PUEBLO, Colo. – During his strong third-place finish in the world standings this past season, Matt Triplett began to learn over time how important mental strength would be if he wanted to rise from an average Built Ford Tough Series rider into a World Champion contender.
There were ups and downs throughout 2014, but by the time October and the Built Ford Tough World Finals came around, the 23-year-old had begun to develop a routine that was beginning to show dividends.
Triplett began practicing hot yoga as a way to develop mental strength and his increased level of focus helped propel him to a fifth-place finish at the World Finals (3-for-6). It was the highlight of a month in which he rode seven consecutive bulls and finished 8-for-12.
Instead of remaining complacent with his strong finish, Triplett has decided to continue working on his mental strength this offseason in preparation for the 2015 season. Therefore, in an age where sports psychology continues to play a big role in professional sports, Triplett spent the majority of his 15-hour flight to Australia last month listening to “Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence.”
“It was awesome what I did this year, but I have been reading a lot inspiring books,” Triplett said. “You can’t give into the hype level or get a big head. I still haven’t set out and reached the main goal and that is winning the world. I am going to try and keep the same state of mind I had at World Finals and try and win every round I can now.”
“Mind Gym” is written by sports psychologist Gary Mack and David Casstevens and features 40 accessible lessons that help build mental strength and includes inspirational anecdotes from such professional athletes as Ken Griffey Jr. and Charles Barkley. Overcoming adversity, staying motivated and following one’s dreams are only some of the themes that Mack touches on in his novel.
Triplett competed in four PBR Australia Cup events in November and picked up two second-place finishes, as well as a third-place result.
“I took all of that momentum from Finals and I have just been riding good,” he said. “I rode two short-round bulls over there and that is my key this year – to get my short round bulls rode. Hopefully that all pays off.”
Triplett said there were three major moments last season that really helped him gain a new level of confidence in his abilities.
The first came when he ended his 0-for-15 drought in BFTS short rounds by riding Freaky Eyes for 87.5 points in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was four weeks after falling short of his first career BFTS win in Laughlin, Nevada, at the 7.99-second mark on Compact.
His next confidence booster came in Huntington Beach, California, when he conquered Oklahoma Bell for an event-winning 87 points in the Monster Energy Bulls on the Beach 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Though, his biggest accomplishment of all came when he rode Walk Off for a career-high 92 points during Round 2 of the World Finals.
“This is a really, really good ride,” said CBS Sports color commentator and nine-time World Champion Ty Murray at the time. “Matt Triplett has a lot of tools in his toolbox and his effort is one of them. He makes such a good ride on this bull that he didn’t even have to really use a whole lot of effort. He just made it look easy and this is one that is really bucking.”
Triplett hopes that through mental visualization – remembering he rode those bulls –will give him an added sense of confidence next season.
“Having the mindset of knowing that I rode Walk Off can help in a way because that bull is so rank that you can tune your state of mind to think, ‘Hey, I can ride the rankest bulls in the world, now just do it,’” he explained.
2014 was a major improvement for Triplett compared to 2013 when he finished 26th in the world standings after squeezing into the World Finals as the 35th qualifier by competing in only nine BFTS events. This past year, Triplett set career highs in rides (33), 90-point rides (2), Top-5s (4) and Top-10’s (11).
Not only was Triplett fired up during World Finals, but so too was his grandfather, David McFadyean.
McFadyean became just as popular as his grandson in Las Vegas after CBS Sports Network captured his joyful celebration following Triplett’s 89-point ride on Delco in the fourth round.
Even though the 72-year-old grandfather doesn’t offer much advice toward Triplett’s bull riding career, he did share some motivational tactics with his grandson from his days of coaching cross country in Eureka, Montana.
“He tries to stay out of it and just encourages me,” Triplett said. “It is awesome having him around though. My grandpa has always been one of my biggest fans ever since I was playing basketball and football. He has fun with it and enjoys it a lot.”
Along with his newfound interest in sports psychology books, Triplett continues to embrace hot yoga as part of his training regimen this offseason. He is currently taking classes daily and is planning on entering 2015 in prime shape once the BFTS season-opener rolls around on Jan. 2 in Baltimore.
He is also plans to compete at the Midway Auto Group PBR Touring Pro Division event in Kearney, Nebraska, on Dec. 13.
“A lot of that confidence and mental game is really coming from – I have said it a hundred times – the yoga,” he said. “Just being able to finish a full-hour class in a 100-degree room is a whole new mental barrier you have to break. Once you can break the mental (barrier) you are going to be able to keep the calm, focused attitude when you get behind the chutes.
“That is what I think is really making the difference for me. Having that state of mind and breathing and having the confidence knowing I can ride anything.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
© 2014 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.