Barnes talks about how there are so many opportunities in team roping.

The opportunities out there in the team roping world today are so far beyond what they’ve ever been. That’s a true statement for ropers at every level, and with the addition of the USTRC and now the World Series of Team Roping, there’s never been a better time to be a recreational roper, which is what most ropers out there are.

The team roping industry is booming, and that means that in addition to record payoffs there’s a boom for people who sell horses, trucks, trailers, ropes, saddles, bits and every other related piece of equipment we use. It’s crazy how far we’ve come as a sport, and how much people at every level of this game can win.

It’s a great time to be a team roper, and an even better time to be the best team roper you can be. That’s good news for people who train rope horses, put on roping clinics and schools, put on ropings and rodeos, make DVDs and produce a magazine like this one. Team roping is such a big business today that I have a hard time calling it a hobby for anyone anymore.

I grew up roping, and have been fortunate to make a living at it for a long time. When I was a kid, roping was pretty inexpensive. There used to be 3-for-$10 ropings, back when it didn’t cost much to spend a day jackpotting. Team roping has evolved into a much more serious business these days, and with all the big money to strive for there’s much more incentive to maximize your potential and find a way to succeed.

Most people show up with a pretty strong intent to win. More people than ever before have their own arenas, machines and cattle. Lots of ropers still have 9-5 jobs, but more of them are understanding just how big the opportunities are now at the big ropings and finals. People are investing more of their time in roping and are looking at it like a second job.

I hear over and over—at all levels—that you can’t just go catch anymore. It’s crazy how good the top ropers are, and I hear that from the lower-numbered guys also. Legs aren’t cutting it anymore, and runs are getting faster in all divisions. There are all sorts of explanations for this industry-wide phenomenon, including the internet making it possible for people to watch more good runs. There’s just so much incentive to work hard, and it shows.

Back when I started roping there were only open ropings. The numbering system today is an equalizer that evens the playing field, and keeps entries up by making numbered ropings as fair as possible. Most ropers complain about being over-numbered. It’s impossible for any system based on opinion to be perfect at all times, but they have it down to a pretty good science now and we can all agree there’s a need for it.

The elite ropers are the minority today, which makes recreational ropers the majority. We all want to maximize our roping experience and make the most of it. Every roper should strive for progress. That’s what keeps it interesting and makes it fun. If you work hard, even a small step—say, half a number a year—will turn a #5 roper into a #10 in five years.

It all goes back to your individual goals, but a drastic fact like that puts into perspective just how possible progress is if you’re willing to work hard. Isolate the areas of your roping that need improvement, and make a plan. Then practice, practice, practice, even if it’s after work or on weekends. Isolate your problems, and do something about them.

We all can benefit from some constructive criticism. Clay (O’Brien Cooper) and I have been working with a lot of ropers lately. We have more than 100 years of combined roping experience, and what we know has helped us win millions of dollars. I applaud people who make small and smart investments in clinics, lessons and schools. Coaches help athletes be their best in every sport.

If you’re a sportsman, your goal is to try and conquer your game. Checkers wouldn’t be any fun if you never stepped up to the challenge of trying to master it. We all have a choice to make between staying in a rut and trying to get better. There’s a lot of self-satisfaction in improving and climbing the ladder.