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

I started com­pet­ing at a young age, with the thoughts, dreams, and as­pi­ra­tions of rop­ing be­ing my ca­reer. I can re­mem­ber be­ing 10, 11, 12 years old, and it was al­ready in my head and in my heart that that’s what I wanted to do.

I wanted to be like my he­roes—the guys I looked up to in the rop­ing world. It didn’t take long to re­al­ize that the road to the top comes with a lot of trial and er­ror, dis­ap­point­ment, hard­ship, and pe­ri­ods of time when you have to press through some tough stuff. It’s not al­ways easy for any of us. But the fa­nat­ics, like me, refuse to turn back. How we face ad­ver­sity is an in­di­vid­ual de­ci­sion and a choice.

There were help­ful prin­ci­ples that I was able to latch onto early on. There was a man named Tom Ab­shire, and he and his fam­ily used to haul me around to jack­pots. When I was 12 and in a slump, I got pretty down emo­tion­ally. Tom told me those were the times you learn some­thing and get bet­ter, and that af­ter you work your way out of that you come out bet­ter on the other side.

That made me dig in, try harder, and keep press­ing on to try and fig­ure it out. What I’ve found over the course of my ca­reer is that that prin­ci­ple holds true to this day, no mat­ter who you are. Whether you’re Jade Corkill or Ju­nior Nogueira, you’re go­ing to hit some hard spots. It doesn’t mat­ter what stage of your ca­reer you’re in—even if you’ve won world cham­pi­onships—you will hit rough patches. Things are not al­ways go­ing to go per­fectly for any of us.

In my trav­els, I talk to rop­ers of all lev­els from all parts of the coun­try, and I like vis­it­ing with them. I see tal­ented kids, and peo­ple of all ages try­ing to get bet­ter, climb the lad­der, and be suc­cess­ful with their rop­ing. More than any­thing, it’s about keep­ing your head down, plow­ing on, press­ing for­ward, and work­ing at it ev­ery day.

We all need to keep an open mind to use­ful, new in­for­ma­tion, and work hard at im­ple­ment­ing it or at least giv­ing it a try. Jake (Barnes) al­ways said at the be­gin­ning and end of our schools that there re­ally are no se­crets to rop­ing. It’s about do­ing the job ef­fi­ciently, and that takes a lot of prac­tice and per­se­ver­ance. It also takes know­ing that when you hit the in­evitable tough times—no mat­ter how gifted and tal­ented you are—you will get to the other side if you stay de­ter­mined and don’t pull up and quit.

This is just a prin­ci­ple of life, and it plays out in rop­ing, too. This has all be­come more clear to me as I’ve got­ten older. The guys I looked up to when I first started rodeo­ing are close to 70 years old now. Their bod­ies are hurt­ing, but they’re still try­ing to en­joy rop­ing. They say that as you get older you have to try harder. Life doesn’t just get eas­ier with age.

It doesn’t mat­ter if you’re a golfer, a base­ball player, a CEO, or a roper, it’s that never-give-up men­tal­ity that gets you to the other side of the tough times. We learned this as kids, and it’s still true. I was raised by Gene O’Brien, who came from a hard life, and the era of men from the Great De­pres­sion. It was about sur­vival for guys like him. I’m thank­ful that his gen­er­a­tion taught these prin­ci­ples to my gen­er­a­tion. Now we need to teach them to the next gen­er­a­tion, be­cause life isn’t just go­ing to be handed to any­one on a bed of roses. It’s up to each of us to make some­thing of it.


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