[Motivational Intro Music]
Chelsea: Hi, it’s Dr. Chelsea. Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast! Today, I want to talk about the concept of a peak performance. It’s when you are able to perform at your absolute best. Think of it like reaching your full potential. All that work you've done in class, all the long practices and drilling routines is worth it, and you perform your personal best when it counts. When you're under pressure, you hit it. I think we would all love a hack for peak performance, wouldn't we? Well, there’s no hack, but if you understand what helps you achieve peak performance, like where it comes from, you can improve your chances of making it happen.
So today, I’m gonna explain a type of peak performance called clutch state and what to do to help make that clutch performance more likely, that way you can take control and reach your personal best onstage.
[Motivational Intro Music]
Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast. I’m Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and dance team coach turned sport psychologist. This podcast focuses on four main pillars: motivation, resilience, mindset, and community. Each week, you’ll learn actionable strategies, mindsets, and tips to teach your dancers more than good technique. This is a podcast where we can all make a lasting impact and share our passion for dance. Let’s do this!
[Motivational Intro Music]
Clutch State – 1:29
The first important thing to know is there is this state of being called a clutch state. It’s not a particularly unique or special label. It just means you're able to be a clutch performer. It’s any performance when you crush it under pressure. When you're able to handle the challenge of competition or auditions and you nail your routine and you have your personal best when you're under pressure, that’s a clutch state.
For most dancers, figuring out how to be a clutch performer would be a big goal. How do you manage your practice and mental space so that you perform your best when you're under pressure? The good thing for us is there is a lot of research on what creates a clutch state, and I’m here to break it down. I’m gonna share the six things that lead up to a clutch state. Work on these six things, and you will be a clutch performer.
One: Your Ability Matches the Challenge – 2:21
The first is that your abilities match the challenge in front of you. You want a challenge that will push you a little but not be impossible. If it’s truly out of the realm of possibility, you're not likely to perform your personal best because it feels defeating like, “There’s no way I can do this, so why bother?”
Similarly, if you are way over-qualified, you likely won't have your best performance because it feels like it’s too easy, that it’s not a valuable reward. A small side tangent here: this is one of the many reasons why putting your dancers in a category that’s too easy for them really actually hurts their growth and their ability to perform their best. If you have a superior dancer in a novice category, they're actually not likely to have their best possible performance. They may still win, and you get the outcome on paper, but the best way to have them actually perform their best is to make sure there’s a small challenge in front of them. You want their abilities to match their challenge. So compete in the right category.
Two & Three: Set Specific Goals and Commit to Those Goals – 3:28
Second is setting specific goals, and thirdly, being committed to that goal. I talk a lot about goal setting here, but I will reiterate it. When done well, goal setting is very powerful. Setting a specific training goal or performance goal, not an outcome but a performance goal, helps direct your attention in a positive direction.
I’ll remind you if you haven't heard this before, a performance goal is something personal within your control about your performance. It could be something like maintaining character the whole routine, or maybe you've been working on your footwork, and you have a goal to always point your feet when they're off the ground, or in a team you have a goal to make connections with each other throughout the routine.
Performance goals are about how you are going to perform. It’s not about how it scores or ranks in the end. Having specific performance goals and then being really committed to that goal increases the chances that you’ll have a clutch performance because it keeps you focused on an outcome in your control and keeps you away from worrying about judges and rankings. When you're focused on being more in the moment during your performance, you will more likely stay in the moment and perform at your highest potential. So set a clear performance goal and stay committed to the training.
Four: Be Aware of the Risk – 4:48
The fourth thing that leads to a clutch performance is being aware of the risk, not necessarily a physical risk. For most dancers it’s an emotional risk. It’s that sense of, “What if I put myself out there and I don't get the score I want?” “What if I try my best, and it’s still not good enough?” If you are aware of the risk but then embrace it and decide that you are in control of your own performance, it helps release that pressure.
You're aware that you’re in a challenging category where you’ve taken a risk with choreography, where this audition is gonna be really hard, but you can settle into that risk as a good amount of challenge. Know that the challenge will help bring the best out of you, no matter what the other dancers are doing or what the judges think. You can be aware of the risk but embrace that risk as a challenge that will help you grow and perform your best.
Five: Freedom to Choose – 5:37
The fifth component that allows for a clutch performance is the freedom to choose. Now, in dance, this can look very different depending on the level, the situation, or the competitive requirements, but broadly speaking, when a dancer has some element of choice, and they are able to participate in something they truly enjoy, there’s a much better chance for personal best.
Usually, that’s covered by the fact that, as an athlete, you chose dance in the first place. By nature of working hard towards an activity that you chose, you have this aspect of clutch performance covered. But it could also be helped by something like a soloist who was involved in picking the music or the costume or the style, or a team who chose the theme of a routine. Anything that allows dancers some level of choice helps motivation, which helps us all perform our best.
Six: Confidence – 6:27
The sixth and final aspect of achieving a clutch performance is confidence. When a dancer’s confident, achieving a personal best is much more likely. Now, that of course is easier said than done, but working towards confidence through training mental skills like positive self-talk, encouragement, goal setting, visualization, all of that contributes to the peak performance.
Okay, let me pull this all together. What I’m saying is that we all hope our personal best performance happens in a pressure situation, that we are able to come in clutch during finals and nationals or during the audition for our dream school. Most dancers just hope and pray and cross our fingers and toes that we’ll be able to show our best self, but there is a better way. You can train your mental skills and focus on the things in your control to improve the chances of a clutch performance. You can match your abilities to the challenge, set a strong goal, truly commit to it, be aware of that risk but embrace it, have some autonomy and ability to make choices and go out onstage with confidence.
When dancers achieve a clutch performance, they will say it felt like a lot of effort, a big challenge. They are usually focused on their technique and in the moment of the routines, there were no distracting thoughts or emotions to get in the way. A clutch performance usually also leads to that incredible feeling of, “I just climbed a mountain!” When you know you had a challenging routine, you trained for it, and you nailed it, then you know you had that clutch performance. It was a lot of work, a big challenge, but you were present in the moment, and you know you did it.
That’s what I call a no-regrets performance. You know you did everything you could, leading up to the routine, to be ready. You know you did the training. You know you did your personal best onstage. That was always my goal as a professional and as a coach. I wanted to feel confident and prepared, so I put in the heavy work before, and I wanted to actually enjoy the moment onstage and walk away knowing it was a performance I could be proud of.
So if a clutch performance is something you want to train for as well, I hope breaking down this research for you helped and inspires you to work for that goal, because you can learn how to have a clutch performance and feel more confident knowing you can hit it when it matters.
Before I go, I want to say you can always leave a message for the podcast, either a story or a question at www.chelseapierotti.com/message. The link is below in the show notes. I’d always love to hear from you. To be real, I love making this podcast, but talking into a mic by myself can get a little one-sided, and one of the pillars of this podcast is community because that’s how we all thrive. So don't be afraid to leave me a message and let me know what’s on your mind.
Thank you for being an important part of this community and keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!
[Motivational Outro Music]
Hey coaches and teachers, if you are new to the show, it might be a little overwhelming to know which episodes to listen to. You can always go back to the beginning and binge listen, of course, but I also know we don't have a single spare minute in our days. So, to help you decide where to start, I have a short five-question quiz that will tell you which episodes will help you with whatever is going on right now. It’s kind of like a personality quiz, and after a few quick questions, you get a curated podcast list of the top five episodes that will help you most where you're at right now. Maybe you need some motivation or inspiration. Maybe your dancers need something to listen to for help, or maybe you're looking for a little boost of confidence. Whatever support you need, take the short quiz and find out. Go to www.chelseapierotti.com/podcastquiz to get started! Click the link in the episode’s show notes if that’s helpful and thank you for being here. I’m so happy to have you as a part of this community!