There's not much point in practicing if you just go out there and go through the motions without a plan. If roping is a social event for you and you don't care whether or not you improve or win, that's fine. If you can afford it, and you look at it as a low-key hobby, there's nothing wrong with that. But if you want to climb the ladder and be successful, that mindset's not going to cut it.
When I miss a steer in the practice pen, I get just as upset as if it's a rodeo. There's no excuse for missing. I'm hard on myself, and if I miss a handful of steers in one practice session I do not like it. I'm intense in the practice pen. You have to be, or you're wasting your time.
I've been roping competitively in the PRCA going on 25 years now. One thing we don't ever do enough of is scoring. I'm focusing on that more this year, because scoring is the most essential part of roping. Scoring is an area I'm always trying to improve in.
Perfect practice would be having a jackpot at your house every practice session, so you can experience the announcer calling your name, getting the right start on the specific steer and making sure you get the flag. After all these years, I know what it's like to be high team back at the BFI. If you haven't been there before, you need to practice those situations at home.
So much of winning comes down to how well you can focus and execute, and if you can stick to a game plan and not stray from it. You need to be able to work your fundamentals to the extreme when the chips are down, and you do that when it counts by practicing it at home.
I initiate matches with students at my schools all the time. They'll rope 10 steers in a row, and then I'll say, "OK, you have 9 seconds on this steer to win the BFI," or "All you have to do is catch this one to win the truck." You can't believe how many people fall apart when I say that. If you can't overcome that fear factor and get that pressure element mastered at home, why would you ever go put your money up?
When you go out to the practice pen, it's not different than going to work. If you go to work with a bad attitude, you're probably not going to have a good day. When you go to the practice pen with a limited amount of time and you're in a big rush, the horses can sense that you're trying to hurry and it affects the whole mood of the practice session. Racing through a roping session also invites accidents. Take your time, focus and get something out of that time spent.