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Beach volleyball legend Walsh Jennings talks competition, motherhood

Kerri Walsh Jennings won three Olympic gold medals

Kerri Walsh Jennings won three Olympic gold medals and has her eyes on a fourth. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Kevin Lee

Few reach the pinnacle of their sport, and fewer still are able to stay there for more than a decade. How many elite athletes have accomplished such feats while raising three children? Kerri Walsh Jennings and just about nobody else.

The three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball dominated her sport since teaming with Misty May-Treanor to win the 2003 World Championships. After May-Treanor retired following the duo's 2012 Olympic gold medal performance, Walsh Jennings now teams with April Ross -- who settled for silver three years ago -- as they pursue a world championship this summer in the Netherlands before the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

amNewYork spoke with Walsh Jennings ahead of Mother's Day this Sunday about competing, motherhood and her partnership with Tempur-Pedic.


What are some of the challenges faced with adjusting to your new teammate, Ross, after such a lengthy run of success with May-Treanor?

We're totally on the same page. It's just, it comes down to a rhythm thing. We both came from very different dance partners. They had a very specific way of playing and so did Misty and I. We were both very ingrained, so the challenge comes when you hit a rough spot, when you're against a team that you can't break, that you're having problems with. We both kind of revert to what we would do with our former partners, when we're not those people anymore. We need to find our own way within our system of coming out of pickles together.


How do you balance your athletic career with motherhood?

My time, it feels like it's just on fast-forward and that's the biggest challenge of my entire life is time management. I wear a lot of hats: I'm a mother first and foremost; I'm also obviously a wife; I'm an athlete; I'm a businesswoman. I have a billion balls in the air and so time management is really, it's my challenge because I want to give quality time to everyone, and that's hard when you're running on empty sometimes.


What types of Mother's Day gifts have you received from your children over the years?

Oh, everything they made at school, for sure, with my boys. Scout, this will be our second Mother's Day together, you know. My ideal Mother's Day would be, literally, I would love to sleep in a little bit. That would be my heaven. That's my guilty pleasure of all-time.


Was your mother an athlete in her youth?

Yeah, she played at Santa Clara University. She played volleyball there. She was the team's MVP, but growing up, my parents played in very competitive softball leagues; they played in bowling leagues. They were very physical people. My dad played Triple-A baseball for the A's organization and played semipro basketball.


I understand Tempur-Pedic has something for your mother.

Yeah, it's amazing. They actually surprised me with this. They're going to gift my mother a Tempur-Flex mattress, which, my mom is literally my hero. She's someone who does everything for everyone and she's the last in line to take care of herself. But I want her around for a million years and she needs to get her sleep and make it a priority. My hope is that with this gift from Tempur-Pedic, she'll be able to get good quality sleep and to live just a better feeling life.


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