Tackling the Physical and Mental Demands of Team Roping

Clay O'Brien Cooper talks about how much is mental and how much is physical in team roping.
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Clay O'Brien Cooper talks about how much is mental and how much is physical in team roping.

There’s an age-old question when it comes to team roping: How much of it’s physical and how much of it’s mental? I think initially the physical part and the mental part start at the same level. I’d envision them as being equal in the beginning. To become very good at something there are principles in play. The first principle is determination and a determination to master the fundamentals. You’re not only developing those fundamentals from a physical sense, but are also mentally learning a principle of not giving up until you get them mastered. That’s the power and the fuel it takes to master the fundamentals, and that’s essential in anything you want to learn to do.

ClayOBrienCooper

You’re basically simultaneously cultivating your mental capacity—your concentration and focus on the mental side—while on the physical side your body is being trained to perform a function over and over again with consistency and excellence.

Team roping is pretty complex in the functioning parts of it. You’ve got to master the fundamentals of your riding and how you handle and control your horse. You’re learning to read and react to the run, which is reading the steer, reading your header and learning how to react in terms of where to be and what to do throughout the run.

The basic mechanical functions of handling your rope, where your swing needs to be, where your body parts are supposed to be, how to deliver the loop—all of those things are grounded in their own fundamentals. So there are a lot of different parts to master in order to take it to the highest possible level.

It’s your brain—the mental side—that’s constantly studying and trying to learn in order to cultivate your knowledge, then master those fundamentals. Your focus and effort on the mental side are critical to going through the physical process day in and day out. Going through the stages of that development takes years.

I see and identify with the younger guys who are really at the top of the game. For the most part, the top 10 or 15 guys in the world are young guys. But they’ve spent years developing their talent. Once you reach that stage, then it’s not so much a balance because you’ve mastered the fundamentals. That’s when the mental side becomes so much greater. Now your mental state of mind either enables you in a positive way or affects you in a negative way.

You have to reach a point where you understand that the principles of your thinking are the governing factor to your success. I identify with the greatest ropers, because I’ve walked through those same issues. What I’ve realized over time is that keeping a positive attitude, always working toward the positives and not allowing the negative to take over is the thing that brings success. And the same principles that apply to roping also apply to life. Thinking positive thoughts and living with positive actions—always making the decision to do what you know is right—allows you to function in a place that provides the opportunity for what you’ve worked so hard to perfect in order to be a success.

Photo by Lone Wolf Photography