Ben Londo isn’t waiting for retirement before he gives back to the next generation of arena athletes.
As a first year head coach for the Cal Poly Rodeo Team, he spends his days balancing a career as a PRCA Saddle Bronc Rider, with being a husband, a father to six month old Liam, and a mentor to a growing number of Cal Poly students.
Londo believes that his having been a part of this very team while attending Cal Poly himself has gone the farthest in establishing his rapport with the students. Namely his experience in handling the academically demanding environment at Cal Poly while competing in the NIRA. He doesn’t mention that during his time at Cal Poly he managed to not only be a competitor but a force to be reckoned with right out of the chute. In 2005 Ben was the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s National Champion Bareback Rider, as well as the National Champion All-Around Cowboy, an honor which he received yet again in 2006.
His rapport with the students may also have something to do with his continued example of excellence. “Oh just had a good couple months” is his response when congratulated about his success in the PRCA. In November, Londo became a three time Saddle Bronc Champion for the Columbia River Circuit of the PRCA. His humility is just another reason why the student body not only received a rodeo coach in Ben Londo, but a man worth emulating.
The quiet confidence he demonstrates in his position gives you the impression that his goals for this program are well within his reach. “This year we have the ability to bring home both regional and national titles, in the long term I would like to see our scholarship fund developed and for us to continue to improve our facilities.”
Since starting in September he has already began revamping the facilities, assisting the students in installing 26 new boarding stalls as well as a new lead up for the roping chute. However, Londo is just getting started and there is still a lot to be done. “The biggest challenge we face is a lack of scholarship funds” – Londo explains. While Cal Poly offers a prestigious education system, and a competitive rodeo team, what they can offer the students in the way of scholarships is inferior compared to the other schools in competitive college rodeo.
“Students aspire to come to Cal Poly because of the historic rodeo program, the education is unmatched, and you can’t beat the experience you get here. We have high school student athletes coming here with 4.0+ GPA’s, incredible talent in the arena, and who have full ride scholarships to two or three other schools – and what we offer them comparatively is peanuts. It is one of my personal goals to bring this program to a level of being financially able to reward students that deserve to be here with a more adequate scholarship.”
Since 1956 the Cal Poly rodeo team has earned 44 National titles, making it one of the most successful programs in the history of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association and providing tremendous National recognition for Cal Poly University, the community of San Luis Obispo, and the state of California. Since the first college rodeo in 1939, Cal Poly has been home to a long list of phenomenal rodeo athletes, names like Jim Blake, Carl Miller, Cotton Rosser, Don Korster, and Monty Roberts setting the stage of excellence.
The education he provides extends well beyond the arena – he’s come along side these students to demonstrate on a daily basis what it means to be a good man, and a fierce competitor.
Londo doesn’t seem the least bit deterred by the fact that he very well may be training his future competition. There isn’t a side of rodeo he isn’t willing to share with these students – going so far as to take a student to compete with him in Denver for the PRCA. Giving him the opportunity to see the business side of rodeo as well, from entering a rodeo to travel arrangements.
“These kids take better care of their horses than they do themselves.” He shakes his head, his smile belying his pride in his team. He describes his students as level headed and hardworking, and it’s no small feat what they are undertaking academically here at Cal Poly. There aren’t many four year universities’ in top standings within the NIRA, and he couldn’t be prouder of these students for the demanding choice they’ve made.
“The main objective is to keep the tools to learn in front of the students, they take it from there.” Being a rodeo coach requires that you become an authority in ten different areas of discipline. And while his expertise is in the rough stock events, Londo brings in outside help to ensure that the students are receiving all the tools they need. On February 1st, Suzanne Williams will be putting on a Breakaway Roping and Goat Tying clinic for this very reason.
“With half the team incoming freshmen last fall, the older students are doing more for the rookies than I can, I’m just putting the pieces together.” Although the students see him as much more than a behind the scenes man. It hasn’t been lost on them that Londo has made himself available to them as much as they need him.
He gets to the rodeo grounds early in order to get business out of the way so that by the time the students get to the arena, he is able to devote his time to them entirely. His work ethic coupled with an earnest desire to help the students succeed, has already made a lasting impression. “His truck is always there. He’s done so much for us already, he’s the best guy.”
The annual “Poly Royal” will take place April 11th and April 12th. As they fine tune their plans for this big weekend of college rodeo they’re still “Hoping for more local support as a lot of sponsors are from out of county, some out of state.”
Cal Poly has a long history of educating the next generation of horsemen and horsewomen, putting the university on the map countless times for their excellence in the arena. A tradition that will undoubtedly continue under the leadership of Ben Londo.
Main photo courtesy of Bob Click – http://www.bobclickphotos.com/.
** Originally published 1/24/14