Rock Chalk Weekly: The Traveling Goodmans
Written by Shelby Bettles, Kansas Athletic Communications Student Assistant
No distance can separate the love of a family. This is especially true for the parents of senior football captain Ben Goodman Jr. By the end of the 2015 season, his parents, Reecie and Ben Goodman Sr., will have collectively traveled nearly 80,400 miles to watch their son play at every football game during his five-year collegiate career.
Since 2011, when Goodman joined the KU football team as a freshman, Reecie and Ben Sr. have been present at every football game—home or away—to support their son. The support of his parents is something that Goodman holds close to his heart.
“Most student-athletes don’t get to experience their parents being there every game and having a support system like I do,” Goodman said. “It’s just wonderful to know that when I look up in the stands, my parents are going to be there—they aren’t going to try—they are going to be there.”
Being present at every KU game for the past five seasons has made it easy for Goodman’s parents to rack up nearly 80,400 air miles from their home in Beaumont, Texas. However, traveling isn’t new to the Goodman family. Goodman’s dad, sister and Goodman himself performed in rodeo circuits throughout his life, which called for frequent and long car rides with the family.
“We traveled when I was young literally all over the country—from Texas to California, Wyoming, Minnesota, South Dakota and a lot of other places,” Goodman said.
The family took to the road, rather than the air, to travel to rodeo circuits because the family’s horses had to be brought along for competition.
“We’d drive because we’d have a horse trailer with us,” Goodman said. “If we weren’t going too far, everybody would ride in the truck, instead of in the trailer. In the horse trailer you have large sleeping quarters above where the trailer hooks to the bed of the truck, so it’s like half of a house and half where you put the horses.”
Though the horses prevented the family from traveling more quickly by air, the horses were a necessity for competition, especially for Goodman’s sister Jasmine, who, as Goodman recalls, relied on her horse for most of her rodeo circuit success.
“My parents bought Jasmine a horse that helped her compete with the adults,” Goodman said. “She’d literally just had to sit on the horse and he’d do all the work. From the age of eight or nine she was competing, and winning, against the adults. She’d run with the adults and beat them, then come back and run with the kids and beat them, too. She was pretty good and she has a lot of saddles and buckles to prove it.”
The family’s interest in competing in rodeo circuits was initially sparked by Ben Sr.’s love for performing professionally.
“My dad was considered a professional cowboy and was in the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association),” Goodman said. “He still competes, but not professionally anymore. He just does amateur rodeos every now and then for fun.”
Performing and competing at rodeo circuits is deeply-rooted in the Goodman family, but has been mostly sacrificed to leave room for other responsibilities like football and health.
“My dad says he’s getting too old to compete professionally and there’s also a lot of wear and tear on your body,” Goodman said. “He wouldn’t be able to come to the football games if he did because there’s a lot of traveling that comes with being a professional cowboy.”
The travel required to compete professionally was so demanding that some of the rodeo circuits even took place internationally.
“To compete in professional steer wrestling, he traveled all over the country and once to Canada,” Goodman said.
Although Goodman, Jasmine and Reecie didn’t make it to every rodeo with Ben Sr., they still competed together quite frequently during the summer.
“It’s a huge rodeo season in the summertime starting around the 4th of July when the main, big rodeos are, so that’s when we’d do the traveling with my dad,” Goodman said. “Probably every other weekend, if he wasn’t going professionally, he’d take the family in the truck and we’d all go compete in states like Mississippi, Arkansas and California.”
However, the rodeos weren’t always a family affair. Goodman recalled times at a young age when he would drive the truck and trailer by himself to nearby competitions if he wanted to perform in rodeos that his father, mother and sister weren’t interested in attending.
“They turned me loose on my own with that huge trailer at 15,” Goodman said. “I’d travel to local rodeos on a Sunday that were probably an hour away. They would say, ‘You go ahead’ if they didn’t feel like coming.”
Though that’s not to say that the family didn’t enjoy the frequent, long drives together to rodeo circuits across the states. Reecie and Goodman recall the hours spent in the truck as fond memories that tied their family together.
“We often would spend a lot of the time in the truck playing games,” Reecie said. “It was good family time when we were traveling on the road because we were all really close and had an opportunity to spend good quality time together.”
In retrospect, Goodman enjoyed the family games that helped the four of them grow closer, even if they were played at his expense or to appease him as the youngest, and most curious, in the family.
“I remember when we were little I talked a lot as a kid—I would ask a lot of questions—so we played the quiet game to see if I could keep quiet,” Goodman laughed. “We’d play I Spy a lot and Hangman too, but I never could win, so I used to get mad until finally they’d have to let me win. There was a lot of family bonding things that we did like those little games to pass the time.”
Regardless of how many questions Goodman wanted to ask while on the road, when the family would travel together and stay at the rodeos overnight, there was no escaping the kinship.
“If we were staying overnight, we would pretty much set up camp when we’d get to the rodeo,” Reecie said. “We were all close because there was never a house where you could go to watch television and everyone have their own room. The chance to spend that family time together was truly a blessing for us.”
Time spent together now is few and farther between due to Goodman’s busy football schedule at the University of Kansas, but his parents make the most of every opportunity to see him.
“They’ll usually make it in time to see me at the Hawk Walk, but if the Hawk Walk is too early then they’ll text me what section they’re sitting in or I’ll look up and find them most of the time,” Goodman said of his parents’ visits this year. “Then they’ll always meet me outside the locker room when we get done.”
Goodman is not only lucky to have family visit him at every game he plays in, but also to have both of his parents present and together. Only about 50 percent of American children can say that their parents are even together still—let alone willing to travel 80,400 miles together to support their son.
“It’s never been just one parent, they both come together to every game,” Goodman said. “Even if my mom is off and my dad has to work, my mom would fly in on Friday and my dad would come in on Saturday to meet her for the game.”
Although every opportunity to see their son is treasured, they mostly enjoy the time spent after games played in Lawrence.
“After home games he and his dad get to play Dominos—they love to play Dominos—and I get to cook, so he gets to have some home cooking,” Reecie said. “We’re always up late doing some of the things that we would do back at home for the home games.”
Amidst the cooking, relaxing and games played in Lawrence, Goodman and his father also spend a lot of time looking at his performance on the field.
“My dad critiques me on the things I could’ve done better and lets me know what I messed up on,” Goodman said. “We probably go through every play of the game and we might even watch the TV copy to go through what I could have done to have a better performance.”
Regardless of his performance on the field, Reecie and Ben Sr., are guaranteed to be present at every game—something that the family considers a blessing.
“It’s a blessing to have my parents travel to see me every weekend,” Goodman said.
“It’s a great opportunity—actually—it’s a blessing to be able to travel to see him every weekend,” Reecie said, echoing her son’s sentiments.
Goodman attributes his strong family ties to the long hours spent traveling on the rodeo circuits when he was younger, and plans to continue that bond with a family of his own.
“There were a lot of family bonding things we did on the road that got me closer to my family,” Goodman said. “I would definitely like my son to get involved in rodeo and football and experience those same types of moments.”
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