Certain athletes can be clutch - Part 1

As OCC alluded to in a post I read this morning (, there are no statistics to quantify the ability of a quarterback to be "clutch". Having experienced my fair share of "clutch" moments, I thought I would throw in my two cents: without statistics to support any of my arguments...gasp!

First, please permit me to adequately define the term:

In American sports terminology, "clutch" means performing well under extreme pressure. It often refers to high levels of production in a critical game, such as Game 7 of a best-of-seven series, the last hole of a Major championship in golf, or the final minute(s) in a close match. Being "clutch" is often seen by sportswriters and fans as an innate skill which some players have while others do not.

Nowhere is a team mentioned as being clutch, but rather individual athletes. Since establishing the nature of clutch also involves a determination of talent, please permit me to introduce the concepts of athletic talent and execution:

Athletic talent should be measured inversely by the number of errors committed during the execution of an athletic event. If everyone had the same amount of athletic talent, the athlete that invested the most time in practicing a wide array of skills within innumerable conditions, would always win. That, of course, is not the case in any sport.

Athletes that possess more talent have an inherent ability to correctly execute an athletic skill with greater frequency despite appropriately practicing no more than an equivalent amount of time than an athlete possessing less talent. Athletes that have less talent can practice better and harder than more talented athletes and occasionally become as good as or better than their more talented counterparts.

Execution of a sports related skill is the product of repetition through variable conditions in the context of talent. In athletic endeavors pitting an athlete against another athlete, different opponents bring different strengths and weaknesses to the competition. The more talented athletes require less repetition across a wide spectrum of competition in order to master the skills necessary to properly execute the different aspects of their respective sports leading to success.

Please notice that talent has a strong foundation in learning. Athletes manifest talent through the ability to learn physical and mental skills necessary to successfully execute sports specific tasks. There are countless examples of athletes improving athletic performance through superior mental skills and vice versa.

Sean Lee is the epitome of this type of athlete. While other linebackers may possess greater physical skills, Lee's ability to recognize key components of the game influences his overall performance positively.

Ex-third round draft choice Jason Williams, was a physical specimen that lacked the mental acuity to take advantage of his skill set. Williams did not lack physical athletic talent, but rather mental athletic talent.

This concept takes root when analyzing the degree of athletic talent a particular athlete has developed. There are no athletes that boast strengths across the entire athletic spectrum, but successful athletes have successfully developed aspects of their unique talents:

Every athlete possesses a highly specific sub set of genetically superior athletic characteristics that they have learned to exploit to their fullest in order to obtain success. While limiting the possible strategic options an individual athlete may successfully pursue, athletes either learn to impose their will upon opponents to maximize individual strengths, develop other complementary athletic features, or (most likely) a combination of both.

Please realize that learning has once again been placed at the crux behind athletic performance. This concept is consistent with the mantra that is espoused from Jason Garrett, Tony Romo, and Jason Witten: (paraphrasing) "The objective in practice is to improve every day by giving your best effort on every repetition. Build one good day upon another throughout the season."

Because athletes boast different strengths to different degrees, some competitors have uncommon success against specific athletes. This is the essence of encountering a bad match-up.

A bad match-up may exist between two specific athletes if the strengths of one outweigh the strengths of the other. Physical athletic equality may exist, but if one competitor is more adept at coercing the opponent to play to the strengths of the former, the latter will lose the match-up. Just as athletes learn to maximize their unique individual strengths, athletes need to learn to avoid playing into the strengths of another competitor.

Having reviewed some basic definitions and concepts pertaining to talent and execution, any dissention that exists with the fundamental understanding of an athlete being considered clutch can be broached. In the following post, examining how an athlete can be considered clutch will be discussed.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.