MVC's Ken Mason Named National Coach of the Year
MARSHALL, MO - The College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) focuses on its student athletes and their accomplishments in the rodeo arena, but there are numerous people who work diligently behind the scenes to get those students where they are.
Each year, the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) takes time to recognize one coach who has been an exceptional leader for their program. The 2011 NIRA Coach of the Year award went to Ken Mason from Missouri Valley College (MVC).
Mason has been the rodeo coach at the Marshall, Mo., school for the past six years. However his love for college rodeo started long ago when he was a competitor and a student at Fort Scott Community College in Fort Scott, Kan. After two years he transferred to the University of Tennessee -- Martin, where he was coached by John Luthi, a man who Mason credits for his success as a rodeo coach.
"He convinced me to go to college," Mason commented. "He's the reason I'm a rodeo coach."
While Luthi helped to shape Mason into the man he is today, Mason is now doing the same for his students. "I'm blessed to have the opportunity to work with young people, and help mold them into contributing members of society," he said.
Helping to mold his students is exactly what Mason does. The program at MVC is led strongly by example. He sets the bar high for his students and is no stranger to hard work. He starts his practices at 5 a.m. and continues on throughout the day. He's always the first one to arrive and the last one to leave.
Since Mason's arrival at MVC, the rodeo program has flourished. The success of his students in the rodeo arena has been a testament to his dedication. He has made significant improvements to the program. Just this past year, dorms were added to their facility.
One of his most inspiring qualities is his positive attitude, according to his students, and they say it is contagious. If something gets in the way, he refuses to look at the negative and is always looking for an alternative way to get the job done. He constantly promotes the importance of mental preparation, and positive visualization. Students are encouraged to think about what they can do rather than what they can't. When a student encounters a negative thought, Mason tells them, "You need to take that negative image and POW it out!"
His student's have the opportunity to learn more than just about rodeo from Mason. He works hard to help build their character, and instill in them the values of life.
Brady Wilson, who is a former member of Mason's rodeo team, is now an assistant coach at MVC. "He is always telling us, take pride in what you have," Wilson said. "He stresses that this is a program, and you get out of it what you put into it."
The student's from MVC reflect many of Mason's qualities; so much in fact, that the team has a reputation for being called the "Masonettes." Mason said the name started as a joke, when a stock contractor said, "Those Masonette's sure know how to hock it to their horses!" Ever since then, the name just stuck.
Mason's family has been a huge part of his success as a rodeo coach. His wife, Kari along with their two daughters, Sydnee and Taylor have been there with him every step of the way.
"My wife and kids have sacrificed a lot for me to keep coaching. I couldn't do this without them." Mason said.
But even in the midst of sacrifice, the Mason family would never show it. Kari is Mason's right hand. She helps with the paper work, and is always there to lend support. She makes breakfast at the 5 a.m. practice and usually has to call to find out how many people she will be cooking supper for. Their daughters don't miss a beat either. When their two smiling faces are not helping their Dad with a project, they're out in the arena getting pointers from the "Masonettes."
The sense of family is a strong one for Mason, his family and the students. Will Smith who spent a significant amount of time rodeoing in Mason's program said, "Coach is like my dad. I could call him at 4 a.m. and whatever it was I needed, he'd be there." On many occasions students have recalled Mason driving several hours to help get them back on track when they've had vehicles break down or have encountered other problems. No matter what the issue is, his response is always, "No problem, I'll be there."
In addition to being there for each other, Mason and his students are there for the rest of their community. They spend the winter months shoveling snow and volunteer to rake leaves or lend a hand to anyone who needs it.
Mason's dedication and love of college rodeo is evident with everything he does. His genuine, humble and giving personality is what inspires his students and earned him the honor. It's more than evident in his answer when asked about how it felt to be named coach of the year; "There are a lot of good coaches out there. I'm just blessed."