By: Justin Felisko
November 21, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Derek Kolbaba did a bit of reading following the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
The 20-year-old had just concluded his rookie season 17th in the world standings, but was still frustrated with how his promising start to 2016 fizzled out during the final three months of the season.
“Not really,” Kolbaba responded when asked if he was satisfied with his rookie year. “It was a great year for sure, and the best year I have had, but you set goals for yourself at the beginning of the year and to be where I was in the beginning of the season and where I finished wasn’t really good on my part.
“It fires me up for this year.”
Kolbaba concluded the season with 24 consecutive BFTS buckoffs and decided after the Finals to take a step back and read “With Winning in Mind.”
He had already read the Lanny Bassham motivational book before after his buddy and saddle bronc rider Bradley Halsell recommend the book.
Bassham won an Olympic gold medal in rifle shooting at the 1976 Summer Olympics.
“It is not so much (about setting) an outcome goal, but a process goal,” Kolbaba said. “You set goals. For me, if I can get to the front, set my hips and try on every bull I get on, then more than likely I am going to get him rode.
“If I can focus on doing that. Taking it one bull at a time, it is going to be best.”
It may seem a tad bit of a simplified goal for 2017, but that is the plan for Kolbaba as he prepares for his second season on the Built Ford Tough Series in January.
The 2017 BFTS begins on Jan. 6 in New York with the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden. It is the first of four PBR Majors on the 2017 PBR schedule.
Kolbaba said one of his biggest rookie lessons from 2016 was trying to not let his mind wallow in his success or failures.
“A lot of it is just trying to keep everything one bull at a time,” he said. “Not really worrying about what happened last time. Whether good or bad. Whether you rode for 90 the night before or 0, you still have to come out the next day and ride like you know how.
“You have to know that no matter what you get on, you still have to try every jump. Maybe forgetting a little bit what happened in the past and focus in on getting it done with the task at hand.”
Kolbaba admitted bucking off so many bulls in a row certainly affected his confidence. People would often try to come up to him offering advice or what he needed to do fix his struggles, which in turn filled his head with more questions.
“It is a little old when everybody keeps telling you how to do it 20 different ways and what you are doing wrong,” Kolbaba said. “Yeah, I am going to take every (advice) I can get, but, at the same time, I obviously get that it isn’t going the way it should be. You get on a cold streak and it kind of wears on you a bit. The more and more you bring that into the back of your head, the harder it is to get away from it.
“This year, we are going to focus on one bull at a time and really not letting one slip away.”
Kolbaba was able to hit the reset button this past weekend with his 2017 season debut at the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event in New Town, North Dakota.
It wasn’t a BFTS event, but the Walla Walla, Washington, bull rider showed great poise in bouncing back from a Round 2 buckoff against Chantilly Lace on Friday night with a Round 3 victory on Saturday by riding Hammer Down for 89.5 points.
Hammer Down is the same bull 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis rode for 88.5 points at the World Finals. He bucked so hard in New Town that Kolbaba’s spur went flying off his cowboy boot mid-ride.
“He blew me out of my spur, but that is alright,” said Kolbaba, who finished 2-for-4 and fifth overall in New Town. “That felt pretty good there. I knew he was going to be a good bull, but I kind of figured he would go away from my hand and he did. I just had to play a little bit of catchup.”
The ride was Kolbaba’s best at any level of PBR competition since he won the Anaheim, California, 15/15 Bucking Battle in January with 89.75 points aboard DaNutso.
It was also his first 89-point score since winning his first BFTS event in Des Moines, Iowa, with an 89-point ride on Kookaburra.
Kolbaba was ranked seventh in the world standings at the time of his Des Moines victory, but he went on to finish the season 3-for-34.
“It feels really good to get a good bull like that rode,” Kolbaba said. “I can try and carry that on all the way to New York.”
Kolbaba will take a break from bull riding for the next month, minus a few practice bulls, and recharge his mind and body for next season.
He plans on taking part in a couple of snowmobile trips near Joseph, Oregon, and possibly in Canada.
“I really enjoy it, especially in the offseason,” he said. “You can get your mind off things and have some fun.”
Bull riding will still be on his mind, though, Kolbaba, added.
He will be itching to kick things off at Madison Square Garden by the time Christmas rolls around.
For all of the struggles Kolbaba had in the last couple of months, 2016 wasn’t all gloom and doom for the first-year rider.
Kolbaba is well aware of that and is ready to build off those experiences in 2017.
“There are positives to take away,” he said. “To get an event win was pretty awesome. A 15/15 win. You just kind of get comfortable up here with these guys.
“Now my job is to not be another guy up there, but one that is winning. That is what we are going to focus on.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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