USA Team USA All-Star Perry Baker Prepares for Tokyo | Sports
San Diego-based Perry Baker is no stranger to the competition. He is considered one of the best rugby sevens players in the world, ranking first among Americans in the sport and seventh overall. At this year’s summer games, this will be Baker’s second time playing for Team USA. Here we chat with the rugby star about how he developed his skills and how he is preparing for the next Olympics.
Are you from a sporting family?
Sport was huge in my childhood. My uncle played in the NFL for 13 years and my brother played in the NFL for three years. Growing up my family just played soccer.
How did you come to rugby?
I was in high school and my guidance counselor – who was also my post football coach (I played wide catcher) – was playing for a local men’s rugby club in Daytona Beach. He came to one of my games and said, “I think you can be a really good rugby player.” I’m like “What is this?” He said to come to a workout and check it out. So I ended up attending one of the workouts and never looked back.
What was it like entering the pitch for the first time in your first professional game?
It was unbelievable. After all of the hard work and dedication you have put into it, you have come to this point and it is just a dream come true. It was weird for me, because when I first came to San Diego and was offered a contract, I immediately thought I was on the team, not knowing that it was necessary to make the list of 12 men who must travel to go to your country. So once my name was called, that’s where it really hit the spot. All I sacrificed for that was the moment, this is what I wanted. It was so good to hit the pitch and everyone is there and you just hear them singing “USA!” People were screaming and it was really cool.
In 2018, you passed the Zack test to become Team USA’s all-time leading try scorer. How did you feel when you heard this news?
Hats off to my teammates and coaches for the opportunity to be recognized as the top try scorer because they believe in me and trust me. So they always do their job to put the ball in my hands, and that’s how it goes. They do all the hard parts and make it easy for me.
What’s your favorite part of training in San Diego?
Weather. Reminds me of Florida, but not so humid. I grew up in Florida, so I love being in the sun.
Describe coming to San Diego and practicing for the first time with Team USA.
It was exciting. But at the same time, I really didn’t understand rugby. The guy who introduced me to rugby didn’t really teach me the game. He just told me if I had a chance to score, to score. If I don’t, pass the ball to someone else. So when I got here I really wanted to be a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as possible. I was working on my skill level, how to be successful, and I was just starting to grow and learn with people like Zack Test. I was talking with Carlin Isles, who helped me know what to expect from the show and so on. I was a student learning the game.
How does it feel to go to Tokyo compared to when you went to the 2016 Olympics?
Leaving for the second time after all that has happened [last year] Makes it all the more exciting – it’s finally going to happen, and we finally have a chance to replay. Going to Rio was a total experience. And now, going to Tokyo, it’s going to be different and you just have to adapt. We have a whole country competing for one goal, and that is to get a medal. We’re definitely going for gold, but it’s good that everyone is trying to win medals and everyone is supporting each other. This whole experience is so sweet.