Three times a year I sit up in an announcer’s stand, and I announce youth cattle shows back home in Dickinson County, Kan.
From that vantage point, you see and hear a lot of things.
For example, the other day I heard a parent arguing with their child about whether they’d be participating in the showmanship class. The exasperated parent finally half-shouted, half-growled, “Just get in the ring and do it.”
And the young showman got in the ring. They indeed did it. And while they didn’t place at the top of the class, they did pick up valuable pointers from the judge that they ended up using later that day in a conformation class.
“Just get in the ring and do it.” Oh, how many times did I hear those words or similar from my own parents when I was showing cattle and competing in 4-H? If they hadn’t pushed and prodded, cajoled — and yes, threatened — I don’t think I would have gone so far in my 4-H career or even in life.
Not just competition and trophies
It’s not something we consider in the heat of the fair, but when you take time to look at it through the lens of time and maturity, you see that “getting in the ring” is 90% of life.
You can’t get good grades if you don’t go to class and take the test that scares you.
You can’t get the job of your dreams if you don’t stretch yourself and learn new skills.
You can’t win if you don’t put yourself in the running.
But getting in the ring is more than about competition and trophies. It’s also about learning how to present yourself as an individual. How to market your animal. And yes, even to accept loss.
I was not a super cattle showman by any stretch of the imagination. Full disclosure — I considered it a win if we got the heifers to the county fair, fluffed up their tails, and got them into the ring without them dragging me through Abilene’s downtown shopping district.
I got really good at learning how to lose graciously.
Stick-to-it philosophy paid off
And yet, I continued to go back into that ring. Time and time again. Partly because of family tradition, partly because of my stubborn streak, and partly because I had parents that wouldn’t let me give up on me.
I don’t have walls of banners, but I can speak off the cuff fairly eloquently when the occasion calls for it. I can advocate for an issue with conviction and with confidence. I can walk into a room of strangers and start a conversation — and hide the fact that inside my gut is churning.
All that because I got in the ring.
Your show ring may be serving on the local school board or the county farmers organization and making your voice be heard. It may be running for local or state office and advocating for an issue that affects your community. It may be asking for a raise, or even striking out on your own. We all have our show rings we need to face.
So, take it from me, and that frustrated 4-H parent— just get in the ring.