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The Mental Game Of Team Roping

How To Build Confidence, Composure And Competency


Bill Cole, MS, MA
The Mental Game Coach™
Silicon Valley, California


This article on the mental game of team roping gives you some insights into how you can use your mind for more success in roping. I have been the mental game coach to numerous ropers in many events over the years. I love coaching ropers because they have such a love for horses and the roping world and they are such down to earth, sincere people. I have coached a number of winners and even have coached at the World Series of Team Roping in Las Vegas.

1. Be Solid, Not Perfect: The mental game of team roping is a complex subject. Many ropers drive themselves crazy by thinking they need to be perfect in order to score in competition. They put huge pressure on themselves by getting to their event and thinking, "Now it counts. I can't afford to make any mistakes. I gotta get this thing perfect." Of course this line of thinking just adds to their feelings of pressure and locks the roper up, big time.

Look at this type of thinking like this. If you truly believe this, doesn't that mean that you have been practicing incorrectly, and that now, at your event, you suddenly need to do something different? On the other hand, if you HAVE been practicing the right way, don't you just need to do what you have trained to do? This is a completely different mindset. The proper mindset goes like this: "I have been training very well. I have been training the right ways. I am well-drilled, with lots of reps. My body knows what to do. I trust my training. I trust my body. I trust my trained instincts. So what I'll do now is just get out of my own way, not try extra hard, not over-think this and instead just flow into this." Your horse knows what to do also. Your horse doesn't get to the event and think, "I need to really step it up now. My normal efforts won't cut it. This is important!" Your horse just performs according to your training.

Ropers get into trouble mentally when they take an event and blow it up in their mind. Here's a better way to look at any event. Your horse doesn't know this is a "special event". Your saddle doesn't know this is a "special event". Only you believe this is a "special event". So stop looking at the event as "big", "must win", "do or die", or "make it or break it". View the event as exciting, yes, but not as critical. Many ropers even normalize the event in their mind and choose to view it as "just another day at the office". They view it as "just like another practice". Why do they do this? So they don't get overly amped up, pressure themselves, and begin to think that only perfection will win. Remember the roper a few moments ago who was convinced that only a perfect performance would be good enough? That type of thinking only adds to the pressure. Do you believe that successful ropers play better under pressure? That's a myth. Top ropers, and other athletes play better under reduced pressure. How is that so? They change the competitive situation from one of threat to one of challenge by using their mind. They appraise the situation as a curiosity, a learning experience, a fun adventure, a test of their skills, or some other interesting perspective. Athletes who perform poorly view competitive situations as threats or problems. This viewpoint leads to stressful, panicky feelings, feeling insecure, fear of taking risks, playing not to lose, and a host of other sub-optimal behaviors and outcomes.

So the conclusion is this. Stop thinking you need to be perfect in competition. Just turn in your usual practice-like performance. This solid performance will either work or it won't, but no one can be successful trying to be someone they are not.

2. Know Your Correct Cues Cold: Most ropers practice diligently and hope that this training will put them in good stead at their competition. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong at the event and the pressure makes them feel like something is different or that "they're off". What often happens is they get lost mentally in a competition. They THINK they know what mental procedures and sequences and cues to use, but they don't. They don't identify these accurately and lock them in during training.

For example, what are the last two things you do before the calf is released? What do you look at? What do you have in your mind? What are you doing with your hands? These are critical pieces of data to know. If you do NOT know these, under pressure, your mind will tend to wander, jump around, feel lost, get distracted and make things up. These cues and sequences (also called routines or rituals) give you a secure, known, peace-of-mind feeling that all is well, and that you know exactly what you are doing. Think of this. You are a highly experienced rider. You know all about caring for your horse, transportation, the saddle and other gear you put on the horse, etc, etc. etc. This is called technique.

Well, there is also mental technique. When we talk about the cues and rituals, this is the part of your mental game that is often missing. And this makes you feel out of sorts and lost. You'll come back after an event and say, "I really don't know what happened out there. All I know is I was not myself." Well, this lost feeling is from not identifying and training your cues and sequences. THAT is what makes you feel lost. You are focusing on the wrong cues when you are in the heat of battle.

So my advice is to go back to training and carefully identify these factors. The moment you do that, the better you will feel. Then you'll go to a competition and feel the same security and confidence you have in practice.

Now you have some new insights into the mental game of team roping. And now you know more about how to manage your mind, and how to be less perfectionistic. You know how to identify your cues and rituals to improve your focus. Take these out to your next roping competition and put them to good use. Good luck!


For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths and weaknesses. Here is a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot. This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program you undertake with mental coach Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture about your mental game.


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Copyright © 2014 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.


Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time college athletics.


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The Mental Game of Team Roping

The mental game of team roping

Bill Cole, MS, MA doing mental game coaching at the World Team Roping Championships in Las Vegas.



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Sports Psychology Coaching

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