Do You Prosper, or Falter, In The Clutch?
You see examples of this everywhere, from Kobe to Jeter and the greats of old, to your favorite e-sports stars and in pretty much any territory where stressful situations can impact performance. "Daaamn that was clutch!" We hear it all the time, from fans, casual players, outsiders that hardly understand the game, but one thing they seem to understand easily above all, is when something stressful and tense is about to break, everyone's breath is baited, and time seems to slow to a crawl.
All of those endorphins rushing through the entire crowd, through yourself and your loved ones...imagine what the competitor is feeling? There's no surprise that so many records are broken at the Olympics, a high-intensity, high stress, highly publicized event with high prestige as something you drive to do well at. The same could be said about the NBA Final Four, NHL Playoffs, Major E-sports competitions, and to an extent, even down to things like high school sporting events, even things like high school sporting events, everyone handles stress in different ways, I imagine a high school student on a football team could even potentially feel like there's more eyes on them than a professional in the NFL.
Is there something that some competitors possess, that allows them to perform at higher than thought possible levels, while under tantamount levels of stress? Something that clicks in the brain or nervous system, almost like a shot of adrenaline giving them the power needed to stay aware and execute what they need to in that time of stress. Personally, I feel like I've experienced multiple clutch situations myself, where I thought I was doomed, that I had less than a one percent chance of walking away victorious. It's a high, this is why I equate it to adrenaline or similar, it feels like being chased by cops, it feels like your flesh is burning, like the world is on your shoulders. If you pull through though, the reward is immense, you might even want to cry it's so intense, you didn't think you could do it, after all.
If we want to talk about clutch, though, we have to talk about the opposite of clutch, choking. This is letting that burning, swelling, constricted and claustrophobic feeling while in the clutch, and letting it consume you, your performance falls apart, you don't even feel like you did when you started, and you're burnt out. I've been here too, like all your effort is for naught. Like you let down everyone that was watching, including yourself. This has happened to me at a major video game tournament, and it killed my mood the entire rest of the weekend, because I know I could have done so much better than that.
Apparently, this sort of phenomena is completely up for date at the moment. A piece taken from Psychology Today states;
"According to psychologist Tim Woodman, "when people are low in cognitive anxiety, or low in worry, the difference between their best performance and their worst performance is not very big. They can perform pretty well, but it's not fantastic, and it's not crap. But if you put them in a very high-worry situation, like Olympic Games, what you find is that their best performance is significantly better than before and their worst performance is significantly worse. So what that tells you is that when you're under a very high-stress situation, you either perform very well or very badly."
In another section just under it, the article explains that what it probably comes down to is proficiency outside of stress, highly trained skills seem to prosper under stress, and not trained as well ones, fall apart. We also have to take into account individual performance vs team dynamics. I would love to explore this more in my own research throughout my college years.
So at the end of the day, it sounds to me like clutch is really about being able to perform better under highly anxious situations, to keep yourself baseline while in such a difficult spot. Have you ever been in a clutch situation? Did you clutch it out, or did you do the inverse, did you fall to the pressure and choke? Tell me about it.
Image Credit: NBA*
A bit of reduplication here :P
I once had a case where a stupid adult girl didn't keep her dog's leash tight, though she saw I was coming, it was a very last moment thing when her dog suddenly run toward the front of the car, and I guess I panicked cos I stepped on the gas instead of the breaks! (cos that was where my foot was and I guess I forgot) Nothing happened, cos I was going slowly, but I was feeling bad the whole week. The mere thought that I could've killed or severely injured a dog made me feel terrible. I hated that girl the whole week.
You're not wrong, I wrote this up when I was in a pretty fucky headspace and just needed to do something to keep my brain in my skull. Glad you didn't hit the dog.