I’ve been noticing lately how fast everyone is. I know team roping keeps progressing every year, but there are so many good teams out there this year that have the ability to make good runs. Team roping’s good watching nowadays. They used to say that it was like watching paint dry. Not anymore. There are lots of good heelers, and have been for a few years now. To me, it seems like there are a lot more headers now who can ride the line, and are really talented at reaching and handling cattle. They aren’t afraid. They just go for it. Speed (Williams) won the world eight years in a row (1997-2004). It’s been a few years since he’s won it (Clay Tryan in 2005, Matt Sherwood in 2006 and Chad Masters in 2007), so there’s been about a 10-year span now that the young guys have been able to study and work on that style.
Those students of the game are 19 to 22 years old now, and there’s a whole slew of guys who can stick it on ’em right there. It makes the go-rounds so tough. It seems like you have to be 4 everywhere to place. A lot of the rodeos have gone to straight two head. There haven’t been a lot of short rounds. Throwing that into the mix has made everybody a lot more aggressive at the heading end, and the day moneys have been tough.
For the last eight or 10 years, there have been a lot of heelers out there who’ve been waiting on good headers to show up. There were a few good headers, with Speed at the lead. But then comes along guys like Chad Masters and the Tryan boys. Stick a few more good headers in there and you’ve got something special.
Now you match all these really good new headers roping with the heelers who’ve been there. Take those awesome heelers and match them with a good header, and you have 20-25 teams who can put fast runs together. It’s good watching, and it makes roping tough and competitive. Wow.
Every run starts with the header. He’s the quarterback. He can ride the barrier and have that head horse rolling flat across that line, not be afraid to come with it when the barrier snaps and have the ability to hook it on him. So many guys can do that now. The heelers can catch two feet behind them virtually every time, and that makes for fast, consistent runs. It just comes from guys studying it and working hard at it. They’re motivated to be one of the top guys.
Right when team roping really exploded, Jake (Barnes) and I got the ball rolling. Then Speed and Rich (Skelton) stepped it up another notch with just a little different style of doing things. Speed’s really aggressive style-taking chances and reaching-changed everything, especially because he can do that consistently and set things up for his heeler by not letting his horse get out of control. I think everybody’s figuring out now how hard he’s worked at it. His work ethic at home is huge. Years ago, the bombers let their horses duck. Speed took reaching to another level, and figured out how to maintain his horses and soften the corner up and not let the handles get out of hand.
Roping has really progressed. A lot of guys are getting it figured out and putting it to the test. The result is a lot of guys with the ability to do it, and do it right. It’s going to be interesting to see how it just keeps progressing. It’s amazing to me to see the last 30 years of how times have changed at the jackpots and the rodeos. It’s like every sport out there-it just keeps getting better, and the best is yet to come.