Showing Emotion Control in the Competition Environment

After a summer of less than stellar rodeo performances, I came to the realization that I may need to re-evaluate my plan. Perhaps, my problem was not in my horse, or my roping but rather in my ability (or inability) to control my emotions in the heat of the moment. Talking to my friends and a few competitors, I realized that I was not alone; controlling emotions is a topic that transcends the competition arena.

For me it’s nerves, the stress of having an audience and feeling like I’m letting people down when I don’t rope well. For others, it’s learning to control their anger after having a less than stellar ride. I interviewed a few individuals, to gain a better understanding of how I could control my own emotions in competition.

Martina Wardle, Miss Rodeo Utah 2010 and 2nd Runner Up at Miss Rodeo America 2011 said for her controlling nerves has more to do with putting things into perspective.

“The only thing I can say about emotional control is keeping the competition in perspective. It’s not the most important thing you’ll do this year, or in the long run. You do it because you like it or because you’re good at it or both.”

When I showed horses combatting nerves was realizing that I was merely paying for an opinion. The judge’s opinion is merely a perception of what is going on in the arena at that day and that exact moment in time, a snap shot. As soon as you realize the judge is a human and they can only judge what they see in that 30 seconds, the happier you will be.  Take a step back and realize that it’s not a personal attack on you, your horse or your trainer.

Fourteen time AjPHA World Champion and TCU Athlete Rylee Morgan said for her controlling nerves was simply about doing what you love.

“I try not to think about it as a competition, think about it as doing what I love and realizing that there is more to life than just winning.”

Surrounding yourself with positive people and staying away from negative ones was common theme among my interviewees. Who you travel with will affect your emotions. Negative traveling partners or friends bring down the moral and easily wear on your confidence.

2008 WNFR Bull Riding qualifier, Shawn Proctor put it this way.

 “That’s why the best travel with the best. If you’re traveling with a guy that’s afraid to get on a bull, what’s that going to do to you? Sometimes in that situation when someone else is affecting your nerves. I believe that it’s best to just go sit down by yourself and do your own routine. Some people might think that you’re anti-social but that’s not the case. You’re just there to win. There’s plenty of time to be sociable after.”

Morgan said supporters keep her in the game.

“From personal experience, the supporters are the people that keep you doing what you love and keep you working toward that goal. The negative people are the ones that make you want to stop showing or get out of competition.”

Read “Why Being Number 2, is Ok Too.” for more on surrounding yourself with positive people.

Mental focus and emotional control are another skill set that must be developed in the practice pen. It’s learning what frame of mind you need to be in to compete successfully.

For PRCA/NIRA/RMPRA Team Roper and Tie-Down Roper, Keaton Newman a successful run is about visualization and preparation.

“I know I practiced all week for that calf or steer and I’m prepared for whatever happens. I picture myself roping and tying that calf days before I actually do it.”

For Bull Rider Shawn Proctor it’s combating negative thoughts and believing in yourself.

“I think it goes back to how bad you want it and how much you mentally prepare yourself. To not just want it but to go get it. No matter what you’re going to have negative thoughts, that’s part of it. A champion knows how to overcome negative thoughts. That’s what keeps them going day in and day out, through the ups and downs, surgeries and the wins. When you’re home your mental exercise is to program yourself to not have those negative thoughts. At home if you catch yourself and think of something positive eventually those negative thoughts are no more.”

Proctor continued.

“I remember my first big rodeo. I was 18 years old and in Denver and I looked down the chutes and I was the only one in that performance that hadn’t been to the NFR or won a world title. I was scared to death and nervous. I was just riding against all those guys that I had looked up to but I remember as I was taking my wrap in the chutesI thought to myself ‘Here we go. I’m going to make a name for myself right now. These old guys are going to know what their competition is!’”

Mastering your emotions is the key to winning. It’s a mental game. Have you noticed that when you get on a winning streak that every competition seems to be easier in the last? You have so much belief in yourself, your horse and your skills. Keeping your head up is easy. Overcoming a slump is a harder task to undertake and is truly what separates the world champion athletes from the “added money”.

If you have any tips on controlling your emotions in or out of the arena or have an idea for a blog feel free to comment below or find me on social media. 

- Paige Morgan
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