Sooner or later, the subject of when to stick it out and when to call it quits comes up for every team. This is definitely one of life’s gray areas, because there can be costs and benefits either way you go. This decision isn’t always exactly the same for professional team ropers, as opposed to recreational ropers. But let’s face it, it’s a tough one for all of us. Nobody likes to fire a friend or be fired by one.
Team fuses tend to be a little shorter at the world-class level. When roping for a living, people push the panic button pretty fast, unless they have deep pockets or someone else is paying the bills. It’s a practical matter, because if they aren’t winning, they aren’t feeding their families and making their mortgage payments. Like it or not, you sometimes have to switch things up and make a change.
I always found it helpful to talk openly about this going into every partnership. I told my partners that I was all-in, and that I wanted to keep communicating as we went about how things were going and what we could do to improve. It’s better to talk about things that aren’t going well than to pretend there’s nothing wrong. That’s when things get awkward.
If I was going to be a team roping therapist, I’d suggest you have enough respect for your partner to talk through it and try to work it out. If you’re the header, you might ask your heeler if there’s anything you can do differently to make his job easier. It’s hard, but honest communication is always best.
Occasionally, you’ll see a team that’s winning good together split up, and you wonder why. You think, “Wow, I thought winning was everything.” Personalities always come into play, and not just those of the partners, but also spouses. We all need to do our best to manage our emotions. Keeping our frustrations in check and not saying something we’re going to regret later is always a good idea.
Anyone who’s roped very long has cut a partner and been cut. What’s hard is that feelings get hurt, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. If you feel like you’re the weak link or aren’t good enough, it hurts your pride.
I was always the team player who thought I was giving it 100 percent. There were times I ran out of horsepower, and that can put a wedge into your partnership fast when you aren’t winning. When partners stop communicating, here comes the tension. The easiest thing to do is just catch the next train out of town. What’s funny is the old phenomenon where a team splits, then for the two weeks they’re still entered at the rodeos they go to winning after that tension’s relieved.
There are times when it’s best not to pull the trigger, and sticking it out is the best bet. Strong partnerships can weather the storm, work through things as a team and stay hooked, if both partners are giving it their all and your horses are good enough. It’s always easy to get along when you’re winning. When things aren’t going well is when your friendship and partnership are tested.
Work on your team’s confidence. You might be struggling right now, but before you throw in the towel, try seeing if you can stay positive, work the kinks out and get things turned around. The partner who’s struggling knows his job’s on the line. Giving him the cold shoulder and making him feel even worse will not help your team’s cause.
I’ve never been a recreational roper, but a lot of times people rope for fun with family and friends. Roping isn’t their living and they make their money elsewhere, so winning isn’t life or death. If you rope for fun, there isn’t as much pressure on the partnership. Even if it’s possible to win more with someone who might rope a little bit better, if it takes the fun away for you, what’s the point? I know hobby ropers who’ve roped together forever and never won anything. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as everybody’s happy.