Before we tell you how a clutch mindset is developed, it’s important to understand exactly what it is. By definition, a ‘clutch performance’ is any better-than-usual performance that happens in a high pressure game situation.
Athletes with a clutch mentality always seem to perform their best when the game is on the line – they hit the game winner, make that crucial save, or can put the burners on in the final 100m of a long distance race.
On the contrary, athletes who struggle under pressure can get trapped in a ‘choke’ mindset. They might feel overwhelmed if the game is on the line, resulting in a poorer performance. Ultimately, as an athlete, whether you are choke or clutch comes down to your mindset.
With six NBA Finals MVP trophies, Michael Jordan exemplifies the ultimate clutch player. With seven buzzer beaters that have clinched playoff series wins, he is the epitome of a clutch athlete. If the score is too close for comfort in the last seconds of a game, the ball better be in Jordan’s hands. That’s clutch!
So, how can this magical mindset be developed? The truth is, great clutch athletes aren’t born that way, it’s something that has to be trained. It takes the three Cs; confidence, composure and courage to be able to channel high pressure and pull out all the stops when its crunch time.
Arguably, confidence is the most crucial factor when it comes to developing a clutch mentality. Athletes who believe in their ability are always more willing to step up when the stakes are high. It takes putting in the hours to master your craft to develop an almost blind faith in your own capabilities. This can be done by setting goals, enlisting the help of mentors and coaches, and being self analytical on your previous performances to spot areas of improvement.
Athletes who don’t let their nerves in high pressure situations overwhelm or distract them will be well on their way to developing a clutch mindset. Everyone deals with nerves differently, but finding ways to manage pressure will help you to maintain focus in the moments that count the most. Many professional athletes find having a pre-game ritual helps them to get in the zone, calm their nerves and block out any distractions that might put them off their game. Mental training like sports hypnotherapy can also help with this.
The top clutch athletes in the world are the ones who aren’t afraid to fail and have the courage to take risks. After all, who has ever been remembered (or praised) for playing a cautious game!? Relinquishing the fear of failure will allow you to learn from mistakes, build mental resilience, and feel confident to take risks in high pressure situations.
Developing a clutch mindset is something that is within all sportspeople’s reach. It takes time, dedication and practice to build the confidence needed to take risks and thrive in the seconds that matter the most.