Barry's mind games helping to find edge
This week Keith Earls revealed he has been playing with a magic trick up his sleeve since starting to work with famous mentalist Keith Barry.
The 30-year-old is in the best form of his career, and the Munster winger said that Barry has played a part in his development, helping him with the "one per cents".
The Waterford mentalist, hypnotist and magician has worked with a number of sports stars including Olympic badminton star Scott Evans, but Earls is the first rugby player to publicly acknowledge their relationship.
Barry has a range of techniques depending on the individual client. Sometimes he will hypnotise them; on other occasions, the client will be awake as he uses neuro-linguistic programming to embed certain messages. Either way he is working to reprogram the subconscious mind.
"Most people have heard of the subconscious, but they do not know what it does," Barry said. "The subconscious mind regulates your autonomic nervous system which is your breathing, your blood flow, your heart-rate, which are directly linked to moments of stress and anxiety.
"Under hypnosis, I can teach people how to deal with those moments by using what I call anchors and triggers.
"An anchor can be a visual or physical stimulus and once that is triggered, they can naturally release endorphins, feel-good hormones, which reverse the effect of stress chemicals coming into their body.
"That means the athlete can continue to perform to the best of their ability rather than allowing a mistake or external factor to distract them."
There is also a growing body of science that shows that hypnosis goes far beyond cheap parlour tricks.
"Hypnosis is not quackery anymore," Barry said. "Visualisation under hypnosis can be as good as if not better than the actual physical training."
Barry's specialist technique is reverse visualisation where he gets athletes to imagine their ideal scenario from back to front so in a rugby case they would be catching the ball and passing the ball in reverse.
"When you do those things backwards you tend not to make any mistakes on a subconscious level," Barry said. "If you do it forward then you may replay an old game where you have missed a tackle or dropped a ball."