By Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
2011 was an incredible year for Blaine Scully. The senior fullback helped captain the Cal Bears to a second undefeated untied season, culminating with a nail biting victory over Brigham Young University in front of eleven thousand plus spectators at Rio Tinto Stadium. Then over the summer months Scully made a significant contribution with the U.S. National Team, earning praise as a young player to watch. In sevens, he was selected to the first ever rugby sevens squad for the Pan American Games. Blaine earned his bronze medal by playing all but three minutes of the six high-speed matches contested during the tournament.
How do you top that? By earning a place on the Eagles 2011 Rugby World Cup roster. More accolades followed for his performances during the New Zealand hosted event. Recently, Scully became one of a select few athletes to be offered a contract with the U.S. Olympic Committee allowing him to train full time for sevens.
Not a bad year for the recent University of California graduate.
Earlier this year the sevens prop, who had been competing on the IRB’s sevens world circuit, suffered an injury while training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. I asked Blaine a few questions after our recent strength session. His responses will give you a glimpse into the kind of young man he is.
Tom Billups (TB) – Would you share with us what your injury was and what you are currently up to.
The injury I sustained during training was a full rupture of the Achilles tendon, compounded by a relatively serious calf strain. Within 24 hours, I had: consulted the doctor, taken MRIs and X-Rays of my lower left leg, been wheeled into the operating room and woken up with a successfully repaired tendon in the recovery room.
With the absence of full-time training, competing and preparing for International games, I have had to find ways to remain active while not trying to do too much.
In addition to weekly visits with the Physical Therapist and upper body strength training sessions, I am enrolled in a sports business class at Stanford University and assisting my Alma Mater, the University of California, with their CRC preparations.
Part of the challenge a serious injury poses is finding a balanced environment to get healthy while remaining active and stimulated. I have since relocated for long-term rehabilitation to Northern California, to be nearer to my support system - family, friends and university. This is as good a time as any to thank all those who have supported me during this process. It truly has meant the world to me.
TB – What has been your experience as a domestic professional sevens player and interfacing with the USOC?
By consolidating a core group of athletes to train in a full-time environment, the Off-Site Residency Program at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center created a new experience for USA rugby domestically. It presents an incredible opportunity not only for us athletes, but also for rugby as a professional and Olympic sport.
Prior to these training contracts, a professional rugby experience in the US was an unknown (other than experience of the athletes who competed professionally overseas) and as a result, we experienced some of the growing pains of professionalism. Achieving "best practice" and the schedule balance of marrying training, conditioning, strength, film study and recovery, is still a work in progress. But that is also what makes this opportunity so tremendous, and responsibility so great. As we move into this new arena, it presents one of those rare moments when one can take part in something with the potential to be truly great.
Following this summers’ Olympics Games, we (rugby sevens) will be moving into our own Olympic cycle. As aspirational as the Olympics are, the preparation and development of an Olympic Caliber team starts long before. These training contracts have assisted us in elevating our resources to be successful.
TB – Walk us through your path to rugby.
Turning back the clock...I have always loved sport and embraced any and every competition I was around. My mom did her best to keep me away from contact sports, like football (my dad and brother both played in college), and she was successful…for a while. In high school, I was the only 3-sport athlete in my graduating class, competing in Basketball, Water Polo and Swimming. I earned High School All-American honors in Water Polo and Swimming. But in college, I decided the water wasn't for me and searched for another challenge. I found my true sport after a high-school friend invited me to try out for the rugby team at UCLA my freshman year. I achieved All-American my sophomore year and transferred to Cal to complete my degree in History and as well as my last three years of eligibility.
While I wish I had been exposed to rugby at an earlier age, I believe that my diverse athletic background and the skill sets I gained by the various sports I have competed in, have contributed to sport instincts that have led to a successful conversion to rugby. So if there is a lesson there for young athletes, enjoy all the sports you can. Compete, train and develop athletically the best you can. And when you find your true sport, pursue it with everything you have.
TB – Any Role Models?
Every kid has his sports heroes - the Michael Jordan's and the Jerry Rice's - that they look to for inspiration. I did too. I had the posters, the sports cards and the jerseys. But the most inspiring person to me has always been my mother. During my mother's first election for District Attorney of Sacramento County, my father passed away suddenly. At the time, I was six years old and my sister was four. My mother eventually won the election; the first woman in Sacramento history to do so, and for a number of years raised two kids by herself while holding an elected position. She has since been the elected DA for 18 years, the first woman president of the California District Attorney's Association and the first woman president of the National District Attorney's Association. Not bad for a Sacramento girl who worked full-time during college and law school in order to cover tuition.
She has always been my inspiration and always will.
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