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Every team struggles from time to time, and it can be a touchy subject when your partner is having heck. The more confidence you can instill in your partner—that the team’s hard work will pay off and things will turn around—the sooner you can both get back to winning. When things start going south, it’s easy to wonder if maybe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But smart ropers realize that ups and downs are just part of it, and there are big benefits for both partners in boosting team morale.

Tension can come quickly within a team when you aren’t winning. It’s very expensive to stay out on the road when you have bills stacking up at home. It’s always good to remember that you thought your partner was good enough to start roping with in the first place. With the right attitude, there’s a good chance you can ride out the slumps every team experiences and get back to making good runs.

Partner Pitfalls: Choosing a Great Teammate (and Being One)

One of my favorite examples of a good teammate was one year Rube Woolsey headed for Bobby Harris at the NFR (National Finals Rodeo). They were placing along, then Rube broke the barrier. Rube was deflated and down. But when they were riding out the back of the arena, Bobby patted Rube on the back and said, “You keep running at that barrier and we’re going to win a lot here this week.” Rube said that supercharged him.

One thing I’ve seen pay dividends in partnerships over the years is both guys committing to an entire year up front, no matter what. I think it does a lot for team morale when teammates have each other’s word that you’re both in it for the long haul. Every team goes through times when you don’t get up good, don’t draw good or don’t rope good. When you’re taking your turn being the weakest link, it’s nice to know your partner’s not out there looking to make a change behind your back.

Always keep the lines of communication open on your team. Something as simple as, “We’ll get ’em next time,” “Hey, let’s go practice” or “Let’s talk about this” can go a long way toward turning the tide back around a little faster. Team ropers aren’t always the best communicators, and even constructive criticism can be a hard pill to swallow. Talk it out. You’re a team.

How to Be the Best Possible Partner with Jake Barnes 

If your partner misses, don’t throw your rope up in the air. If you’re a heeler and your header misses, don’t cross over and head the steer. Your partner sees that, and so does everybody else. You hurt yourself and your team when you throw a fit. The best teammates keep believing in their partner and the team.

Back in the day, there were times when we were struggling that we decided as a team to back off a little bit, go put a few runs together and build back our confidence that way. As tough as team roping is today, that’s kind of out the window now. But you can consider breaking away from the pack, and going to a few rodeos where the entire wolfpack won’t be there to bring things back up to par.

I always roped the dummy a lot when I was struggling, and was really hard on myself. Sometimes, my horsepower got a little weak, and there were times we drew steers that were no chance and impossible to win on. You can’t win all the time. Nobody wins all the time. But if you quit working at it—mentally and physically—you can’t expect to win. So let stuff go that you can’t control. And don’t throw your sucker in the dirt.

When you’re winning, it all feels so easy. It seems like you just go through the motions, and it happens. When you struggle, it can feel like you can’t do anything right. If only you could just take a confidence pill. But you can control your attitude, and the kind of teammate you are. If all else fails, take a page out of Allen Bach’s playbook and go fishing for a day. Something that simple might just freshen you right up and get you back on track. 

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