The universal question youngsters are asked is: “What do you want to be when you grow up”?
Singer Willie Nelson advised, “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” but many do consider that career path and participation in Junior Looper roping competition is a starting point to a job where boots and jeans are standard working attire.
“Part of the reason I do this is I want to keep kids thinking they want to be a cowboy,” says Billie Bray of Classic Rope, coordinator of the Junior Roper Championships at the Indian National Finals Rodeo (INFR).
“If you step back and look at a couple of things that Indian kids do and do well, it’s shooting baskets and dummy roping. And that’s what makes this contest of skill for the youngsters work. All the pros we endorse, they all come and help run the championship. The whole thing is positive and it’s amazing to see how it can change these kids and inspire them to do the right thing. They get to see positives like the fact that a work ethic is necessary to become a winner.
“It’s a bit like Little League baseball or youth group basketball where these kids need to compete and win to progress to the next round. It’s amazing the fire and drive it produces— it opens a new world for them—and if they aren’t top prize winners, it makes them go home and work harder to come back the next year and be more competitive to earn the top prize.”
This will be the fourth year that Bray and her company have done more than just write a sponsorship check and hang their banner in the arena at Southpoint Equestrian Center in Las Vegas. “I wanted to do more to help INFR grow rodeo activities for kids and families to relate to,” says the former Montana ranch roper.
Fellow Montanan and noted name in the rodeo world is Casey Cummins who will be helping out at this year’s INFR. Cummins was just three years old when he started swinging a rope and now instructs his two sons, ages 7 and 10. “Dummy roping is a good place to start,” he says. “It’s like practicing in any other sport—you don’t just jump on a horse and start roping—this helps improve form and accuracy and gives kids a competitive edge before they move on.”
Youngsters in three age groups at the Junior Roper Championships will be hanging horns starting early in the morning of November 10 with both boys and girls competing in three age groups: 6 and under; ages 7-9; and ages 10-12. The longer they keep catching (successfully roping) Junior Looper steerheads, the longer they stay in the competition which keeps moving back further and further away from the target with each round.
“We’ll do rope-offs in the afternoon and winners get to perform during the rodeo finals that night, getting a chance to rope off against a pro on the arena floor surrounded by a crowd of several thousand fans,” says Bray.
Open to anyone who wants to compete, young ropers will need a birth certificate or a USTRC (United States Team Roping Championships) Junior Looper card to check in and vie for age group prizes—a Martin saddle for 1st place; Jessie James buckles for the runner-ups, and Heel-O-Matic Bones heading dummies for third place winners, allowing them to practice more and improve their skills for the next competition.
Contact INFR at (406) 338-7684 or Billie Bray at Classic Ropes, (817) 573-1884 for further information.