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PRCA announces Jr Association

As rodeo advances and grows, the opportunities for youth rodeo have grown as well.

Last week, at the PRCA convention held in Las Vegas, the PRCA unveiled a new youth rodeo program, the Jr. Rodeo Association, with its championship event being the Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.

To be held in Texas in March in conjunction with RFD-TV’s American Rodeo, the Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR will feature youth competitors ages fourteen to nineteen.

Competition will take place in nine events: bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping-heading, team roping-heeling, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, breakaway roping, barrel racing and bull riding.

Contestants will qualify for the Jr. NFR in several different ways. They can compete at Patriot Qualifiers, the same qualifying events for the Junior American, of which there are 64 events. They can also qualify by finishing at the top of their respective associations. The champions from the National High School Finals Rodeo, the Little Britches World Finals, the International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR), the Junior World Finals and the Junior American will bypass the qualifiers and preliminaries and go straight to the semi-finals.

Another category will skip the qualifiers and go straight to the preliminaries: the champions at their respective state high school finals, plus numbers two through twenty-five at the National High School Finals Rodeo, two through twenty in the Little Britches World Finals, two through ten from the IFYR, two through ten from the Jr. World, and two through twenty from the Junior American.

The preliminaries will be held March 3-5 with the top fifteen (plus the champs from the five associations), will advance to the semi-finals, which will be held March 6. The prelims and semi-finals will be held at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Ft. Worth.

The top six from the semifinals go on to compete at the finals, held March 7, prior to the start of the American. The champs in the timed events from the Jr. NFR finals compete at the American semi-finals with a chance to win $1 million.

The roughstock contestants do not move on to the American semi-finals, said Anthony Bartkowski, director of athlete development and welfare for the PRCA. The bucking horses and bulls for the adult contestants aren’t a good fit for youth, he said.

The Jr. NFR is designed to increase participation in pro rodeo, Bartkowski said. Annual contestant membership in the PRCA has declined one to three percent each year for the past several years, in part because of fewer young people growing up around horses and livestock and more youth involved in other sports.

“This is a way for us to develop a pipeline for pro rodeo,” Bartkowski said. “If you look at the major sports, they all have feeder-type systems built into them. That’s what we’re ultimately creating here, a line for pro rodeo.”

Expenses for the participants and their parents were also kept in mind, Bartkowski said. A one-time entry fee for the Jr. NFR, including the preliminary round, semi-finals and finals, will be $250. “We’re working to keep the cost down,” he said, “and make it affordable. We want to have everybody there, and showcase the best of the best. We don’t want to leave a kid home because it is too cost restrictive.”

Payout for the Junior NFR will be approximately $400,000, with at least $200,000 of that as added money.

Bartkowski encourages rodeo committees and others to consider hosting a qualifier. “We want to make this work and create more opportunities for kids to participate.” In 2021, PRCA rodeos will be able to qualify contestants directly from the junior rodeo they host for the 2021 Jr. NFR.

Plans are underway for youth ages thirteen and under, he said, for the future.

The Jr. NFR will be broadcast live on The Cowboy Channel.




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