How do you Win? (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

The million-dollar question that I hear most is, “How do you win?” The answer is in how well you deal with pressure. Pressure will either make you or break you and how you handle it will determine how successful you’ll be.

To me pressure is a privilege. Say you’re in the short go – how did you get there? I’m sure it wasn’t with a lottery ticket or being pulled out of a crowd. At the National Finals they don’t randomly draw fifteen contestants from each event. Those are the top fifteen who have won over and over. The next time you’re in that situation with sweaty palms and a cottonmouth, remember you earned the right to be there. Being in that situation also means you’re prepared for those times. You’ve trained and prepared yourself for this moment in time, or you wouldn’t be there.

Pressure can be a huge distraction, but I choose to feed from it and let it make me even more focused and determined.

The way to deal with pressure is to focus. To stay focused I use the KISS method – “Keep it simple Stran.” I take that nervous energy and channel it into focus, which heightens my senses. I can recall being in situations where I was so focused that things slowed down and it was like being in slow motion. I couldn’t hear the announcer, I could almost smell my rope – I was so focused my senses were ultra sensitive.

There are a few things I concentrate on when I rope. I will focus on what I’m doing with my eyes and where I’m looking. When I’m sitting in the box I will find a spot on my calf’s neck – not the entire calf or just the neck area – I’m talking about an inch square. I watch that part of his neck to see my start and focus on that. It’s easy to get caught up in the announcer or the crowd when you’re in a strange place. You need to learn to tune those distractions out and make it your own.

You can’t wait until you get to the WNFR in Las Vegas to get control of your mind. We talk a lot about practicing, well, practice focusing – faithfully because it takes a lot of practice to master. It’s well worth it because controlling emotions and handling pressure is the difference between those who win and those who don’t.

Another key in focusing and winning is knowing your limitations and staying within them. How many times have you seen someone at the rodeo try something they wouldn’t have attempted at home? No matter how long you’ve roped or how much you’ve won, you will always need to focus because that rope only knows one thing. It goes where you throw it.

Stay focused and I’ll see you down the line. God Bless.