I am excited to share some insights about the intersections between sport psychology, counseling, and team roping! Sport psychology is a form of applied counseling designed to provide instruction and training of psychological skills for psychological improvement. Most people think of counseling in the traditional sense—the provision of assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social, and psychological difficulties. But sport psychology moves beyond this definition! Sports psychology encompasses instruction and training of psychological skills for performance improvement. The expert works with the athlete to identify problems or goals and offers knowledge and skills to reduce obstacles and achieve goals, which benefits every athlete.
These techniques have a direct benefit to team ropers. My clients and my own personal experiences have taught me that having that little voice in the back of our heads can sabotage our experiences. The good thing is that we can develop strategies to accept, understand, and counter these thoughts! Working with a counselor on goal setting, imagery, self-talk, pregame routines and arousal regulation (involving relaxation and energizing techniques and activities) will help you become a better athlete and better team roper. Our brains are incredible: they can grow, develop, learn, adjust, and compensate during our entire lifetimes. We can dream, imagine, and manifest our aspirations and goals—but our brains can also create self-doubt and cause us to question ourselves, doubt our abilities, and become fearful of situations that in reality we can overcome. This dichotomous thinking ability both helps and hinders us, and it is both a blessing and curse.
Think of this ability as the good wolf and the bad wolf or the ever-familiar angel on one shoulder and devil on the other. We can all relate! It is completely normal for people to root themselves on, build themselves up and create and achieve their goals while also having the terrific capability to sabotage themselves. People literally talk themselves out of their dreams, creating fear, self-doubt and insecurity that immobilize them. As a result, they make choices and perform in a much different way than they are capable of in the practice pen, in competitive situations, or in front of certain people. I am certain many of you are silently nodding your head and connecting with this information because it has happened to you. You have experienced the pain and frustration of dreaming up goals, working hard and flushing those same goals down the toilet because you can’t figure out how to perform the same way you do at home at the jackpot or rodeo. It is heartbreaking when dreams don’t come true, when we get bad breaks or we drop the ball on a pup or high team steer.
Working with a consultant to learn performance enhancement techniques, the roper can set realistic and challenging goals, increase awareness as to what he/she is thinking and feeling, determine if thoughts and feelings are helpful or hurtful and adjust accordingly. In addition, the athlete will learn to visualize making personal best runs and focus on specifics to help them recreate these runs consistently in real life situations. Team ropers can also benefit from developing pre-game routines which help them establish a consistent way to prepare for practice or a competitive situation which includes warming up their horses and preparing themselves both mentally and physically. Arousal regulation is another skill that cowboys and cowgirls can benefit from so they learn how to relax themselves when they get too worked up or nervous and can keep their horses calm, too! It is critical to send a clear message to their equine partners regarding the start and achieving proper position. In addition, a roper will be better equipped to stay relaxed enough to focus on simple steps in the run like the angle of their rope and other mental cues such as staying with the steer a stride or two to create a soft corner for their partner. Through the consulting process a roper will become increasingly aware of the things they do that help them make consistent runs and those things that hinder them so they may achieve consistent success. The key is to make lasting and desired changes in one’s performance.
My ultimate goal in working with folks is to teach them how to enjoy their sport and have fun! I enjoy helping athletes learn how to make practice pen runs in any situation regardless of the arena or perceived magnitude of the event! Life is too short to suffer through a sport we love and too long not to have any fun. When people are relaxed, confident and focused on their personal best they can recreate this performance much more easily and consistently.
Until next time,
Dr. Nora Hunt-Lee, Coach and Sports Consultant
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