which may include complaints that these products don’t work, Jefferson said.

Shaquille O’Neal

Power Balance, of Laguna Niguel, California, counts among its endorsers 15-time basketball All-Star Shaquille O’Neal and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the top pick in the 2009 National Football League draft. The company’s corporate partners include Rawlings Sporting Goods, a brand subsidiary of Jarden Corp., based in Rye, New York, and the TaylorMade unit of Adidas AG of Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Power Balance’s wristbands and pendants use a secret hologram technology “designed to interact with your body’s natural energy,â€? said Josh Rodarmel, 26, who co-founded the company with his brother, Troy, 36. Troy discovered the technique of treating holograms with “certain frequenciesâ€? through “trial and error,â€? Rodarmel said.

“As far as studies, we haven’t really commissioned a ton of them because we’ve been using testimonials as our backbone,â€? he said in a telephone interview. “We just let our customers tell the story.â€?

So, has Power Balance commissioned any studies on its holograms?

“No, we haven’t,â€? Rodarmel said. “We are going to probably begin to, but at this point we have not done any studies.â€?

‘Tricking Your Mind’

Nick Swisher, a right fielder for the New York Yankees who wears a Power Balance bracelet and a variety of Phiten apparel, said he doesn’t care if it’s just the placebo effect making him perform better.

“If you are tricking your mind, you’re winning half the battle,â€? Swisher said. “I don’t know if it provides any energy. I don’t need any energy, bro.â€?

Phiten’s titanium products, which range from $25 to $85 for a necklace on the company’s website, are made by dissolving metals and infusing the mix into fabrics. The processed metals “regulate and balance the flow of energy throughout the bodyâ€? and generate “more relaxed muscles leading to less stress and greater range of motion,â€? according to the website.

Phiten, based in Kyoto, Japan, has funded four studies in mice and humans, said Lisa Oka, a spokeswoman.

Improved Joint Range

One completed study of 14 athletes, published in April in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found soccer and hockey players wearing titanium-treated clothes didn’t play significantly better. Players wearing Phiten garb did show improved joint range of motion, though the texture of the particular garments may be partly responsible for the benefit, the authors wrote.

Phiten is the market leader in sports energy accessories according to SportsOneSource in Charlotte, North Carolina. It has licensing agreements for its titanium products with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the U.S. PGA Tour. Endorsers include pitchers Josh Beckett of the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain, golfer Sergio Garcia and Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony.

Phiten sells a pure titanium bracelet for $230, as well as titanium-infused athletic tape, lotions and a $170 pillow.

Balance Demonstrations

Demonstrations of balance and flexibility are used to win over leery customers to Power Balance and EFX Performance Inc., another hologram bracelet maker, as well as “As Seen on TVâ€? bracelet seller iRenew Bio Energy Solutions LLC. The performances, which include tests without and then with the jewelry on, may be skewed by administrator bias and muscle memory, the Phillies’ Dobbs said. Still, they’ve made believers of many, including the Philadelphia team’s manager Charlie Manuel.

“I put these on and I noticed the next morning when I woke up, my hands were kind of freeâ€? of chronic arthritis pain, said Manuel, 66, about Power Balance bracelets after taking a balance test. “I’ve been wearing them ever since.â€?

John Murray, a sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida, who has worked with professional athletes, said he wouldn’t necessarily advise his clients against wearing the jewelry.

“There’s an old quote, ‘Don’t turn good faith into bad faith,’â€? Murray, 48, said in a telephone interview. “So I’m not going to go around telling people that they’re full of it or they don’t need it if it helps them, but I’m going to promote a more rational approach.â€?

No Scientific Tests

EFX, in Mission Viejo, California, relies on demonstrations to prove its products’ effectiveness, said President Jim Ruschman. The 1-year-old company, whose bracelet is worn by golfer Phil Mickelson, hasn’t conducted any clinical studies.

“We look forward to and embrace testing with anyone,â€? said Ruschman, 52, in a telephone interview, agreeing that the company’s balance tests are unscientific.

A telephone message left for iRenew through its customer service center went unreturned.

Wearing exotic substances to improve health is nothing new; magnets for therapy have been worn for centuries, attracting patients with their unusual properties, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland.

Third-century Greeks wore magnetic rings to treat arthritis. Doctors in the Middle Ages used magnets to treat gout, poisoning and baldness. In the U.S., magnetic hairbrushes, insoles and ointments were widely used in rural areas following the Civil War.

‘Snake Oil’

Studies of magnetic jewelry haven’t shown demonstrable effects on pain, nerve function, cell growth or blood flow, according to the U.S. alternative medicine center.

Power Balance endorser Shane Victorino, a Phillies outfielder, echoed many players’ sentiment when he said: “You’ll never know unless you try it.â€?

“That’s basically what a snake-oil salesman would say in the 1800s,â€? said Bruce Berst, from Casper, Wyoming, who portrays snake oil salesman “Dr. Dumassâ€? in historical re- enactments of life on the frontier. “If you are suffering and can’t find relief, what do you have to lose but a dollar a bottle?â€?

‘Fashion Thing’

Phillies catcher Brian Schneider called energy-flow products a “gimmickâ€? and pitcher Roy Oswalt tabbed it a “fashion thing.â€?

Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series Most Valuable Player, began wearing an EFX bracelet after taking their balance test in late August. He won his next five starts, the best streak of his career.

“If it’s something that allows me to do something helpful — legally — then I’m all for it,â€? said Hamels, who didn’t know whether the bracelet or his new Phiten socks had helped.

The craze reminds sports psychologist Murray of the film “The Wizard of Oz,â€? when each character sought something symbolic of human success.

“One got a heart, one got a brain,â€? Murray said. “That was all bogus. A guy was behind a curtain. The power, folks, is within us.â€?

I hope you have enjoyed this story from the world of sports psychology.

Sports psychologist: Anxiety often root of performance problems

Sports psychology feature on Dr. John F Murray below:

Palm Beach Daily News – April 10, 2010 – John Nelander – When their tennis skills are tumbling, or their slice is careening out of control on the golf course, most people think of three solutions: practice, practice and more practice.

But there’s a mental aspect to all sports, whether you’re a professional athlete or just a weekend duffer. Some people who are serious about improving their performance are looking to sports psychologists for help.

A sports psychologist won’t turn you from a 100-shot, 18-hole hack into a par golfer. But a fresh mental approach to your sport can help maximize whatever talent you do have.

The root cause of most athletic performance problems is anxiety, says John Murray, a sports psychologist who lives and works in Palm Beach. You can boil it down to fear.

“People tend to think about results, and that causes fear, because they’re afraid of losing, or looking bad,â€? says Murray, who has an office in the Paramount Building. “They’re afraid of letting themselves down or their team down.â€?

The enemy is the old fight-or-flight response. As Murray notes: “It’s the same response that would occur if a snake was about to attack you.

“It’s an inappropriate response in this day and age, but our bodies haven’t caught up with that. To break that response, you have to get in and do some serious techniques, like classical conditioning and relaxation work.â€?

The key is not to fight the anxiety response — it’s to make sure it doesn’t get turned on in the first place. A coach isn’t doing an athlete any favors if he stands on the sidelines screaming: “Focus! Focus!â€?

Imagine this calming routine on the tennis court: You’re at the service line. You bounce the ball once, take a deep breath, and then exhale. “Imagine a perfect serve, and then let it rip,â€? says Murray. “I don’t want people to think more, I want them to think less. I want them to be on auto-pilot.â€?

Action versus anxiety

The potential for anxiety to affect an athlete varies with the sport. In general, the more time you spend actively engaged in competitive activity, the less anxiety will be a factor.

Golfers are particularly vulnerable, because only about 1 percent of the time on the course actually involves swinging the club. That leaves 99 percent of your time to worry about what your next shot is going to look like.

For every hour on the tennis court, 15-20 percent of your time is spent engaged in a point. That still leaves plenty of time to lose your focus.

“Contrast that with a soccer match,â€? Murray adds. “There, you might be engaged in the sport 80 percent of the time. In NFL football it’s 33 percent, which is why I say American football is a more mentally demanding sport.â€?

New discipline

Sports psychology is a relatively recent discipline. The American Psychological Association’s Division of Exercise and Sport Psychology will mark its 25th anniversary next year. There are about 800 members nationwide, says Jennifer Carter, president-elect of the organization.

In its very early days, sports psychologists worked mostly with pros or serious amateurs. Now, she says, more weekend athletes are taking the extra step. “It’s usually about self-talk — how the athlete is coaching himself,â€? says Carter, who works for a group practice in Worthington, Ohio, called The Center for Balanced Living.

“People have this inner dialogue going. We say about 200 words per minute to ourselves. If you’re involved in sports, it doesn’t help if you’re consistently critical of your own performance.â€?

Like Murray, most psychologists use imagery to help people picture success on the field, she adds.

Murray has a general psychology practice as well, but 90 percent of his clientele has sports or performance issues — and there can be performance issues in business, too. He sees a lot of high school athletes brought in by their parents who are hoping to see their kids score an athletic scholarship.

He also works with some NFL teams, including the Miami Dolphins. He’s worked with major league baseball players and NCAA basketball stars.

“I’m still waiting for the phone to ring off the hook from the NFL,â€? he says. “Why isn’t it? Because NFL coaches are sort of control freaks, and they want to do it all in-house. But my passion is to help an NFL team win a Super Bowl one year.â€?

Hope you’ve enjoyed this feature from the world of sports psychology