I am not looking for phrases that mean to keep your poise or have courage.

I am looking for something - word or phrase - the succinctly describes someone who is better under pressure.

An example would be a basketball player who shoots 3 pointers 35% overall but if he has a guy in his face he shoots 45% and if he has a guy in his face and in a close game in the 4th quarter he shoots over 50%. Is there something that summarizes the relationship between more pressure and more performance?

Edit: Clutch is a really good term and we had thought about using that. We need a term t:that fits into our database model for football/basketball advanced metrics. Was looking for something that is a little more scientific and not a current cliche but if the shoe fits we will use it. Still open to more suggestions.

  • Me! I excel under pressure! XD Apr 13, 2014 at 4:34
  • A steam engine (locomotive)
    – moonstar
    Apr 15, 2014 at 16:49
  • A bookkeeper. Bada bing!
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 26, 2015 at 19:49

7 Answers 7


A player who doesn't buckle under pressure, could be said to deliver the goods. And I would also describe such a player as being ruthless and consistent.

However, a slang term which fits the Op's request is clutch:
to perform under pressure In the last few seconds of a close game, only a player with clutch can lead the team to victory. (Derived from the clutch mechanism in a manual car, where perfect timing can mean the difference between a launch and a stall)

A reputable baseball coach has this to say: 1

If a hitter is averaging .333 and gets a hit one time in three clutch situations, he is performing well in the clutch... normal performance under pressure is the goal, not super performance.

All too often an athlete gets the reputation as a "great clutch player" because of one or two performances that got a lot of media attention, but the truth of the matter is most of the time a "great clutch performer" is one who performs normally under pressure.

  • Balotelli's missed a couple now. Matt Le Tissier is an even better example :-) Apr 12, 2014 at 21:59
  • Ahh, has he? I checked on Wikipedia and it mentioned the one failed penalty. Still has an impressive track record though.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 12, 2014 at 22:04
  • @SteveJessop Penalty scored 83' by Balotelli gazzetta.it/Calcio/Squadre/Milan/19-01-2014/… The headline's in Italian but easy enough to deduce.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 12, 2014 at 22:13
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA - Clutch is a really good answer and the best I came up with on my own. I would get rid of the rest though. Potatoes are covering the meat. Apr 13, 2014 at 0:52


  • rise to the occasion
  • rise to the challenge
  • step up
  • thrive in a crisis
  • thrive on adversity

If the player or team were doing poorly and then rallied, you could say

come back from the dead

  • thrive and rise are great words here. Not sure I will find the perfect phrase but all of yours are good. Apr 13, 2014 at 0:53

'When the going gets tough, the tough get going' is a famous modern proverb.


Not quite there, but may fit in certain context,





Or the one that was on the tip of my tongue,


To give, indefatigable under duress.


How about pressure hitter and pressure performer?

Nick Folk, Jets kicker, says he knows he has what it takes to be a pressure performer in postseason. My Daily News

Comsider also the phrases work wonders (or outperform oneself) when pressure is full on and be at one's best when pressure is at its highest.

  • The author should have asked my question before using that phrase. I get it but that is low end succinctness. Apr 12, 2014 at 19:49

difficult, but perhaps pressure-stimulated or pressure-driven. I like pressure-stimulated as it give the connotation of being pulled rather than pushed like pressure-driven. "stimulated" gives the impression of positivity in that pressure enhances performance which already exists, while driven gives the impression that performance occurs only while driven. just my impression.

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