Clay O'Brien Cooper: Don't Overthink Things

Sometimes our nemesis is our own brain not trusting and being fearful that if we don’t drill down and break it all apart while we’re doing it, we won’t perform.
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2009
Sometimes our nemesis is our own brain not trusting and being fearful that if we don’t drill down and break it all apart while we’re doing it, we won’t perform.

To get good at anything, you have to work at it. You need to figure out the key elements to where you can perform them over and over again, so you can react to situations that arise. You also need to be analytical—to break down and dissect the important aspects of what you’re doing to become good at executing them. The aim and goal is to take that to competition and be able to do that in the competitive atmosphere, which is a little bit faster paced and is a more intense, pressurized situation. I’ve seen people in the ditch on both sides of the road—talented guys who seemed like they didn’t have a care in life, had worked on it but didn’t dwell on everything, like I do. The ditch on the other side of the road is more like I’ve been, where I dwell on things all the time. I’m always searching, experimenting and trying to find that holy grail—the very best way to do it to try to give myself an edge. But with that I sometimes get in my own way and overthink things. I’m too critical and have too many thoughts in my head. I’ve found over my career that there are times when
I overdo it.

Striking a balance between breaking it down and operating with a clear mind is the key. The practice pen is for working on things and putting them into a repetitive pattern to where it becomes something I can do without thinking about it very much. People who are fanatical about things, like I am, can get in their own way mentally.

When I go to competition—the rodeo or the roping—I need to not overthink things. I need to turn myself loose so I can operate without the burden of me getting in my own way on the mental side. This process is the same in all sports, it’s just that most other sports have coaches who teach you how to practice and how to compete. As cowboys, we’re basically on our own.

When I go to competition—the rodeo or the roping—I need to not overthink things. I need to turn myself loose so I can operate without the burden of me getting in my own way on the mental side. This process is the same in all sports, it’s just that most other sports have coaches who teach you how to practice and how to compete. As cowboys, we’re basically on our own.

As I look back over my career, and some of the times when I went on winning spurts, those were times when I was confident in what I was doing. I wasn’t overcritical and overthinking every move. I was competing with that level of confidence, and riding in there trusting the methods that I was using. It freed me up to really perform at my best.

There’s a book that came out years ago called “The Inner Game of Tennis.” I think Walt Woodard introduced it to the rodeo world, and it introduced this concept I’m talking about. Charly Crawford told me about another book called “Mental Gym,” which deals with the psychological part of how we operate and teaches you the difference between training and competition. It talks about learning to operate with a psychological plan, so you don’t hinder yourself mentally by allowing your thought process to work in the wrong way for you.

In basic terms, you can react way faster than you can think things through. If somebody throws a ball at you from across the room, you will react and catch the ball out of the air without thinking about it. That reaction is something you can rely on. A lot of times we don’t trust ourselves to react correctly. Sometimes our nemesis is our own brain not trusting and being fearful that if we don’t drill down and break it all apart while we’re doing it, we won’t perform. But I think the opposite is true. Trust your training. SWR