mental game

Inner Strength with Jake Long
The $2.2-million heeler shares about his mental game in 2023.
Team roper Jake Long riding a horse in arena.
Jake Long has roped at 12 National Finals Rodeos and won everything from the Wildfire to the BFI. | Jamie Arviso photo

TRJ: What is it you’ve been working on in your roping most lately?

JL: Really, it’s my mental game. I’ve got a different mentality toward roping and rodeo now more than ever before. 

TRJ: What’s changed?

JL: At 39, (with 12 NFR qualifications in 20 years in the PRCA), it finally dawned on me to start enjoying the journey. I spent a pretty good portion of my career zoned in on the end goal—winning the regular season and winning a gold buckle. I was so fixated on the results, I wasn’t slowing down and enjoying every rodeo for what it was. Now, I’m just zoned in on what I’m doing today. It’s made practicing and competing and even the traveling a lot more enjoyable. I am trying not to get so angry when I mess up. I’m never going to be happy when I mess up, but I don’t want it to ruin my whole day when I miss a steer.

READ MORE: Winning When You’re Down 

TRJ: Did something happen, or did something change in your life, to get you thinking this way?

JL: I don’t know the exact turning point. It just hit me one day, talking to my wife. I feel like a lot of rodeo guys get so fixated on making the Finals and stressed about the NFR. But it’s only 10 days and, maybe, fun the two months leading up to it. If that’s what you’re living your life for, you’re miserable the other 10 months. But if you think about it, it’s still pretty cool to go to all these big rodeos. We’re getting to rope for a living. That’s something to enjoy. 

TRJ: Did having your daughters—Haven, 15, and Haizlee, 11—begin competing have something to do with the shift?

JL: My oldest daughter is into running barrels a little bit, and my youngest daughter has been doing dance competitions. I know I talk to my girls about trying to enjoy it and working at it and trying to be better. Winning doesn’t have to be the end-all, be-all. 

READ MORE: Words of Wisdom From 5 Former Resistol Rookies

TRJ: How is this affecting your in-arena performance?

JL: Say I rope a leg in the first round of a jackpot: Before, I’d try to max out the rest of the steers and I’d run over myself mad because I roped a leg. Now, I try to rope every steer like I’m in the middle of the roping. I don’t approach the cow any different if I make a mistake. I feel like it’s helped because I’m roping every steer to make the best possible run on each steer, rather than fighting it. It feels like I’m in a good spot mentally, and I do think it’s helped my roping a lot. TRJ

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