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Clutch Moments in Life and How to Come Through Successfully

Clutch is a perfect word to describe basketball teams who win during tournament time.  To come through in the clutch literally means to pass through the crucial moment between winning and losing. A clutch player is defined as someone who is able to perform well even under extreme pressure.  We get this word clutch from the gear shift in auto racing which means the difference between a stall and a perfectly executed launch. In drag racing, the secret to winning is the ability to navigate shifting the clutch. Wisdom in downshifting allows the car to brake later, the less braking the faster you can go.  “Slow shifts cost a monumental amount of time. Every time we shift up we momentarily lose engine torque, meaning we are no longer accelerating. Over an entire lap that is a lot of time spent powerless.” (Alex Lloyd)

Becoming a clutch performer on and off the court means having the wisdom to prevent lapses in acceleration and eliminate powerlessness. Getting great grades, winning championships, or making great decisions requires the skills of a clutch performer.

Six Ways to Navigate Clutch Moments with Success

Be Alert. Part of being successful in the clutch moments of life is the recognition that this is a clutch moment. People who successfully navigated very difficult situations often had some kind of intuition or premonition to be alert and to pay attention.  Difficult moments arise typically out of nowhere but being prepared to navigate difficulty by being alert is key. Are you really aware of the clutch moments in your life? If not, take a few minutes to jot down some of those key times. Sometimes, analyzing when we have failed before in the clutch could be a good starting point.  

Stop negative momentum. A mother of young children recently struck a man walking down the road whose car had broken down. He is now paralyzed.  She stated she had to turn around to try and deal with her unruly children when the accident occurred. When chaos or difficulty begins, slow down. Work to simplify the situation. In her case, pull the car to the side of the road until the challenge has been resolved.  Don’t let negative momentum keep you making poor decisions.

Be quick but don’t rush. In difficult situations, the procrastinators make matters worse. On the other hand, those who make snap and reactionary decisions don’t fare much better. Be quick to seek out the best response. Gather information quickly and make the strongest decision-based in peace rather than fear. Get a wise mentor you can call in a moment’s notice who can help you make the best decision.

Know yourself. Most likely you tend to freeze, fight or fly in a difficult situation. Knowing how you typically respond is important. A clutch performer understands how to navigate past the situation if their typical response isn’t the best fit. If you feel stronger than what is confronting you, you will fight. If you feel weaker than what is confronting you, you will fly. If you feel extremely overwhelmed, you will freeze. Have people who love you and support you, help you notice and recognize what is going on. Have strategies in place to keep you from a bad response when you feel threatened. For example, a player who gets shoved around might become fighting mad and get a technical. Know this about yourself ahead of time and put a plan in place with your teammates to keep you from blowing up and costing the team.  

Take responsibility. Clutch leaders can admit if they don’t come through in the crucial moment. Be willing to take responsibility if you let people down. Do your best to not only apologize but to repair and restore to the best of your ability what went wrong.

Inch by inch.  Set goals to improve your clutch performance in one or two areas. Give yourself specific steps you can take to achieve this progress. Inch by inch, life’s a cinch.  Use these small victories to build habits of success.


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NBC Basketball Program began in 1971 with the mission of transforming players on and off the court. Basketball is a great tool to help younger athletes become more mentally tough, instill the values of gratitude, service, attitude and hard work. If you love basketball enough to work hard, you need to be at NBC Basketball. Find out more about the many programs including summer camps, specialty camps, shooting camps, team camps, travel teams and more.  Visit 

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