As a former livestock judging team member, I have known the importance of livestock judging and now that my own daughter is old enough to judge I've taken on a new challenge. I've been coaching the Dawson County 4-H Livestock team and their season has come to an end at an outstanding program called Premier Animal Science Event (PASE).
They are extremely excited as they finished second overall and placed first overall in oral reasons. As their coach it is so much more than this, the contest marks a notch of growth in their journey as young men and women. They don't even realize that I have been charting much more then their scores the last few months. They don't know what it meant to me as a coach when:
- at nine years old a boy walks in, shuts the door and gives his first set of reasons, nervous but determined.
- the first argument broke out over a set of market hogs, when they believed the coach placed them wrong and they finally had the confidence and vocabulary to formulate a convincing (yet unrewarding) discussion to change the placing.
- a young man that had barely spoken directly to me through several judging practices, except to give reasons, looks at me in the eyes, stretches out his hand and gives me a firm handshake, saying "thank you for coaching me".
- my phone buzzes with a text from a young woman saying "we miss you and wish you were with us before the contest, wish us luck"
- when a young girl says "who invented sheep judging anyway?". I said "judging sheep is biblical". Then another young woman begins to explain livestock judging and the selection of the best sheep for sacrifices. Now that is deep!
- when you know the girl that loves the swine industry, wins the swine division.
- when the practices got harder and the test got tougher and the they said give us more, we can do it!
You see it really isn't about judging livestock. Judging livestock is just a way to get kids together with a common purpose to teach life skills, confidence and thinking on your feet. Most importantly though, it is a way to build confidence in kids, and that is life changing. The life change happened to them as they took a challenge, worked hard and became successful. That is contagious. It won't matter where they end up or what they want to do.
This challenge was hard and they achieved success, they now know they can, and so they will.
I can't wait to see what it is!
Thanks for a great year livestock judgers!