Perry Baker competes at the The Madrid Rugby Sevens International Tournament on Feb. 21, 2021 in Madrid, Spain.
What's Your Why presented by DeVry highlights athlete’s individual motivations that drive them to pursue greatness on their journey to achieve their Olympic & Paralympic dreams.
My name is Perry Baker and I play rugby for the U.S. Olympic Ruby Sevens Team. I made my Olympic debut in Rio in 2016 and I am excited to be on this journey to the Tokyo Games. My dream after becoming an Olympian has been to make it to the podium and I believe that our team has an excellent chance of doing that this year.
What drives me to pursue greatness and chase my Olympic dreams is my family, friends and teammates. My family has always been my biggest fans and supported me every step of the way. For my kids, I’ve always wanted to show them they can achieve anything they put their mind to. Everyone has days where they feel like giving up, but all I have to do is think of them and it drives me to keep going. I want to continue to make them proud.
I don’t use the word friend lightly, but I am lucky enough to have a small circle of them that are more like family. They’ve always been there with me through the ups and downs and continue to support and challenge me.
And of course, rugby is a team sport and without my teammates it wouldn’t be possible to chase my dreams. The brotherhood that we have built amongst ourselves pushes us to be the best. I know when I step on the pitch that they have my back and vice versa.
We tend to think success is the only goal when pursuing greatness. However, I think we don’t give enough credit to the journey we took to get there. The journey is what truly builds your character and teaches you to have integrity, passion, strength, everyday attitude and self-discipline. It teaches you life lessons.
I believe that to have an affect on the world you have to be able to give or provide something that can’t be bought. For me, whether I’m sharing knowledge of the game, inspire someone through my journey or simply helping someone I believe that is greatness and success at its finest.
I believe my purpose is to inspire and be a role model for upcoming athletes. It’s to share my story and encourage anyone and everyone to believe in themselves. I want people to understand that the road to get where you want to be is going to have lots of bumps, twists and turns, but if you stick to it and keep reaching for your goals you can do it.
It happened for me, so it can happen to them. It’s why I would like to share my story. If this pushes anyone to keep going and never give up, then my purpose as an Olympic athlete is a success.
My story starts when I was kid with an extreme love of football. I grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida where sandlot tackle football was an everyday thing for me. My dream was to be a wide receiver in the NFL.
After high school, I was fortunate enough to play football at Fairmont State University, a Division II school, where I continued to chase my dreams of being in the NFL.
I finally got my chance on when I was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles. I thought that was it and I had made it. Before I even stepped on the field, I failed my physical with a torn meniscus in my knee and I was immediately cut from the team. I went and played in the AFL where I was determined to make it back to the NFL, but my chance never came.
Time was ticking, but my old high school wide receiver coach/guidance counselor told me about a rugby academy in Columbus, Ohio. I took a chance and had the opportunity to be in the academy for a 6-month trial. I played in my first tournament and was horrible. I thought I had blown my chances to play rugby.
I received a second chance from Tiger Rugby Academy and had an outstanding tournament. Finally, I got my breakthrough I received a phone call to an open tryout for the U.S. national team after being turned away a couple times. I earned a contract, and the rest is history.
A few years ago, my business partner Charlie and I started, “Perry Baker Rugby Camps,” for aspiring rugby players. We teach and coach beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of rugby. It’s truly been one of the greatest things I have ever done. Seeing the smile on the kids’ faces and the fun that they have at our camps is a reward itself. Watching them grow into great rugby players and instilling the sportsmanship, respect and comradery is fantastic. I hope to continue to grow the camps and one day expand into other areas.
Through everything that has happened in my journey, whether it has been the good times or the bad, an achievement or a failure, it has made me into the person I am today. Because of that, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s created my reasons for why I keep striving for greatness both on and off the pitch, and why I will continue to do so even when my time as an Olympic athlete comes to an end.