story by Lindsay Humphrey Escaping the scorching Arizona heat each summer led Shawnee Sherwood and her family north. They eventually landed in Nebraska and discovered […]
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Meet the Member Kyle Whitaker
story by Lindsay Humphrey
Few father son duos have collected more Linderman Awards than Chip and Kyle Whitaker of Chambers, Nebraska. Kyle alone has 10 to his name, but his rodeo legacy lives on in more than just a plaque on the wall. As Kyle’s time on the rodeo trail winds down, his focus is shifting to his four daughters: Jenae, 16, Aubree, 13, Whitney, and 10-month-old Oakley. “I don’t have a ton of rodeo goals as far as winning things next year. I have a lot of Nebraska high school and junior high rodeos to go to for my girls. I’m thinking less about what I can win and more about the opportunities for my girls.”
Just last year Kyle married Presely who runs barrels in the M-SRA. Since the 2020 PRCA season was hit hard by COVID-19, Kyle was able to compete in more amateur rodeos with his wife and oldest daughter this year. His main event is steer wrestling, but Kyle is also a regular in the calf roping. And he’s been a well-known saddle bronc rider just like his dad. “My earliest memories are of going with my dad to rodeos as a little kid.” Not only did Kyle follow in his dad’s footsteps to compete in rodeo, he also took up the same three events as Chip.
“I got tired of running the chutes for my dad and figured it would be more fun to compete. I started competing in high school. I wasn’t as competitive as I should’ve been because I was also doing sports in school.” When Kyle got to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln he finally had the opportunity to focus solely on rodeo. “I had more time to practice and I learned how to really compete because I wasn’t in other sports. College rodeo taught me how to translate my skills in the practice pen to the arena when the pressure is on.” In both high school and college rodeo, Kyle dabbled in team roping also.
“I feel like I’m the most competitive in steer wrestling and I’d say it’s my favorite event.” Kyle probably spends more time working on his calf roping because it’s the easiest for him to practice but also the toughest event in rodeo for him. “At this stage in my career I should probably be done with saddle bronc, but I still enter every once in a while.” As Kyle’s rodeo experience expands with time and entries, his confidence also grows. A lack of confidence used to hold Kyle back when he was out in the arena, but he’s learned how to rein that in. “I think I had a lot of talent and ability in high school, but I didn’t have the mental game figured out. I beat myself mentally. That’s huge in rodeo, you need to be physically and mentally prepared.
When Kyle first started working on his PRCA permit, he was hauling to rodeos with his dad. That lasted a few years and then Kyle jumped in with some other steer wrestlers. “For several years I traveled with guys who were qualifying for the national finals. I got to see their mental approach and their confidence, how to be a winner basically.” It’s hard for Kyle to name everyone who’s had a hand in shaping his rodeo career, but a good place to start is with his parents. “My mom was always supportive and of course my dad taught me a ton about how to compete and enter when I was growing up. I couldn’t have done it this long or at this level without their support.” He also got the support of a trailer dealer in his hometown: Duba Trailers. As Kyle focuses on the 2021 rodeo season, he’s hopeful that there will be more events to enter but has also been able to keep himself fairly busy at home. “I’ve been helping dad on the ranch with his cows and I shoe horses a little bit. I’m trying to get some of our horses started and trained so my girls can start using them.”