Athlete Spotlight: Bailey Perez
by Stephen Miwa
Everyone has known that kid who goes bounding around the house and leaping off furniture. While most are told to go outside, some are enrolled in gymnastics where they can release that energy in a fun and productive yet safe manner. Few individuals will find the desire to make gymnastics their passion, butBailey Perez isn’t one of those kids. Bailey has dedicated a large portion of his life to train, compete, and make the US National Team with dreams of making the Olympic team one day.
At the age of 3 Bailey’s mother saw that Bailey’s energy could not be contained within the house or school, and enrolled him in a local gymnastics gym to see how it would go. It went so well that within a couple years Bailey joined his first club team, Salto Gymnastics in Waukesha, Wisconsin. After a few years,Bailey and his family moved to the western suburbs of Chicago where he joined Premier Gymnastics Academy in Downers Grove.
While training at Premier, Bailey has been coached by gold medal Olympian, Paul Hamm, for the last several years. When asked about what it is like to be coached by Hamm, Bailey responded, “I like him a lot! He is really good about using his own experience in gymnastics to help us understand how (moves) should feel and look.” Bailey says that Hamm has been great at helping him learn skills suitable to his body type, as well as talking him through situations that he had been through himself. One such situation has been understanding how to work around injuries as well as managing his body. Hamm has prepared Perez for not only the physical demands of growing as a collegiate gymnast, but also the balance that he will need to succeed academically.
Injuries are not uncommon in gymnastics, Bailey has suffered a couple of his own. Fracturing the radial head off of his elbow cost him 6 months during his Junior year. Bad luck struck again when just weeks before competing in the P&G Gymnastics Nationals, Bailey broke his finger while training. Between working with Hamm and having physical therapy at Achieve, Bailey was able to make sure that his body was prepared for the arduous demands of competition.
“The goal with Bailey was not to fix the finger,” says Gina Pongetti, Achieve Sports Medicine Co-owner and Director. “Nationals was too close. With six events in men’s gymnastics, it was all about managing the stress on the hand and finger, and being able to put in the numbers at the gym to stay conditioned and routine-ready without making the pain worse. To be able to limit ring and p-bar work for a week, and then pull out the routines that he did in St. Louis was remarkable! It shows, truly, what a great athlete Bailey is, mentally and physically. It shows, as well, the benefit of having a coach who has been in these situations before, knowing how to make decisions about training, preparation, and routine alterations. A great combination!”
Bailey was not only able to compete at Nationals, but he took second place in the All-Around competition; second place in both the Floor and Vault events; and third place in the High Bar event! “It was probably my best meet ever,” says Bailey. He continues, “I made the US Junior National Team because of my placement!” His favorite event might root back to his childhood days of running and flipping around the house. Bailey admits that Floor Exercise is his favorite event. “It comes easy to me, and that just makes it a little bit more enjoyable because I know that I can try new stuff more frequently.” Heading into his first collegiate season, Bailey’s goals are now twofold.
Bailey will be heading to Stanford where he will join an elite group of gymnasts with the common goal of winning the NCAA National Championships. When discussing his decision to go to Stanford, Bailey said, “The whole teams’ commitment to working hard to be NCAA champs really stood out to me. I want to be on a team where everyone has a common goal of winning, and everyone is going to put their best effort to make it happen.” That is the exact atmosphere that Stanford brings to gymnastics led by their head coach, Thom Glielmi. Glielmi has been coaching the Stanford men’s team for over 10 seasons, coaching them to multiple NCAA National Championships. He has also been a part of the US Senior National Team’s coaching staff so Bailey will be surrounded by both elite athletes and coaches.
Bailey’s second goal, besides winning National Championships at Stanford, is to try to make it onto the Senior National Team. Making the Junior National Team at the P&G Gymnastics Nationals has struck a fire under Bailey to continue down the path and see how far he can take it. “During college, I will keep trying to do P&G (Championships) so that I can try to make the National Team every year,” said Bailey. He believes that training with such a focused group will foster a deeper competitive edge that will help facilitate him to become a better gymnast. Bailey says, “the Olympics is a goal for sure,” but for now he wants to see how college goes and enjoy competing with his new teammates. Maybe in 4 years time, Bailey can follow in his mentor, Paul Hamm’s footsteps and become the next American to bring home the Olympic gold for the US Men’s Team!