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Changing the Language in Competition

by Mental Game Professional Gwen Tenney - Published 7/21/2021

Gwen Tenney is a rodeo mom and wife on a mission to help others achieve their goals in and outside of the arena

I’ve really taken notice lately of the cowboy competitor language. It’s the same in any arena for any contestant, barrel racers, ropers and rough stock riders. The cowboy or cowgirl makes a run; the spectator asks, “How did your run go? Any luck?”; The cowboy replies with all the details of what went wrong that caused the “bad luck”. There is an unspoken rule in the rodeo world that if the competitor is not in the winner’s circle they must explain why or what they should have done better.

I was at a junior rodeo awhile back watching the pole bending. A young lady had just made her run and was headed out of the arena when I caught up with her. I smiled at her as I asked the age-old question, “How did your run go?” On cue, she looked at me with a bit of a dejected look as she began to explain all the details of what went wrong, what she should have done, and the mistakes her horse made to cause her run to be not quite perfect. I listened intently until she finished and then I asked, “Okay, so what went right?” She was speechless. She looked at me wide eyed and I could see the wheels turning in her head. Then she began to think about her run from a completely different angle. As she told me the great things about her run and what her horse had done that was awesome, her whole appearance began to change. She sat up straighter in her saddle, a beautiful smile formed on her face, her eyes lit up, and her voice was animated with excitement. Her entire mood shifted when she changed her mind about her run.

Your focus influences your emotions. Your emotions influence your behavior.

Your behavior determines your results. Your results determine your outcomes.

Your outcomes determine your destiny.

You can control your destiny by controlling your focus!

It’s a tough deal to stay positive and try to explain a run gone wrong because we are programmed with the explain away the losses language that has permeated the arena for years. The real deal is that there are only a few people that make it to the winner’s circle, but there are many who still had great runs and learned something to help them in their journey to the winner’s circle. The trick to growth and getting better is to change the focus. Change the way you feel about your run by focusing on what went right.

Giving mental power and energy to the things that went wrong is creating a bad vibe, as they say, in your whole thought process which literally creates a bad vibe in your actions and results. If you continue to focus on negativity you will simply get more negativity. Instead, like my little pole bender, shift your focus to what went right and you will create a vibe that changes your entire outlook and feeling. You will give more mental and physical power to your strengths and choke out the power that weaknesses have in your run and really your life!

What you feed in your life will grow. Feed the good, good will grow. Feed the bad, bad will grow. It’s the pattern of learning and growing in your game. If you want to improve you have to focus on the things that are going well. Make an effort to change that program and really concentrate on the greatness that is in each run. Your confidence will begin to skyrocket and disappointment and frustration will no longer have a hold on your emotions.

It’s time to change the cowboy competitor language! The next time someone asks you how your run went, take a minute, change your focus and answer with a resounding, “I had a great run because I learned __________. I am getting closer to that pay window with every run I make!” And when you are on the asking end remember to ask, “What went right in that run?” If you have forgotten somewhere along the way, you will remember again why you love rodeo and how much fun the sport truly is. Enjoy the run!

-Gwen Tenney, Tenney Training: Mental Game Specialists 

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