Being a professional rodeo athlete means you are a representative of rodeo. Your behaviour either helps or hinders the sport you represent. “Representing rodeo” requires a different level of professionalism. When you actively represent rodeo, not only does it affect how you are viewed, but how everyone else attached to the sport is also.
We all have different hats we wear. People see different sides of us depending on our relationship with them. When we are representing something other than ourselves, we must always be aware of what the image we are portraying means – especially with our online presence and social media being so accessible.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but many believe that rodeo is a dying sport and won’t be around in Canada forever. I continue to hear this from contestants and personnel alike, some believing it could burn out as soon as the next decade. What if this is true? Is there a way for us to turn that around if we see it coming already? Maybe.
We can look at the success of the rodeo events in BC as an example. Activist groups have been successful and continue to lobby for the shutdown of rodeos. Or, if not shut down, implementing severe restrictions on the events. But, from everyone I have talked to, the BC events that happened this year came back with amazing representation and support all around. I think rodeo could have a chance if we seriously consider how other sports are represented, and with each of us doing a small piece, can keep it going for a long time.
Through my work, I represent not only the sport and people I capture but also the lifestyle. I want those who do not know about rodeo and the western way of life to get inspired to learn about it. If through my work, I can inspire even a few people to learn about the world outside their own, then that is a win. Keeping this world and industry going takes all kinds. Imagine what we could do if everyone worked together with a common goal.
You may be thinking, why is representing the sport and lifestyle such a big deal? That’s not going to save it or help me. I disagree.
There is so much more to rodeo than is continuously highlighted by just contestants’ rides and runs in the arena or practice pens. I have learned this from everyone over the last 5 years. It is truly a lifestyle in its own right! Rodeo runs on sponsorship, fundraising and the support of fans. How do you get more people intrigued by the sport and pulled into it? You must actively represent it. By becoming ambassadors and taking the time to make connections with people around the events and the communities.
Representing rodeo and all the different aspects of the sport lets you connect directly with the fans and help them feel involved in it. Genuine interaction gives fans something to be interested in and able to follow. A stranger you meet and take 5 minutes to chat with today may be inspired to become a contestant themselves or sponsor an event with their company. At the very least, they will probably continue buying tickets each year and support that rodeo.
By representing rodeo, you are standing out as a professional athlete. You become a standout for potential sponsors. Everywhere you turn in the world, there is someone looking for support; why should a sponsor give it to you or a rodeo? What value does it bring to them? Making a connection with people at events helps them have that reason to consider it. If a sponsor does not get to interact with you in person, they can easily look at your online presence and make a decision as to whether or not your image aligns with their brand and company values.
It is up to every rodeo person involved to represent the part of the sport that they believe in. Take 5 minutes from your day and interact with local spectators. Or take those extra 20 steps in the arena to high-five a few fence-line clinging kids when you’ve finished your ride. All those small actions can add up to mean a heck of a lot to a committee and the future of the sport. At the very least, take a couple of minutes to thank the committee, or if you want to go further and you have a little time, see if they have anything you could help out with. Build those relationships!
Do you want to improve how you “represent rodeo”? Consider checking out the “Brand Yourself” program or other portrait session options available outside the arena to expand your brand! Reach out, and we can chat about different ideas and options.