THACKERVILLE, Okla. – Members of the Mad 10 looked on as Matt Triplett quickly turned his feet into quick flashes of blue and black.
Triplett’s socks were just flashes in the wind as he moved his Nikes in and out of the agility ladder he had laid on the floor at Synergy Fitness in Bowie, Texas.
The Built Ford Tough Series hopefuls competing in this week’s BlueDEF Bucking Madness Boot Camp appeared almost lost as the No. 4 bull rider in the world standings quickly paced himself from workout station to work outstation.
One minute he would be doing triceps pullovers and 30 seconds later he would be crawling to the top of a punching bag and bursting out a series of hanging crunches.
Normally the contestants only get to watch Triplett on television or inside the arena. Usually, the only palm trees they see are the ones on his belt buckle from winning the Monster Energy Bulls on the Beach last year.
On Wednesday, Triplett’s T-shirt with two palm trees quickly became a makeshift towel after sweat and hard work.
He didn’t have to say much at all to get his point across.
His deep breathing in between quick sips from a plastic water bottle said it all.
“If you are not going to the gym and trying to better yourself, you might as well not even get on,” Triplett said. “We are like other athletes. You don’t see Kobe Bryant sitting on the couch and expecting to win the game. He is in the gym 24/7 trying to better himself.
“In this day and age, guys have to be in the gym getting better.”
18-year-old Jake Gowdy – the youngest bull rider at Boot Camp – came away impressed with Triplett’s dedication.
“It was really intense,” Gowdy said. “He was training really good. He never stopped.”
Triplett is not in front of any cameras or microphones while at the gym.
To him, it is not only a place to work on his physical shape for bull riding, but it is also a place to escape the pressures and the demands of being in contention for a world title.
“It clears your mind, it clears your brain and it gets you back to reality,” Triplett said.
Triplett knows it is no secret he has struggled this year with the mental side of the sport, which is one of the things being stressed at Boot Camp to every rider, Built Ford Tough Series riders included.
Triplett is one of many active riders or PBR legends helping at Boot Camp. He has been joined by fellow BFTS riders Silvano Alves, J.W. Harris, Nathan Schaper and Douglas Duncan. Lambert also brought in such legends as Jerome Robinson, two-time World Champion Justin McBride, 1994 Rookie of the Year J.W. Hart and Ross Coleman to help coach.
Following Triplett’s gym session, the world title contender said the past few days at Lambert’s has actually been just as beneficial for him.
He pointed to the advice he has learned from Lambert, McBride and Robinson.
“I actually have learned a lot from them,” Triplett said following his workout. “A little bit mechanical wise, but mostly my mental game. It has been a real treat to spend some quality time with those guys.
“When Justin was riding. He knew he was going to win. Sometimes I get caught up in the hype, the lights and all of that stuff every once in a while. You have to have the same mentality every time you go there to win.”
Triplett heads to Thackerville on Friday morning for the WinStar World Casino & Resort Invitational just 892.5 points behind world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira.
However, the recent media attention has been focused on the dynamic return of J.B. Mauney and the 2013 World Champ’s surge to No. 2 in the world standings.
Therefore, Triplett has been able to sit back in the shadows once again, which is a huge benefit for the 24-year-old.
“That is all just distractions,” Triplett said. “At the beginning of the second half, I let all of the distractions get into my head and I wasn’t riding to the best of my ability.”
Triplett rode his first two bulls in Nashville and it was only the second time since mid-March – when he was No. 1 in the world – that he had recorded two qualified rides at a BFTS event.
The third-year pro understands he has much to learn still at this point in his career.
He hopes to one day be able to handle the mental side of the sport like McBride and Mauney.
“Eventually, I definitely want to be like J.B. where I can just exit out all the cameras, exit out all the lights exit out whatever bull I got and know I am going to dominate no matter what,” Triplett said. “He has the best clear mindset. It doesn’t go up and down like a roller coaster. If he bucks off, it stays straight.”
Robinson believes Triplett can turn things around.
“I think he will get over it,” Robinson said. “I think this will help Triplett a whole lot. Just watching, listening and talking to the guys. He will get as much out of this week as anybody.”
Triplett has never had this much down time with the likes of Lambert, McBride and Robinson.
In fact, Robinson pulled Triplett aside Wednesday evening to talk to him about how to handle his emotions.
“I said, ‘You get so emotional,’” Robinson said. “That is what worries me about Triplett. At times it looks like he is emotionally unstable about his riding. It is not a bad problem because it means you are competitive. That is the good part.
“I said, ‘Try and figure out what you do, but don’t live with it. Get it out of your mind and try and figure out what the right thing to do is and then start playing with you mental imagery on the right thing. Instead of thinking about what you did wrong, think about what you did right.’”
Experts around the sport believe Triplett has what it takes to be a true title contender, but that day will come when he can master the mental side of the sport.
“I just need to keep the same mindset,” Triplett said. “That is what it takes to be a World champion. That no-quit attitude.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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