Clarksville, TN – Parents want their children to be healthy and productive in life. To give their kids every opportunity to excel. Whether it’s in sports or academics.
I’ve seen a lot of young people in Clarksville use sports as a vehicle to advance their education. Baseball, football, soccer, tennis and golf are typically the activities you see kids participating in. But, rodeo?Eli Driver Bock is the 15 year old son of James Bock and the late Hilary Bock. He showed interest in a variety of sports when he was much younger including baseball and soccer. He’s practiced the martial arts and is an avid fisherman and trap shooter. But when he discovered the rodeo, he was hooked.
“He really took an interest in it, and when he discovered that you could win a cash prize for competing, then he was all in” according to his father James. He soon discovered that it wasn’t about the money. He genuinely LOVED the competition.
It was a tragic twist of fate that Eli discovered the rodeo.
His mother, Hilary, had been diagnosed with cancer, and when the family traveled to Houston, Texas for her to receive treatment, James took Eli and his sister Madison to a rodeo that was in town.
During the rodeo, they had a kid friendly event call “mutton busting” and Eli joined in, and that was all she wrote.
Hilary would lose her battle with cancer in 2012. The family found that supporting Eli at the rodeo was a great way for the family to be together and work their way through the grief of losing a wife and mother.
“He gets his love of horses from his mother” said James.
Eli would join the Tennessee Youth Rodeo Association and start competing at rodeos all across the state. The TYRA is for kindergarten through eighth grade, and kids compete at various events.
“I just love it” said Eli. “I love the people and the competition, but I’ve made some really great friends along the way and I really like that.”
Randy Prince, the President of the Association, said there are about 75 families in this statewide association and that the kids learn a lot of life lessons along the way.
“Eli didn’t grow up around this sport, like most of our kids, and he had to work at it and learn everything from scratch.” “He’s made some amazing friendships along the way” said Prince. “You have to learn to live with disappointment and heartache” Prince continued. “The judges watch their behavior inside the arena, and they won’t tolerate any temper tantrums or unsportsmanlike behavior.”
Last year, Eli qualified for the Jr. High Nationals held in Huron, South Dakota. The family spent the entire week there, while Eli competed every day. He didn’t have a great week, so far as the competition went, but the family had an incredible experience together. “He didn’t have a good draw” said Prince.
Known as the “Country Kid” at school, Eli has three horses named Stormy Mae, Zip and Buddy. He competes in all of the “rough stock” events, including riding or wrestling, bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding.
His dad won’t let him on the bulls. “That’s where I draw the line” he would say.
Eli and his older sister Madison are typical siblings but are very close and Madison is Eli’s biggest fan. “I love going to the events and I pull for him to win, but it’s a family activity so that’s special” she said.
Madison hopes to attend Austin Peay State University and wants to be a teacher. Eli hopes to continue competing and realizes that eventually he will have to get a real job, as there’s really not much money on the Professional Rodeo circuit.
Prince, who comes from a rodeo family, started competing when he was 11 years old. He loves that the families are supportive of each other and they have their priorities in order.
“Eli is a hard working kid from a good family” he says. “He understands that life is about working hard to achieve your dreams, whether it’s in the rodeo arena or in life.”
So whether or not Eli wins another event, there is something greater working here and this family will always have this connection to Hilary.
Life teaches us that it’s not how many games you win, or how many trophies you collect. Sometimes you find yourself discovering who you are and what’s really important in your life.
For Eli Bock, the “country kid,” he’s got his head on straight and his family, including his mother, will always be cheering him on.