When my roping feels less than perfect, it means that mentally, I’m not doing it right. To me, the big misconception I had when I was young was that once I got good, it would be easy. I thought I would never ever make mental errors, or I would never struggle or feel not confident. But most times when I mess up, it’s because of some mental error. Now I know that my roping is going to feel less than perfect more times than not, and I’ve got to work on my concentration, more than anything, to give myself the best shot.
A big part of what I work on is keeping a clear mind when I’m competing. That’s easier said than done, but I’ve got to let my reactions take over by clearing my head and concentratingon concentrating, as silly as that sounds. That doesn’t mean I need to focus for eight hours on roping two feet. It means that I can be visiting with people up to 30 seconds before I ride into the box, but when it’s time to go, I can concentrate on what I’m doing. For me, that mostly means focusing on having my eyes on the right spot on the cow. That means moving my eyes back from the ribs or shoulders to the hips when the head rope goes on.
The best place to practice your concentration is in the practice pen where you are working on all the other parts of your roping. For example, if I’m working on my position, I’m totally focusing on riding to position. Without realizing it, you’re killing two birds with one stone because I’m concentratingon that one thing for that entire practice session over 50-or-so steers.
I lived with Allen Bach when I was younger, and he helped me so much with concentration. No matter what he was doing or what was going on in his world, when he went out to practice, heeling steers was his focus. I admired that about him then, and I still do. Back then, I was bad about beating myself up over mistakes, but living with him I learned to figure out what I did wrong, make a plan to fix it, and move on. I don’t try to make myself feel better, but I want to know what happened, so I can either not do it again or stay the course.