The road to the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) is not for the faint of heart, requiring intense focus, steadfast dedication, and immense skill. Each athlete’s journey is unique from strapping on the first set of spurs to qualifying for the first Super Bowl of Rodeo.
As the athlete accelerates in their rodeo career, they must travel through the valleys to get to the mountain tops, causing the athlete to dig deep to discover their why. The unwavering passion for this sport is what keeps the athletes hooked and moving forward to their destination.
Creating his own road map to the NFR is North Dakota native Bridger Anderson, qualifying for his second appearance. Anderson opens the gate, sharing his excitement, challenges, and some memorable stories.
In high school you bought a permit to begin pursuing a Pro Rodeo career. You could have focused solely on competing at the Pro Level, but you chose to add college into the mix. What enticed you to attend college and compete at the college level?
“While my goal was always to make a career out of rodeo, furthering my education was also important. There are a lot of variables in rodeo, so I wanted to have a backup plan. I also wanted to attend a college where I could further my bulldogging career. I knew going to Alva (Northwestern Oklahoma State University) and surrounding myself with a tough group of bulldoggers, including Coach Stockton Graves, would push me to become better.”
“I believe everybody should go through the college experience. There is an abundance of life lessons and opportunities to make friends and connections that you will have for the rest of your life.”
How did the NWOSU Coach prepare you for the Pro Rodeo scene?
“Stockton (Graves) knows all the ins and outs of rodeoing for a living, having traveled the road to the NFR eight times. One thing Stockton really focuses on is a winning mentality and how to make a business out of rodeo. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to pro rodeo with Stockton once I got to college. I learned a lot going down the road with Stockon, things a guy just doesn’t know until you experience it. He helped me focus on finding a way to win; I feel very fortunate to call him a mentor and a coach.”
At a young age your resume is long and impressive in rodeo career achievements, with two being a CNFR Steer Wrestling Champion and a 2X NFR qualifier. The physical and mental demands going down the road can be exhausting. How do you stay prepared and dialed in?
“I have been told the best in the world wins about 42% of the time throughout the year, leaving 58% of the time losing. This equates to losing 3 out of 5 times that I nod my head, which can be a lot of losing to deal with. This year I focused on the mindset: ‘winning is expected and losing is a fluke.’ My highs were never too high, because I expected myself to do good, and my lows were never too low, because I accepted them as a fluke. I feel like this helped in having a short memory, a positive mindset, and being ready to succeed.”
“When traveling throughout the summer, we are not able to run practice steers, but when we are home, we practice every day. I feel like the evolution of the rodeo cowboy is becoming more focused on being a professional athlete. Regular workouts and eating healthy have become a priority. I recently started a program with Dr. Kassi McPherson, who is originally from South Dakota, now a chiropractor in Texas, who focuses on Neuromuscular Balance Technique (NBT). It’s pretty amazing to feel the benefits of NBT as Dr. Kassi reactivates the muscles in my body. Between NBT treatments and working out with my crew, I am setting myself up physically for success.”
The dedication it takes to earn a degree requires an intense focus locked in on the end goal. To reach the destination, forfeiting personal opportunities becomes part of the game. What are some sacrifices you have had to make?
“I have had to miss out on family gatherings, good friends’ weddings, graduations, and holidays. It’s not fun to miss out on Easter and Thanksgiving, but I’m thankful that my family is understanding and supportive. It’s true; this is an all-in business when rodeoing professionally.”
Achievements come with a behind-the-scenes story worthy to be told around the campfire for years to come. Please share one of those stories with us.
“This year I did not look at the standings, after I knew I got into Calgary, until the last week of the season. I was set to go to 80 of the best rodeos (the limit in steer wrestling) and win as much as I could. No matter what, it was going to play out the way it needed to.”
“I was saving one rodeo for the Cinch Playoffs in Sioux Falls on the final weekend of the season. When I didn’t qualify, the last rodeo I could enter was Edmonton, Alberta. I was riding the bubble, sitting in 15th place at that time, needing to win $170 to get my head off the chopping block. I had bought my Canadian Card earlier in the year with plans to go to Ponoka, but I bought it too late. I spent the summer thinking I spent $500 on a Canadian Card that I wasn’t going to use. Thankfully when Edmonton entries opened, I had that card burning a hole in my pocket. On the last day of the season, mom and I flew up to Edmonton, and I won enough money to move myself into 14th and out of the hot seat. No matter how Sioux Falls was about to play out later that day, my ticket was punched to the NFR. That night, we celebrated with a bone-in ribeye, a bottle of Caymus, and Billy Miner pie.”
Behind every great athlete is a support team that runs deep. Unveil your team and how they play a significant role in your career.
“I have the best support system in the world. I would not be able to pursue my dreams without the help of my parents, Glenn and Robin, and sisters, Cedar and Dawsyn. They are always there to support me in more ways than one can imagine.”
“This career also requires a large amount of support from a plethora of friends and sponsors just to get to each rodeo. From a place to stay with a hot meal to picking us up in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road to sponsors who put wheels under us and clothes on our backs. I’m truly thankful for all the people in my corner.”
Before we close the gate on the interview, what words of wisdom can you offer a young athlete who is aspiring to compete at the NFR.
“Be fully committed and give it all you’ve got. It’s going to be a long road, but if you completely devote yourself, it will pay off. Surround yourself with a good crowd and learn something from everybody whether that’s what to do or not to do. A great thing about the rodeo community is if you are willing to give a lot of effort, people are willing to help you succeed. Be grateful for those who help you along the way, and remember where you came from. Stay positive, and enjoy the ride; it will be a lot of fun.”