We talk a lot about mental game in team roping. How to zero in on the horns. How to follow the inside leg around the corner. How to use the pressure of the moment to drive you, and not to stifle you.
Our coach Clay Cooper just released his DVD on the Jackpot Anxiety Cure. My dad, Rickey Green, released his Imagine video years ago. Upping our mental game is always on our mind. We practice our runs in our head on the way to the roping. We tell ourselves to focus on the steer in front of us and not on the leader board.
But what else affects our “mental game?” Sometimes we put every ounce of our effort into focusing on one run at a time, but it still just doesn’t seem to be enough. We look back at the run and we either blacked out or we were looking everywhere and missed because of it. Or maybe we blew the barrier because we weren’t in the moment watching our steer.
Our mental game and mental health are under the effects of so much more than just what is going on in the arena.
Lately, I’ve been having a lot of trouble focusing on work, on my master’s classes, and on my Roping.com contributions. Most of the time, I just shrug and try to make myself do the work. But that doesn’t always work, just like in the roping arena. Sometimes it’s just an off day. But what do you do when an off day turns into an off week, an off month, or longer? How do we cope or try to fix it?
For me, the key is to let the distraction in. I’m not saying to watch the butterfly that floated by your head loop. What I am saying is, try to find the root of your un-focus. What is taking up that mental space and inhibiting you from focusing?
It’s an uncomfortable thing to do. It’s unnatural. We would all much rather just push through the murk and the fog and finally come through to a sunny pasture on the other side. But that doesn’t always work for us. Sometimes, the deeper we wade into the bog, the more lost we become. We lose our sense of direction and then can’t get back to square one, let alone the winner’s circle.
After months of feeling like I was walking around in a fog, I finally let (read: made) myself sit down and figure out what was really wrong with me. My workload is heavy, but it’s nothing that I’m not used to. I’m doing work that I enjoy. I’m learning, which is one of my passions in life. So, what was my problem?
It took a lot of prying and pushing myself to admit what was going on. I made myself sit with the feeling that had been hovering over me day after day. When I finally came to that discomfort, that distraction and named it, it hit me like a firehose!
“I miss my dad and I am not okay.” Ouch.
I know. “Duh, of course you miss your dad!” Trust me, I know. But one thing about me is that I pride myself on not needing people around. So, yes while objectively I knew I missed my dad, I also kept telling myself that I was okay. I got up and went to work, I hung out with friends, I posted on social media, I went on vacation, and I acted like I was fine. Dad passed away in October of last year, and it took me until the middle of July to admit that I was not okay.
Isn’t it funny how sometimes you have to argue with yourself? You can tell yourself over and over that your lack of focus is just that: a lack of focus. You can say that you missed the last ten steers because you’re tired or because you just weren’t paying attention. And maybe that is the reason!
But maybe you can’t focus on the sport you love because something deeper is going on. Could you be throwing your heel loop in the dirt because you’re worried about your house payment? Could you be waving it off the horns because you had an argument with your spouse and it’s really eating at you?
I’m not saying that we should just make excuses when things don’t go our way in or out of the roping pen. What I am saying is that we need to find the root of the issue and deal with it!
In the two days since I came to my very obvious realization, I’ve been more focused at work. I was able to check my planner and get back to my classwork. I feel lighter now that I was honest with myself about where I was at mentally and emotionally.
All of our coaches will tell you that you have to master your focus and your mental game to be a successful roper. They are more correct than I can even explain. They are amazing competitors that have excelled to incredible feats in the arena. I would wager that even they would agree that you have to address what’s really going on in your life to be able to focus on your runs.
Keeping your head clear by dealing with the issues that are coming into your life will be a tremendous help! But pushing heavy items to the back of your mind doesn’t clear it; it just makes everything foggy. Address things as they come, and you’ll be much more capable of dealing with that steer as it comes out of the chute.
Again, I’m no expert, so don’t take my word for it! This is just my two cents on the mental balancing act we all do. Try it out next time you just can’t seem to make yourself focus. If I’m wrong, you’re no worse off than before you read this post. But if I’m right, maybe something great will come out of it!
Thanks for the read!
1 John 4:7