Like a lot of moms and dads, Kerri Walsh Jennings made her kids lunch Thursday morning, dropped them off at summer camp and headed to work.
Unlike most parents, however, work for Walsh Jennings means competing against world-class athletes for a share of $1 million at the Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach.
After Walsh Jennings dropped off her kids Thursday, she and April Ross won their third pool play match and advanced to the elimination rounds as the winners of their group.
This season, Walsh Jennings has traveled to China, Russia, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands on the FIVB World Tour. But she gets to compete close to her Manhattan Beach home through Sunday at the only international FIVB event held in the U.S.
It’s a little weird.
“This is the trippiest thing,” Walsh Jennings said. “There’s $1 million on the line; I’m sleeping at home; I’m making my kids’ lunches; I’m going to drop them off at school; I’ve got my little girl. ... Life is so good.”
Walsh Jennings and husband Casey Jennings, a fellow beach volleyball player, have three kids. Both mom and dad were competing at the Long Beach Grand Slam, and when dad had an early game Thursday, mom got to do the morning routine.
I write "got to" deliberately because while some parents might say they “had” to do it, Walsh Jennings made it sound like a privilege.
“We had tantrums. We had a dance party. We had a little bit of everything,” Walsh Jennings said, grinning and living up to her nickname, “Six feet of Sunshine.”
Walsh Jennings’ youngest, a daughter, was born in April 2013, and Walsh Jennings jumped back into FIVB international competition about three months later in July.
Her partner Ross said she admires Walsh Jennings’ ability to balance her life.
“I never understood how she did it all, especially after having kids,” Ross said. “She manages it all, and it’s like she’s a superhuman superhero.”
While Walsh Jennings travels internationally, her husband shoulders a lot of responsibilities, she said.
“It’s a blessing,” Walsh Jennings said.
Jennings and partner Avery Drost lost in the first men’s elimination round Friday.
Walsh Jennings and Ross, won their match Friday, a three-set thriller against Germans Laura Ludwig and Julia Sude, and move on to Saturday’s quarterfinals. Both are elite players -- Walsh has three Olympic gold medals, and Ross has one silver -- but the teammates differ in one key way, Ross says.
“One of our biggest differences is maybe our energy level off the court,” she said. “I could never do what she does, and I am so impressed by it every day. And she looks out for our sport and the players in the sport so much, and she doesn’t have to. I mean, I know she feels like she has to, but it’s really admirable.”
On Saturday, Walsh Jennings gets another opportunity to compete in the women’s quarterfinals. And of course, she’ll have plenty of time to be a mom.
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