Kerri Walsh Jennings is not only one of the top professional beach volleyball players in the history of the sport—having won gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games—she's also mom to Joseph, 3, and Sundance, 2.
As Kerri prepares to compete in her fourth Olympic games in London this summer, the star athlete chatted with us about finding time for family, dealing with guilt and coping with nerves.
What has training been like for you this time around?
I do Pilates twice a week and then I lift in the weight room twice a week. I’m on the volleyball court five days a week as long as I don't have a tournament. I’m also doing a lot of mental training, sports psychology. Head to toe.
You’ve had so much success at the Olympics in the past. Do you still get nervous going into competitions?
I am nervous every day of my life for one reason or another. I still get nervous and I still get butterflies when I compete. That’s why I am still competing—because I feel like I still have so much more to prove and so much more room to grow.
Are your kids coming with you to the Olympic games in London?
Absolutely! And before that we're all going to Rome, Switzerland and Berlin; and then we’ll come home for a week; and then we'll go to London together. I consider them part of my team and I can’t wait to go with them.
How do you carve out family time in your busy schedule?
My sons are in school now—they're there from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Between those hours I'm just sprinting from one workout to the next to the next, so that when I pick them up I can really be home.
Your husband, Casey Jennings, is also a professional beach volleyball player. What's that like?
Not only can we relate on every level, but we also get to do everything together. When I travel the world, he's at the same meet competing himself, and that makes all this madness possible. We are so supportive of each other and we are still chasing our dreams, so that’s really fun.
How do you explain your busy schedule to your kids?
Our kids come the gym with us from time to time, and they go to the beach with us and watch us train. I don’t know if they fully get it yet, but they understand that we're working to do great things and are really supportive in their own little ways.
Work life balance is a particularly hot-button issue right now. Your thoughts?
It almost seems like this unattainable goal, but it's still something that my husband and I are always striving for. We generally feel really grounded and organized and we know what is coming up and we try and prepare as much as possible.
What’s the most challenging part about being an Olympian and mom?
Finding balance, absolutely. The mommy guilt. I was just in China for two weeks and it was tough decision to not bring my sons, but I knew it was better to have them home and in a good routine. The sleep deprivation can be really hard sometimes, too. But the positives outweigh the negatives a billion to one.
Do you have any advice for other busy working mothers?
I have so many questions for other working mothers! But I guess my advice would be just to not stop doing what you love. Try to incorporate everything you love alongside everything you love about being a mom. Whether you are working mom or a stay-at-home mom, that’s really important.