Volleyball legend Kerri Walsh on family, giving and London 2012
Just the Facts
Born August 15, 1978
Hometown Santa Clara, Calif.
Kids Two, Joseph and Sundance
Olympic gold medals Two, in 2004 and 2008
World Championship titles Three, in 2003, 2005 and 2007
Honors Two-time AVP Most Valuable Player, four-time Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) Best Blocker, and three-time FIVB Best Hitter
Few athletes have ever dominated a sport the way that Kerri Walsh has owned professional beach volleyball since 2004. She has earned Olympic gold in Athens and Beijing, captured three World Championship gold medals, and been recognized by her peers and sports pundits alike as perhaps the greatest women’s beach volleyball player of all time.
But at 33, there’s much more to Walsh than diving digs and savage serves. Shes the wife of fellow volleyball star Casey Jennings and a mother to two little boys (Joseph and Sundance)and she somehow finds time to host a radio program and run her own charitable foundation. We talked with the woman known as six feet of sunshine to find out how she balances being a mom, a wife and an Olympian.
You come from an athletic family. What can parents do to encourage a love of athletics in their kids? One of the greatest things my parents did for me was get out and play with me. That made everything less intimidating and more fun. That’s what my husband and I like to do with our boys we introduce a sport to them, and hopefully they’ll take the ball and run with it.
What do you do to balance the demands of being a mom with the demands of preparing for another Olympics? I try to be as organized as possible, and then I lean on my support group as much as I need to. My husband, our boys and I are a team, and we attack every challenge and event as a team project. We work really hard to be adaptable and flexible and take things in stride.
How have you already started getting your boys interested in sports? They have no choice. They go where we go, so they’re introduced to our world on a daily basis. Casey and I love our jobs we bring them home and talk about them, but we balance that with a good home life and downtime. Its fun as long as were all together.
Do they have a favorite sport? I don’t think they differentiate between sports. Sundance dunks really well, even though he’s not really getting off the ground yet. Joeys got an arm on him, so I’m thinking he’s going to be a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.
Speaking of your little boys, you’ve become well-known for bouncing back from having babies and regaining your physical condition. What was your secret? Genetics! (Laughing.) Seriously, I worked really hard. I stayed physically fit throughout my pregnancies, and I started working out once I got the all-clear from my doctor. I really enjoyed the process of getting bigger and then getting smaller again; I feel like it made me better in every way.
What do you do daily to keep yourself in top physical condition and ideal health? Sleep is the most important thing. Good sleep habits and good nutrition lay the foundation to feel your best and do your best. I need to be in optimal condition, and when I eat better and sleep better, I’m able to focus more and work out even harder and longer.
Lets talk about something outside athletics. What’s the mission of your Chase the Stars Foundation? I was blessed with a lot of opportunities, thanks to my parents. They were able to send me to summer programs, sports and so on. Not all kids are as fortunate. Chase the Stars is out there to inspire kids to chase their dreams. One year, we went to the children’s Hospital of Cincinnati and the Ronald McDonald House there. Chase the Stars donated money and we spent a couple of hours with the kids and their families. It was a beautiful day; I was going there to try and inspire these kids, but it was so much more inspiring to me to see the smiles the kids had and the hope and faith in their hearts. It was just a day of love and inspiration. I still have the little red nose they gave me. I keep it in my car, and it reminds me every day to be grateful.
Youve had a professional and Olympic career packed with highlights. Is there one moment that stands out? I don’t think that moment has happened yet. It might be winning my first gold medal as a mother. To me, that would be the pinnacle.
Whats next for you in volleyball? I want to win a gold medal in London. After that, my husband and I want to have more kids. I don’t know if that means one or two well see what we’re blessed with! But I would absolutely love to win a gold medal in Rio [in 2016]. That would be amazing!
Finally, what would you say to readers who want to pursue an athletic dream, even if it’s not something as lofty as the Olympics? If you want to be physical, get physical. It’s a beautiful thing to use your body. You just feel so much better. You gain confidence. Whether you want to be a weekend warrior on the volleyball or basketball court or on the golf course, or you want to compete in intramurals, do it. You’re going to get so much out of it.