One of the toughest aspects of roping at all levels is dealing with the roller-coaster ride of highs and lows that go with the territory when you team rope. I’ve roped competitively for so long that I’ve learned some survival strategies and skills that work for me, and hopefully can also help others. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned to do is play out all possible scenarios in my head before a competition. Doing that helps me handle whatever outcome plays out—good or bad.

When you’re competing, beating yourself up does not help your cause. It’s all about confidence, and that’s the thing about getting on a roll—it’s easy to do well when things are going your way. You’re riding that wave and that high, and those feelings compound in a positive way. But things don’t go anyone’s way all the time. So you don’t want to bottom out every time you lose, either.

Enjoying & Appreciating the Roping Ride with Clay O'Brien Cooper

In roping and in life, I started playing out scenarios of success and also failure in my mind ahead of time. In the early years of my career, I felt like I should only allow myself to stay in a positive mindset, and therefore shouldn’t even consider failure or not reaching my goals. What I’ve figured out over time is that playing it out different ways beforehand allows me to stay on a more even keel. And that’s a happier, healthier way to live—win or lose.

Clay O'Brien Cooper: Don't Overthink Things 

Thinking through all possible outcomes helps me be prepared for the inevitable defeat we all face in life. By recognizing that failure is possible up front, I find I don’t have to go through a rebuilding process to get my confidence back after a loss. And that helps me get back to winning faster.

Rodeo and competitive team roping have too many elements and moving parts that are out of our control to be bummed every time we lose. You can be as prepared as you can possibly be, and something can happen with the draw, your horse, your partner or whatever else that keeps you from winning. For that reason, I think being prepared to win or lose is equally important.

Playing through all scenarios before competing did not lessen my desire to come out on top and succeed. But it did help me cope with the losses, because I’d already been through that scenario. It was no longer devastating to lose, and that took me off of the roping roller coaster.

I’m now using this method in life, too, and thinking through scenarios and situations—including what if everything goes wrong. Looking at every angle helps with perspective. What you figure out fast by thinking that way is that if things don’t go the way you want them to, you can always pick up, regroup, make a new plan and move forward.

You don’t want all your hopes and dreams riding on just one outcome, because the happy ending you’re looking for isn’t always going to happen. Losing at a roping or a rodeo should not be a devastating emotional experience for anyone. I like to learn from failure, evaluate, analyze and move on.

Highly successful people have failed more than most. The difference between them and other people is that they refuse to quit. Their perspective allows them to pick themselves back up, press on and go again until they succeed.

As a competitor, you have to try and find that sweet spot where you’re in a good place mentally and emotionally. That frees you up to be able to perform at your best.

Drawing Mental Strength from Success with Jake Barnes 

I went through this process at one of the last big events I won, which was the last George Strait Roping they had, in 2017. I’d been struggling with my confidence that winter, and knew I needed to work harder to get out of my slump. So I did, and with that extra work things got to clicking better before that roping.

That roping format was a real grind, and there was so much riding on it because of the huge payoff. Naturally, that scenario comes with pressure. But I countered those thoughts and feelings with this process, which freed me up from that pressure and resulted in a great win with a great friend (Aaron Tsinigine), which will always be remembered. 

Learn more with Clay O'Brien Cooper at Roping.com. Sign up for an all-access membership here. 

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