This title is a quote from Vince Lombardi, one of football's most accomplished and respected coaches. Vince trained his athletes for consistent performance, rather than one-time stunning plays.
My weakness, or strength in competition, came from the decision to perhaps sacrifice 3 tenths of a second in exchange for hands-on horsemanship. Call me a control freak, but I always opted for the solid average run every time, rather than pushing for the fastest run one time.
It certainly takes courage in a barrel race to throw fate to the wind and gamble on the outcome. The opportunity to make the fastest run or set an arena record takes a "winner take all" mentality. Arguably, I never called myself a brave competitor, and a consistent win bought gas, paid entry fees and allowed me to follow my dreams one competition weekend at a time. As a competitor, I lived by the philosophy that every run had to count. Therefore, I felt learning to plan the run and run the plan, gave me the courage to ride into each competitive situation with a purpose, and most importantly, a plan. Call it intelligent horsemanship, I just couldn’t talk myself into letting my horse, with a brain slightly larger than a walnut, make the ultimate decision that would determine the outcome of our competition.
The thought of spending hours in the arena training, tuning, scoring, conditioning, and practicing the mental focus necessary to make a precise run, only to release control when my entry fee was on the line – and pray that everything would come together during this precise 15 to 17 seconds of competition – just didn't make sense to me. One mistake, an incorrect pocket position, one shortened stride at the inappropriate time, and I don’t get a paycheck for the hard work and efforts I invested for this run.
"No guts, no glory" is one view, but being a winner is not just making a winning run; sometimes, it's having the ability to make a qualifying run every time. "Don’t beat yourself or outrun your ability" are two of the most difficult lessons to learn when speed comes into play.
Each run is a learning opportunity, a chance to evaluate strengths and weaknesses, and a chance to learn a lesson that will make the next run better than the last. Winning runs are not answers to prayers; they don’t come by luck or fate. Winning runs are created through preparation, practice and experience and are manifested when the opportunity to excel presents itself.
Top barrel racing competitors understand the methodology of producing consistent performance regardless of the size of arena or ground conditions. There are no excuses for any outcome, win or loss. In barrel racing, I believe that achieving the mastery of fundamentals comes with a lifetime of commitment and dedication, practice, preparation and experience, and then you add speed and the learning process begins all over again!