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It is impossible to satisfy all the team ropers all the time. And with over 122,000 profiles in their database and 35,000 active members, it is especially hard for the United States Team Roping Championships (USTRC) to satisfy even some of the people some of the time. Often, team ropers perceived that squeaky wheels got the grease, politics played too significant a role and the pressures to show a profit polluted a well-intentioned idea. Regardless, about two years ago, the USTRC set out to fix compression and create a new standard by which ropers were ranked. The process was not without dissention, arguments and bumps along the way, but in the end, they created the TRIAD system in 2005. It is here to stay and ropers have to adjust.

Problems With The Old
Before the recent Team Roping Information And Data (TRIAD) system was put in place, most ropers would agree that the USTRC's original number classification system was flawed and outdated. Proof of that is in the numbers: in 2003, 80 percent of USTRC members were either Nos. 2, 3 or 4. As a result, No. 3 ropers (about 40 percent of the membership) were winning almost 60 percent of the prize money. This became known as compression and clearly, the USTRC wanted to fix it to create a more equal distribution of money, equality in competition and not to penalize improvement. In essence, people of the same caliber should rope against each other. The USTRC has been aware of this problem for years. Prior to the ownership change, solutions were being brainstormed. However, due to the timing of the sale and the incredible cost involved of implementing a new system, the plans were never put into motion.


When formulating a plan to contend with the problem, two major obstacles were realized. First, the original system was too subjective and second, the data necessary to make classifications more objective was not readily or easily available.

I Feel Like a Number: Descriptions of Each Classification

"I think that a lot of people are afraid of a two-number jump.
But if you look at the criteria for, say a No. 3 on the TRIAD, you'll
see that it's not much different from a No. 1 on the old system.
Don't look at the number, look at the criteria first." -Kirk Bray

A No. 1 Is…
…A true beginner, still learning to ride and swing a rope.
Learning takes priority over competing.

A No. 2 Is…
…Uncomfortable roping from a horse and has difficulty controlling both the rope and the horse, yet is motivated to compete.

A No. 3 Is…
…Competing more and more and catch percentages have increased, but due to limited horsemanship skills is very inconsistent.

A No. 4 Is…
…A person with solid horsemanship and rope handling skills on slow or average steers, but struggles on fast steers.

A No. 5 Is…
… A header who is catching more than missing, but rides the
barrier conservatively. Heelers can sense being in time with the steer, but struggle catching many steers in succession.

A No. 6 Is…
…A header who is better at riding the barrier and skilled at handling steers. Heelers know when they are in time with the steer and can make adjustments. May track a steer for several jumps. This roper will seldom miss a steer, but often catch a leg.

A No. 7 Is…
…A header that is dictating the speed of the run, catching in the upper 1/3 of the arena. A heeler is a solid catcher with intermittent ability to speed up the run who sets the run up using a wide angle relative to the steer and rides aggressively through the corner.

A No. 8 Is…
…A header who is riding all barriers well and roping steers on the gain. Heelers are catching two feet consistently on the third or fourth jump and dallying on a shorter rope.

A No. 9 Is…
…An NFR-quality header. Heelers are professional who rope most steers by two feet on the second or third jump.

A No. 10 Is…
…An NFR-quality heeler.

*These descriptions are extrapolated from the USTRC's original,
longer text. For a full description, visit

What the USTRC Did
Since 2002, the USTRC had been discussing solutions to the compression problem. Before the National Team Roping Finals in October of 2004, the USTRC announced the new TRIAD system, which would adjust most members up two numbers and create an overall four-number increase in all divisions. (If you were a No. 4, you become a No. 6. If you normally rope in the No. 8 division with a No. 4 partner, under TRIAD you would rope in a No. 12. Most likely your partner would become a No. 6 as well.) The scale of ranking has also increased by one number, that is, headers will now be numbered from 1 to 9 and heelers from 1 to 10.

The other primary innovation of the TRIAD system is the fact that it is data-driven. Data from team ropings across the country are compiled into "Roper Performance Profiles." These profiles take into account money won versus money spent, partners, times, consistency and geography.

"That data doesn't only come from our sanctioned events, it comes from other non-sanctioned events, rodeos and other team ropings," said Kirk Bray, President of the USTRC. "Just because it's not a USTRC-sanctioned or affiliated event, doesn't mean that data isn't useful. We just like to get all the data we can get."

And, Bray points out, they receive data to go into their RPPs from all the 90 USTRC sanctioned events and all of the 350 affiliated events.

"The RPP formula is very complex," said Bray. "Basically the TRIAD System and the RPP analyze all the characteristics of a roper. It looks at times entered, times placed, money won, short rounds made-a true measure of consistency-as well as the speed of the run. Every division has a speed index, so if you're consistently faster than that standard, then maybe you're classified incorrectly. We look at who you rope with and the online votes are counted in that formula. Finally, we have quality control. We send representatives around to many of the ropings and their role is to watch every roper on every run and classify them on every run. Subjectivity is still factored in, but it doesn't count near as much toward a roper's classification as it used to. We're looking at a lot of objective data now."

The online balloting from other ropers is a way for some subjectivity to be considered. In order to be eligible to use online balloting, a roper must be a current member of the USTRC in good standing. Secondly, ropers must be over the age of 18 and classified as a No. 4 or higher. Ropers will have the opportunity to rate their fellow competitors only from within their own area. For more information on how to vote, log onto

This system was unveiled and the USTRC asked their members and producers to look up their new numbers online. Initially, a good deal of those ropers' numbers were only raised by one, which was essentially lowering their numbers under the parameters of the new system. After considerable feedback from ropers and producers, USTRC tweaked the initial change to where only about 10 percent of members in the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 classification levels were adjusted by only one point (lowered) rather than the original 40 percent. When the USTRC used voting committees, the average change every voting period was .02 percent.

"One percent of the 2s, 3s and 4s got moved three numbers and 10 percent got moved one number and 89 percent received a two number change, or lateral movement, with TRIAD," said Bray. "We had to start somewhere with those numbers. To find the breaks, we found groups that fit together. From here, we'll let the TRIAD system take effect; we're using the Roper Performance Profile data for adjustments from here on out. But just to start it, those were the approximate percentages.

"The 2s, 3s and 4s is where the compression existed. With the 2 and 3 headers and heelers and the 4 headers we split those over three different numbers. For example, the top end of four headers moved to a 7, the middle end moved to a 6 and the bottom end, those who are really struggling, moved to a 5, which was like getting their number lowered. The No. 2s, 3s and 4s were spread over from a No. 3 TRIAD to a No. 7 TRIAD. Once we got beyond the 4 headers and 3 heelers, there wasn't as much compression, so all of those ropers received a two-number, or lateral move, with the top-end ropers going up three. We loosened up the bottom end of the scale, which had the most ropers and needed it, and the upper end of the scale none of those ropers were moved down, so we didn't compress it anymore, we just stretched out the bottom end.

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