Martin Lucero’s mental game has always been tough as nails. Here’s how he thinks you can instill it in your kids.
The biggest problem I have with kids at my schools is focus. There’s a hard balance between letting kids be kids and getting them to seriously key in on what they need to work on. You can really tell the ambitious kids apart from the ones who are just playing, and it shows in the progress they make at the schools.
Quality vs. Quantity
Getting your kids to focus in the practice pen doesn’t necessarily mean it’s about hours and hours of practice. It’s about getting a child to realize how important the fundamentals are and practicing them correctly. Setting time aside for serious practice is key.
Sometimes, quality practice means it’s not you who works with your kids. My wife played college volleyball and I played high school basketball, and we’ve both always been athletes and competitors. But my oldest daughter definitely responds best when someone other than my wife and I give her advice. The same is true for kids in the roping pen. Your kids can sometimes have better quality practice with someone else helping.
When I was a kid, I knew if I worked hard during the week, I’d be able to win money on the weekends and then I’d be able to go to town and eat lunch with my brother or something like that. So I’d work at it. I wanted that money on my own, and I wanted to rope bad enough that I’d make sure I roped the dummy and worked on everything correctly as best I could. I’d rope the dummy 100 times, and if I missed once, I’d have to start over until I roped it 100 times in a row without missing. But I did that on my own, and I know all the best guys will tell you it was like that for them. They had that “want-to.”
There are things you can do to create that want-to in your children in fun ways—ways to disguise serious practice as a game. When I was a kid, we’d have match ropings at the house for anything from a couple bucks to who does the chores at night. This kind of practice can help teach kids to rope tough under pressure. It will put more confidence in your child and he or she will try harder, then. That improves the quality of the practice in a fun way.
Switching ends can be a great way to keep practice fun and focused. It’s not a bad idea for a kid to switch ends. It’s a way to teach them how to handle a rope. I headed a lot when I was younger, and it taught me how to help a heeler. It’s called team roping, and it’s important for kids to understand all parts of a successful run. It breaks up the monotony of practice, but still lets it be serious and focused.
Because it’s a difficult balance between letting kids be kids and getting them to focus, it’s key to let them have some fun, too. When kids are playing around, they learn how to really use a rope. They get to utilize their natural talent—that’s how guys like Colby (Lovell) and (Kaleb) Driggers got to be so good at taking chances. They’re not robots, and they can do unbelievable things with a rope.
Lucero has amassed more than $1.6 million in PRCA earnings since he joined in 1991, as well as 16 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifications. He lives in Stephenville, Texas, with his wife, Jodee, and three kids.