One thing I’ve learned in rodeoing for 13 years is you really do have to learn to deal with losing to be a winner. When I was younger, I don’t know how much I cost myself by letting my attitude or my mentality beat me because of a prior mistake. Confidence is a big part of what we do. Mental is at least 80 percent of heeling. And it just goes to show you how powerful your mind really is and how important it is to train your mind the same way we train anything else—our horses or our roping skills.
Attitude is something that obviously affects your mental game. Being able to walk out of the arena after you’ve let not just yourself but your partner and everybody else down, and learning how to move on from that, is what separates some guys from a breakthrough point in their careers. That is very much speaking from experience. The good does outweigh the bad—I’m here to prove that. Everything I’ve ever accomplished in my career that stands out—winning the BFI, gold buckles, the George Strait, the American—for all of those accomplishments, I’ve also had the same opportunity and failed to accomplish it. I’ve had the same chances and lost.
That’s not published, you don’t read about it. You don’t get the phone calls from all of your friends and family when you drop the ball to win something like that. When the light shines on you and you’re on the mountaintop, everything is great. But when you drop the ball is when being mentally tough comes into play. One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is from Rocky Balboa, when he talks to his son, he said, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and, I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” That’s not just rodeo, that’s life in general.
Whether it’s a world champ, a good jackpotter or a successful businessperson, the goal is to accomplish things. Successful people look like they’re almost untouchable, on a pedestal. It’s so simply overlooked that we’re all human beings. We all have the same time given to us every day. Those people who have those accomplishments and successes are the same as you. They just battled through the down times and were able to overcome everything you don’t know about to get to the glory moment.
Working at it
Your mental game is what sets up all of the successes in the future. It’s very important to work on that. Now, how do you work on mental game? To work on mental game, it takes putting yourself in pressure situations. It’s important to envision yourself in high-pressure situations. In practice, put yourself in high-team situations where you have to overcome. It’s easy to mess that one up in the practice pen and laugh about it. But you have to ask yourself what if that was the real deal? How did we mess it up? Train your mental game to accomplish your goals and go through the process in a run to win $100,000 to do what you’ve trained yourself to do.
To me, in my personal opinion, when the mental game gets strong, it’s about your self-worth. When you realize that what we’re out here trying to do doesn’t make up who you are, you’ve won. This is something we’re passionate about and what we’re after. True happiness doesn’t really come from gold buckles or accomplishments. If your self-worth is determined by whether you catch a high teamer, you’ll live a rollercoaster lifestyle and that’s where not being a winner mentally comes into play. Your self-worth is important, speaking from experience. I’ve won world titles and all of the things I’ve ever dreamed about winning, and I’ve lost world titles and all the things I’ve ever dreamed about winning. I’ve been on both sides. But true happiness doesn’t come from those things. I love to team rope and rodeo, and I’m proud of my accomplishments, but that isn’t who I am. If we aren’t going to enjoy this in the short time we have here, what’s the point?
Patrick Smith is a two-time World Champion heeler, husband and father of two girls and a boy. He’s won the Bob Feist Invitational, the George Strait Team Roping Classic, Cheyenne Frontier Days and the California Rodeo Salinas, as well as RFD-TV’s The American. His instructional DVDs, Driven and Legend, are available at patricksmithroping.com.
Photos by Lone Wolf Photography