Western Sports Foundation Clinics a Dream Come True for PBR Bull Riders

Andrew Alvirez Andrew Alvirez Photo by PBR.com

When Andrew Alvirez was just 10 years old, he used to dream to his mom about the future of bull riding.
“Mom,” he would say, “how cool would it be if the PBR had a gym like any other professional sport?”
Now 23 years old, Alvidrez makes regular trips to the PBR Sport Performance Center (SPC) in Pueblo, Colorado – a facility that’s the first of its kind to cater primarily to bull riding and Western sports as a whole.

“I’m grateful and thankful to be in this situation because it’s like I’m in the process of history,” Alvidrez said. “Who’s to know, when I have grandkids, and my grandkids are riding bulls, and they’re treated like the NFL superstars.”
Alvidrez was last at the SPC in February for a Western Sports Performance Clinic, hosted by the Western Sports Foundation (formerly the Rider Relief Fund).
For the last several years, the WSF has been working to better help the athletes of the PBR in five key areas of wellness: mental, physical, life skills, education and financial planning. Those efforts have taken up residence at the SPC since its opening in 2019.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the WSF has been helping to provide for Western sports athletes facing economic hardships. Fans can donate to the Protect the Ride campaign, and $15 from every purchase of a “Buck the Virus” t-shirt from PBRShop.com will be donated to the campaign as well.
Clinics are held several times a year for riders looking to take their health and their careers to the next level, and Alvidrez has been an eager participant at two so far.
“I had to come back,” Alvidrez said. “I’m always trying to better myself. Who wouldn’t want to come better themselves? It’s like, I wish I lived here. Man, I’ll be the janitor. I’ll pay the electric bill.”
In February, 24 bull riders were in attendance for the three-day clinic. They attended sessions on mental wellness, sports psychology, nutrition, financial planning and life skills, and had personal training time with Antwon Burton, Executive Director of the SPC.
With a slate of mostly Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour riders at the latest clinic, Burton believes that the mental game is what could take them to the next level.
“The thing that is going to separate you from the rest is what’s between your ears,” Burton said. “You see a few people who are still, not necessarily green in the sport, but green in the mental capacity to actually be a World Champion. I think that’s really the separation between the Jess Lockwoods, the Jose Vitor Lemes, and some people on the Velocity Tour. But there’s a great young niche, even on the UTB and on that cusp at the Velocity, that are hungry, ready and do have the mental capacity.”
Alvidrez has since made his Unleash The Beast debut, finishing second overall in Little Rock, Arkansas. He’s currently 2-for-7 on the premier series and ranked No. 25 in the world standings, and is ranked No. 3 in the Rookie of the Year race.
Alvidrez will be in action at this weekend’s PBR Cooper Tires Invitational, presented by Ariat, at the Lazy E Arena, and will face Flight Risk (5-1, UTB) in Round 1. Fans can watch Round 1 LIVE on CBS Sports Network at RidePass on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.
Austin Richardson is one such Velocity Tour rider that attended both a clinic last summer and the most recent one, and he says that the lessons he learned last year were put into effect immediately.
“When I came here for the first camp, I was just coming back from an injury,” Richardson said. “And right after that I went to a couple of Velocities, and I placed in the Top-3. Then I took second at the Velocity Finals to go to the PBR World Finals. Right after I left this camp, everything was clicking, and I was just doing everything right. I couldn’t fall off anything I got on.
“I would come back every time they have a camp. I love coming to this place. It’s the best. It really is. I wish that I could buy, even just a little trailer house or something, so I could live here and just come here every day so I’m training to be the best that I can.”
Both Richardson and Alvidrez particularly enjoyed the session on nutrition, led by Louis Giordano, a weight management specialist who has worked with a number of UFC fighters.
Giordano led a Q&A session, allowing riders to speak up about specific questions they have about what they should eat, and was impressed with how seriously they took it.

“I didn’t think that necessarily cowboys or bull riders took their diet as serious,” Giordano said of his first interaction with bull riders. “And I think with the young athletes, they took it a lot more serious than I thought, which is great for me, because then it was much easier to kind of dive into specifically, ‘Okay, this is what you should pair and when,’ and how to break down the percentages of calories. It’s not just about what you’re eating, it’s about how protein, how much carbohydrate and how much fat, and when are you having it.”
Alvidrez had been following Giordano and his work with the UFC.
“When I found out Western Sports brought him, I was like, ‘Holy cow,’ Alvidrez said. “It’s like I was a little fangirl because I watch UFC. I saw he was working with Jon Jones, and then I see he’s here! I was like, ‘What?!’ So you know I’m grasping everything that man says. All these people say. I’m just trying to grasp it. Just soak it up like a sponge.”
Sport psychologist Jessica Bartley was brought in to lead a day on mental toughness, and additionally taught mental skills and brain science – why certain techniques are effective.
“I think we’re just trying to normalize the psychological aspects of the game, as how mental this sport can be,” Bartley said. ““There’s different performance skills and different concepts that we’re going to put together, whether it’s relaxation, mindfulness, visualization, how you talk to yourself. So we’ve just been talking about different tools for their toolbox, and how to be mentally tough.”
Alvidrez, who grew up boxing, does amateur MMA and still holds Texas state high school powerlifting records, relishes the gym time, but he also finds the life lessons he learns outside of it even more valuable.
“The gym stuff is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but I’m more into the mental side of bull riding,” he said. “It’s so cool how we even have financial advisors here. I grew up in a middle class family, a hardworking family. We weren’t taught about money. We weren’t taught to save money. We weren’t taught to do none of those things. How to invest. And the fact that I’m gaining knowledge from these people here, teaching us how to save. Talking about 80% for your basic bills, 20% for saving, that’s awesome to me. I didn’t know that. Who knows how far I can go, knowing that stuff?
“Man, honestly I feel like a millionaire. A billionaire. I feel like a rich man, just how grateful and how thankful I am for being here. It’s awesome.”

By Darci Miller | PBR.com