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Stepping Up Your Mental Game

Don’t carry your mistakes around with you, instead place them under your feet and use them as stepping stones to success – Ryan Ferreras.

Mental game: It’s something that all ropers deal with, regardless of their level. The biggest thing about having a good strong mental game is just believing in yourself and telling yourself that you can. All that matters is that you know you can go out there and execute the run you want. With a strong mental game, no one can waiver your confidence in your abilities as a horseman and roper.

The dummy is made for a reason; it is a tool to aid ropers in the fundamentals as well as to break down the individual’s problematic area(s) such as the delivery or the angle of the swing. Another great thing about using dummies is that you can challenge yourself. Imagine you’re in a high-stake environment. You are either going to feel confident or you’re not…it’s that simple. Where does the confidence develop? It starts on the ground dummy, then it goes to the machine, then on to the practice pen. The saying: you must learn to crawl before you learn to walk works well in this situation because if you can’t rope the ground dummy one hundred times without missing, then what makes you think you can catch the machine? Then, if you can’t catch the machine one hundred times without missing what makes you think you can rope a live steer? You must use the different types of dummies as stepping stones if you want to get better. Even the best in the world still rope their dummies every day.

Every day when I get out my dummy, on the last few I rope, I will put myself in a situation where I need to perform at a very high level, such as the cliché of being at the Thomas and Mack in Las Vegas. It’s a ten-steer average and you must catch and turn all ten quick enough to place in the round and be in the average at the end of the finals. On another day, I will put myself in a little jackpot where it’s a four-steer average and all you have to do is catch all four, where it’s best to run up in the middle of them and take the smart shot to win. That way when you are in a high stakes situation the pressure doesn’t get to you, because you have already practiced it on the dummy many times every day.

The mental game is just as big in practice pen, whether you are a professional or a beginner. The biggest problem is being negative in the practice pen by saying, “Man this practice sucks” or “Dude I can’t rope today.” What I have started doing every time I go out and practice, whether it be team roping or roping calves, is always try to find at least one positive thing from each run. Say you come out swinging aggressively at a steer then just throw a terrible loop. Instead of saying that was a terrible loop, say “I need to work on my delivery, but I loved how aggressive I was swinging during that run.”

Find a practice partner who will build you up, not tear you down. Remember iron sharpens iron. Sure, we all need to know what we need to work on or what our strong suits are. My strong suit is throwing from a coil away. But, the things I need to work on are running up in the middle of them, roping them, and then handling my cattle. Now, next time you go out to the practice pen you need to find at least one positive thing from the run, whether it was just leaving the box good or having a good swing going. Attitude, either good or bad, will always dictate how a practice will go, whether you are a professional or just starting out.

First run jitters while you are competing, whether it be at a pro rodeo or a weekly jackpot, will always be there. However, what separates everyone else from the professionals is how pressure is handled. The professionals turn it into to positive energy to use to their advantage. How is the best way to turn the nervousness into positive energy? Well for one you can just believe in yourself! As Henry Ford once said, ‘whether you think you can or cannot, you’re right’. Believe it or not, it’s true, I have had more success by just telling myself that I can do it rather than saying I can’t do it. The more positive outlook you have on the way the day will go, the better the day will go. When you go to rope, you have two different “you’s” that are battling each other, the normal “you” and then you have the roper “you”. When you go to the competition you must just let the roper “you” do his job and not hinder him in any way. Basically, what I’m trying to say is don’t over think it and just rely on all the practice you have done to get there.

Let us be real here, ladies and gentleman, we aren’t going to win them all…it’s just the fact of the game. A big way to our mental game is how we handle the losses. We can’t be defeated and have a poor attitude about it. Sure, we hate losing…who doesn’t? But, we can’t have a sour attitude to it. Instead we must use it as fuel to get better. You build on failure, you use it as a stepping stone to reach your goal. Learn from the failure, but do not dwell on it. Go back to the practice pen and work out the kinks until it is finely tuned. When it is a finely tuned machine and you are doing well in competitions, be humble! There are no exceptions to this.

The mental games is one of the most important aspects of roping, along with fundamentals and horsemanship. As I am writing this, I am at a Rickey Green’s month-long school, and I will tell you everyone needs to work on all three of those aspects. There are multiple times in your roping career where you are going to be working on something or changing something and it’s not going to go well, just remember it gets worse before it gets better, trust me! Failure does not determine how great you are going to be, but rather is the way you adapt and overcome your weaknesses that will determine how great you are going to be. Are you going to quit because its hard? There are many people who do, and that’s why you never have heard of them, and never will! But the guys that overcome and keep striving for greatness are the ones you hear about all the time. Remember your dreams and fight for them because failure is never fatal, success is never final, you just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Some days are going to be good, and others not so much, so don’t ever give up. In the wise words of Winston Churchill “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

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