BOZEMAN – If you think it is difficult to buy a house in the Gallatin Valley, try to find a place with space for the horses.
“It would be nice if I won the lottery,” Kyle Whitaker said with a laugh.
Whitaker has a good reason to bring horses to Bozeman. He is the Montana State rodeo coach.
Whitaker was hired about a month ago, shortly before the start of MSU’s fall rodeo season, so he didn’t have much time to find a place to live.
Whitaker is ready to wait. The Nebraska rodeo star didn’t take on the job expecting it to be easy, and he encountered several challenges beyond just finding accommodation. But his desire to coach, the support of his family and the success of the MSU rodeo made it easy for Whitaker to undertake this big life change.
“I did it pretty quickly, but everyone said to me, ‘You might never have an opportunity like this again,'” Whitaker told 406mtsports.com last week. “I’m kind of a spiritual person, and the way it all turned out, I felt like I was being called to do it, and I took a chance.”
Bozeman is the first town in which Whitaker, 45, lived outside of Nebraska. He has stayed elsewhere often, participating in rodeos across the country for several months each year, but his home base has always been his home country.
Whitaker grew up in Chambers and attended the University of Nebraska. He has competed in professional tie-down, steer wrestling and saddle riding competitions, and he has won a record 10 Linderman Awards, awarded to athletes who demonstrate excellence in equestrian events. and rope. Linderman’s previous record was held by Whitaker’s father, Chip, and Whitaker also set a record by winning the award five times in a row.
Whitaker pointed out that he was not yet a former athlete. In fact, he has wrestled beef in three events this year.
“All the things I read said ‘old cowboy’ but I’m still competing,” he said. “I plan to compete when it doesn’t conflict with the varsity season. I’m 45, but I stay in shape, and that’s what I would like to do. I think it’s a good show for our team if I’m there competing.
Whitaker’s age, his three daughters and other factors kept him from competing as much as he did in his prime, which means less income. In the past, he could have made up for this financial loss with his work as a breeder, but not now.
“Breeding has been a pretty, I don’t know if I would go so far as to say depressing, an industry to be a part of, but it’s been pretty disheartening the last few years,” Whitaker said. “The markets have been low. Cattle do not add much. The beef in the stores brings a lot, so it feels like they are crushing the ranchers. “
The struggling beef business led Whitaker to seek part-time employment, but something better emerged: the position of rodeo coach at MSU. Andy Bolich stepped down in June, less than a week after the MSU women won their third team title of the National College Rodeo Final.
The CNFR women’s title in the spring was MSU’s ninth tag team championship in its rodeo history. The Bobcats have also won 34 individual national titles. In June, Tayla Moeykens won the barrel racing title and Paige Rasmussen finished tied for first in the all-around.
Whitaker was familiar with MSU’s rodeo history dating back to his college days.
“This is more of a blue blood program” than others, he said. “It’s more of a football-like situation in Alabama.”
He also praised MSU’s support for the rodeo program, which joined the sports department at the start of this fiscal year. It was previously a club sport that had been part of MSU’s successful division since the mid-1990s.
Whitaker coached his daughters and other rodeo athletes at clinics, so training was “something I felt like I was good at and something I wanted to keep pursuing,” he said. -he declares.
“I kind of encouraged him to do it. I thought it was a good deal, ”said Chip, who competed at the 1970 CNFR in Bozeman. “I knew it would be a natural fit for it. He enjoys teaching kids rodeo and has a lot of knowledge in many events.
Whitaker wouldn’t have accepted the job if his daughters didn’t want it, but they were just as supportive as Chip and others he trusted.
“It’s hard not to have him here, but it’s a pretty impressive opportunity for him. Bozeman is a great region, ”said his eldest daughter, Jenae. “Life is about taking risks and doing things you love.”
Whitaker was one of three rodeo training contenders who visited Bozeman, according to MSU athletic director Leon Costello, and he impressed everyone involved in finding coaches.
“It came to us highly recommended by people we knew in the industry,” Costello said. “It’s pretty amazing what he did in competition during his career, and I think with him it was kind of the best of both worlds, where he ended his career but still wanted to make things in rodeo. “
Trying to align the schedules made the hiring process a bit long, as did the HR process, which is why Whitaker’s start was so close to the start of the season, Costello said.
As a result, Whitaker was greeted with a whole host of responsibilities upon arriving at Bozeman, such as paperwork for travel money, stock provisioning, and feed procurement. Plus, he’s trying to find a permanent home in a town going through a housing crisis (he currently lives with former MSU rodeo athlete Mike Clark).
If / when he buys a house, Whitaker expects his wife, Presley, and his three daughters to join him. Jenae would like to compete for the MSU rodeo program.
“Even before he took this job, I thought about it,” Jenae said. “I don’t know if I could have spent 12 hours away from home if it hadn’t been for training. I love the city and I love the program, but having it there was a big deal. “
The tough parts of Whitaker’s job were called off by the coach, and he made a good first impression on Moeykens and MSU men’s rodeo captain Kolby Currin.
“He really likes to have fun. He’s always happy, ”said Moeykens. “He’s kind of got into a big job, and he’s done really well so far.”
Whitaker often wonders why he jumped into an unfamiliar and demanding position 850 miles from his family. Then he remembers that he can train a sport he loves as part of a blue blood program, and his family encouraged him to play it.
“I said to Leon, ‘This is my dream job,'” he said. “It was scary, but if you don’t go out and take the step that you feel called to take, I don’t know, I think you just have to.”