Michael Phillips of Waynesburg kept busy this summer. Unlike most 16-year-olds, however, he wasn’t scooping ice cream or cutting lawns. He was riding bulls.
Phillips’ summer kicked off on July 7 in Shawnee, Oklahoma, where he competed with over 800 teenagers from 31 states and Australia in the International Finals Youth Rodeo until July 12.
Directly from Oklahoma, Phillips, accompanied by his dad Rodney, moved onto Rock Springs, Wyoming for the National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) on July 14-20.
According to the NHSFR website, the competition was “the championship for all high school-aged members who have qualified from 43 states, five Canadian provinces, Australia and Mexico.”
Though Phillips didn’t stay on his bull for the full eight seconds in either competition, resulting in no score, he isn’t letting that defeat him.
“It happens, it’s done, it’s over,” Phillips said. “(I) just move onto the next one.”
And he kept training and competing until an injury forced him to take time off.
On July 23 he competed against 19 and 20 year olds at a county fair rodeo in Moundsville, West Virginia. That night a bull stepped on Phillips’ leg, resulting in a 3 inch hematoma in his calf.
He’s going to start physical therapy, but could be out recovering for upwards of six weeks, his mother Stephanie said.
“We are hoping he will be back riding sometime mid-August,” Stephanie said. “(I) think he’s already bored out of his mind and going a bit crazy.”
Before the injury, Phillips had plans to compete in two more county fair rodeos this summer: one in Lisbon, Ohio and another in Fayette County. Depending on how quickly he recovers, he may be able to compete in another rodeo before the end of August. Now, per the doctor’s orders, Phillips is focusing on recovery: elevating his leg whenever possible, completing physical therapy and moving on crutches. After recovery, Phillips said he plans to “come back strong and completely ready.”
As the school year begins Phillips plans on doing as many competitions as possible, all over the country. Though, he said he is focusing competing eastern states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia.
“(We’ll compete in) as many as we can get to,” he said. “It’s hard to tell how many there will be.”
Phillips has molded his life around his passion for bull riding.
Every day, he said he does strength training at the gym and practices maneuvers at home on his mechanical barrel, similar to a mechanical bull. Halfway through last school year, Phillips enrolled in cyber school so he could do homework from the road between competitions. He plans to finish high school online and, when he graduates, Phillips said bull riding will remain a part of his life.
He is striving toward two possible goals: either attend college on a rodeo scholarship so he can compete in the College National Finals Rodeo or turn 18 and compete in the Professional Bull Riders, an international organization of bull riders.
“Stay positive and go after what you want,” Phillips said to other kids with dreams. “It’s something I’ve always had a love for so it’s easier to always keep after it.”