There is No Single Path to Success in Team Roping or Life
How you succeed in roping and in life depends on the gifts you have and how you choose to use them.
Jake Barnes and Clay O’Brien Cooper have 56 National Finals Rodeo qualifications and seven NFR average wins between them. They won Rodeo’s Super Bowl together in three different decades—in 1985, 1994 and 2007. Dan Hubbell Photo
Jake Barnes and Clay O’Brien Cooper have 56 National Finals Rodeo qualifications and seven NFR average wins between them. They won Rodeo’s Super Bowl together in three different decades—in 1985, 1994 and 2007. Dan Hubbell Photo

In a lot of ways, people are no different than horses. No two of us are exactly alike, and each of us is one of a kind when it comes to our personality, body type, mental outlook and in the case of our event, roping style. We all have our own set of circumstances, but if we work hard enough, there is a path to success for everyone.

Some of the younger guys today are getting an education while they work on their roping, and I think that is so smart. Education didn’t interest me at all, but I applaud people who take that route. Looking back, I wish I’d gotten a better education.

There’s a lot of business that goes into a successful roping career, ranging from money management to the geography of getting everywhere efficiently. There’s also a lot of life to live after roping careers are over. Or in the case of the majority of ropers in this world, a living must be made to make owning horses and rigs possible.

I’m at complete ease talking to anyone about roping. But I wish I was a better public speaker. What I’m saying here is that for every recreational roper who might wish he roped like the pros, there are plenty of things the pros respect and envy about recreational ropers’ choices in life, too.

I was really shy by nature, so when I first started rodeoing, I was scared to death of interviews. On the personality spectrum, Trevor Brazile has always been kind of a quiet champion. Then there was Leo Camarillo, who forged his fame by following the lead of Muhammed Ali, who said, “I am the greatest” and used that to fuel his confidence.

The boom in roping-related media during my lifetime is another advantage all of today’s ropers should take advantage of. When I was a kid with a one-track mind for roping, all the media came from California, where most of the cowboys were back then. There was a whole new world out there for a kid like me who’d never been out of New Mexico, so it was a big thrill as a young man to move to Leo’s and live in the eye of the storm. Before that, I had no idea anyone roped year-round.

No matter where you’re from or your personality type, if you’re going to get anywhere in this business, you need a goal. You have to have a dream to make a dream come true. People who make it in any industry have a passion and a burning desire for what they want.

Successful ropers at every level of our game will tell you that it takes confidence to win. In my career, I was around guys like Clay (Cooper), Allen (Bach) and Rickey Green a lot. I did not have the natural confidence it took to make it when Allen first called and invited me to join the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) and rope with him.

I was scared to death, and didn’t honestly think I had a chance. I was holding my own at the amateur rodeos, but was so intimidated by the big leagues. I didn’t do my best at first because of that lack of natural confidence. Those of us who aren’t born confident and outgoing have to work hard until we believe. I mostly learned by the school of hard knocks, and was lucky to be around the right people when “iron sharpens iron” kicked in.

I’d say Patrick Smith and Paul Eaves are a couple of good current examples of guys who, like Clay and me, were quiet by nature and got around the right people to help them find their way. Patrick and Paul both lived with Allen, and worked for their chance. Allen mentored them and gave them good and honest feedback. And they earned it.

I can name a lot of people who came by their confidence more naturally. Guys like Joe Beaver, Tuff Hedeman, Cody Ohl, Ty Murray, Roy Cooper, Tee Woolman and Leo were more confident by nature, so it’s not a coincidence that they moved mountains. The Trevors, Patricks, Pauls, Clays and I were more shy to start with. But we figured out how to compete with confidence—because one way or another, it’s a must. TRJ

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