As a titan in the sport of beach volleyball, Kerri Walsh Jennings stands tall—literally, as she is listed at 6'3"—as well as figuratively above the competition.
Being a two-time AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) MVP and having three gold medals under her belt, there is not much Walsh Jennings has left to prove. However, volleyball runs through the course of her veins and with the AVP Tour back, she will not sit idle as she gears up for another tour and eventual run for gold in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“As long as I keep getting better (I’ll keep playing volleyball),” Walsh Jennings said with a sly grin. “For sure I want to go to Rio, and my goal is to qualify and win another gold medal. After that I’ll take care of it (possibly retire from the sport) when it comes."
Walsh Jennings will be looking for a new partner for gold, as her partner in crime Misty May-Treanor has since retired. Walsh Jennings has said an announcement will be made soon on her new partner, but she is more locked into the AVP tour at the moment.
It was announced in May that the AVP will kick off a seven-city tour, which begins on August 16 in Salt Lake City, Utah and ending on October 20 in Huntington Beach, California. Along the way, the tour will make stops in Manhattan Beach, California, Cincinnati, Ohio, Atlantic City, New Jersey, St. Petersburg, Florida and Santa Barbara, California.
Walsh Jennings is excited about the tour resuming and getting the chance to hit the sand again.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am and all the athletes are (to begin the tour)” Walsh Jennings said. “When there is a summer without the AVP it just feels wrong. Not only is it great to be back, but it’s under new ownership and leadership—we needed it. I believe in their vision.”
Walsh Jennings will be joined on the AVP circuit with some of the greats in the sport—both on the men and women’s side. Phil Dalhausser, Todd Rogers, silver medalists Jen Kessy and April Ross, and Olympians Sean Rosenthal, Jake Gibb and Nicole Branagh will be some of the other featured athletes.
“We’re going to have the best players in the world compete on this tour.” Walsh Jennings added. “It’s going to be a smaller draw size, (so) every single match is going to be intense.”
The tour will hit some new spots this summer, as the AVP recently announced an alliance with IMG. The addition of Manhattan Beach is an especially welcomed sight for Walsh Jennings, as are the other new stops.
“The partnership with IMG is huge,” Walsh Jennings said. “Manhattan Beach is basically Wimbledon for beach volleyball. I never been to Atlantic City (or) St. Petersburg. Cincinnati, believe it or not, is an amazing mecca for volleyball, so I can’t wait to get out there. There’s not a bad stop on the schedule.”
In correspondence with the new tour, the AVP has come to an agreement with CBS Sports Network and CBS Interactive to showcase the sport. CBS Sports Network is set to air live men's and women's championship round action from each stop on the tour, while CBS Interactive will provide a live stream of the preliminary rounds from each event on AVP.com. This will be the first time the sport will be televised since 2010.
With the increased exposure, Walsh Jennings is amped that more of the country will get to see more of the sport.
“It’s a huge and exciting partnership,” Walsh Jennings explained. “CBS is an invested partner and they want to grow the sport and the AVP. We want to make this prime time and mainstream. We need to get in front of more people, whether it be on TV or in person.”
With the AVP tour just a little more than two months away, Walsh Jennings is juggling both training and raising a family. (And when I say juggling, I mean quite literally, as accompanying Walsh Jennings on this interview was her precious two-month old daughter Scout Margery in her arms).
Walsh Jennings, who is married to Casey Jennings—a veteran of the AVP tour— have three children together. Along with Scout Margery, Kerri and Casey have two boys: Joey, 4, and Sundance, 3.
“My husband and I, I feel like we’re the ultimate team,” Walsh Jennings said. “We’re both chasing the same dreams. We work as a team and we feel our kids are part of our team. We go through the madness together. It’s a labor of love and it’s something I wanted my whole life. It’s a blessing to be able to combine the things I love.”
Trying to get back into beach volleyball shape can be hectic, too, says Walsh Jennings.
“(Training) has been intense,” Walsh Jennings said as she described a day in the life of her training regimen. “I have been on the beach for about two and a half weeks (now). Every day is humbling as I get my strength, speed and agility back. I’m playing volleyball two or three hours a day and then I’ll have one or two other workouts that will last anywhere between an hour and two hours.”
Obviously Walsh Jennings has a full plate, but when you talk to her and get to know her, she probably wouldn’t want it any other way. Walsh Jennings relishes her time balancing her sport and her family.
“We’re bringing our kids everywhere (on this tour), so it’s going to be a fun, family adventure,” Walsh Jennings concluded. “My husband will be playing as well. There is so much to look forward to.”
For the latest on the AVP, visit their site at www.avp.com.
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