Objective and subjective performance indicators of clutch performance in basketball: A mixed-methods multiple case study

Publication Name

Journal of Applied Sport Psychology


Clutch performance refers to improved or successful performance under pressure. Whether such performances should be assessed using objective indicators (e.g., performance statistics) or subjective indicators (e.g., athletes’ perceived performance) remains an important unresolved issue within the field. The aim of this study was to examine the types of performance indicators that basketballers use to identify clutch performance. A mixed-methods multiple case study design was adopted involving four semi-elite basketballers (3 male, 1 female). Four sources of data were collected: (1) performance statistics; (2) a screening questionnaire measuring pressure and perceived performance; (3) observations; and (4) event-focused interviews. As two participants reported on two different performances, a total of six cases were included. Within-case analysis was conducted to become familiar with each case, followed by an integrated cross-case analysis. Results suggested that whilst objective indicators are important for identifying clutch performance, these were often viewed through a subjective lens. Further, subjective indicators such as perceived effort and control appear similarly important in assessing clutch performance. Lastly, it was reported that clutch performances do not always require winning, but may rather be about a sense of contributing to the team performance. Overall, these findings suggest that operationalizations of clutch performance should consider athletes’ subjective interpretations, and not rely solely on objective indicators.  Lay summary: An important step in facilitating performance under pressure is understanding how to measure such performances. This study suggests that athletes’ perceptions of their performance under pressure are important to consider, and may not align with traditional objective performance indicators, such as performance statistics. Implications for practice When examining performance under pressure, practitioners should consider athletes’ own interpretations of objective performance indicators Practitioners may also consider examining subjective indicators of performance, such as perceived effort or control when measuring performances under pressure Encouraging athletes to contribute toward the team performance, rather than focusing on the outcome, may facilitate assessments of clutch performance.

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