Lessons in Losing

Mindset Matters
Trey Yates, the 2018 NFR average champion and three-time NFR heeler, finished the 2023 season with Chad Masters within reach of another Finals berth, but fell short. Here’s what he learned.
Trey Yates heeling
"I roped scared a lot this year. That’s a hard thing to say, but I roped scared to fail and you can’t do that out here." —Trey Yates | Hailey Rae Photography

I first started taking an interest in rodeoing in, like, 2006, when I moved in with my dad and my family in Colorado. Chad Masters was one of the best at that time—and he still is—and that was right when he won his first world title, in 2007.

I always wanted to rope with Chad, because of who he is as a person and because of how great of a header he is. So to rope together and not make it is very hard to take. For us, to go to Denver and have full intentions of taking the world by storm and you don’t, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. But around Caldwell, I told him there’s nobody I’d rather be out here doing this with.

What happened? In my career of rodeoing that started full-time in 2018, I rode Dude, and Dude and I were just a match. In 2023, I rode him at San Angelo, but I didn’t take him to California. Then Chad came up in May to practice, and I felt Dude go off on one steer. And he was hurt.

I can be an overwhelming person at times, and Dude being out affected me, and I let it affect our year. Nothing seemed to go right. We never got in a rhythm. I didn’t rope good, I didn’t have the best attitude. I tried to, but it ate me alive. I’ve always had trouble handling my emotions with roping, but when you have someone you want to do so good for, and then you screw up, it hurts even worse. I did my best not to let it eat on me, and I learned a lot about that this year, but it did.

I learned you have to find a way to brush it off. Everybody screws up—some less than others—but nothing is impossible, because as terrible a year as we had, we were still within range. We were never out of it. So, what if I’d have had a better attitude here or there or been more focused? Three steers could have changed everything, and a guy’s got to be pretty strong-willed at times to make it.

I roped scared a lot this year. That’s a hard thing to say, but I roped scared to fail and you can’t do that out here. There’s too many guys that rope good. You work all year at home, and you jackpot and you practice, for what? Why would you be scared to fail? You get to do it again. If I could do it over, I would try to have that attitude more. You’re programmed to heel the steer—when the steer turns, heel the steer. If it doesn’t work, get in the truck and go heel the next one. The winners are wired that way. TRJ

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