What to Work On to Improve Team Roping

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Charles Pogue has roped at 14 Wrangler National Finals Rodeos, and is considered to be one of the most consistent headers of all time. The 1987 PRCA/Resistol Team Roping Rookie of the Year won the 1988 NFR average with Rickey Green, and back-to-back BFI titles with Britt Bockius in 1999 and 2000. Pogue and Bockius also won the NFR in 2000. Pogue, whose sponsor partners include Wrangler, Cactus Ropes, Bloomer Trailers and Heel-O-Matic, lives in Ringling, Okla., with his roping-wolf wife, Londa, and their daughter, Raylee.

I love to have fun when I go to the practice pen, but I'm not there to entertain anybody. I'm there for a purpose. I don't go there to say I roped a bunch of steers, either. Every time I rope, I'm there to work on specific aspects of my roping. I block everything and everyone else out.

You have to get out of the habit of just going through the motions when you practice. You need to make a conscious effort to work on your weaknesses, and improve in those areas. If you aren't doing that, you're spinning your wheels. (Here, Pogue heads one for three-time Champ of the World Allen Bach.)

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The ropers who win on a regular basis over a long period of time are the ones who aren't afraid to always try new things. They're never happy with where they are, and are always striving for more. You can't ever be satisifed. You have to have that mindset or you're going to get left behind.

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I can't tell you exactly what you need to work on when you practice, because that's going to vary from roper to roper and from practice session to practice session. What I work on depends on how things have been going and how my horses are working. If my horse needs work on his scoring, I'll rope fewer steers to give him what he needs. There are always compromises to be made for the greater gain of the team, and your horse is part of the team. (Here, Pogue makes a run with 2000 PRCA/Resistol Heeling Rookie of the Year Trey Johnson.)

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Another part of not just going through the motions when you practice is in the mental realm. Practice pressure situations. Don't be one of those people who ropes great at home, then falls apart when the money's up. The mental game is real, so you need to take it seriously. The Top 15 guys in the world do. We've all pretended to be roping the high-teamer at the BFI or the 10th steer at the Finals thousands of times. It's just another fun way to challenge yourself and take it to the next level.

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I'm not saying you can't have fun. The fun's a big part of roping. But when it's time to ride in the box, it's time to concentrate and sharpen your intensity. There's plenty of time for jokes when you're bringing the steers up for the next round. If you're genuinely interested in improving your roping, I'd encourage you not to make a party out of it.

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Talent and skill are crucial to success in this sport. Work on your fundamentals and horsemanship. Just don't forget those other important elements, like mental toughness and concentration. All the talent in the world won't win anything if you get psyched out or too nervous on game day. But if you practice hard and concentrate, that confidence will carry over into competition.