Trying New Things with Clay O'Brien Cooper

The Champ--Clay O'Brien Cooper--is making some adjustments to his game.
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The Champ--Clay O'Brien Cooper--is making some adjustments to his game.

I watch golf all the time, and in the last 20 years Tiger Woods has been the guy who’s been considered the greatest of this era. The commentators are always talking about how he’s trying to tweak and change things all the time. I can identify with that, because I’ve always looked at my weak points, what I do well and what I need to work on to try and get better. For guys who are consumed with roping, like I am, it’s a valid question: If you’re pretty good already, is it crazy to always tweak things to try and get better?

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As far back as I can remember—since I was 9 or 10 years old—I remember studying roping. I studied the guys who roped good in my area (Southern California), and tried to copy what they did when I roped the dummy. I wanted to learn why guys did things a certain way, because I really wanted to rope good so I could be one of those guys.

Forty-four years later, I still go through the same process. The part that’s the most enjoyable and fun for me is studying roping—breaking it apart, trying new things and seeing why the right things work the way they do and why the things that don’t work so well don’t. The learning process is the part of roping that’s always fascinated me.

I’ve never been afraid to change something up. I’m not saying that I haven’t gone down some wrong roads only to find out that they were dead ends. Something I thought was a great idea wasn’t one, so I turned back and went back to the main road, so to speak. But it doesn’t take long before I’m fascinated again with something else I see in my imagination that I’m excited to go work on and try out. 

What I’m finding out in the process and through time and age is that I’m not the only one like this. The minds of people in other sports work the same way mine does. There are so many intricate parts to study and break down that the best guys in the world are constantly working on new things to use to try and get better.

That being said, there are times when I see other guys, like me, who are always digging at stuff. We can go overboard with it. So it’s kind of nice to get a sounding board by talking with someone you trust and respect. For people like that to tell you what you might try to get better can be very helpful. It’s not always what you want to hear, but sometimes the explanation they give shines light on the subject and helps you through the process.

As of today, I’m in the midst of something I’ve been working on since the (Wrangler National) Finals (Rodeo). The result is that I’ve learned a lot about some areas that always puzzled me. I’ve also learned a lot about guys I knew who did things a certain way—now I know why they do it that way. It has seemed at times like I went backward by trying new things, but sometimes you have to be willing to go backwards to really take a big step forward. It’s not only about having the ability to be better, but to me the knowledge part is half the fun.

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