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Updated: Sep 28, 2018

According to a detailed report on clutch performance in the NBA, clutch performers had significantly fewer turnovers in the crucial moments of the game. Clutch teams have a higher amount of defensive rebounds, a higher free throw percentage, and more blocked shots. What emerges as an important discovery about these stats is that clutch basketball players are more intense and focused in the final crucial moments of the game. This comes down to mindset. 

Here are a few ways to elevate your clutch mindset:

Keep your thoughts pure. Discipline your mind to be about the execution of the tasks at hand.  Don’t let your mind imagine what could happen if you lose or if you fail. Instead, keep your thoughts purely on doing the best you can each moment of the game. “I would tell players to relax and never think about what’s at stake. Just think about the basketball game. If you start to think about who is going to win the championship, you’ve lost your focus.” (Michael Jordan)

Develop clutch worthy skills. “When I was young, I never wanted to leave the court until I got things exactly correct. My dream was to become a pro.” (Larry Bird) A clutch player needs the ability to focus on navigating the difficulty of the situation. He or she can’t be worried about taking care of the ball. When scientists look at the brain of the great basketball players, their brain is very quiet in the region of hard skill execution. This means their brain can be completely dedicated to problem-solving. On the other hand, an inexperienced player’s brain center is dominated by hard skill execution—their brains are flooded with just trying to manage the ball. Your fundamental skills need to be rock solid so that you have the ability to be in the higher level brain functions of problem-solving when you are in the crucial moments.

Use visualization. Clutch moments don’t arise often, but those who spend time specifically visualizing success during clutch situations have greater rates of success. Visualization, when done correctly, is an intense mental workout—not a breezy daydream. According to experts on visualization, realism is the most important aspect. The more you can accurately re-create the sights, sounds, and the entire scene accurately in your mind, the more successful the visualization results. Here is an important tip: Don’t visualize wanting something and striving to get it. Visualize having already attained it.  For example, don’t imagine the struggle to win the state championship, imagine winning the state championship and the feelings that come from that win.

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