Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"
Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
The Mental Side of Rodeo…
Somewhere in America right now,
a dad or mom is taking a child for a lesson to learn how to
do something. Somewhere, a twelve-year old is putting golf
clubs in the back of an SUV, a thirteen-year old tennis
prodigy is lacing up her athletic shoes, and a nine-year old
is putting resin on his violin strings. Somewhere – at this
moment - a sixty-year old physician is saddling his horse
preparing to listen and learn from a man who will tell old
“Doc” how he might rope better. We will never know most of
them - even though all are trying to become better - but
some will become household names. Why is that?
As I grow older, seems I’m
obsessed with looking back. (Isn’t that the way we all
are?) Seems now days I constantly think about one
particular thing, and that is…what really helped
me in my life? What really improved my performance? I
struggle with that question and do not yet have a clear
answer, but I do know one thing. Those who helped me most
weren’t people who told me about the physical things. While
instruction about how to do the physical side of things does
help us all, what helped me most…were people who told me
about the mental side of things. And their first of
order of business was to encourage me to stop and think
about what I was doing.
I overheard a conversation
years ago that proved to be a life-changing moment.
Later, I had a conversation
with the great roper, Walt Woodard, who told me about how he
failed when he turned professional. This was difficult
indeed for a person who had so much success as a youth.
The teacher caused me to think about why I was really failing. While it’s true I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the package, it was also true I often failed to show up for class – and when I did, I sat on the back row looking at the floor, not listening. When – like Gary Laffew – I began to give my self a chance by being there every day and focusing on the task, I began to do better. At ropings when I rushed and stressed, I missed. My internal thinking – what little there was of it – was consumed with being quick, beating other people, and being in an awful hurry. Bronc encouraged me to calm down, focus on riding my horse, and stay within myself - to only do what I could do. When I began to think better – then, I began to do better.
The path to improvement in roping begins with a focus on the mental side of rodeo… and so it is in every other walk of life.
Michael's latest release, Reflections Of A Cowboy, is currently available in audio book form. The two volume set consists of articles, essays and excerpts from radio performances about good people and good horses in the life of an Oklahoma cowboy. Approximately 8 hours in length. Reflections Of A Cowboy in printed form is scheduled for release in the summer of 2005. Order from Michael's website.