Aside from winning the Olympic Games, Kerri has also been a three-time World Champion, and has received numerous awards and honours for her accomplishments in the sport worldwide. She has been named as the Best Blocker by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) for four years, the Best Hitter for three years, and the Most Valuable Player by the Association of Volleyball Professionals for two years. Kerri’s amazing passion and skill for volleyball truly reflects on the accomplishments she has garnered all these years.
Born to Play Volleyball
Kerri’s extraordinary talent for playing volleyball comes from her inmost passion and interest for the game. The moment she was introduced to the sport, Kerri immediately knew that she was going to be playing volleyball for a long time. It is her love for volleyball that enabled her to push beyond her limits and develop a skill that made her the best in the world.
Kerri often talks about her love for volleyball in interviews:
“When I found volleyball, I knew it was different right away. There was a love for it right away and I knew I would climb the highest mountain, I’d go through the most pain for this. I just loved it, and I couldn’t get enough of it. At that point I knew I would do whatever it took just to keep playing and getting better.”
A lot of people do not really appreciate much of who they are as they get older, but not Kerri. The older gets, the more she begins to find satisfaction in taking the attention away from herself to others, especially her children. Maturity is something that Kerri has come to value, as it keeps her reminded of how far she has already gone through. She says in an interview:
“Age is never a con; in fact, we should embrace it. Age is a weird thing people like to focus on. For me, the older I get, the more aware of my body I become. I have a lot more skills now, and for the first time I rely more on my skills than my physicality. Those strengths are empowering. I also feel now that I am a mom, I can handle anything.”
Being stagnant stops one from advancing forward, and that is why Kerri never allows herself to stay where she is—she keeps on moving forward, always ready to take on the next challenges that would come her way. This is what she said when she was asked about whether or not she was satisfied with her championships:
“Ultimately I still feel it in me, it's just that the fire and the energy is something so special and so pure. I feel like I have so much more room to grow in the sport in every way, in every skill, physically and mentally.”
Throughout her years of being a professional volleyball player, Kerri has learned that it is not about the winning moment—it is about enjoying each and every moment of the game. This principle is what she applies in her own life as well. Most often, people focus too much on the winning part that they tend to get burnt out and end up quitting because they become impatient when the things start getting hard. But for Kerri, once you start enjoying every moment of your life, you will end up winning right before you even expect it.
This is what she pointed out in an interview made with her regarding her attitude in the game back in 2010:
“I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older to win in a way that makes me proud, to enjoy the whole process not just the winning part. I've learned to enjoy the journey of it, which I literally just stumbled upon the past year and a half, which has been really hard because I still want to win and kick butt but I want to have that good life while doing it.”
Ultimately, greatness and success for Kerri do not come from just training hard; it comes from the very simple decisions that she makes every day—decisions that would later on have a great effect in her life and career. This is why she got to where she is today; she is not just interested in her own well-being, but also for the well-being of others. She says:
“People look at us and they just see volleyball, but I think in order to be successful in anything, you have to be well rounded... There are lots of little common sense, ABC things that allow you to be great. Every day, you're faced with these choices, and we have to make the right ones for ourselves and our team.”
The Early Life of a Volleyball Champion
She was born Kerri Lee Walsh on August 15, 1978 in the city of Santa Clara, California. She comes from a line of mixed ancestries, and has Italian, Irish, Austrian, Scottish, and Canadian blood through her parents Timothy Joseph Walsh and Margery Lee.
Born in an athletic family, it seemed that Kerri was always destined to follow in her parents’ footsteps and establish her own name in the world of sports one day. Kerri’s father, Timothy, was a minor league baseball player, while her mother Margery was a former two-time Most Valuable Player in volleyball at Santa Clara University. Both of Kerri’s parents passed their interests to their children, thus inspiring Kerri and her siblings to play sports as well.
And so, Kerri started out playing sports as early as she can remember; from baseball to basketball, she tried out every kind of sport that she encountered, greatly developing her body for playing. While she was studying at the Baymonte Christian School, Kerri was well-known by her teachers and classmates to be very energetic and outgoing, often joining school sports competitions and even winning them. Aside from this, Kerri was also a bright student, and impressed her teachers with her analytical mind.
Becoming a Volleyball Varsity Player
Upon her graduation from middle school, Kerri studied at the Archbishop Mitty High School in the city of San Jose, where she became a varsity player in the game of volleyball. During her time at Archbishop Mitty, Kerri led the school team to win three consecutive state championships in indoor volleyball, from 1993 to 1995. Often being named as the best volleyball player of the school, not only did Kerri lead the team through volleyball championships, but she also helped them win a state basketball championship in 1995. The following year, she was named as the very first Girl’s National Volleyball Player of the Year by ESPNHS.
Kerri Meets Misty
It was also during this time that Kerri first met Misty May Treanor, whom she would later on develop a deep friendship with as they became partners. Although both Kerri and Misty would play against each other throughout high school and college (due to the fact the Misty was playing for another team), the duo developed such a respect for each other. During her sophomore year at Archbishop Mitty High School, Kerri asked for Misty’s autograph.
Kerri would later on stress the importance of her friendship with Misty during an interview made with her:
“I can’t imagine doing this with anyone other than Misty. Misty is that big, important and special to me. She has helped create this life for me that is so beautiful... That woman has changed my life in so many ways, you have no idea. Nothing can touch Misty and me. It is sacred, special and something I cherish.”
After graduating from high school in 1996, Kerri pursued her studies and became a varsity player at Stanford University, where she took a course on American studies. At this point, Kerri’s volleyball career kept moving upward, and in the next two years she led the university’s team to win national titles in the sport. For the next four years (1996 to 1999), Kerri was named the first-team All-American, making her the second player in NCAA history to have achieved this feat.
In 1996, she was named as a Final Four MVP, while in 1999 she was a co-National Player of the Year (alongside Lauren Cacciamani, who was from Penn State University). Kerri graduated from Stanford University in 2000 and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree.
Going International: Kerri’s Professional Career
While she was still at Stanford, Kerri’s skill and prowess at playing volleyball already made it evident that she was Olympic material. She joined the United States National Team for indoor volleyball after trying out, and became a part of the team that later on competed in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. Kerri faced several challenges along the way, such as being wrongfully accused of taking drugs (as a result of a false positive on a drug test, which was later on cleared after she retested), which caused her to miss the first few games. Eventually, her team landed fourth place in the final rankings, but this never disheartened Kerri, who was ever determined to show that world what she was made of.
An Unstoppable Partnership
In 2001, Kerri moved from indoor volleyball to beach volleyball and started partnering with Misty May Treanor, another equally famous and skilled volleyball player whom she played against in high school and college. Throughout the following years, their partnership grew deeper, and the duo became unstoppable in every challenge they faced on the court. In 2002, Kerri and Misty won the FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) tour, which placed them in the spotlight of the international volleyball community. The following year, in 2003, the duo won again in the World Championships.
Winning the 2004 Olympic Gold
Kerri and Misty played alongside each other in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. Throughout the entire series, their team never dropped any sets, eventually facing Brazil in the final. Like with the previous sets, where they easily dominated their opponents, Kerri and Misty won against the Brazil team, and went on to win the gold medal. This victory further established Kerri’s career as the best female volleyball player in the world, with her winning numerous awards and recognitions from various volleyball organizations.
In the same year, Kerri met Casey Jennings, a fellow volleyball player who topped the U.S. Men’s Beach Volleyball. The two developed a romantic relationship with each other, and in 2005 got married. Kerri bore Casey two children: Joseph Michael (born in May 2009), Sundance Thomas (born in May 2010), and Scout Margery (born in April 2013). Kerri said about her children in an interview:
“My kids are my heart. I can’t breathe very well or sleep very well without them. I have to be close to my kids because they are also a part of this team. I feel I have better focus, determination and desire because of them.”
Kerri continued her winning streak alongside her partner Misty in the games that followed. In 2006, the duo won the AVP Crocs Cup and received the World Sportswomen of the Year Award. The following year, in 2007, the team once again proved their skill when they won the World Championships.
Winning the 2008 Olympics and Starting a Family
In the 2008 Summer Olympic Games which was held in Beijing China, Kerri and Misty once again dominated the volleyball spotlight and won the gold medal by defeating the Chinese team in the final matches without losing any sets. The Chinese team, which was first-seeded (Kerri’s team would have been the first seed if it were not for the home rule, which placed China on the top spot due to them hosting the Olympic Games), did not stand a chance against the amazing tandem of Kerri and Misty, who not only won the gold medal but also broke volleyball records (and their own) by winning one hundred twelve matches in a row, and nineteen consecutive tournaments.
This same year, Kerri and Misty also successfully defended their title at the AVP Crocs Championship, and was named as the Team of the Year by the Association of Volleyball Professionals (their first was in 2007). In the next two years, Kerri had to pause playing volleyball due to her being pregnant with her two kids.
Misty’s Decision to Retire and Kerri’s Dilemma
In 2010, Kerri’s long-time beach volleyball partner, Misty, decided to lie low and quit playing volleyball professionally. This decision saddened Kerri, who greatly valued their amazing partnership on the court and believed that the only reason why she was able to win championships for the past two years was because of their style of volleyball play. A few months later, however, Misty once again partnered with Kerri and the duo won a silver medal at the 2011 World Championships.
Misty’s decision to retire from professional volleyball was something that Kerri accepted, but the duo later on played for the last time when they joined the 2012 Summer Olympic Games which was held in London. After making several easy wins against opponent teams from Australia, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic and China, Kerri and Misty once again captured the gold medal when they defeated their fellow American team.
Winning her Most Memorable Gold Medal
Out of all her championships, Kerri treasured the 2012 Olympic gold because it was the last time that she and Misty played together. In an interview made with her, Kerri stressed how important that gold medal was after reminiscing all the years that she and Misty have been together as partners:
“I don't want to undermine the first two gold medals, because they're obviously what got us here. But this for many reasons is so much more special. Getting back together with Misty absolutely changed my life and it changed our relationship forever. It's just deeper and more real, and we've really cherished the journey the past two years. To finish on top the way we did, I love this gold medal and I'm the most proud of it.”
Sometime after the Olympic Games, Kerri was discovered to be five weeks pregnant while she was participating in the events. However, doctors soon confirmed that Kerri’s participation in the games neither put herself nor her fetus in danger.
In an interview made with Kerri sometime in 2013, when she was asked about whether or not she was ready to move on with forming a new partnership with someone else, she answered:
“I have to. I might not find chemistry right away, but we can build it. If I am playing I am playing to win, and I want a gold medal in Rio. Misty will still be a part of the process, whether she is a coach or supporter. She will always be with me. It is going to be different; that is for sure.”
Even though Kerri is busy with all of her ventures and successes, she never forgets the most important role that she has to play—being a mother to her three children. She never forgets to spend a lot of time with them, encourage and teaching them herself. And through the experiences that she has, Kerry always instils in her children the value of having a dream and fighting for it. She says in an interview:
“It takes a village. I fully understand that phrase now and 100% agree with it. Although my family is very close knit, I need to be a working mom. My mom was a working mom, and I had a great life. Even though both of my parents worked, they were always present. It is important to teach my children about having goals, dreams and having the courage to face them.”
Kerri Announces 2016 Summer Olympics Entry
Today, Kerri looks forward to winning another game, and has set her sights on the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Kerri’s motivation in playing the game is winning, and she never lets any obstacles get in her way. She says:
“I have aspirations beyond today in this sport, and I want to play in Rio in 2016 and win a gold medal there.”
“As long as there is breath in your lungs and strength in your bones, you always have the chance to win in life”—this is the kind of mindset that we can learn from Kerri’s life story. Aside from this, it also teaches us to value the people around us, as we could never be victorious on our own. Finally, her story also helps us understand that in order to become great, we must always remember that it is about the choices we make in life that would shape our future.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Lenovo Hope Foundation
- The American Red Cross
- Chase the Stars Foundation
Awards and Achievements
- 2002: Won the FIVB Tour (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2003: Named as the Best Offensive Player by the Association of Volleyball Professionals
- 2003: Named as the Most Valuable Player by the Association of Volleyball Professionals
- 2003: Named Team of the Year by the Association of Volleyball Professionals (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2003: Won the Gold Medal for Beach Volleyball at the World Championships
- 2004: Named as the Most Valuable Player by the Association of Volleyball Professionals
- 2004: Named Team of the Year by the Association of Volleyball Professionals (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2004: Received the Sportswoman of the Year Award (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2004: Won the Gold Medal for Beach Volleyball at the Summer Olympic Games
- 2005: Named Team of the Year by the Association of Volleyball Professionals (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2005: Named Best Blocker by the FIVB
- 2005: Named Best Hitter by the FIVB
- 2005: Won the Gold Medal for Beach Volleyball at the World Championships
- 2006: Won the AVP Crocs Cup (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2006: Named Team of the Year by the Association of Volleyball Professionals (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2006: Named Best Blocker by the FIVB
- 2006: Received the Sportswoman of the Year Award (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2006: Named Best Hitter by the FIVB
- 2007: Won the AVP Crocs Cup (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2007: Named Team of the Year by the Association of Volleyball Professionals (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2007: Named Best Blocker by the FIVB
- 2007: Named Best Hitter by the FIVB
- 2007: Named the Best Offensive Player by the FIVB
- 2007: Named the Most Outstanding Player by the FIVB
- 2007: Won the Gold Medal for Beach Volleyball at the World Championships
- 2008: Won the AVP Crocs Cup (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2008: Named Team of the Year by the Association of Volleyball Professionals (with Misty May-Treanor)
- 2008: Named the Best Defensive Player by the Association of Volleyball Professionals
- 2008: Named Best Blocker by the FIVB
- 2008: Won the Gold Medal for Beach Volleyball at the Summer Olympic Games
- 2011: Won the Silver Medal for Beach Volleyball at the World Championships
- 2012: Won the Gold Medal for Beach Volleyball at the Summer Olympic Games
Wikipedia (Kerri Walsh Jennings)
Biography.com (Kerri Walsh Jennings Biography)
More (Kerri Walsh Jennings on Kids, Aging and Her Last Olympic Win with Volleyball Partner Misty May-Treanor)
The Huffington Post (Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh Jennings On Olympic Gold And Their Future)
Examiner (Interview with Kerri Walsh Jennings: Pregnancy gives me body awareness)
Web MD (Volleyball Champ Kerri Walsh Jennings Talks Baby No. 3)