NIRA sanctioned event coming March 2-3
Dameon White has found his dream job. He coaches a sport that doesn't make the headlines often, but possesses the same thrills and excitement as any other. This is his first year as the Panola College Rodeo Coach. He has a team of 30 members that come from all over the United States and as far away as Canada. Dameon knows the sport as well as anybody. He started rodeoing when he was five, and competed in every event except bareback and saddle bronc riding. He went to Cisco College on a rodeo and basketball scholarship and is still competing in team roping, recently returning from a rodeo in Denver. His wife, Courtney, who grew up competing in barrel racing and goat tying, is his assistant coach. "I really love it," says Dameon, "It's an experience, going back to when I was rodeoing in college and then coming here to coach it. I see both sides of it. I love helping the kids and trying to get them on the right path."
The Rodeo Team competes in the Southern Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA). This region spans south to Texas A&M in Kingsville, all the way to Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant. It includes four year colleges such as Sam Houston State and McNeese State as well as other two year colleges. White comments, "It's hard to compete with the four year schools that have over 100 kids in their program, but we've had a lot of success." The men's team ended up 9th out of 14 schools for the first semester, with Jacob Marcell sitting 4th and Austin Walock sitting 10th in the bull riding. Corey Fussell is sitting 12th in saddle bronc riding, and Cody Coleman is sitting 13th in steer wrestling. The women's team is sitting 5th out of 12 schools with Khakie Jo Holland sitting 4th in the goat tying standings. Each school has a team made up of 10 members—4 girls and 6 guys—whose scores go toward a school's team points, but all club members go and compete in each rodeo.
Even though most team members receive some type of scholarship money, the responsibility for the expenses involved in participating comes from their own pockets. They purchase their NIRA membership card, pay entry fees, hotel room & food expenses, plus haul and feed their horse. White added, "The college furnishes the practice arena, stalls to board their horse, and livestock for practice, and the kids do the rest. The kids that rodeo in college really want to do it. They don't get everything paid for like other sports. All sports require students to take at least 12 hours and maintain a 2.0 GPA, but I go a step further and require them to take 15 hours. They are also required to be in the library at least 8 hours a week to study for classes. It's not all about what they do in the arena. Courtney and I feel like we are parents to 30 kids!"
Of the 10 NIRA sanctioned rodeos, Panola College will host one of them. The event will take place March 2-3 at the Panola County Cattleman's Association arena. Performances are at noon on Friday and Saturday, plus evening performances on both days at 7:30 pm. White says, "Kids from all over the nation will be here to compete. The region director called me and said, 'Everybody wants to have at rodeo in Carthage.' They like our small community where everybody is friendly, and it's easy to get where they need to go. I hope everybody comes out to support us. They'll see some great competition."