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Cinch teams with Rodeo Performance Network to help NFR athletes

Andrew Shea, left, works on Cinch barrel racer Emily Beisel this week while they are in Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo.

Injuries are just part of any athletic endeavor, whether it’s football or the sport of rodeo.

The Rodeo Performance Network has been built to try to stop that pain before it happens. It’s a matter of building the body in intricate ways to help athletes perform at an optimum level while developing the muscles, ligaments and tendons so they are more versatile and able to handle the duties assigned to them.

Take barrel racer Taci Bettis, a two-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Waller, Texas. In January 2022, she suffered a back injury that was hampering her ability to compete professionally. She reached out to Andrew Shea, owner and operator of Shea Competitive Edge in nearby Brenham, Texas, and quickly found ways to alleviate the pain while also building strength.

That collaboration resulted in the foundation of the Rodeo Performance Network, which is working closely with Cinch and its endorsees during this week’s National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

“We got a plan to get me better, but as we worked, we talked a lot,” Bettis said. “He said, ‘I have this idea of coming up with a virtual program, and I wanted to make it like a network of things.’ ”

A few months later, Shea reached out to Bettis about creating the network with rodeo event-specific activities.

“I thought, ‘Is this God telling me that I need to branch out a little bit and try something new?’ ” she said. “So, we came up with Rodeo Performance Network. We have the workout programs, and we have coaches for each specific event.”

In addition to Bettis, who establishes programs for barrel racers, other coaches are 2013 world champion tie-down roper Shane Hanchey, NFR steer wrestler Rowdy Parrott, NFR bull rider Cole Fischer, Shea and Sarah Duval, who focuses on the mental game. All understand the necessities that need done in order to perform at an elite level.

“When Rowdy tore his peck a few years ago, he came to me for a few months trying to do non-surgical rehab and see if he could get back to bulldogging,” said Shea, who has an extensive sports medicine background with a doctorate in physical therapy and is also a certified strength-and-conditioning specialist.

“He ended up having surgery anyway, but I got to know him really well because were spending almost a year together with his rehab. That got me much more involved in the rodeo world. Rodeo athletes are different for a number of reasons, which is why I really got interested in helping that group of people.”

Shea has been around the more traditional sports like football, baseball, basketball, soccer, etc. He competed in track and field in college, and much of his work was centered around the ball-type sports until he found his passion for helping rodeo athletes. While professional baseball players, for example, are still paid when they are on injured reserve, cowboys and cowgirls have no guarantees and only earn money when they are finishing better than most in the field.

“I’m not saying (traditional-sports athletes) are less motivated, but when your paycheck is completely contingent on you performing, there’s a little bit more of a motivation,” he said. “Getting to work with that caliber of athlete – just from the mindset of saying, ‘I’ve got to go, so I’m going to do whatever I need to do to get myself back.’ – makes my job a little easier because they are in the right mindset. That is pivotal to having a successful rehab in general.

“Some of these injuries are unique, because it is basically car accidents without seatbelts. That’s how I got into the rodeo side of things.”

The preventative medicine is doing some little things a little differently than the athletes had done before. That may mean adjusting the way they ride the horses and planning a workout to help push the muscles and tissues that power those adjustments.

“It’s a lot of core work, but it’s also a lot of hip movements,” Bettis said. “I hurt my lower back, and a lot of us sitting in the saddle for so long, you have your hips closed. We just started doing a lot of hip work.

“I workout three days a week, so I thought I was strong, but Andrew pointed out I could hardly move because my bigger muscles are strong, but the little muscles that you need while you are riding aren’t as strong as you need. We started working on strengthening my core more than I even thought I needed. I’m working all the little muscles that get overlooked, because we start to work the big muscles so much.”

That changed the way she was riding and the way she was teaching others in the way they ride.

“You just start to see how weak they are in those places, so I’m starting to point out things like that,” she said. “It’s actually coming from you physically not being strong enough to move right there in the saddle and opening your eyes to fitness.”  

The moment came when she and Shea were working on her rehab for her back injury.

“I hurt for about four months before I called him because I just kept ignoring it,” Bettis said. “It got so bad that I couldn’t even lift my leg to get in a vehicle anymore. I was terrified somebody was going to say I needed to have surgery, but he said, ‘This is a pretty easy fix as long as you do your homework.’

“I was doing my homework every single day, and I was 90 percent better in probably three sessions. That’s when my eyes really opened to quit being hardheaded and do these workouts to stay healthy.”

From specified workouts to having a mental-performance coach, the purpose is to give cowboys and cowgirls the opportunity to not only avoid injuries but to also help them excel at an elite level.

“I think mobility and stretching is incredibly important,” Shea said. “One of the first things we put on the Rodeo Performance Network was a free, dynamic warmup that’s open to anyone at any time. It’s not specific to any event, but it’s beneficial to every event.”

Rodeo is multifaceted. Some ride broncs while others rope calves. The body mechanisms work differently, but the primary values that help any athlete reach the top level of any sport remain the same. It takes talent, a strong work ethic and the ability to learn and develop as they continue to compete.

The Rodeo Performance Network provides that through its teachings and its online training methods. While the best in rodeo compete over 10 days in Las Vegas, Shea and Bettis will be on hand to help the Cinch athletes battle at their optimum level.

“We have a conference room at the Westgate, and we set it up so it’s essentially a recovery room where the athletes can get stretched, massaged, get compression rehab and whatever we can reasonably provide there,” Shea said. “It’s just a way to help them perform the way they need to every night.”


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