Whether you’re a rodeo roper or a jackpot roper, amateur or hobby roper, one of the hardest things is learning to deal with your emotions, and more so the losing than the winning. It’s an awesome feeling when you win. Besides the high you get when you’re successful, those of us who rope for a living know our bills will be paid when we win. But you can’t win every time, and you lose a lot more than you win. The guys who do this for a living have high expectations, and if you win 30-50 percent of the time that’s doing something. I’ve never learned to deal with losing very well. Sometimes you don’t draw good enough to win, and sometimes you don’t rope good enough to win. But when you go somewhere thinking you’re going to capitalize, it’s a big letdown when you lose. And the bigger the event, the more it hurts.
Preparation and hard work make it that much more special when you do win. We strive to be the very best we can possibly be, and to capitalize at the major events. We set our goals at the start of the year, and we set them high-everything from winning at the big events to winning a world championship. Then we do whatever it takes to try to get there.
But no matter how well you prepare, you’re going to lose a lot more than you win. So you have to learn to deal with your emotions. One time when I was roping with Allen Bach, we won the George Strait roping and over $100,000. Then we chartered to Houston, and a freaky break happened. Allen hooked his loop on the pulley on the calf roping side and it jerked his rope out of his hand to win Houston. We went from such a high four or five hours earlier to a crazy break that was devastating. That’s the emotional roller coaster a professional roper has to live with.
We all deal with losing in different ways. I can deal real easily if my partner messes up, as long as I perform. If Clay missed at a big event, I could go on just fine and it wouldn’t bother me at all because I held up my end. I have a lot of compassion, and we share a common respect, because everyone knows what it feels like to be the goat. I know from experience how bad the guy who messes up feels, so there’s no sense adding to his grief.
The hard one is when I blow it. If I break a barrier or miss, it’s a complete letdown. You build yourself up to succeed. Reno this year is a good example. We came back eighth and I broke the barrier on the last one to move us up three or four spots or maybe even more in the average. That’s the low of lows. It’s so gut-wrenching and disappointing. All the preparation, practice, roping those earlier steers and getting to the last one. Then it’s right there in the palm of your hand, and all of a sudden it’s yanked away from you.
Making a mistake kind of puts me in a state of depression. It’s mind-boggling how bad it makes me feel, and it takes me a while to get over it. We usually have to load our horses and head to the next event. So there’s a couple-hour period that you can’t think straight. It usually takes me a good night’s sleep to get over it, and sometimes I can’t fall asleep because it’s still digging in my brain. I usually feel better the next day, but not until it’s all gone through my mind. People think it all comes easy for us. But it’s not that way. We have struggles just like everybody else.
If you totally dwell on the bad stuff, it affects your next performance. You have to be a strong-willed person to shake the negative things off and look forward to the next opportunity. If you can’t figure out how to do that, you won’t make it. It’s kind of like a boxer. There’s so much to the mental game in this sport. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do-when you’re on the wrong end of the draw or whatever. That’s frustrating. But it’s just part of it. You have to keep it real. This is a sport. This is how we make a living, but you have to keep it all in perspective and you can’t control everything. The mental part alone can overwhelm you and throw you so far off track that you don’t know if you’re coming or going. We all lose a lot more than we win. Get used to it. The highs don’t even come close to balancing out the lows.