In that case, I really can't answer your questions, though I do think it would be rather silly for them to require you to have the skills already and not be willing to teach someone who wanted to learn.
To quote a college football analyst on ESPN, "Not so fast, my friend."
Speaking as somebody who's been around several aspects of the rodeo business for longer than I care to think about (oh, look! Another
gray hair! Goshdangit!
), this is probably not the best advice — think about whether you'd give similar advice to somebody who has never played football but says he wants to play for the college football team.
Nigel, if you want to rope at all, then right now
you need to buy memberships in the USTRC
and your regional grassroots rodeo organization (can't call 'em amateur, because winners get paid, even in college rodeo), find some friends who have roping steers, buy a roping dummy and practice. Practice, practice, practice. And then practice some more. Then get out and compete ASAP — grassroots rodeo events, USTRC events, weekend unsanctioned jackpot ropings advertised on a bulletin board at the local ag-supply store. Find out how good you are now, find out how much you can improve.
The local state university (it's NCAA Division I in stick-and-ball sports) has probably 100 kids in its team picture. Of that, only a handful of them compete for the team on a rodeo weekend and only a few more compete "unattached," meaning they get to wear the school vest but their results only count for themselves and not for the overall team. The rodeo team at the other big state university up here puts this advice on its web page:
Remember, scholarships and walk-on positions are offered on a limited basis, so apply early! Anyone seeking a rodeo scholarship or a walk-on position should put together a resume and a video tape, and start thinking about scheduling a visit.
Most of the kids in college rodeo have been rodeoing for many years now and have a lot of experience and a long track record. Given that all rodeo is pretty much paid, there's no Chinese wall separating the "amateurs" from the "professionals" — a lot of them compete in PRCA rodeos over the summer and some are good enough to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo at the same time they're competing for their college team (as I said, it's allowed). You won't be able to just show up and learn this fall. You better have some experience under your belt before you call or e-mail the rodeo coach (who's probably no more than a part-time employee of your college). He's seen your type before and he'll know pretty quick if he'll want to give you a chance or not.
Good luck with whatever you decide to do. And if you sign up with the USTRC, maybe I'll see you at a roping some weekend.