Finding the Other Side of the Roping Funk

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I talked about fighting your way out of a funk last month, and how I've struggled a little this year. I just got done fighting my way out of my own funk, so I thought it was worth following up on. I mentioned last issue that when you're struggling with a slump or a funk or whatever you want to call it, you need to do some honest self-evaluation and analysis, and be patient so you're ready to turn the ship around when the right circumstances present themselves. I followed my own advice, and it worked. I tried everything I could think of to turn things around. I tried a little different rope, I experimented with horses and practiced really hard. I went back to the basics, and roped that dummy 10 jillion times. I watched tapes. One thing that helped me get out of it was getting back on my good horses and staying on them.

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After I got pretty close to having the Finals made, I got on some different horses. I thought I'd try to save Peppy Doc this summer for some of the big events this fall. We weren't drawing real good, I lost my confidence and almost started to panic a little, because we were running out of rodeos and still needed to win about $5,000 to get the (Wrangler National) Finals (Rodeo) made. Two days ago, I was in the midst of fighting my head and wondering if we were even going to make the Finals. Guys below us were catching up. I probably had the most pressure I've ever had on me-ever. And when your confidence is down, you don't rope the same as when you're loose and confident. But we stuck with it, and (winning the) Puyallup (Pro Rodeo in Wash.) turned it all around for us. You have to stay sharp and on your toes, because one good win can turn everything around. That one steer in the finals at Puyallup put us into the Finals, and moved us way up the (world standings) ladder.

Getting through the tough times is always easier said than done. I've been roping all my life and know how to turn things around, but there's nothing easy about it. You try to isolate the problems. Is it the draw or your horse? You get to wondering how to get your confidence back. I was in a bad spot, and I couldn't seem to get out of it. It took almost a month and a half for the ice to break for us this last time we got down.

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I went through the checklist I gave you last issue, and tried not to panic. I worked hard in the practice pen. I worked on my horses. But remember, when you have to be 11 or quicker on two to win anything, there's no time to safety up and get conservative.

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It's not really a new game now just because Clay (O'Brien Cooper) and I have the Finals made. But that one good win does take a lot of the pressure off. I slept a lot easier last night than I have the last month. Now we need to stay on it, so we can capitalize on the next big opportunity

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As it got down to the end of the regular season (which was September 30), Clay and I had six rodeos left and we needed to win about $5,000. There were a bunch of guys in the same boat. The top guys who already had it made didn't have that pressure. They were just backing in there and letting it happen, which is the way you need to rope-no pressure-just having fun. It's a lot easier that way.

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One steer at one rodeo or roping really can change everything. Clay and I made the final round at Puyallup by the skin of our teeth. We were 5.4 and 6.1 on our first two steers, and a couple guys messed up, opened the door and let us into the (eight-team) semifinals. We were the first team out in the semifinals, and made a pretty good run, then there were two 5 flats and a 4.9. We were 5.1 and won fourth. We were three-tenths away from winning the round, but one hole out of not even making it into the (four-team) finals. A couple guys messed up again and let us in. We'd only won $744 going into the finals, so that wasn't enough (for their world standings cause). Our backs were against the wall running the last one. It was do or die. Being conservative and just catching wasn't going to do us any good, but if you don't rope smart when you rope first you leave the door open for everyone else to just have to catch. I got an awesome start, stuck it on him quick, Clay roped him fast and we put the monkey on those other guys' backs. Then there was no room for them to be conservative. We were able to apply the pressure. We were 4.5 on our last one, won the whole deal and got enough won to get the NFR made. Things had been going rough, but we were ready when we got our chance to turn it all around. We kept our focus, kept trying and capitalized on that one steer, and now I have a whole new outlook and perspective. Our year was dragging along. If you'd talked to me about winning a world championship last week, you'd probably have gotten a chuckle out of me. Now we're right back in the hunt. One good confidence-building run really can change your whole outlook.