Embrace the number bump.
Let’s face it. The leveling system of Team Roping revolutionized the sport. It gave everyone from beginners to world champs an opportunity to compete at their own level. It gave the new guy, or the disadvantaged a chance to make slow but consistent runs and still get a check.
It also made the top end of the game stronger. It consolidated the best Ropers into the open and higher numbered ropings putting them all in the same spot made it tougher. A rising tide lifts all ships.
30 years ago one tough roper usually never got challenged at a small hometown jackpot and therefore he never got better. He just dominated and bullied a weaker bunch.
The leveling system has made this the fastest growing and highest paid western equine sport.
I’ve always felt that a person should try to reach the top of the mountain. Go as far as they can go. Take me for example, I’m an open competitor in the NCHA (and still have a long way to go there) but in the USTRC I am only a number 7. A mid level roper. I feel that although I’m nearing 40 I should still try and get better. I still have 3 numbers to go before I reach the top of the mountain. For a short time I was accepting the fact that I was mid level and then one day I decided that wasn’t good enough. I don’t want to turn 80 and feel like I shorted myself. So lately I’ve been working harder. A new feather in my cap would be to get a new card with a number 8 on it.
Most people don’t want a higher number. Let’s face it. We have commended mediocrity to the point that a mid level amateur can win more money in Vegas than Trevor Brazile. There is no real motivation or incentive for one to move up the ladder. Most guys get together with a group of friends and rope a handful of practice steers once a week and drink twice as many beers and call it tuning up. They get away with their so called practice sessions and eventually after enough success they get a number change.
Really, it don’t hurt them, they already proved that they have the skills to move to the next level, but now they may have to practice twice a week and get their horse in better shape or maybe even buy a new one because ol’ blue ain’t as fast as the next guys big bay and he is to the steers 3 jumps quicker.
A higher number demands more. And let’s face it. People in this game, like many in this country, want to do as little as possible to get the most money.
It’s kind of like being the cowboss on a big ranch. He gets up earlier, stays later, attends meetings and balances numbers while the bunkhouse cowboys are at the bar. Sure he makes more money but more is demanded of him. He needs to be sharper than the rest.
The problem we have with team roping is that higher numbered ropings are a lot tougher to win at and generally don’t pay well.
I personally believe the open should pay more than any other roping. I don’t think the other ropings should pay less, I just think the higher the number the bigger the payouts. Like the open at the World Series in Vegas should pay 1 million dollars to the winners, new truck, new trailer, saddles, buckles, the works. It gives us all something to shoot for. Trust me, the money is out there. Tons of companies making millions of dollars on the names and reputations of great Cowboys. They give you a few ropes and a new pair of boots and some jeans and make you feel honored to have them behind you. But if it wasn’t for the guys at the top promoting their products, they wouldn’t do as well.
My point is that we all need motivation and something to strive for and I believe we should all strive to become higher numbered Ropers.
If you are a 4 and have been there a while maybe take some lessons, find a coach and pay him to help you. Address your weaknesses and work on them. Maybe you need to ride better or get a new horse. Maybe you need to rope better and need more time on the dummy. Maybe you need to lose weight or work on exercises for hand eye coordination. But if I was a 4 my goal in the next year would be to make it impossible for me to enter the 8. If I was a 5 my goal would be to make it impossible for me to enter the 9. And so on.
Try to be the best you can be, not do as little as possible to stay in the lowest numbered ropings. Some folks have a handicap they were born with. My son won his first saddle with a one armed man. I’ve seen that one armed man train colts and rope steers and do it in all kinds of weather with a smile on his face. He was born with one arm, and never ever complains. What’s your excuse?
My challenge to y’all, throughout the next year, is to earn that number change. Make them bump you. Earn it. Love it. Be proud of it. Trust me , the juice is worth the squeeze. Once you experience it, you’ll never want to go back.
For those of you in the 8, many of you are beginners or older folks. To the beginner I say welcome and how may I help. To the 70 year old veteran I salute you. We have what we have today because of your support.
Our life is an hour glass glued to a table. We can’t slow the sands of time. I don’t want to hit a number and stay there. Don’t ever stop swinging til they ring the bell and always play like an underdog.
From Somewhere Down in Texas,
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