For NBA Clutch Time, You Want Manu Ginobili at the Line, Not Paul Pierce

March 6th, 2012 by Dan Peterson Leave a reply »
Ask any NBA player or coach where they would prefer to play a high-stakes game, home or away, and the vast majority will choose being in the friendly confines of their home arena.  Overall, the win-loss records of most teams would support that, but they would do even better if they taught their home fans a lesson in performance psychology.

When it comes to sports skills, research has shown that we’re better off to just do it rather than consciously thinking about the mechanics of each sub-component of the move.  Waiting for a pitch, standing over a putt or stepping up to the free throw line gives our brains too much opportunity to start breaking down the task.  Add competitive pressure brought on by a close game watched by a loyal home fans, and we can easily slip out of the well-practiced mental map, known as auto-pilot, that usually gets the job done.

But what about elite athletes who are the best in the game?  Surely, they’ve found ways to handle pressure and keep their brains on auto-pilot?  Actually no, says researchers Matt Goldman and Justin Rao.  In a study presented at last weekend’s Sloan ...

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