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Lamar Community College’s New Rodeo Coach TJ Watts inspires next generation equine program students

Lamar Community College (LCC) is offering real-life equine experience and education to students through new Rodeo Coach TJ Watts. After being the college’s horse training and management instructor since the fall 2020 semester, Watts recently stepped into the LCC coaching role for the college’s rodeo team. 

Watts’s accomplishments in the rodeo arena include qualification for the National Circuit Finals Rodeo, after successfully clinching the year-end champion heeler title at the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) Mountain States Circuit Finals in October.

Throughout 2021, Watts had high achievements in several rodeo events in Colorado, Kansas, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming. He was named the PRCA Buffalo Bill Rodeo’s NE Champion Team Roper, Steamboat Springs Rodeo Series Champion Heeler and more. Watts is also a 2022 qualifier for the NFR Open to be held in Colorado Springs in July. 

Until the next rodeo, Watts brings his knowledge and experience back to the LCC classroom. The equine program students are inspired to learn from someone who is out there living it every day.

LCC’s Vice President of Administrative Services Chad DeBono said top-tier educators like Watts are why so many students are interested in the equine programs at LCC.

“TJ has been an instructor for just a short time and only recently took on the role of rodeo coach this year. He has done a great job in fulfilling both roles at LCC,” DeBono said.

In his rodeo coach role, Watts leads approximately 20 students on the LCC rodeo team. The team had contestants in four of five short rounds at a recent competition. Watts credits LCC’s dedicated faculty and top-quality indoor facilities for the growth the equine program and rodeo team are currently experiencing. 

“We have indoor facilities here to exercise your horses and seven-days-a-week equine programs that they don’t have at most colleges,” Watts said. “We also have a fantastic rodeo team and the best faculty who are always available to help our students.”

LCC’s equine programs include Equine Business Management (EBM) and Horse Training and Management (HTM), which is internationally recognized as one of the top equine programs in the nation. Students learn from Watts and other professional horse trainers in state-of-the-art facilities where they have daily riding classes. Additionally, courses in anatomy, reproduction and management prepare students for equine-related careers, including animal health management, equine sales, equine training and finance. During their last semester, students complete a full-time internship at their chosen location.

For Watts, serving in these roles at LCC aligns with goals he always had for himself. He grew up in the ranching and rodeo lifestyle, so being an equine program instructor and rodeo coach is the right fit. 

Watts grew up in neighboring Kiowa County and graduated from Eads High School in 2005. He is the son of Dawn Rae and Milton Watts of Eads.

After attending Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado, Watts had an internship at American Paint Horses. There, he had the chance to train under an American Quarter Horse Association trainer before taking a job with Wright Performance Horses in Penrose.  

Watts’s first interactions at LCC were helping with team roping, but it was not long before he joined the LCC faculty as an instructor in fall 2020. He then co-coached the rodeo team with Ryan Bray in fall 2021 and transitioned to full-time rodeo coach this January with Bray continuing to assist. Watts still works with the college’s HTM program but only on a limited part-time basis.

In addition to his roles at LCC, Watts runs a performance horse business, training between 15 and 20 horses each month. He says he strives to do everything he does better each day and hopes to pass on what he has learned and experienced to his students.

“We don’t sugar coat things when you are a student in the LCC equine programs, but you will have the chance to learn and do things you would be expected to do in a job,” Watts said. “The LCC equine program is very hands-on, and it’s about as real as the real-world you’re going to get.”