David Price and “The Clutch Gene”

Written By: Dave Shinskie

David Price and the "Clutch Gene"

I came across a Yahoo Sports article on David Price of the Boston Red Sox and the question of his struggles in the playoffs. He is 0-9 in 10 postseason starts. The article mentioned that Price lacked the "Clutch Gene." The Clutch Gene is an expression to describe an athlete's ability to perform well when there is a lot of pressure or stress on him/her, usually describing performance when the game is on the line. In basketball, it can mean hitting the game-winning shot as the time expires. In football, it can mean a QB leading his team on a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. In baseball, it can mean hitting a walk-off home run with two outs.

I am not here to rag on David Price but to talk about how he (or any other athlete) can work toward being more clutch; the opposite of what Price is right now. David Price is one of the highest paid pitchers in baseball signing a 7 year 217,000,000 dollar deal just over 30 million a year. Don't get me wrong he was very effective in the regular season winning 16 games with just a 3.58 ERA and in the second half of his season, he was among the best pitchers in Major League Baseball...(Even though he did allegedly miss a start with carpal tunnel syndrome from playing too much video games. Carpal tunnel is an uncommon injury for baseball players so many think it was Fortnite to blame.) So why is Price struggling in the postseason?

 

 

The Clutch Gene

The Clutch Gene is not actually a real gene in the body. It is within athletes at all levels to be able to respond to the highest degree of pressure by pulling out all stops and performing at an even higher level of performance. Being able to perform at the highest level in any sport or activity, is basically the ability to handle peak levels of stress. A person can work towards being more clutch in high-stress situations. Basic motor skills like running and punching without a doubt improve with increasing stress/anxiety. The amount of training that the person has plays a huge role in becoming a clutch player. There are so many things that go into being more clutch but I have a few attributes that I believe are the most important.

Mental Toughness/Preparation

Price had another start last night where he posted a 7.71 era in just 4.2 innings of work. Confidence is key!! The ability to maintain self-belief in spite of setbacks and not be intimidated by your opponents is huge. I feel like Price is lacking confidence right now while performing in these difficult situations.   I believe he can help himself by setting small goals for his next start and strive to achieve them.  Examples of this could include getting ahead of hitters or locating his off-speed pitches when he is down in the count.

Depending on the amount of time you have to prepare, tracking the key behaviors and skills required to develop supportive habits is essential. Your first question before an important event (if you really want to perform your best) should be, am I prepared? If the answer is “NO,” then the next question should be, “What do I need to do to prepare?” Whether it's more sleep at night, coming up with a plan for the next start, visualizing the night before, better practice habits, or even just having more concentration can help you perform at your highest level. Having the confidence that you prepared enough for any situation can put you in a better frame of mind to overcome anything. So while experience and expertise are helpful, confidence and control, play a big role in being more clutch. The pressure of the playoffs can change everything, with some players, regardless of ability, respond differently than others when given the same situation.

Opportunity

Seizing an opportunity can define a player and boost his or her level of play for the next game or moment. David Price has gotten his share of opportunities in the postseason. I mentioned he is 0-9 in 11 starts in playoff games. He needs to embrace the opportunities he is given and move on from this last outing, stay positive and look forward to getting back on the mound. When you say YES to an opportunity that is calling you, you build your confidence. Manny Ramirez with one of the most clutch walk-off home runs in playoff history.

Talent

Talent can't really be taught. Raising someone's talent level can be though. Without talent, there is no opportunity to be clutch. David Price was the 1st overall pick in the 2007 MLB draft, so obviously he is crazy talented. So why has he struggled in postseason starts? His talent plays no role in his struggles. I believe that is all he has going for him right now, so something has to change. Whether it is his mindset, preparation, or just taking advantage of opportunities in his next few starts. If something doesn't change he will always be fighting against himself because talent only gets you so far.

Conclusion

This article was not intended to rant about David Price and how he struggles in October. I just wanted to bring to light some things that can help players be more clutch and ready for the stressful moments that come up in competition.  Like I said before, there are many attributes that go into being a more clutch player. The four attributes I mentioned are on the top in my opinion:

  1. Mental Toughness - The self-belief that you are capable to perform at your highest level.
  2. Preparation - Preparation = Confidence.
  3. Opportunity - Wanting to be in the big moment.
  4. Talent - Having the ability to compete when it matters most.

Building a player into the clutch athlete they want to be is not easy, it takes years and years of hard work. Willingness to be committed to all of the things that I mentioned above is the first step in becoming more clutch.

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