Education Holds the Key to Plan B

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It's great to see all the growth in this industry, and all the people who really like to rope these days. But is there really room for all the new kids to make a living at it? It's a scary feeling for me to see all these parents letting their kids home school so they can rope. Home schooling can be really good if the parents are on top of things and the kids are really getting a good education. But I'm afraid for the kids who aren't getting that good education. I don't honestly know that much about home schooling, so I won't judge it. But I can say that no matter what sport you're talking about, the odds of being one of the elite-be it roping, basketball, football or baseball-are slim. So no matter what sport you're into, you have to have a Plan B. My kids play other sports, and you see this phenomenon I'm talking about in every sport-where the parents' and/or kids' dream is that they're going to be the next Michael Jordan or A-Rod. If you have a family who can support you doing it, and none of it has to pencil out financially, fine. But the families that are investing everything they have into rigs and horses, living through their kids and dreaming their kids are going to be the next Speed and Rich or Jake and Clay worry me. They're betting it all that if they do that their life will be the perfect fairytale. But what happens if it doesn't go that way for whatever reason? I just want everyone to open their eyes to all the possibilities, and have a Plan B. Because no matter how good you are-and even if you do make it-there will be life after rodeo. Sooner or later, your body or your desire will wear out.

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Even if you do beat the odds and are one of the few who does make a living at it for some period of time, there will come an end. Then what are you going to do? You need an education to fall back on, because you're going to need to meet some sort of requirements to go into your next line of work. I was very fortunate to be one of the successes in the industry, but I got zero education. Now that I look back on it, that was so foolish. I had a free education in front of me if I'd only applied myself and gone that direction. I'd give anything to go back and take advantage of that. I could have used that education inside the industry, and after I'm done roping. A finance degree or even something like public speaking would have helped out a lot in the career I went into.

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If you are making a living at this, are you educated enough to invest your money along the way so you can stop, smell the roses and retire one day? I've found guys like that to be few and far between. If you are one of the top guys, and you want to seek significant sponsorships, you need to be able to speak with these people and handle your business. You have to be able to represent yourself and those companies, and education and training are a huge help in those areas.

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It's all fun and games when you're young. But what happens when the new wears off all of it, and you realize it's not so fun being away from your family, being gone 300 days a year and being broke some of the time? Then what are you going to do? If you don't have something else to fall back on, you're going to find yourself starting over. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make a living roping, but there has to be a Plan B. You even need a Plan B while you're working on Plan A, if that's roping for a living, because Plan A's expensive unless you have an endless supply of money.

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The repercussions of people putting all their kids' eggs in the roping basket won't be seen for years. Some families' entire savings are being spent to buy horses and go down the road. Yes, the kids are climbing up the ladder. But what happens when they start banging heads with the big boys? What if they aren't good enough? Then, when they get there, they realize they have no education to fall back on. Welcome to minimum wage, and that's a tough lifestyle to swallow if you're used to a fancy lifestyle and winning looking like easy money.

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By no means am I trying to shoot down anybody's dream. All I'm saying is that you can still become a great roper and do all the things you dream of in life while you're getting an education. You can't rope 10 hours a day. And you have plenty of time to make a living roping. You don't need to be trying to be a breadwinner at 16. I think home school can be awesome under the right circumstances. But someone has to take it very seriously, and make learning a real priority. If you don't think you have time for both, look at the guys who've been on top so long. We all went to school, and at least have a high school diploma. Roping is play. I see a lot of home-schooled kids who lie around and get lazy. But the elite guys aren't lazy.

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Roping is a great living if you're one of the elite guys. But what if you aren't? What if you don't make it? Or you don't like it? This looks like such a great deal-all glamour and glitter. But there's no retirement plan in this game. If I was 16 or 17 years old again, as driven as I am, if I'd gotten into something that paid really well I'd be a multi-multi millionaire. Because I like to work and I like to excel. But in this industry, no matter how much you excel, it's just not a great paying job. That's just reality. This is a form of gambling, and you're gambling on your talent. Roping is great and I love it. But there are no guarantees in this sport.