Qualitative Exploration of Coaches’ Perceptions of Performance Under Pressure in Sport

Publication Name

Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology


The concept of clutch performance (improved or successful performance under pressure) has gained traction in both research and the media in recent years, with notable, highprofile sporting moments occurring more frequently. As athletes inherently experience pressure when competing in sporting events, researchers and sport practitioners aim to work with athletes to help facilitate performance under these pressure circumstances. While research in the field has aimed to explore how clutch performances occur in sport, there remains some conceptual confusion regarding the definition of clutch performance itself. In light of this, 12 semielite/elite sporting coaches took part in a career-based, semistructured interview, to offer insight into when, and how, clutch performances occur. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim, and data were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006, 2019). Two themes were generated: (a) the performance level required for clutch performance is context-dependent and (b) clutch performances may occur at multiple temporal levels. These themes suggest that the performance requirements to achieve a clutch performance vary depending on the context of the event, and further, clutch performances were considered to occur as either specific clutch moments throughout an event or as an extended performance over the course of an entire event. These findings provide support for a refined definition of clutch performance, wherein the context of the situation and duration of the performance are considered. Implications are discussed, and recommendations are made for future research.

Open Access Status

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