Clutch ’Cats crave crucial late-game heroics

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Published 2013-03-27T05:30:00Z”/>


Brandon Eiges

Whether there are three seconds left on the game clock, a full count with two outs at the plate or a game-winning serve to be dealt, being clutch is crucial in sports.

While watching SportsCenter on a nightly basis, it seems like there are at least two to five highlights that end in a buzzer-beater or teammates dog-piling the person who won them the game.

Sport analysts often use the phrase “clutch gene” when reporting about athletes like Kobe Bryant or Mariano Rivera.

But is the clutch gene a real thing? Can doctors find a clutch gene in DNA? Do some have it while others don’t?

For some Chico State athletes, clutch plays are nothing more than instinct.

<strong>Damario Sims</strong>

Excelling in clutch situations comes naturally for Damario Sims, a senior guard for Chico State’s basketball team.

“I want the ball in my hands,” he said.

During the season, when the game clock was expiring and the ball needed to go to one player, Sims was the go-to guy for the Wildcats.

“Throughout my time playing ball, I’ve always thrived under pressure,” he said. “There is nothing better than a winning shot. You always have to have a lot of confidence in your shot no mater what the time, and I have it all the time.”

As for the clutch gene, he thinks some have it and others don’t, he said.

“I do think it is a momentum thing too,” Sims said. “It’s part momentum, part luck and a whole lot of confidence. Whether you are 10-for-10 or 0-for-10, anything can happen when the game is on the line.”

While game-winning shots are fun, the opponent makes a difference as well, he said.

“If you beat a team like Cal State East Bay on a last-second shot, that kind of sucks since you expect to beat them already and should have been playing better defense,” Sims said. “But hypothetically, if we beat Cal Poly Pomona this weekend in Bellingham or any other top-tier school, then I can’t imagine anything better than that.”

<strong>Sable Villaescusa</strong>

While volleyball games aren’t typically as packed or as noisy as basketball games, there’s still pressure that brings out the best in athletes.

This sort of pressure that comes with volleyball games focuses teams and individual players, senior setter Sable Villaescusa said.

“The intimate setting makes everyone in the zone and able to concentrate on exactly what they need to do,” she said.

Though she typically doesn’t serve the ball, Villaescusa has a lot of respect for her teammates in that situation.

“It’s a ton of pressure because you can’t hit it too hard since it’ll go out, or too soft since you don’t want to give the other team an easy chance to return it,” she said.

Villaescusa believes in a clutch gene in athletes but thinks consistency is key.

“In volleyball, the most important thing is to stay consistent because there are so many points each game,” she said. “But in terms of a clutch gene, I do think some people have it and others do not.”

<strong>Kelli Keefe</strong>

Being a clutch player is about making solid plays out on the field in crunch time, rather than hitting a walk-off or a go-ahead run, said Kelli Keefe, a sophomore second baseman for the Chico State women’s softball team.

“An amazing play in the field is what I love to do,” she said. “While a game-winning hit is super exciting and fires up a team, making a diving defensive stop or robbing a homerun makes everything electric.”

While being clutch is key for any player, sealing a win early on makes life easier, Keefe said.

“It would be nice if we could just finish off a team easily and dominate early in the game,” she said. “But when it comes down to it, I like having the pressure on me, if needed.”

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<strong>Brandon Eiges can be reached at</strong> <a href=”mailto:[email protected]”><em>[email protected]</em></a>

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