AS THE SON OF tie-down roping standout Sylvester Mayfield, Shad Mayfield grew up with big boots to fill. “When I was little, I started practicing by walking around with a rope in my hand, just roping chairs and people,” recalls the 21-year-old Clovis native. But rodeo wasn’t always a cinch. Mayfield tried his hand at several sports, including football, as a youngster before roping finally lassoed him. The rising star in professional rodeo already has a half-million dollars in winnings and a World Championship on his belt. The title, which he earned in 2020, puts him in elite company: He joins legends Charles Sampson and Fred Whitfield as one of only three Black world champions in professional rodeo history. This month, Mayfield brings his considerable roping skills to the New Mexico State Fair Rodeo. “I love what I do because I have fun doing it,” he says.
My dad came to Clovis from Memphis, with no background in horses. He walked into livestock auctions every week, met the right people, and got into rodeo.
He was well known when I was coming up, so he and my mom helped my sister, Shelby, and me get into rodeo and put Clovis back on the map.
Rodeo is very underrated. People have to go and watch just one time to fall in love with it. There’s so much history that makes it special—a lot of rodeo stars come from family lineages and ranching communities.
I had to play football to realize that rodeo was what I really wanted to do. Once I had a rope in my hand, I knew that was the thing I loved.
If you’re a kid and interested in rodeo, you just gotta try it.
People don’t always see the consistency that you need to have in tie-down roping. People will see when you make a good run, but they’re not going to see all the times you’ve made a bad one.
In tie-down roping, you have to draw your calf, so you don’t know which animal you’re going to get. Every calf is going to be a different roping experience. From there, you have to decide what horse you’re going to ride, what rope you’re going to use.
Before an event starts, I might have five runs planned and have to decide in the moment where the exact run is that I’m going to make.
I used to get in my head imagining bad runs, or all the ways a run could go wrong instead of the ways it could go right. I had to train myself mentally to imagine positive outcomes.
Everyone can throw a football. Everyone can throw a rope. But how are you training your mind to be able to do those things? People don’t always talk about that in rodeo or sports in general.
There used to not be many African Americans in rodeo, but my dad and people like Fred Whitfield paved the way to open that up. I was at a competition last year where there were three African Americans in tie-down roping. I think just seeing us out there has opened a lot of doors for upcoming youth, so they know that anyone can do it.
Hard work gets people to the top. Winning keeps me motivated. I love the feeling after a good run.
Clovis is always going to be home to me, no matter where I’m at. I came up training at the fairground there and recently returned for a professional rodeo. It was one of those wow moments.
This is just the beginning. I deserve to be here.