Rising above pressure is never easy for anyone.
Some athletes fold under pressure. Others meet those moment head-on and live with the results.
Most athletes grow up playing on a field or court, and, while there, they practiced taking the “game-winning shot” or catching or throwing the winning touchdown in their spare time.
I can remember taking countless game-winners while counting down from five seconds. Nowadays, I still practice with paper and trash cans. If I make it, I talk trash to whomever’s around. But, if I miss, I’ll call “foul” on the invisible defender.
On April 13, I was reminded of sports’ most crucial moment: the end of the game. While trailing 12-7 late in the fourth quarter, Mainland flag football needed to convert a fourth down or give up the ball and most likely lose to Matanzas.
Buccaneers’ captain Jasmine Hadley caught the ball and ran past the down marker to keep Mainland’s eventual game-winning touchdown drive alive.
On that same day, Hadley’s fellow Lady Buc Abagaile Killian pitched a 10-inning shutout with 21 strikeouts (her career high) while giving up only two hits in Mainland’s 1-0 win over New Smyrna Beach.
Last month on March 4, Flagler Palm Coast junior wrestler Avery Holder fell behind 8-6 in the final period of his state championship match. With just under a minute remaining, Holder scored a near pinfall that awarded him the go-ahead three points to win.
And I can’t forget about FPC’s D’mahgio Warren’s game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave the Bulldogs a 40-37 district championship win over DeLand in overtime.
After speaking with all of them about their big moments, they each talked about not being able to think.
Holder said his entire match was a blur. Killian had to constantly run her hands through the clay to get the grip back on her sweaty palms. Hadley couldn’t hear anything except “my heart beating through my ears.”
Despite the uneasy feelings inside, they came up big for their teams. And they all, like Warren voiced, expected to win.
Being clutch seems to be a mixture of a conviction to win along with rigorous practice. Hadley explained it like this. When her quarterback says go, her feet just goes, “and my hands just catch,” she said.
When the ability to think is lost, pure skill finishes the competition.