There is pressure to deal with, regardless of what level roper you are. I’ve felt it throughout my whole career and I still feel it. You have to learn how to train your mind to overcome the pressure. Some people thrive on it naturally, and other people run from it. The guys who are the most successful embrace it. When you’re in a position to win big money or are running at a title, there’s a lot of extra pressure. And you have to learn to deal with it. The best way to do that is to put yourself in that position a lot of times. Experiencing that pressure in those situations is the best way to get it figured out.
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Pressure is basically self-inflicted. It’s something you bring on yourself in certain situations, and there are so many branches to it. Is there a buckle, saddle or truck on the line? A title of some sort? A world championship? It’s all about how your mind handles those situations. A lot of times, when people of similar talent square off, that’s what makes the difference.
It doesn’t matter what sport you’re in. Pressure is a part of every sport. Some people are able to take themselves to a different place in their minds. It’s about training your mind so pressure doesn’t affect your performance. You have to be able to execute under pressure to succeed.
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A lot of people don’t get into pressure situations enough to learn how to handle it. Guys who rope for a living might compete 200 days a year at a rodeo or jackpot, so we naturally get more experience in those situations. You can practice all the physical things at home. You can train and get really good. But you have to test yourself in competitive situations.
You learn how to put yourself in a mindset to handle pressure situations. You can take yourself back to previous experiences and use them to your advantage. Competition is the best teacher of all when it comes to handling pressure. It’s the best way to train yourself to excel and get it done when the chips are down.
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When young guys are coming up out of high school I recommend them getting some college, amateur and jackpot experience. Experience and confidence are such major factors, as tough as it is today. Gathering that experience and knowledge is valuable. You’re pretty naïve in today’s competition to think you’re going to jump straight in there and dominate the veterans.
Practice is obviously a huge factor, and an absolute necessity, but most guys practice without pressure. So you have to practice executing in competitive situations. And that intensity only happens when the money’s up. You can have little inexpensive jackpots or matches in your area. A lot of practice sessions are a social event, where guys drink beer and talk about what went on at work that day. That’s fine if you’re roping for fun. But the top guys train with intensity. It’s one on one, and it’s not social hour. We’re out there to work on our game and our horses. End of story.