4 Rules for Playing Your Best in Clutch Situations | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

4 Rules for Playing Your Best in Clutch Situations

February 22, 2013 | Chris Stankovich

Kobe Bryant

Clutch players in sports are those who seem to play their best when the game is on the line—a.k.a. "when the lights are on." Players who immediately come to mind include the great Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant and Derek Jeter. Of course, these are all Hall of Fame-caliber athletes, but don't let that stop you from aspiring to become a great clutch player.

Great clutch athletes aren't born that way. They focus their training so that they are supremely confident in critical situations. In fact, confidence might be the single most important aspect of playing well under pressure. Confident athletes "play to win." They eagerly look to the next play and quickly forget the last bad one. Without confidence, athletes are susceptible to poor focus, high anxiety, and poor resiliency—which of course result in poor athletic performance.

So how do you play your best when the lights are on? The following tips are designed to help:

1. Keep in mind that confidence is king when it comes to athletic success. So you need to do things that improve your confidence, including setting (and tracking) your goals; soliciting feedback from coaches about what you are doing well; keeping a journal with your daily accomplishments and successes; and using healthy self-talk to keep your attitude positive. Learn how to boost your confidence.

2. Develop a pre-game routine that allows you to prepare your mind. When crafting your pre-game routine, frame the competition in a realistic way—remember it's still just a game, no matter how many people are watching or what kind of title is on the line. Your mind and body need to be in sync, so when you leave the locker room, you are secure in the knowledge that you have prepared all season to be successful.

3. Learn from role models. It's never a bad thing to learn as much as you can from legendary sports heroes. Surf the web to find interviews with clutch athletes. What do they do to be successful? What tips can you take away from their experiences? Get started with STACK's Motivational Stories section.

4. After the game, go back and look for ways to get better. Whether you win or lose, review each game to  learn what you did well, and make it a point to do it again in the future. Also, identify any weaknesses and develop new goals and strategies for future improvement.

Playing your best in the clutch is a realistic goal—something you can do with the right mindset. Believe in yourself, read your goals each day and always learn from your mentors and role models.

Chris Stankovich
- Chris Stankovich, Ph.D., is a licensed professional clinical counselor and founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, a counseling and performance center based in Columbus, Ohio....
Chris Stankovich
- Chris Stankovich, Ph.D., is a licensed professional clinical counselor and founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, a counseling and performance center based in Columbus, Ohio....
Must See
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,988,602
Jadeveon Clowney on Making Big Hits
Views: 3,796,683
Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs
Views: 1,175,033

Featured Videos

Dwight Howard Ab Workout Views: 62,672
John Wall Elbow-to-Elbow Shooting Drill Views: 186,478
Elite Performance with Mike Boyle: Build Explosive Power With Contrast Training Views: 17,723
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Colby Lewis's Post-Game Band Splitter Routine
Views: 8,349,368
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,988,602
Allyson Felix Explains How To Choose a Coach
Views: 8,690,610
Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker
Views: 29,529
Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs
Views: 1,175,033

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

How to Improve Mental Focus on the Baseball Diamond

What is mental focus? We all have experienced a situation in which is difficult to find focus in our daily life. Every athlete must be able to find that...

Overcome the 5 Most Common Mental Mistakes in Sports

How Mentally Tough Are You?

How Mental Performance Affects Your Workouts

5 Steps to Becoming a Better Coach

Don't Take Your Headphones to the Gym

5 Tips for Playing Mentally Tough Tennis

Positive Affirmations for Athletes

4 Tips for Building Confidence

Study: Athletes Think Faster, More Accurately Than Non-Athletes

Why You Should Be Training Instead of Exercising

4 Reasons Your Team Is Losing

6 Ideas to Build a More Cohesive Team

5 Tips to Becoming a Successful Athlete

A Coach Describes What It

The Athletic Brain: How to Learn to Anticipate

Does Home Field Actually Confer an Advantage?

The Holistic Approach to Impactful Sports Coaching

Use Sports Psychology Against Your Opponents

Home Field Advantage Is Real, Says Science

6 Ways Sport Parents Are Doing It Wrong

How to 'Keep Your Cool' on the Football Field

Build Mental Toughness in the Weight Room

Can a Faster Brain Increase Sports Performance?

Mental Warm-Up: How to Build Confidence Before a Game

The One Word You Should Never Say to Yourself

Growth Mindset: How to Think Like a Champion

Overcome Your Fear of Failure

How Nik Wallenda Prepared to Walk Across the Grand Canyon

The Art of Strength and Conditioning Coaching

3 Ways to Develop Your Football Warrior Mentality

How Clayton Kershaw Gets in the Zone

Stress Exposure Training for Basketball

Get Tough on Your Goals to Get Fit

How Mental Flexibility Boosts Your Game

4 Obstacles to Better Goal Setting

What's Your Backup Plan When 'Plan A' Fails?

Make Goals, Not Deals

5 Steps to Changing a Bad Habit

Regain Your Confidence by Getting BIG

Tips to Be a Better Leader

Why Athletes Must Focus on Developing Their Own Identity