If you thought rodeo was just for grown-ups, think again. Kids and teens all across the Lone Star State compete in rodeo events, and it teaches them valuable life lessons.
“Rodeo teaches sportsmanship, ethics, teamwork, patience, hard work, commitment, endurance, responsibility, wisdom and many other leadership qualities that build an individual’s character and shape the person they become,” says Dr. Jim Mazurkiewicz, a professor and leadership program director in Texas A&M University’s Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. “Rodeo is an athletic sport tied directly to agriculture — the industry that helped build and shape this great nation. Rodeo highlights our western heritage and the culture and values of the frontier. The youth who are competing in today’s rodeos continue to pass this legacy onto the next generation.”
Rodeo: A Family Tradition
Rodeo is often a multigenerational family sport, and that’s certainly the case with Venita and Rodney Dearing of Paradise, Texas. Venita grew up riding horses and started roping as an adult. She and her husband team-roped together before they had children. Today, their daughter, Laramie, 12, and son, Kreece, 10, compete in calf-roping and team- roping, and Laramie also competes in rodeo queen pageants.
“Both the kids are outgoing, and they don’t know a stranger,” Venita says, laughing. “Kreece enjoys the cowboy side of it and is very talented for a 10-year-old. Laramie has learned how to represent western culture through pageants. Contestants are judged on horsemanship skills, appearance and knowledge. At 8 years old, she was expected to know about politics, the rodeo industry and its history.”
Participating in rodeos also teaches kids financial management skills, as well as an appreciation for animals.
“By working with animals, they’ve developed communication skills,” Venita says. “Animals are like people, and they learn in different ways. When you apply structured, consistent discipline, the animal will love and respect you for it.”
Miss Rodeo Austin
Chloe Costello, a 17-year-old high school senior from Kaufman, Texas, grew up riding horses on her family’s small ranch. In eighth grade, she began competing with the Texas High School Rodeo Association and was crowned Region 4 Queen during her sophomore year. In January 2015, Costello was crowned Miss Rodeo Austin, a title that came with a $16,000 college scholarship.
“Rodeo proceeds go toward scholarships, so rodeo is known for giving kids the opportunity to further their education,” says Costello, who plans to attend Texas A&M University.
She says rodeo has helped her learn time and money management, organization skills, public speaking and responsibility.
“You have to treat your animals right and stay studious in school,” she says. “I’m saving up money for college. I keep my winnings in a separate bank account.”
As a contestant for Miss Rodeo Austin, Costello was judged on horsemanship and modeling, as well as her ability to respond to impromptu questions on world news, rodeo and other topics. She also had to deliver a written speech to the judges. She plans to compete further in the Miss Rodeo Texas Pageant and hopes to make it to Miss Rodeo America.
“Rodeo is the best thing I could ask to be a part of — from getting to carry the American flag to meeting volunteers and working with kids,” Costello says. “Working with horses has always been a stress reliever for me, and rodeo gives me an avenue to be myself.”
Back at Texas A&M, Dr. Mazurkiewicz has worked with major livestock shows and rodeos all over the state.
“When I see a rodeo, I see working cowboys and ranch hands who are athletic, smart and multitalented, and they’re using techniques to work cattle that are as vibrant today as they were more than 150 years ago,” Mazurkiewicz says. “I am very proud of our American western heritage, and I’m very proud to be a Texan. Rodeo represents the spirit of our history, and at the same time, the industry that feeds the world — agriculture.”