Team roping has come a million miles in the last 25-30 years in terms of financial opportunity. We used to rope at a lot of 3-for-$10 and 3-for-$30 jackpots when I first came on the roping scene. They took a third out for cattle charge, and drew hundreds of teams. Back then—I remember when gasoline was 30 cents a gallon—no one would have dreamed that people would ever put up $2,000 a man in entry fees, or that ropings that pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the winners would ever be possible.
Now look what the roping industry has turned into. The progression of team roping is real. It’s time to take advantage, as every roper at every level of the team roping game gets set to take his or her shot at the big time. Clay and I have been busy with roping schools this whole year, and it’s not a coincidence that they’ve all been full. There’s so much financial opportunity out there today that people are doing everything they can think of to capitalize on it.
What Clay and I teach people is that you basically need to have a blue print to follow in order to maximize your success. If you’re still going out there after work a couple times a week and chasing a few steers without worrying too much about whether or not you’re doing it right, you’re spinning your wheels. We all know better than that now, and there’s so much incentive to actually train today.
I can promise you that Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira will be setting up an arena with the dimensions of the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas—home of the NFR—to get ready. Why wouldn’t recreational ropers give themselves the same advantage before their big events? Kaleb and Junior will be working hard to make 3- and 4-second runs consistently. Ropers of all ages and skill sets should be doing the same, and duplicating the runs it’s going to take to win in their respective categories.
The rodeo ropers have their practice runs and rodeo runs videoed, then break them down. Recreational ropers can gain the same advantage by doing that, and now have access to experts who are willing to analyze those runs and give them feedback on how to improve.
The basic principles for success are the same at every level. The header has to get out of the barrier, catch and turn the steer, and the heeler has to catch. Luck of the draw will be a factor. Choking will be a factor for some teams, too. If you’re headed to the Cinch National Finals of Team Roping in Oklahoma City or the Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale in Vegas, practice putting four clean runs together as a team. Executing penalty free will get the money, and there’s so much of it to be won now.
Work on your horses, too. Scoring’s not much of a factor now at World Series ropings. Typically, if the steer wiggles, you can go. Don’t get left behind and put yourself behind the eight ball.
Practice being aggressive with your roping. Practice roping steers as fast as you can. Be ready to rope when you hit your spot. With that many teams entered, every roping at the finals is going to be tough. Just don’t duck your horse off, or your handles will suffer or you’ll lose your rope.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the finals atmosphere and try to do more than you’re capable of doing when you get there. The best anyone can do is make your best runs. It’s like football. Run your best play, which is the one you can make with confidence over and over when you practice.
Train like you’re going to win something. Don’t focus on volume. Make good, quality runs. Rope the dummy a lot. Rope the machine. Practice with the image of where you’re about to rope in your mind. If you haven’t been there before, watch videos of people who have.
Run four steers like you’re at the finals. Practice being in that situation. We do that at roping schools, and it blows some people’s minds. Practice as a team, and with a clear picture of the objective in mind. Have another team practice with you, and match. Grind through the fear factor, so you’re confident and ready to win something when you show up.