Breaking Down the Different Positions in Team Roping Headers vs Heelers

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Overview of Team Roping

In team roping, two riders are assigned to work as a team; one is the header and the other is the heeler. Headers are responsible for roping the steer’s head, while heelers must rope its hind legs. The best time taken by both determines their collective score.

Generally, it involves a lot of preparation coupled with impeccable teamwork. Overall fitness and agility are also essential for success in this sport.

Although headers and heelers have individual responsibilities, they must have complete coordination to capture the steer effectively. Headers usually start by getting in front of the steer and roping its head; this allows them to pull it away from their partner’s path. Heelers start by positioning themselves behind the steer and aim for both hind legs once it has been pulled straightaway. This sequence has to be well-coordinated and error-free to receive maximum points.

Another critical aspect of Team Roping is proper equipment selection. Ropers use specialized ropes that are more flexible and made of better quality materials than traditional ropes; this ensures that their performance isn’t hindered, even if things don’t go according to plan.

Experience is key in both positions, Headers tend to be more experienced due to their responsibilities requiring exceptional timing which comes with practice over time. Heelers, on the other hand, require a different skill set revolving around accuracy rather than timing.

If you’re looking into pursuing team roping professionally or recreationally, make sure you get adequate training with experienced trainers. With enough time and effort invested in your training regime alongside proper equipment selection, you can take your first steps towards mastering this exciting sport!

Don’t get roped into thinking all positions in team roping are created equal.

Positions in Team Roping

Team roping involves specific positions that each team member must play to be successful. Here’s a breakdown of the different roles in this popular Western sport.

Positions in Team Roping:

Position Role
Header Rides in front, ropes the steer’s horns
Heeler Rides behind, ropes the steer’s hind legs

In team roping, the header is responsible for capturing the steer by roping its horns. The heeler must then rope the steer’s hind legs, allowing the team to work together to bring the animal to a stop.

Not all teams follow the same strategy when it comes to team roping. Some may decide to switch positions halfway through the run, while others may stick to their assigned role throughout the entire event.

During a high-stakes competition, a team of expert ropers demonstrated their skill and teamwork as they quickly and efficiently captured and brought down a strong bull in under 10 seconds. Each member showed immense trust in their partner as they seamlessly played their roles to secure the win. “If being a good Header in team roping was easy, they’d call it Soccer.”


Starting with the topic of team roping, it is essential to understand the different positions in this sport. The roles of headers and heelers are of significant importance as they work together towards catching the steer.

  • Header Position: The header’s duty is to rope the steer around its horns, neck or a horn and a foot in his first attempt.
  • Heeler Position: The heeler needs to catch both hind legs of the running steer after the header makes their catch.

Whilst understanding the positions, it’s crucial to know that team roping takes place at a high speed and requires skilled athletes for efficient performances.

In team roping, an additional factor comes into play beyond individual skills; teamwork. It is teamwork that helps players reach greater heights. According to Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer Joe Scanlan, “Teamwork takes talent.”

It requires strong coordination and communication amongst players for flawless performances. With more than 75 years as a rodeo competitor behind him, Joe Scanlan understood exactly what it took to achieve greatness in team roping.

Headers lead the way in team roping, but if they mess up, they can always blame it on their heeling partner.

Role of a Header

As the initiator of the run, a header’s role in team roping requires advanced skills to effectively catch and restrain a steer. They must maneuver their horse into position, accurately throw their rope and secure the head of the steer with a quick jerk. The header’s timing and precision are crucial to setting up the heeler for success.

Being able to anticipate a steer’s movements and knowing when to take risks while maintaining control is vital. Headers must also possess strong communication skills with their heeler partner to ensure success.

Headers typically have a dominant hand rope, often made of nylon or poly fibers instead of traditional leather ropes. This allows them to easily handle multiple runs in competition without having to break-in new equipment every time.

Interestingly, headers are often left-handed due to the advantage of holding the reins with their right hand while throwing their rope with their dominant left hand. According to Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), left-handed headers have won more world championships than right-handed headers. (Source: PRCA)

Being a header in team roping is like being a quarterback – you need to have quick reflexes, a strong arm, and the ability to make split-second decisions…but with the added bonus of a 1000 pound animal running at you.

Skills required for Header

Header’s Essential Attributes in Team Roping

Team roping requires exceptional skills from both header and healer, and every position is crucial for the success. The following attributes are the most critical qualities that a header should possess to achieve optimal team performance.

  • Quick reaction time
  • Adequate hand-eye coordination
  • Relentless focus on target object
  • The ability to anchor steer’s movements smartly

Effectively communicating with your partner is paramount in team roping success. The header must read the steer correctly and adjust his timing to rope it. Good communication between header and healer enhances performances remarkably.

Professional headers are versatile, which means they adapt well to different types of cattle, grounds, atmospheres effortlessly. Dynamic headers are an asset for any team as they can handle any situation swimmingly without compromising their abilities.

According to the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association), the record holder for most career earnings in Team Roping Header is Clay O’Brien Cooper, with $3,546,845 (as of January 2021).

Being a heeler in team roping is like playing second fiddle in a country band – you might not be in the spotlight, but you sure as heck better be on point.


The individual responsible for roping the hind legs of a steer in team roping is known as the “second” or “back” roper. This role requires accuracy and precision, as well as the ability to anticipate the movements of both the steer and the header. The heeler must heel within a specified time frame, and failure to do so results in disqualification.

When riding their horse alongside the steer, the heeler throws their rope around both hind legs in an attempt to immobilize it. They must be quick on their feet and maintain a steady hold on their rope. As soon as they complete their loop, they pull back with significant force, dragging down on the heel loop to lock up both hind legs of the steer.

Additionally, experienced heelers will know how to position themselves correctly during each roping run to maximize their chances of success. They need excellent horsemanship skills while also being aware of herd behavior and livestock psychology.

Team roping is a complex sport that takes years to master; even experienced healers struggle at times. A significant challenge arises when competitors select high-quality, strong steers that don’t want to cooperate with either roper.

According to PRCA’s 2021 world rankings, Clay Smith has won $145,630 in earnings and leads all heelers by over $31,000.

Being a heeler is like being a ninja – stealthy, quick, and always ready to pounce on their prey in the arena.

Role of a Heeler

As a member of a team roping duo, the individual in charge of bringing down the heels of the cattle is referred to as a “heeler.” This position requires a distinct set of skills and knowledge to ensure that the entire operation runs seamlessly.

  • Heeler’s primary role is to catch both hind legs of the steer while working alongside another roper called “header.”
  • They have to approach the herd from behind and work their way up to get within throwing range.
  • Once there, they work with their partner header in coordination, throw, and catch procedure.
  • Heelers are responsible for handling complexity emerging throughout operations.

It is essential for heelers to maintain communication with their partners, stay alert throughout each round, and show precision in their movements. A heeler role has significant importance equally shared by other members as it is crucial for any successful roping operation.

Are you an aspiring rodeo athlete looking forward to excelling in team roping? Don’t miss out on developing these necessary skills through consistent practice and guidance from experts in this field.

A heeler needs the precision of a surgeon and the patience of a saint, because catching two legs with a rope while running at full speed is basically a medical miracle.

Skills required for Heeler

Heeling is a crucial role in team roping, where the heeler must possess certain essential skills. The expertise required for being a successful heeler involves an array of remarkable abilities, including maneuvering the horse skillfully and managing appropriate timing while catching the steer.

  • Positioning: A good heeler should have excellent positioning skills to rope from an advantageous angle.
  • Timing: Heelers need quick reflexes and exceptional timing to catch the steer in tandem with the header’s throw.
  • Communication: Effective communication between header and heeler helps improve their collaboration and enhances their performance.

Heeling also demands proper training so that one can develop these essential skills necessary for achieving success in this event. The role of a heeler is challenging, but with hard work, dedication, and consistent practice, any aspiring team roper can master this position.

In earlier times, heelers served as reserve players. Generally, those who were either too young or inexperienced played as heelers. However, with time, teams started assigning a dedicated person as heeler due to the importance of their position. Today’s modern-day ropers completely understand how important it is to have an expert heeler on their team to achieve top-level success.

Coordination and communication are key in team roping, unless you want to end up with a head full of horns and a heel full of dirt.

Coordination and communication between Header and Heeler

Effective Communication and Coordination Between Header and Heeler

During team roping events, the coordination and communication between the header and heeler are crucial for success. The header’s responsibility is to rope the steer’s head, whereas the heeler is responsible for roping its feet. Coordination and communication between the two teammates are necessary to ensure a quick and smooth run.

To achieve effective communication and coordination, both the header and heeler must understand each other’s roles and be on the same page. The header needs to have a clear understanding of the heeler’s timing and positioning to ensure that the rope is in the perfect position for the heeler to catch the steer. On the other hand, the heeler must pay attention to the header’s cues, such as the speed, angle, and the throw of the rope.

It is also essential for both the header and heeler to make quick and efficient decisions during the run. The header needs to make sure that the steer’s head is facing the heeler, while the heeler needs to be in a position to make a quick and accurate throw. Furthermore, they need to be aware of the time and speed as each run is timed, increasing the pressure to make the perfect run within a specific time limit.

In team roping, communication and coordination between header and heeler are vital for a successful run. They must work together effectively, understand each other’s roles, and make quick decisions on the spot. A lack of coordination or communication can cause a missed opportunity in the run, resulting in disqualification or loss of points. Therefore, it is crucial for both team members to have trust, respect, and open communication with each other to excel in this sport.

“Headers have to be quick on the draw, while heelers just have to get their feet wet… in the dirt, that is.”

Strategies used by Header and Heeler

Header and heeler employ various communication and coordination techniques during team roping. They utilize their knowledge of each other’s strengths and weaknesses to determine the best approach for successfully completing their task. This may involve pre-determined hand signals, verbal or non-verbal cues, or simply relying on well-established trust between the two.

Effective strategies used by header and heeler include:

  • The use of catch phrases that cue a certain type of run
  • Ensuring rope communication by maintaining equal tension and signaling when mouth is full or clearing it
  • Using specific ropes that are easy to identify in different lighting conditions
  • Staying level-headed under pressure and focusing on their job regardless of what happens to their partner

Furthermore, they work together in harmony by practicing together routinely; analyzing past performances to come up with effective approaches for future meets. The duo works tirelessly at coordination and communication so that they can be prepared for any circumstances.

In addition to these commonly known methods that headers and heelers use as strategies in actual games, competent champions have also reported preferring not looking back while doing a run. Rather than having the header look back towards where the steer is coming from after throwing the rope, they prefer following through assuming it will catch its target spot on.

During one event, there was an instance where a steer put up resistance against capture – but thanks to strong determination from both partners who managed to remain calm under extreme pressure while still keeping good concentration levels – they were able to complete the mission.

Without communication in team roping, you might as well be spinning a lasso around your own neck.

Importance of communication in successful Team Roping

Effective Coordination and Communication between Header and Heeler is the key to successful Team Roping. Smooth communication between these two team players facilitates quick and accurate movement, resulting in efficient catches. The Header must be able to communicate their intent with the Heeler, who then responds accordingly, which requires an understanding of non-verbal cues such as hand gestures or head nods.

During a roping event, the Header and Heeler are required to work together as a team towards a common goal. They must communicate constantly and accurately to ensure that both parties are aligned in terms of timing, speed, direction and distance. These factors play a vital role in deciding whether or not they will catch the targeted animal successfully.

One unique detail of note is the importance of anticipating each other’s moves through familiarity with one another’s instincts and strengths. With time spent practicing together comes seamless coordination between Header and Heeler duo leading up to optimal results.

Rumor has it that Billy Kidd, an accomplished steer roper from Texas who once held numerous world records in calf roping, believed wholeheartedly that good communication was the essential ingredient for winning team roping competitions. According to him, “Coordination isn’t just about being with someone; it’s about communicating.” His philosophy rings true even today, proving how critical clear communication is for success while Team Roping.

Remember, communication and coordination are key – unless you’re a header and heeler trying to win a game of who can mess up the most.


The differentiation between Headers and Heelers in team roping brings unique roles to each partner on the team. Headers focus on catching the head of the steer while maintaining a fast pace. Heelers strive to rope both hind legs of the animal for control and a quick finish. These positions require teamwork, trust, and precision.

Understanding individual positions is crucial in successful teamwork while competing in team roping. The Head and Heeler work together using specialized techniques that rely heavily on communication to increase efficiency. Both positions require sharp reflexes and extensive technical knowledge to keep up with fast-paced events.

The importance of these roles cannot be overstated, as they are vital in achieving victory during competitions. According to PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association), most professional team-roping champions generally win by less than one second.

Interesting fact: Did you know that after 7 years without any new competitors winning, Jr. Dees (Heeler) broke the trend when he won the team roping event in 2020?

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