CLAY O’BRIEN COOPER

Spin to Win Rodeo - - Departments - By Clay O’Brien Cooper with Ken­dra San­tos

One of the things that makes this sport so chal­leng­ing and in­trigu­ing is that you’re ba­si­cally multi-task­ing when you rope. Phys­i­cally and me­chan­i­cally, there’s the roper and the rider.

There’s the roper’s per­spec­tive and part of the equa­tion, that han­dles the me­chan­ics of swing­ing, tim­ing and rop­ing the steer by two feet. Then there’s the rider, who op­er­ates your horse and uses the rid­ing style you’ve de­vel­oped, which con­trols and ma­neu­vers your horse through­out each run.

We all know the men­tal side of com­pe­ti­tion is a huge fac­tor, and that can be split in two also. We all have to deal with doubt, and thoughts about things like pres­sure, where your thoughts are try­ing to work against you.

Then there’s the side of con­fi­dence, which is the truth of your abil­i­ties, what you’ve learned and put into prac­tice. Putting those pos­i­tive thoughts to­gether cre­ates a con­fi­dence you can use to bat­tle the thoughts that are telling you you can’t do it. Use them to over­come any neg­a­tive thoughts that creep into your mind and con­firm that you can do it. You’ve trained your­self through trial and error and prac­tice to per­form cer­tain func­tions that al­low you to get the job done. Use those skills as as­sets.

We all have these var­i­ous as­pects of our rop­ing in com­mon, whether we’re at the pro level or just start­ing out. We’re all in this to­gether, and deal­ing with the same is­sues. The only dif­fer­ence is that the pro has spent a lot of time, prac­tice and ef­fort in achiev­ing goals one at a time and climb­ing the lad­der in all ar­eas, in­clud­ing the rider part, the roper part and the thought-man­age­ment part of learn­ing how to win.

I’ve been work­ing at all of these as­pects of the game since I was a kid. So I have a lot of time and experience in­vested in these ar­eas, which have proven to be very valu­able in my ca­reer.

Lower-num­bered ropers need to cover the same ground to keep im­prov­ing. They have to de­velop their skills phys­i­cally and men­tally to achieve their own goals. That’s how you for­mu­late your strat­egy as to what style of roper you’re go­ing to be. You ex­am­ine and con­stantly eval­u­ate your strengths and weak­nesses, and work on im­prov­ing in each and every area. That’s what I’ve got­ten up and done every day for the last 45 years.

It’s fun to set goals and see if you can im­prove. I not only do that with rop­ing, I look at life the same way. Thirty years ago I started a rou­tine af­ter do­ing a real self-ex­am­i­na­tion. There were things about my­self I didn’t like, and things I needed help with. I made a per­sonal de­ci­sion to ac­cept what God had done for me, and pur­sue the wis­dom that comes from Him.

None of these things hap­pen overnight. It’s a daily ap­pli­ca­tion; a daily chal­lenge; a daily grind. The same way I press into rop­ing and com­pet­ing I also press into what God tells me to do. That’s where I get my pur­pose in life, and it’s given me a com­pass. I’m not search­ing for my pur­pose. I know which way North is for me.

I’ve done schools and helped peo­ple with their rop­ing for 40 years. I’ve found that fo­cus­ing on rid­ing and horse­man­ship is a big key to suc­cess at every level. I know I have to con­cen­trate more on my rid­ing than the rop­ing part.

I’m al­ways work­ing on the rop­ing part, but the most im­por­tant thing for me when I go to com­pete is to try to ride in a way that will al­low the roper in me to have an easy job. If I do that, I’m more suc­cess­ful than when I’m only think­ing about my rop­ing. If I mess up in the rid­ing part, it makes it a lot harder for the roper in me to do his job. Over time, I’ve fig­ured out that if I fo­cus most of my con­cen­tra­tion on my rid­ing and horse­man­ship, I give my­self the best chance to win.

I MADE A PER­SONAL DE­CI­SION TO AC­CEPT WHAT GOD HAD DONE FOR ME, AND PUR­SUE THE WIS­DOM THAT COMES FROM HIM.

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