The Clutch Gene

March 1, 2018

March 1, 2018 – I’ve spent a good portion of my 9,366 days on Earth engaging myself in some type of sport. Whether it’s been pick-up basketball, college football or corn hole at a tailgate, my mind craves competition. Competition teaches you a lot about yourself and about others. Competition highlights whether someone is cool-headed or hot-headed when controversy happens, whether someone is a team player or a “me” person and the competitive people vs. the “let’s just have fun” people.

However, my favorite characteristic that competition shows about someone is whether they are a “closer” or a “choker” – meaning if the game is tied and someone must take the last shot, are you putting the ball in their hands or are you asking them to stand in the corner and watch? This quality typically goes beyond a skill level in a particular sport. The ability to answer the bell when your number is called, sometimes in the dwindling moments while staying calm, cool and collected, is a trait that many call an “intangible” in the sports world (which means it cannot be measured analytically). The type of people in the sports world who do have this intangible are the people I have tried to study and mimic. People, such as Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and Tiger Woods, are the all-time greats when it comes to the “clutch gene.”

In an attempt to explain what happened this past Sunday without people thinking I’m sucking up is going to be tough, but hear me out.

I had the opportunity to play golf with Jack York, President and Co-Founder of It’s Never 2 Late. When I say golf, we actually wound up at TopGolf due to inclement weather. However, we found a way to make the day competitive with several different game options recommended by our server. We played a few warm up games until finally we had time for one “competitive” game. There was a big circle around four pins and the closer you were to the pin the more points you got. If you shanked the ball and hit it into a different circle, you got negative points.

Jack and I took turns. Every five shots we switched and move to the next target. I went first each time, and after my final shot I had 48 points. Jack stepped up to the tee with five swings, he needed seven points to win, but our target was now the farthest away at 200 yards. Jack’s first three swings resulted in a whopping negative three points. I was in the back heckling him just a bit to add some pressure for the final two shots, probably not the smartest thing to do with the founder of the company you work for. He needed 10 points to win, so my confidence was high since he was averaging 2.1 points per shot. I was all but doing a victory dance in the background.

He looked back and all he said was, “I got this.” Calm, cool and collected, he swung away and the nineteenth ball was a nine pointer which tied the game up. My immediate thought was, “A blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then,” so I made sure he knew if he shanked his last shot and got negative points that I would win. This was my way of adding more pressure in hopes that he would cave.

With a storybook ending, Jack perfectly hit his final shot to end the day with back to back nine point shots and walked out with a win.

He proved he was a closer. Looking back on it now, I should have known I was doomed for the loss on those final two shots, not because he’s a great golfer, but because he makes things happen when his number is called.
Jack and I had a number of meetings this week and story after story came up of the wheeling and dealing he has done over the years, but the story that highlights his “clutch gene” the most is the ever-developing story of his Cameroonian friend, Francis.

If you don’t know the story, please go read it on the iN2L blog. In short, Jack sent $500 to Francis from Cameroon, who he met for 15 minutes at a conference in Australia. When Francis responded to the gift with a video of the Northwest Cameroonian Jack York Goat fund, Jack was flabbergasted. Instead of patting himself on the back, he and Francis developed a friendship which included Jack flying to Cameroon and seeing the needs of the villages for himself. Francis’ people needed someone with resources to take the last second shot to help them. Jack answered the bell when his number was called.

I was able to hear this story while traveling with Jack many times over the week. The last time I heard the story, it was told by others who have joined Jack’s initiative. Walter Coffey and David Sprowl visited Cameroon last month and showed a group of 20 people fascinating videos and pictures of their time there, including their time at the Dorothy York Senior Center. David and Walter are currently working on putting together a whole infrastructure to help support Francis and his work in Cameroon.

Hundreds of people have joined together to help these villages with a variety of needs, but in my opinion, it all started with the intangible “clutch gene.” A guy who answered the bell when his number was called has began the writing of a story that will one day be called, “The Legend of how Jack met Francis.”