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There’s been a lot of talk recently about the need to grow team roping and rodeo as a whole—the need for more kids to pick up the sport, more fans, and, of course, more sponsorship money. But at the grassroots level, what can be done to welcome newcomers to team roping? WNFR qualifier and 2014 BFI champ Drew Horner came to the sport as an outsider at age 15, and he offers a unique perspective on how kids and adults alike can be more welcoming to new faces at the jackpots.
More popularity means more money from sponsors, which means a bigger industry. General growth can benefit the entire industry, helping the sport become more of a major independent sport.
In team roping, it’s hard to keep the attention of a kid or inexperienced adult if they don’t understand what’s going on. They aren’t going to appreciate the sport unless they fully understand it. The challenge is educating newcomers enough so they can get interested in it.
My dad always told me, “You never know what the other person is going through.” If there were a normal 28-year-old man who walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to rope, if I can afford it, I’m going to say yes to him. If I were to say no, I don’t know what he’s going through. He might have had five or six other guys say no today. He might be coming from some background we don’t know. He might be a single dad whose wife died six months ago, and he’s picking up the sport to build a relationship with his daughter.
For kids, that could mean roping with a girl or a boy who really doesn’t look like she or he has much experience. I remember when I was 15 at the jackpots, there were those who would rope with me every time. There were a few guys who, once you met them, they said yes every time. They didn’t know me and they said yes anyway. I will always be grateful for their kindness.
Helping a new person, and that person being involved in something they have a passion for, is more important than the money you may be “wasting” entering with them. You aren’t wasting it. Supporting somebody in something they love to do may be worth more than you know.
For the producers
When a young kid pulls into a jackpot with his or her parents (or a new team roper pulls in by himself or herself), there will be things they don’t know. When you pull into a new place, for a new experience, and immediately you don’t know where to park and don’t know where to enter, right away something that is overlooked by experienced team ropers turns into a pressure situation. I remember being nervous pulling into the gate at a roping knowing I didn’t know anybody there, trying to obey all the unsaid rules. You don’t want to park too close to somebody else’s trailer, you don’t want to tie your horse next to somebody at the wrong spot and block somebody’s rope bag. If producers are intentional about planning their event—with clear signs designating parking and the entry office, etc.—then that removes one entry-level stressor for newcomers and makes the sport all that more welcoming and open.
Drew Horner took a year off from ProRodeo and is teaching private lessons and clinics at National Roper Supply. For more information on private lessons, contact Drew at firstname.lastname@example.org. To reserve your spot in a clinic, visit nrsworld.com.