Mental toughness is a journey.

I hate missing. I hated missing when I started rodeoing, and I still hate missing.

Thankfully, I had a partner like my dad (21-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier JD Yates) who is about as mentally tough as you can be. He has such a strong mental game; there’s no telling where I’d be if I didn’t have him. They say a lot of guys need to take five or 10 minutes to get over something and then go on, but Dad can ride out of the arena, talk to himself about a mistake on the ride out, and then it’s done.

When I started roping with my dad, I would let a miss carry over to the next steer, and I’ve learned I can’t do that to be successful. That’s just part of the game. I’m working on trying to accept that it’s going to happen, and it happens to the best in the world. Cory Petska told me that two things make a winner: first, a strong mental game, and second, good horses. I know I already have half the battle down because I’m on great horses. Now I just need to accomplish the other half.

You don’t wake up and start rodeoing and automatically not care about missing. But it’s the people who overcome those negative feelings who are successful. There are so many talented guys on the road, and only 15 on each side make the NFR. There’s something that sets them apart, and I think it’s the mental side of it.

Over the Fourth of July run this year, all I could think about was being in the position I’m in—in the top three in the world—with a chance at my first WNFR. But I need to continue roping to win. My dad told me just that—that if I go to roping to make the WNFR, it won’t work.

I’ve been on such a high for about a month. We’re liable to hit a low spot just as fast, and I need to not forget what got me here. I’ve got to go home and rope as hard as I’d have roped if I’d have missed every steer. I can’t let the highs get too high or the lows get too low, and I’m working on that every single day. 

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