OLDS — Guy Kelley has come a long way in the rodeo world.
The 54-year-old Olds College rodeo team head coach grew up in the James River area.
He started roping at 13. His first stretch of competing lasted until about 1996 when he retired to stay home with his young family and help out his dad on the ranch.
"I just kind of made the decision that, you know, I’d better stay home and look after business,” Kelley said.
He retired for about 10 years, then got back into team roping again in about 2006.
In 2015 he began coaching with the Olds College rodeo team.
Kelley says it’s a chance to give back to the sport he loves.
He really enjoys grooming youth -- some who have never even competed in rodeos -- and turning them into strong competitors.
One example, is Sam Schellenberg, 24, a bullfighter with the team.
"I had no rodeo experience,” Schellenberg said.
"No rodeo experience, and now I’m not scared to say Sam’s one of the best up and coming bullfighters in Alberta right now for his age,” Kelley said.
“I get the satisfaction of seeing the kids, you know, grow in their sport. Not even that, just grow as human beings, right?
"It's pretty neat to see some kids on your team that go out and win at rodeos. It’s pretty special. But just to be able to give back, right? Because when I started, there was somebody took the time out to help me and coach me. And to give that back is pretty special."
Kelley said he’s bolstered by a strong supporting staff.
“My assistant coaches are second to none – Tanner Gerlitz, Canadian champion bullrider, multi-time CFR competitor. The Gerlitz family is well known in the rodeo industry and he’s my assistant coach on the roughstock end,” he said.
“Rayel Daines from the Daines family in Innisfail is my girl's assistant coach, so I mean. I'll brag – there isn’t a post-secondary institution, college, in North America that has the coaching staff like we do in Olds.”
Kelley is especially thrilled about the fact that this year, the rodeo team is officially part of the Olds College athletics department.
He said due to that connection, rodeo athletes have access to the same amenities that other teams in Broncos athletics do, like access to a strength and conditioning coach, help with physio and rehab as well as sports psychology.
“It's unbelievable,” Kelley said.
Another positive aspect of that connection is that members of those other teams come out and support rodeo athletes.
Kelley and Schellenberg said one member of the badminton team even comes out for rodeo practices.
“I’ve never been to a school that’s like that,” Schellenberg said.
“That’s my goal,” Kelley said. “Everybody hears about college sports in the ‘States, where if there’s a little town like Olds and there’s a football game, the whole town shuts down and goes to the college football game.”
Kelley said he’s almost reached that point. He noted that the Brawn Arena on campus was packed with more than 300 people for the team's home rodeo on Oct. 23 and almost as many showed up for the second performance on Oct. 24.
Another big goal for Kelley is to entice local talent to join the Olds College team, rather than be lured down to U.S. colleges that offer big scholarships.
Kelley said he’s been provided with some money for scholarships. However, he hasn’t been able to do much recruiting, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
One big attraction is the Brawn Arena itself.
“There’s only us and Lakeland (College) that actually have an arena on campus,” Kelley said.
“Every time I drive into work I just can’t believe how lucky we are to have a facility like that (where) we can practise in all winter long.”
Kelley remembers coming to the Brawn Arena as far back as the mid 80s to watch his friends compete in roughstock events (he gravitated more to roping events).