The Growth of Team Roping
It’s still hard to believe that over $12 million dollars will be paid to team ropers this month during the World Series Finals at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. That doesn’t even include the other jackpots in Wickenburg, Arizona the week before, or any of the other ropings going on in Las Vegas.
Our sport has come a very long way in the last twenty to thirty years. Thanks to Denny Gentry and the classification system we can now rope for more money than ever before. Unlike other disciplines, team roping allows ropers, regardless of age or gender, a chance to compete and win. You are classified based on ability and catching percentage allowing you to compete against people of your own ability.
When I was growing up in Florida, ropings were classified as A, B, C, and D. There was just a handful of A ropers, so no one had Open ropings. Beginners were D ropers. Most of the jackpots were B and C ropings. The top ropers couldn’t compete and the beginners had no chance. It wasn’t great and the sport didn’t experience much growth until Denny Gentry and Gary Poythress started the USTRC and created the classification system we’re now familiar with. Whether you agree or disagree with the number you or your kids have been given, there’s a lot to debate about the system. I do know, without it, we would not have ropings that pay hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That being said, I don’t always agree of some of their decisions. I wish there was more incentive for kids to progress. As it is now, when you become a #8 or #9 heeler, or #8 header, you no longer have the opportunity to rope for much money unless you rope against world class ropers and NFR qualifiers. Last year at the USTRC Finals there was no Open roping. This year there was an Open added at the last minute, but it wasn’t the event we’d seen in the past. When I was competing, the USTRC Open was a very big deal and it packed the house. There were lots of vendors, ropers, and spectators. Many of the pro ropers have people and supporters who come watch them rope and cheer them on. Those guys will also bring their horses and enter the lower numbered ropings. In my opinion, when the top competitors are not involved in the sport there’s nothing for the young ropers and up and comers to aspire to.
Team roping is classified as a hobby but I see people who invest a lot in learning and improving. I believe they should have the opportunity to win before they are raised. I also see kids who learn and improve quickly who are moved through the number system at a very fast pace. I do think it could stand some tweaking. If you work hard enough to get better, I believe there should be an allotted time you get to compete and not let having a good weekend get you raised completely out of your ability level.
Currently, if you’re successful and place in more than one out of nine entries, it’s their opinion that you’re mis numbered. One entry counts the same in a 20-team roping as it does in a 400-team roping. Personally, I don’t agree with that and think it should be based on how many teams are entered. Basically, the system is designed for you not to go smaller ropings, because if you go and win you’ll get your number bumped. It’s much harder to win at a 400-team roping.
This creates a debate with my son when we’re choosing where to go. If we go to a roping with $40 fees, rope Saturday and Sunday, enter a bunch and win $500 or $1,000… is it worth getting your number bumped?
Personally, I’m very grateful for this growth of our sport. It has enabled me, and other world champions, the ability to earn a living sharing our knowledge with people who want to work hard to get better. I teach people almost every day and I’m very passionate about it. It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to rope every day and make money doing it.
Without the classification system no one not have the opportunity to rope for the kind of money available today. Whether you’re happy with your number or not, the system is in place for us all to have a chance to play the game. It all comes down to whether you want to play the game for a shot at winning your share of over $20 million this December.
What’s new with me: I’m excited to announce We will be giving away a Speed Trainer this month. To enter, submit a video of yourself roping on the Speed Trainer and upload it at speedtrainergiveaway.com. If you don’t have access to a Speed Trainer, but you will be in Las Vegas during the WSTR Finals, come see us upstairs at the Convention Center and have someone video you. Entries will be taken through December 20th.