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.

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You’re Always Making Memories (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

I’m up in Austin tonight and it made me think of a funny story. About seven years ago I was traveling with a rookie named Josh Crow, who’s now one of my best friends. Naturally being a rookie, he endured a lot of ribbing from me but overall he took it pretty well.

We had just finished roping in Austin and stopped to eat a bite before getting on the interstate. Leaving the restaurant our driver, Johnny, headed for the truck and as Josh and I started to get in the trailer we noticed the generator had come unplugged. Josh told me to go ahead, he’d climb up top and take care of it.

I got settled in the trailer, put in a movie and we took off. Josh never got in the trailer so I figured he decided to ride in the truck. We’d barely gotten on the interstate when my phone rang. All I could hear was wind blowing and someone screaming. Finally I realize that it’s Josh and I think he’s trying to play a trick on me by leaning out of the truck window.

The call gets dropped and my phone rings again. This time I hear Josh screaming, “I’m on the trailer!!!”

We’re on interstate I-35 going about 75 miles an hour and Josh is scared to death. I try to call Johnny up in the truck and he’s not answering. I figure I’ll stick a corner of the comforter out of the trailer window to get his attention. He doesn’t notice that so I keep feeding the comforter out of the window until almost the entire king size comforter is flapping beside the trailer and about to pull my arm out of the socket.

Finally a truck driver pulls up beside us and I point to the pick up. The truck driver gets Johnny’s attention and seeing the comforter, he immediately whips it over. Poor Josh climbs down and looks like a tornado survivor. He’d been up there about fifteen miles and said, “You can’t believe how close those overpasses are to the top of the trailer!”

Recalling that story it dawned on me how blessed I’ve been through the years to spend time with great people doing what I do. The friendships I’ve formed are priceless. These memories make me realize that none of these experiences are by accident. God works in ALL things – through good, bad and even funny times. All means all.

I don’t believe in living in the past, but I do think it’s important to reflect back and learn from our past. Too many of us live for the future without taking the time to enjoy what we have right now. As my mother often tells me about the time I spend with my sons, “You’re always making memories.”

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

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Knowledge is Power (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

We often hear the phrase “knowledge is power.” While very true, there’s a big difference between revealed knowledge and communicated knowledge. Communicated knowledge is something you know from reading, being told or observing. Revealed knowledge comes from the first hand experience of doing which eventually becomes a “knowing.”

While teaching, I can put a student in the correct position, put my string in his hand and tell him exactly what to do. That’s communicated knowledge and though it’s true, it won’t help him much until he spends some time turning it into revealed knowledge.

Revealed knowledge comes from experience. By doing something enough that you just know it. No successful roper you watch on television got there by luck, fortune or fame. They all put in the time it took to get there and made necessary sacrifices.

At a school I was teaching one of the kids asked me what it took to be a winner. I gave him the politically correct answer about hard work, dedication, etc. Later on he asked again, and I went in depth a little more. After two days, at the end of the school, the students looked like they’d been in a boxing match. Their hands were taped, they were sore and bruised and all looking for somewhere to lie down and lick their wounds. The same kid asked me again what it took to win.

This time I answered, “Go do what you’ve done for the last two days for 600 days out of the next two years. Each year take off 65 days whenever you want. Come back after two years and then we’ll talk, because by then you will have started to understand what it takes.” When I was in college I practiced like that for five years.

No matter what you want in life, you will be as successful as the amount of time you are willing to put in it. There are people who read books and listen to tapes to learn to win and then there are those who simply win. Winning takes care of itself and the more prepared you are – the more you win. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”

I’ll see you down the line. God Bless.

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Who am I? (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

At start of each year I like to evaluate my goals and priorities. I’ve heard that you have a seventy percent better chance of reaching goals when you write them down. This self- evaluation is an on-going process; but each new year I do some genuine soul searching, not just as a roper, but as a man. Keeping life balanced requires asking myself some pretty deep and tough questions:

Will the world be a better place because I was here? What will I be remembered for and what will be my legacy? Will it be for my roping, because I was in GQ magazine or for the posters and ads I’ve been in? What’s important to me is to be remembered as a good Christian man who set a good example for those I had influence over.

What’s your passion? We all need to be passionate in whatever we’re doing in life. Are you going after your passion – or is it a daydream? It would be a tragedy for me to have my passion for roping and not get a chance to pursue it. I think there are many people without happiness because they’re caught up in the daily grind of life, trying to get by and are not true to their passion. I’m incredibly blessed to be successful at my passion.

Has anything changed me or knocked me off course in pursuit of my goals. The most important thing to me is having a balance. For instance, what if I were the fastest man alive in the arena from the time my feet hit the ground until I threw my hands in the air. It wouldn’t be very beneficial if I couldn’t score and catch. I’d rather be well balanced in all areas. There would be little reward in being the best roper in the world and not have a family who loved you to share it with.

How do you overcome adversity? Does it make you better or set you back. If you’re in a hole and someone throws dirt on you – do you use that dirt to take a step up – or do you let that dirt cover you up? Enjoy every stage of life and when you’re struggling embrace it and know you’ll be better from the challenge. You’ll not only survive but you’ll improve from the experience. Find your weak spots and work on it. Acknowledge and attack it and turn it into a positive.

Who are you allowing to speak into your life? Who and what are you listening to? Are they speaking good and positive things or are they speaking deadly negatives? God will put everyone in your life that needs to be there, but it’s our responsibility to put them in the right place. I have no room for negatives because what you take in will come out. I ask myself if the people I’m allowing to speak in my life are telling me the things I need to hear to get where I need to go. Have I told the people who influence my life how much I love and appreciate them?

If these questions seem thought provoking and deep, it’s because they’re supposed to be. Most importantly, just be real.

God bless, and I’ll see you down the line.

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NFR Report (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

It’s nice to be home after two weeks in Las Vegas. The finals are history for another year. Overall, I’m satisfied with the outcome. I won second in the average and about $86,000 between average and round money. My biggest excitement is how well my mare did. She won the Calf Horse award at the NFR. Going in to the finals I had pretty big expectations for her and she surpassed them all. During the entire ten rounds she didn’t make one mistake.

Unfortunately, a few mishaps along the way keep me from being able to say the same thing about my performance. In all events, some had a great finals, some had a good finals and then some didn’t enjoy much success. When you’re having a bad finals, it’s tough to remind yourself that you belong there – you earned it by being one of the top fifteen competitors in the world. The national finals rodeo is not an invitational event.

Most people will never realize what it takes to make the national finals. The hours of practice, the ups and downs of competition and sacrifices are all part of the journey. And everyone who makes it secretly hopes they don’t go through a “slump” during that ten days – but sometimes it happens.

I’d like to thank everyone for their support during the finals. Thanks to everyone who voted for my horse. She’s phenomenal and I’m truly grateful that I get to take care of her and ride her.

Till next time, see you down the line and God Bless.

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Darkness to the Light (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since I hurt my shoulder to the point I wondered at times if I was facing the end of my roping career. After surgery last December, they told me I would be out six months. Then I met evangelist, Paula White, who introduced me to the premier physical and personal trainer, Dodd Romero. Under his supervision I was back in the arena competing in just over three months.

One question I often hear is, “How did you rehabilitate your shoulder so quickly?” What most people don’t understand is Dodd didn’t just rehab my shoulder – he changed my entire life. From what and how I eat, to my sleeping habits all the way to my physical training. This year I’ve lost thirty pounds and while many said I would lose my strength, exactly the opposite is true. I’ve had both knees operated on and for the first time in a long, long time they don’t hurt anymore.

I’m quicker, lighter, more agile and don’t hurt. I haven’t given a lot of thought about getting older, but in fact I’m now 37 but feel better than ever. If I can do it, anyone can. It’s not rocket science – it’s changing your diet and exercise. A lot of people get discouraged after starting an exercise program because they don’t lose weight. But they keep eating the same old things.

The key is to incorporate all of it – cardio, diet and exercise. You cut out all the bad carbs like potatoes, bread, fried foods and no sugar at all. Everyone says, “Well, there’s nothing left to eat,” but I haven’t starved to death. In fact, I eat four or five times a day. A typical breakfast for me is scrambled egg whites with onions and mushrooms, with turkey bacon or steak. Lunch includes a good protein like fish, along with a sweet potato or steamed vegetables. I also drink a lot of protein shakes.

My exercise program includes a lower body workout two or three times weekly, an upper body workout a couple of times a week and for cardio I ride a bike five to ten miles every day. To strengthen the core, where it all starts, I do 100 to 500 sit-ups every day.

Considering the risk of coming back at my full capabilities, I have taken a lot of chances this year.  When I lost Topper, I, for the first time in my life, took out a loan to buy a horse.  That loan also bought a toter home.  I could probably rodeo out of a crew cab pick-up and trailer – but I won’t ask my wife and kids to. My mental health is as important as my physical health and for me to be mentally healthy I need my family with me. It’s fulfilling and important for us to be a unit and together and honestly, when they can’t go with me anymore – I don’t care to go anymore.

Ultimately had I not gotten hurt last year, I would have been robbed of this life transformation.  If you remember, a year ago when I got hurt, I thanked God for the opportunity to learn from this experience – well, now it all makes more sense.  God does take us from the darkness to the light.  That’s the rest of the story… for now.

If you have any questions or anything you’d like to read about, drop me a line at strant@aol.com. God Bless and I’ll see you down the line.

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Best of the Best (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

I just got back from the first annual ‘Best of the Best’ invitational calf roping held at the Joplin Regional Stockyards in Joplin, Missouri. They invited the top fifteen NFR qualifiers from 2006, plus six more, roping for a purse of $60,000. Matt Shiozawa won first which paid $26,000. There were two or three guys that won close to $10,000.

This was a well-planned event that was first class all the way. They chartered planes to come pick us all up in the Northwest; then when it was over they flew us all back. The arena was built for this event and seats 7,000 to 8,000 people. With admission at $15 per ticket, there was standing room only. The proceeds benefited Camp Barnabas, a camp for underprivileged children.

The door prizes they gave away were a Chevrolet pick up, a John Deere Gator and a gooseneck stock trailer. The man behind it all is Jackie Moore, whose livestock auction is the second largest in the United States.

Each contestant was sponsored by a business and the event was a ‘Cattle Industry College.’ Guest speakers, including congressmen and senators, spoke on behalf of the beef industry. The planning, preparation and organization was truly amazing.

This was a classy and successful event that made fans of some very affluent folks and promoted our event tremendously. Mr. Moore knew what it took to put on a good show: bring in the best and let them run more than one calf. The cowboys had time to mingle and sign autographs and the fans enjoy making that personal connection.

This year they added $40,000 and have plans to add $150,000 to next year’s event. Jackie would like first place to pay $50,000 next year. Now we’re talking Calgary kind of money. Calgary will be hard to beat because next year it will pay $250,000 to win the roping with the rounds paying $25,000. Events like this take our sport to the next level.

The rodeo season is winding down and it will be pretty hectic for the next few weeks. I’ll rope one a day for the next five days; go home for a couple of days and then have another five-day run.

For any questions or topics you want me to write about, send me an email at strant@aol.com. God Bless, see you down the line.

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Go Ahead, Make my Day (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Thankfully, this month I get to tell you how good things have been going. Having been on a roll for the past two months has moved me from fiftieth to tenth in the world standings. This is especially sweet since it’s happened while I’ve been coming back from an injury, trying to get with a new horse and rebuild my confidence all at the same time. In the last few weeks I’ve won over $25,000. When you’re on a roll like this things look different. Everything slows down taking the pressure off. You don’t try as hard because you don’t really have to. We all go through these rolls and everyone wants to know what causes them. I would have to say to stay and rope within your limits and be prepared and ready for when you draw well. Know your limitations and capitalize on your strengths.

The other day I was riding out of the arena at Abilene, Kansas and a guy about my age flagged me down. This man has nothing to do with rodeo, in fact he’s a doctor, and had his five-year-old son with him. This man tells me that his son absolutely loves rodeo, because he’s crazy about me. This little boy is so excited to meet me and have our picture taken. When I got off my horse and knelt down beside him, I noticed his little hands didn’t work right; perhaps he has cerebral palsy or some other disability.

There I am, with my two healthy sons, winning the rodeo and the highlight for me was to make this kid’s day and get to enjoy his excitement. I had on sunglasses so they couldn’t see how choked up I was. This is humbling and puts everything in perspective. It hurts in a good way and makes me see the responsibility of what I do. This experience confirms what I stand for and that the message I share really matters.

I feel the reason I’m out here rodeoing, and doing this article, is to impact people. That’s why Allen and I are so excited about the Mentorship Roping Camp.

Normally when people attend a three-day roping school, they absorb as much as they can and then take this knowledge home and put it in practice. At this thirty-day camp I will be there day in and day out – while this knowledge becomes part of their roping. It’s like the difference between simply viewing a snapshot versus being an active participant when the shot was taken. This will be head and shoulders above any clinic I’ve ever seen or been a part of.

Allen and I both feel that with this format we can have a powerful influence on these young ropers – both in and out of the arena. The camp is scheduled for October 1-26, 2007 and will take place at Allen Bach’s in Millsap, Texas. Students will stay on the grounds and receive daily roping instruction Monday through Friday, as well as daily Bible study. There will also be plenty of fun (such as basketball and volleyball) and time to establish relationships that last a lifetime.

Prospective students must fill out a questionnaire detailing their goals and other information. Applications will be reviewed and we will select a limited number of participants.

For more information on rates and itinerary, please call 940-577-0961 or visit proroping.com or forevercowboys.com.

If you have any questions, or subjects you would like me to address in this article, send me an email at strant@aol.com.

 

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The Calgary Stampede (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Once again the dust has settled on the Calgary Stampede and it’s still the best event we attend all year. This is my favorite time and rodeo of the entire year and our family makes a vacation out of it. Every day is sold out and the stands are full of enthusiastic and supportive fans. The Calgary Stampede was born in 1912 by Guy Weadick, who had a dream of having the best rodeo in the world.

Each year the rodeo committee votes for a contestant to receive the Guy Weadick Memorial award. This year I was chosen to receive this award, which is a two-foot bronze statue. Winning rodeos is something I work for and those wins come and go – but an honor like this is very humbling and stays with you. Mr. Weadick not only wanted to have the best rodeo and show in the world – but also wanted to know he left this world a better place and made a positive difference.

That philosophy is dear to my own heart and made this award very special. To make a difference in this world and to the people you come in contact with begins with those small, every day decisions we all make on a daily basis. It’s an accumulation of those small, common moments that define our lives and us.

Fred Whitfield won the calf roping. My new mare and I roped the fastest calf of the rodeo and won a round. Calgary is set up much like the NFR and I haven’t had much time to ride her in this type of scenario. I’ve owned her for two months and still haven’t run a practice calf on her. She just keeps getting better and by the time it’s over she may be the best horse I’ve ever had.

Speaking of dreams and making a difference, Allen Bach has come up with the idea for a Mentorship Roping Camp. This will be a thirty-day camp for young men between the ages of 18 and 22 who want to take their roping to the next level. We will be accepting applications for twelve team ropers, six headers and six heelers; and up to twelve calf ropers.

Allen and I will be teaching simultaneously in adjacent arenas and will conduct several half-hour Bible study sessions each day. This will be an invaluable experience for young ropers who want to be professional cowboys and athletes. Through the week other professionals, like us, will stop by to speak and get to know the students. If this is something that you or someone you know might be interested in, feel free to get in touch with me.

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Giving Back (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Last week I attended Barry Burke’s Junior Roping, for the first time since I roped there myself as a youngster. Barry had invited us to attend and I spoke on Sunday and then stayed and watched until I had to leave for Ft. Smith on Monday.

It’s exciting for the sport because there are a ton of kids roping, much more than when I was young. The caliber of these young ropers is amazing. I credit this to the USCRA and Lanham Mangold for giving calf ropers a place to rope and progress, even if they don’t want to be a professional.

I left there recharged about my sport and encouraged by the feedback from the people I talked to. In the last four or five months it seems I’ve heard from many people who have really connected with my article. You can’t imagine how this kind of feedback encourages me to keep writing and coming up with new ideas.

The reason for this article is so I can give back, and if some of my experiences can help someone else, then it’s all worth it. I feel like we’re here to encourage each other and exchange life stories.

Recently a college rodeo coach told me that the article I wrote about not making finals where I said, “They’ll have this event (NFR) with or without me,” really had an impact on him at a time when he was struggling with his roping. He’s added my article to his curriculum and now they discuss it in class.

Lots of parents tell me how much they appreciate my article because their kids read the same things they’ve been telling them and my article validates that information. They’re appreciative of the message I put out.

If you have a question and see me, come talk to me. I don’t have all the answers and I learn as I go. In my career I don’t need to have people patting me on the back and telling me I’m the greatest. I get my encouragement from things like this. The roping takes care of itself.

I’ve got a new mare that I hope will replace Topper. They say it’s bad luck to change a horse’s name so for that reason I usually do it to prove them wrong. Her name is Adalida and as Topper’s replacement I can’t call her that. I’m known as a “namer” but I was having trouble coming up with a name for her.

I was in Florida and told Dodd, my trainer, that I couldn’t think of a name for my horse. The next day he said he came up with a name, Destiny. He said it was destiny for me to have the horse. So Destiny she is.

In the month I’ve owned her, I haven’t made a practice run on her yet. The other day I flew to California and was so excited to see her. I was riding her around and couldn’t believe she was mine. She makes my job so easy, I’m starting to feel like Superman again.

Recently I heard the quote “Great ropers, make great horses.” Sometimes that’s true, but I feel that the exact opposite is more accurate – great horses make great ropers.

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