It’s that time. The time you’ve dreaded for years, the time where you hang the jacket up, move from FFA member to Alumni. The time where the showman walks in the ring for the last time and an era comes to an end. You’ve made memories that will last a lifetime. If you’re like me, you’ve picked up a nickname and some friends to go along with the countless hours and miles traveled. Earning state and national titles, along with flying on a plane for the first time. That blue corduroy weighs an extra couple pounds from all the pins and awards on the inside and the pockets are filled with random notes and the filling from hand warmers when one exploded in your jacket while you were judging at nationals. You’ve earned a reputation in the ring for being one of the best showman and whether you know it or not people all across the state know who you are and they are watching you when you show. Maybe you started at eight years old like I did or when you got into high school decided to get involved, but it isn’t the amount of time that determines the amount of passion you have. That passion and drive doesn’t go away you just have to use it differently now because you aren’t competing anymore. That doesn’t mean you are completely done though trust me, you never will be.
Maybe this isn’t you yet, maybe this is your beginning. Don’t worry we’ve all been there. Your first show animal is one that you will never forget. There’s going to be a lot of firsts in the beginning, but I can promise you that you won’t be in it alone. I had a tremendous amount of help in the beginning to get me started and you can expect the same. Just know your first 4-H or FFA meeting is the first of many more to come. You are going to meet some of your best friends and make memories that you will talk about for years to come. It’s a crazy ride that has its ups and downs but you aren’t going to want to trade it for anything.
Whether you are coming to an end of your show career or you’re just beginning your FFA Career there’s a lot of emotions with it all. The happiness and the excitement of it all and the pride you feel. The tears when you hang the jacket up or when you sell your first steer, it can all be a little overwhelming so here’s some advice for both sides.
For the Senior looking back:
It is crazy to think but you truly are done with competing in FFA and the show ring. With that said you are never completely done. You’ve spent all this time learning and getting better, picking up little tricks along the way; don’t let it end with you. Find the little kid in the barn or the newcomer and teach them. Give them a mentor to look up to! I would be willing to bet that you had at least one when you were younger and now it’s your turn to fill that role. Show them how to shear a lamb or your showmanship tricks. Then stand at the fence and watch them, those memories of you going in the first time are going to flood back to you. As they get better you will feel this sense of pride, but the best part is the smile on their face when they’ve won for the first time. Be their stock show coach and their biggest fan so you can give back to an industry that has helped you grow as an individual. It’s absolutely priceless and it will make you feel a lot better about being your showing career being over. Stay in touch with the friends you’ve made through FFA they are some of the most loyal and trusting friends you will ever have. You will never forget the FFA Creed you had to memorize or the 4-H Pledge you said your first meeting, twenty years down the road you will still know the words. Most importantly make sure you thank your FFA Advisors, 4-H leaders and the adults in the barn that have made you into the young adult you are today. Let’s face it without them you wouldn’t be half the person you are today without their knowledge, guidance and friendships you’ve been privileged with.
For the Freshman looking forward:
Get ready for the memories to be made and the stories to tell. Everything is going to be new to you and that’s ok! We all have to start somewhere, but we did it with the help of those around us. Ask for help, spend a day with someone whose been showing for a while and I guarantee they would love to help you anyway they can. At first you aren’t going to go in and win every showmanship class or judging contest in FFA.
There are going to be times that things won’t go as planned and contests won’t be won but those are the moments you will learn the most. Winning is always what we strive for, but you will find in losing the drive to become better. Become close with your advisors and leaders in your community they can help you and push you to be the best. Most importantly cherish the memories and friends you will make along the way. These are times that can’t be replaced and one day when you’re looking back you will miss it all, so enjoy it now.
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