Brett Hoffman

When the larger winter pro rodeos are in session in cities such as Fort Worth, Arlington, San Antonio and Houston, great story lines emerge year after year.

It’s usually about competitors who earn an unusual amount of prize money at multiple stock show rodeos. That’s certainly true this year with talented athletes such as Shad Mayfield of Clovis, New Mexico. He's earned $130,700 toward the PRCA tie-down roping world standings, which should be more than enough to qualify for the December Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

But there’s another compelling story line that jumped out this year. It was about the innovative use of advanced technology at the recent Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo that gave athletes a competitive edge.

Throughout Fort Worth’s renowned Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association/Women’s Professional Rodeo Association show, competitors watched replays of their rides in the contestants hospitality room from a half dozen or so different camera angles. The Fort Worth ProRodeo Tournament, which ran from Jan. 24 through Feb. 8 at the new technologically advanced Dickies Arena, was the first pro rodeo to offer competitors replays very extensively and vividly from multiple angles that included a skycam view. Competitors received the replays by email or downloaded them on a cellphone.

One competitor who benefited from the advanced technology was bareback rider Kash Wilson, an Idaho cowboy who turned in a lofty score of 87.

“It helps a guy, maybe some little things he needs to work on and things to think about in the next ride,” Wilson said. “Let’s say you draw those horses again at a rodeo down the road, you’ve got some video on them.”

The replay system is called the “DreamCatcher” and it’s used in other sports. Rodeo contestants watched and evaluated their performances on a large screen TV. Competitors came away with the rodeo equivalent of a sports game scouting report.

“You can compare it to football, watching your past game films, or seeing where you slipped and highlighting good things,” Wilson said.

The system also was used to process and distribute the news of outstanding rides to the media.

For years, rodeo competitors have watched replays, but not as vividly and distinctly as the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo offered. It’s common for a competitor’s spouse to record the performance from the bleachers with video camera or cellphone. RodeoHouston has provided videos of riders, competitors said. But they said the system that’s been installed in Dickies Arena in Fort Worth was far more in-depth.

For Wilson, it was the “first for me to come in and get films and watch from all those different angles. Other rodeos ... you get lucky most of the time if someone behind the bucking chutes records you.”

In Fort Worth, competitors either watched a past ride or examined the past performance of a bronc, bull, calf or steer that they would soon face, knowing that rodeo livestock tend to be creatures of habit and predicable.

Marcos Costa, the PRCA’s 2017 world tie-down roping champion, said the replay system was helpful.

“If you miss a chance to see what you’ve drawn [in person], you can just run that tape and see,” he said. “You have an idea what your calf will do.”

The Fort Worth rodeo organizers are on to something great very helpful to competitors and organizers of rodeos in other cities hopefully will follow their example. It would be great to see other rodeos use the same type of equipment. It would be great to see a company that aspires to become a sponsor of rodeo to build a portable advanced replay system and transport it from rodeo to rodeo, similar to having a Justin Sportsmedicine trailer on site.

It would be great for shows such as RodeoHouston or the Henderson County First Responders PRCA Rodeo in Athens  to someday offer an advanced replay system.

Four-time National Finals barrel racing qualifier Stevi Hillman of Weatherford said: “It definitely makes you feel like you are a professional athlete. We’re so thankful.”

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