CLAY O’BRIEN COOPER

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

It may be due to a num­ber change, ge­o­graphic re­lo­ca­tion, or try­ing to up­grade to give yourself the best pos­si­ble chance of win­ning. But the bot­tom line is it’s in­evitable that you’ll be chang­ing part­ners at some point in your rop­ing ca­reer. This is al­ways a touchy sub­ject, but be­cause it’s team rop­ing—and in our event it takes two to tango—it’s just part of it.

Re­gard­less of how far you go in climb­ing the rop­ing lad­der, we all start out jack­pot­ting, and do that to some de­gree through­out our ca­reers. That means mul­ti­ple part­ners. When you rodeo professionally, your com­mit­ment is to one part­ner. There are again sev­eral fac­tors to con­sider, in­clud­ing how the team per­forms to­gether, and your com­pat­i­bil­ity, if you travel to­gether.

It’s never been easy to make a change, but as I got older it be­came more im­por­tant to me to be up front with the guys I rope with. It’s not just about you, it’s about that other guy and his fam­ily, too. Be­ing open, and giv­ing him a heads up that gives him plenty of time to make a new game plan is just the right thing to do. Both part­ners should have some in­put on how it’s go­ing to go.

When I was younger, my brain kind of only thought about me. When you have a wife, kids, and a place to pay for, that pres­sure can make you switch part­ners pretty quickly. A guy’s got to do what a guy’s got to do to sur­vive.

I try to seg­ment the part­ner­ship, to keep an open door for both of us up front. Let’s rope through the win­ter, or spring, or sum­mer, and see how we do, for ex­am­ple. Each sea­son gives you a cer­tain amount of rodeos to try and do good to­gether. This is how I go at it as far as rodeo­ing goes, and it ap­plies to recre­ational rop­ers who jack­pot also. You don’t have to lock your­selves into a long-term com­mit­ment right off the bat.

In 2012, when I roped with Chad Mas­ters, we had an awe­some sum­mer, and he won the world cham­pi­onship. The whole time I was telling him that if he could find a bet­ter sit­u­a­tion, he should go do it. Same thing in my re­cent part­ner­ship with Der­rick Be­gay. The whole time we roped, I told him that if he could find a bet­ter part­ner who wanted to go harder, he should do it.

I mostly travel alone. Some guys like to travel to­gether and split ex­penses. There have been times I didn’t have the best horse. I like to go to about 50 rodeos a year in­stead of 75. So I re­al­ize there’s stuff peo­ple have to put up with to be my part­ner, and if those things make us not a very good fit, that’s fine. I like all my part­ners. They’re my friends. That’s why I like to keep ev­ery­thing above the ta­ble and talk about it.

I told Spank (Spencer Mitchell) be­fore we started rop­ing this spring that I wanted to come home at times. He agreed to that. We also agreed to re-eval­u­ate af­ter Cheyenne in July. That’s a pretty stan­dard time to make a de­ci­sion on your chanc- es for mak­ing the Fi­nals. When we went into our part­ner­ship, I had about $10,000 less won than Spencer, who roped with Ja­son Duby ear­lier this year.

Spencer started rop­ing with Rus­sell Car­doza the mid­dle of Au­gust, and I headed home for a cou­ple weeks. They were at about the same spot in the stand­ings when they started, so it made sense. They both still had a shot, and had about the same num­ber of rodeos left. There was no sense in me stay­ing out there, so I just went to a few rodeos in the North­west, like El­lens­burg and Walla Walla, and called it good.

There was no pot at the end of my rain­bow this year as far as mak­ing the Fi­nals went. I wanted Spank to do good and make the Fi­nals, so he needed to go on. Team rop­ing is about a team, and if you go at it with hon­esty and in­tegrity, it’s all good. I’m still good friends with all the guys I’ve roped with over the years—Jake (Barnes), Der­rick, Chad, Speed (Wil­liams), Tee (Wool­man). Things change. But it doesn’t have to be a bad deal when it does.

SPENCER MITCHELL AND CLAY O’BRIEN COOPER ROPED ABOUT THREE MONTHS THIS YEAR, AND WITH OPEN COM­MU­NI­CA­TION TRAN­SI­TIONED SMOOTHLY IN AND OUT OF THE PART­NER­SHIP.

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