To the Editor:
My name is Catherine Odgers. I am the Nevada State High School Rodeo Queen for 2015-2016. I am the Secretary for the White Pine High School Rodeo Club. I am a student at White Pine High School, Ely, Nevada. I have participated in Junior High Rodeo for two years, and High School Rodeo for two years. My older brother was a High School Rodeo Athlete for four years. My other brother was a High School football play, named All State Offensive Lineman and Defensive Lineman in 2013 and 2014. I am active with Future Farmers of America, where I am the Secretary for our chapter. I am part of the White Pine High School Drama Club and am the Sophomore Rep. for this club as well.
Sadly, my brother who participated in rodeo throughout his junior high and high school career did not letter in White Pine County. I have not been able to letter either. However, my brother who played football from Junior High School through High School, did letter.
For many High School rodeo athletes the ability to earn a High School athletic letter from our high school for rodeo is not currently possible. There are over 150 Nevada High School Rodeo Association contestants, with many more coming up through the Junior High division.
Rodeo student athletes are required to keep at least a 2.0 gpa, have no F’s, carry 2.0 semester credits to participate in rodeo. In order to compete at a particular rodeo, the student athlete is required to provide signed documents from the school showing they meet these academic requirements, and verifying the student athlete has not been suspended or expelled from classes.
A typical day for a high school rodeo contestant consists of waking up early, feeding and watering their animal athletes, attend classes, and after school they practice. Some of these student athletes and their animal athletes will compete in as many as seven events. After practice, these student athletes then feed and water their horses again, clean stalls, groom their animal athletes, all before they go home to do their homework.
In a typical week, it is possible for a rodeo athlete and their animal athletes to practice as many as twelve to fifteen hours, and sometimes more, depending on the number of events they participate in. Rough stock athletes, those that ride bulls, bareback and saddle bronc, athletes competing in calf roping, also known as tie down roping, steer wrestling and goat tying spend time in the weight room for strength training.
Team ropers, break away ropers and tie down ropers spend hours throwing their ropes at dummies and at live animals. Barrel Racers and Pole Benders can spend as much as two to three hours per day, practicing horsemanship, slow work with their animal athletes, including training them on patterns.
Importantly, these student and animal athletes represent their schools throughout the year. This year alone, there will be twenty-four rodeos throughout the state, not including State Finals and if they qualify, National Finals. These same students will pack up and drive as many as nine hours one way to compete and represent their school, their City, and their club.
NIAA does not sanction rodeo as a sport. Why? The answer is simple, rodeo athletes compete for prizes and may receive a cash prize for placement. The other answer is rodeo contestants compete on Sunday. Both of these requirements are strictly prohibited by NIAA rules. However, when a rodeo contestant competes and wins a particular event, they may receive up to $75.00. These same student athletes pay entry fees of $20.00 per event per day. They receive no financial support from their respective school districts, they are not insured by their school districts, they are not transported to their activities by their school districts, they do not have practice facilities at their schools, coaches at their schools and they do not receive their equipment from their school. These student athletes have to pay for their own fuel, pay for their own accommodations while at the rodeo, pay for their own food, and they pay for their own entry fees.
No other student athlete in a sport sanctioned by the NIAA is required to do any of these things. Football players, by way of example only, may have eight to ten games a season, half of which are held at their own school, so they do not have to travel. A normal football player will practice two hours per day for four days a week and they will have a game where they may or may not participate. The school pays for their travel to and from away games, insurance, food, uniforms, equipment and coaches, essentially everything needed to compete.
A rodeo student athlete does all of this on their own. They do this because they love their sport and wish only to be recognized as a student athlete, just like the football player, baseball player, swimmer or golfer to name a few.
These same rodeo student athletes, especially in the smaller communities of White Pine, Eureka, Elko, Lyon and other counties, also participate in the “standard” high school sports. These same student athletes are active with their student councils, drama clubs, debate clubs and other clubs and teams.
These high school students fund-raise so they can put on a rodeo in their community. They pay for stock contractors, judges, they pay to utilize their county facilities to put on their rodeos and they pay for insurance. These rodeos bring a lot of money to their respective communities by filling up hotel rooms, eating establishments, shopping, and even for their bowling alleys.
This year, the Nevada State High School Association will have approximately 150 student athletes. These student athletes are not asking for financial support from their schools, equipment, rodeo animals, insurance or any of the normal benefits of being a “typical” student athlete. They simply wish to be able to letter in their chosen sport.
This is why I am sending this letter. I am seeking your assistance in sponsoring legislation requiring schools to recognize rodeo as a sanctioned sport eligible for an athletic letter, like any other student athlete. This is a simple request by a group of dedicated student athletes who are seeking recognition of their hard work and dedication to the original American sport.
Catherine A. Odgers
Nevada State High School Rodeo Athlete