Attitude is Just About Everything

Navigating the ups and downs of rodeo with Jake Barnes.
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Navigating the ups and downs of rodeo with Jake Barnes.

You never know how the ball’s going to bounce. Throughout the years there were times it felt like it was easy to win, when everything went my way. Then when the tide turns, there are times when everything you try to do goes south. There are just stretches you think you’re on your game when nothing you do goes right. So attitude’s a big factor. You need to learn to be a positive thinker, and it’s extremely hard at every level not to let the negativity build so it doesn’t carry over. Some guys stay negative all the time, and pretty soon they’re almost looking for negative stuff to happen. But ups and downs are just the way it is in sports. You get hot and cold. But you have to be able to withstand the cold streaks. 

Credit: Lone Wolf Photography

Credit: Lone Wolf Photography

You need a partner who stays positive and is still in your corner and will keep patting you on the back, no matter what. Your teammate needs to be in your camp and rooting for you. A partner who throws a fit when you mess up makes it miserable. It’s almost like you have to have a cheerleader on your team.

In this sport your skin needs to be thick enough and tough enough that some tough times don’t bother you. But it’s hard. Some guys are better at rolling with the punches than others. I’m not very good at it. When you have a competitive spirit, you feel like you should be able to win every time. But that’s just not humanly possible.

I always quote something I heard Ty Murray say one time: “You either win something or you learn something every time.” I try to keep that attitude, and to take some positives out of even the worst runs, so I can keep looking forward to the next run and not let the last bad one carry over and ruin what’s yet to come.

Being well prepared when you go to an event is crucial to staying upbeat. You have to be well practiced and have your horse ready when you get there. You’re going to lose a lot more than you’re going to win, I don’t care who you are or how good you are, only a few guys win anywhere you go. Losing is a factor in every game at the highest level. You can make yourself miserable every time you lose, or you can learn something and move forward. You have to learn to get over the tough stuff and the losses quickly, so you don’t waste the next opportunity that presents itself.

The luck of the draw is a big factor, too. If you draw good, it’s easier to catch and execute your game plan. But you can’t always draw the pup. You’re going to draw strong steers, medium ones and really good ones. You can’t draw the best steer every time. Nobody’s that lucky. So you can’t hit a home run every time. There’s no need to complain about other guys drawing better or getting up better. It all balances out over time, and it does no good to focus on everybody else. That’s just a distraction. I always try to stay focused on my own business. 

There are just years when you draw better or get up better than others. You start off with a good winter and roll into the spring. It just seems like nothing can go wrong. There are other years when you can’t get up right, can’t get traded and can’t draw a good one. Those years are hard to swallow, but you have to keep putting your name in the hat to have a chance to turn things around. I’ve been doing this for 35 years. You have to have a love for the game to do anything that long. I can’t believe I’m still out here doing this at 54 years old. My hat’s off to guys like Clay (O’Brien Cooper) and Allen (Bach). Roping is my passion. I love it. Every day I wake up I still want to be the very best I can be. I’m not out to prove I’m tough. But it makes me tick to get up and try to be the best.