Fundamentals: Kerri Walsh Jennings

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Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings joined Fundamentals with Ian Thomas on May 12. 

Walsh Jennings chatted about beach volleyball, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponment and her preperation, and platform1440, a beach volleyball digital platform she co-founded.

On preparations for the 2020 Olympics being interrupted:

Walsh Jennings – 2:05: The Friday night before we were set to leave for our first tournament, we, you know, the plug got pulled. … for me it was just relief because I can handle anything when I know what I’m dealing with. But to not know for that long was really gnarly. So how did you kind of, you know, once that cancellation, the postpartum, I should say, was, was made, how do you, to your point, how do you move forward on this?

On preparing for 2021: 

Walsh Jennings – 3:27: We’re such adaptable, resilient people, and I think athletes are trained to focus on the positive and to focus on stepping up to the challenges. This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever lived through and so I’m really grateful for the way I’m wired, because I’ve adapted, it happened quickly.

The mental adaptation and the emotional adaptation was the hardest. And I’m still a roller coaster. This is not easy, but my goal went from gold on August 7, 2020 to gold in 2021, nothing’s changed. I just have another year to get great. 

On training with her partner in a pandemic: 

Walsh Jennings – 6:03: We trust each other. We love each other, Before all this happened, we’re like, ‘We need to be together when it’s not always stressful. When it’s not always gnarly training or gnarly competition, we need to go and be girlfriends.’ 

And then this happened and I want to say we’re Zooming every day and FaceTiming everyday, but we’re not. We’re staying connected. We check in once a week about, and it’s like a good friend from high school that you haven’t seen for 20 years.

On platform1440:

Walsh Jennings – 9:24: platform1440 is a digital media company that was founded to service, to elevate, and to unite the sport of volleyball.

Because 800 million play international or around the world, that’s gnarly. 40 million here in the U.S. and they are so underserved. So if we can start really servicing and having a give and take relationship with the community, our sport can be relevant for always. And so 1440, we service every part of the sport, juniors on up to the elite.

On fans supporting volleyball digital media or potential professional league:

Walsh Jennings – 15:50: If you want to grow, if you want these athletes to thrive, if you want team USA to keep stepping up and winning, you need to support.

It’s not charity. It’s a give and take. We need to have a reciprocal relationship. That’s the most powerful relationships. And that’s how you go deep.

On women’s support momentum: 

Walsh Jennings – 17:45: I feel like I’m an advocate in my own way. I have a tough time with kind of the modern day advocacy cause I feel like it’s railing against instead of rallying for, and I don’t want to do that.

You know, I believe light wins and I believe one powerful thought outweighs kind of the toxic culture. 

On if the pandemic changes Olympic structures moving forward: 

Walsh Jennings – 23:40: This is a time to look at our structures and these athletes need support all year round, not eight months out of the year, not 10 minutes out of the year.

They really do need support because we’re representing our country and we don’t want to put out C-level material. And if athletes are having to have nine-to-five job, which a vast majority of them have two and three jobs just to follow their dreams. And that’s really hard.

And I know that NGBs do their best, but I know there’s a better way to do things. I’m wondering if we just need to get almost a GoFund me, you know, and just support these athletes.

On youth sports moving forward: 

Walsh Jennings – 27:11: The fall is happening right now because kids are more sedentary. Their programs have been taken away and the programs are vital. … The hard part is right now, but what I know about children one billion percent is that they’re resilient. And as a parent, it’s my job to advocate for movement, for getting my kids to experience what I want them to experience in life.

And they can make their own decision after that. But everyone is so resourceful and they’re nimble and adaptable. And again, I think if I’m feeling this hungry for what has been taken away from me. I know everyone’s feeling that hungry.