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I felt their nerves, I felt their discomfort like, you know, that sixth sense we have when you're like point, I felt it and I talked about it and it was just we just outlasted and that's what we did better than anyone, you know. And then once you crack the armor and you stick together, like people start falling apart, you know, and we never fall apart.
Welcome to the Just Women's Sports podcast, where we talk to the biggest athletes in the world, but the untold stories behind their success. I'm Kelly O'Hara and my guest today is Kerri Walsh. Jennings, Kerry is the definition of a living legend, the winningest beach volleyball player of all time. Kerry has won three Olympic gold, won Olympic bronze and three world championships. Her and longtime partner, Missy Trainer, are considered the greatest team to ever set foot in the sand.
At one point, they want to record one hundred and twelve matches in a row. A mother of three is still going strong today and is currently training for the Tokyo Olympics.
Carrie, welcome to the show. Thanks, darlin. How are you? Smooth. You nailed it on the first run. Thank you. So we met back in twenty sixteen at a speaking engagement and I remember going into that being like, oh my gosh, I'm doing a speaking engagement with Kerri Walsh like this. Yes. I totally, totally idolize you.
And then got there. No, no, no, no, no. Not shattered.
I was like just hearing you speak and how you approach things in the way that you've handled your career and everything. I was just so inspired and I was like, man, I totally love the way your mind works and your mentality and your your approach. So I've been looking forward to this for a long time to sit down and and talk about your career and just everything that's gone into it. So thank you. Thank you for that. It's so fun to do those things.
It is. And to listen to other people on their journeys in your story.
Like, I remember being, like, fired up when I left as OK, I'm pretty sure we go somewhere because some of the things that you said, I was just like, oh, these are words of wisdom. I need to remember this.
So I'm pretty redundant. So get ready for it for deja vu.
But I think the redundancy shows that you've nailed it in the sense of like you understand what it takes and what needs to happen in terms of being successful and what you're going to do. I mean, I have to think so because it just reinforces what I want to keep living, because just because I say it doesn't mean I live it. I do. I believe in it. But, you know, it's like the level of accountability you get when you speak to things is so important and it makes you that makes you think about like you actually have to think on it, ponder why do I do it this way?
Why am I the way I am, that sort of thing. So I totally agree with you. But yeah, let's go back to the beginning where it all started for you. So you grew up in Northern California. Give us a rundown on how you got introduced to volleyball. How did you get into it?
Yeah, well, I think I mean, in the very beginning, I was born to two athletes who were come from a family of athletes. So I feel like I had no choice in the matter. And I feel like when I talked to God before I came down, like I had a landscape and I was like, I want to go with those people in that family because I want to develop myself as a lion and be competitive and learn about myself through that platform.
And so my whole life, Kelly has been sports like from the minute go, you know, my parents, which supported your parents by all of them, like literally all of them. But my parents are just they are my favorite athletes and I got to watch them compete. And both my grandfathers, like one of them's in the Hall of Fame at Santa Clara. No to sports in the Orange Bowl. That's my dad, my mom's dad, and then my dad's dad.
He was a pro baseball player, pitching coach, coached Santa Clara. And then my grandmother's just gnarly competitors in their own way. So it's just in me, you know. And so growing up, I played everything I have. A big brother were eleven months apart. So whatever he did, I did everything with sports and I just fell in love with it. And I got to know myself through sports. I play baseball, basketball, soccer.
It was terrible. I never understood the offsides rule, literally. I'm like, get off me.
I'm just hustling. I never got it's OK. You're not the only person to get it. So I quit with the Valerius.
It's pretty pathetic really, because I wish I would've played soccer for much longer. I would have been so much better on my feet. I'm like perpetually Bambi. No, but but no.
So growing up it was just that and I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which is like God and nature and family and sport like that was my life that remains my life. And then I found volleyball in the fifth grade. It was offered at my school and I literally just fell in love. The first moment all my best friends were playing was the first girl only sport I played, which I don't think I had a consciousness that this was different.
But I just there was like an ease and then at home ness to it that that probably helped with. Interesting. Interesting. Yeah.
So how soon did you go from picking up volleyball in fifth grade to volleyball being the only sport you were playing?
When I got to college, really, I played four years of high school basketball and the cross training was incredible. It just made me tougher. You know, I was center. I was like five eleven, weighed zero pounds and I got my butt kicked every game. It pissed me off. It made me tougher. I had to develop myself in a lot different ways. And I wanted to be the best volleyball player I could be and. That was part of my toolkit, you know, like enduring and suffering basketball.
Got it. So at what point did you realize, OK, volleyball is it for me? I'm still going to play these other sports because I want to be the best in volleyball. But like, at what point did you realize that you had it?
Honestly, it's so weird because I'm still waiting to realize that. No, get out. You know, I swear to God, like, my insecurities are ridiculous. No, it's. I know, but no, but at the same time, Kelly, like, I if you don't pick me to be on your team, you're you're not a smart human. I know you want me on your team.
Trust me, we're playing volleyball. I'm thinking worry. Well, if we're playing most things, you want me me like that. But I'm getting so it's an interesting kind of dichotomy I have. But I just feel like the better I get, the more I realize it's kind of like the smarter you get, the more you realize you don't know anything. I feel like that certainly within the game. And I don't know if it's because, like, I used to just lean on my physicality and now the sport is so physical that the other sides of me are being developed more.
And there's like infinite room for, you know, potential and excellence. So I think that's what I feel when I say that because I don't want to have false sense of humility. Like I know I'm right. I but I also know if I could play for 18 lifetimes and just scratch the surface. So, yeah, I feel like a lot of people feel that way in their sport. They're chasing not perfection, but excellence. And as an athlete, you understand that you'll never achieve perfection.
So you're just always reaching for excellence.
Yeah, well, and yeah, just those little like little bits of incremental improvement. It's it's just for lack of a better word, it's just the drug keeps you wanting more.
A lot of athletes have addictive personality. Yeah. But no, the pursuit of my potential and my growth and just me being a great, well-rounded human in all sport has given me that for sure.
So so you you don't know if you or you don't know if you've realized you have it yet. However, you start in fifth grade, you end up going to Stanford for volleyball, not basketball. No. And you end up being a four time all-American at Stanford, two time NCAA champion. So at that point, where are you at in your career, where you and your mentality, how are you looking at yourself as a volleyball player? I felt at home at Stanford, I felt like I belonged.
I was just hungry. You know, I'm not much of a forward thinker and I'm very much like I'm in the moment and I try to live right now really sincerely. And so my time at Stanford, I. I didn't really think of my time beyond the farm, really. I just had no. And but that being said, my freshman year it was nineteen ninety six and the Olympics had just happened in Atlanta and we had a scrimmage against the national team and that was preseason stuff.
And so that was like my first kind of engagement with the next level. And I think I got one kill and it was a horrific performance by me when I usually would devastate me. Kelly but it like made me like, oh my God, if I can do that once, I can do it again because I felt like I was such a weight. I was 18 and I'm playing against this woman like so playing that I think planted the seed for what would become the next step, which is the Olympics, you know, indoor.
But I just enjoyed my time at Stanford. So much was so inspired. And obviously, like our winning record, I was just on the best teams with the greatest coaches. So it was it was a great time going into Stanford.
Did you know that you guys were going to be good? Did they already have that reputation as a volleyball team on the national stage? They did a couple of years prior. I want to say, like maybe four. They had definitely won a championship and they were yeah, they were a legacy program for sure. Already. I came in with a stacked junior class, like if you're a ballplayer, you would know the names. Like some of the best ever in college of baseball were my upperclassmen and the senior class that was going out.
They were rad as well. But the junior class that I had two years with them to develop myself, to be inspired by them and guided by them, and that really made all the difference.
So you say you're not forward thinking, but if Stanford had that legacy already, you clearly you went there being like, I want to be part of the best one hundred percent. Yeah. Yeah. Every time we went to Stanford, my parents would get big. Kerry, what do you think? You know, that's cool that they wanted to go there.
Yeah. You know, and so it was really rad that they believed in me and they gave me the tools that carry you. You can't just be an athlete. You have to be more than that. You have to be a great student. You have to bust your ass and be really disciplined. And do you want it? They could clearly see that I wanted and I had more in me. That makes sense.
But so everyone who's listening is clear. You went to Stanford and played indoor volleyball. You put in the volleyball up until two thousand and one. And you said that you played against the US indoor volleyball team and ninety six before they went to the Olympics. So. And that was your first time thinking. Oh, that was that was the first time you thought, oh, I might want to go play in the Olympics?
Well, it was just my first interaction with the next level. Got it. You know, I had been in Team USA in the developmental pipeline since I was, I think, fourteen or something like that. But you're just kind of always with your group, know, because it's just the difference between a sixteen year old and even an eighteen year old as drastic, you know, I mean, you know this. And so it's just I just had to keep leveling up.
And that was my first taste of of the next level. And then prior to that, like my first remembrances of the Olympics was the dream team in ninety two. You know, that's why I wore number nine, Mia Hamm and Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan wore number nine in the Olympics, but playing against the national team, it was actually just after the Atlanta Olympics and they were pissed off because they didn't perform well. I think they took it out on us.
But that just happened, you know, and I feel like stuff like that happens in my life where if I like think about like, why am I in this position now? Oh, well, maybe four years ago when I got my ass kicked by the Entertainment Planet to see I wanted more, you know. So you just got your ass kicked in ninety six. But then you go on to make the two thousand Olympic team and your first Olympics was actually indoor.
It was, yes. And what was that like for you, that experience. It was largely rad. You know, I mean representing our great country is amazing and I love my team. It's it was bittersweet.
But you know, gosh, there's so many things to say. So I had a false positive doping test really at the Sydney Games, and they pulled me aside. We had just warmed up for the game, our first match of the Olympics. And my coach pulled me aside saying, Kerry, you can't play. He tested positive for something.
And I literally like I was like, you got the wrong girl.
Did you did your blood go ice cold? Did you just freeze?
I was so confused. I was. And I like a month before I we were playing in China and I blew out my ankle and I had busted my ass to come back. And it was just that. And they told me, you have to tell your team their ankle hurts and you can't play. It's like they know me, think, oh, that's not what's going on. And I was just a wreck. And so I had to suffer through that.
And they told me to go home. They're like, we can't help you if we help. It's conflict of interest, like it was literally get out of here, kid, and that broke my soul in so many different ways. My mom, like, is the biggest warrior I know. She went to town and solve the problem. But I carried a lot of resentment, a lot of heartbreak. Because of that. I was able to play.
I think I missed the first two, maybe three, I can't remember exactly three matches. And then I was able to play. We finished fourth.
And you had to solve that while you were at the games? Oh, yeah.
Like I was at midnight meetings, I we had to find scientists and lawyers and I remember practicing the like, literally walking in circles being like, what, what am I doing? I could not I was so confused. My team, like they knew something was up but I couldn't tell them, like it was just it was the worst. And they let you continue to practice with the team, but they wouldn't let you play in the first. They did.
Yeah. Yeah. And they yeah. And I just couldn't tell anybody I had told was my ankle and I was like, you're practicing like what do you, what's happening.
So I finally got solved. I had I got to do a blood test. They realized it was naturally occurring in my body, that it had always been there. They done one inch of digging. They would have seen this. Wow. So it was all for naught. But without that heartbreak, I wouldn't have moved the move to beach volleyball. I was about to say. So did that contribute to the decision to go from indoor to beach?
One hundred million percent because you left that Olympics and then how soon after where you like. Now I'm done with this.
Well, going somewhere else, you know, I mean, obviously in the quadrennial life, the next Olympics was four years down the road. So I didn't feel like I had to make that decision with regard to Team USA. But I did not want to go play overseas to make a living. And it's like eight months being away from home. And I didn't want to do that. And so I was like, gosh, what am I going to do?
But I was willing to do that because I didn't want to give up volleyball. But my soul was crushed. And then at the Olympic Games, Misty's parents, my parents hung out at the USA house and they had like a little date. And they created this master plan of getting us girls together, you know, having a tryout. And because of that conversation in early, I think it was January of 2001, I drove down. I was trying to get to Tampa.
I was going to school at Stanford, finishing up. I drove down, had a tryout that changed my entire life.
So when you say tryout, what do you mean by that? Because my understanding is that you just are a good volleyball player. You have there's another good volleyball player. You guys touch each other. You say, let's be partners. And then you the other person does OK, and then you become partners.
Well, I think generally that happens, but usually I mean, OK, but Misty is the best in the world, you know, so her process might be a little bit more sure. She needed to vet. Well, her parents did.
And so basically it was just their volleyball, like it was that casual. We just played matches. No drills, no no guidance. Like Kari, Misty, go play. OK, and then her parents were there and her parents were her coaches. And and Misty was looking for a change because she wanted to grow in the game with someone her own age. And so, yeah, it was just like my world was shifting. Misty's world was shifting.
I had literally avoided playing beach volleyball my entire life. I was just leaving, like, I'm not going to go over there because I'm an idiot. Really? Why did you think that?
Because it was true. OK, well, you obviously did.
You obviously did well enough with shallow sand in Huntington Beach, which was very helpful because that's like the equalizer. So it was just a really good day. It was like I literally was on the verge of a panic attack the entire time.
Like, so because you were so nervous. Totally.
And I wanted it like I didn't realize I wanted it before that. But driving down, like, I remember having a moment where I could literally hear my heartbeat out of my chest.
And you can see, you know, when you're so nervous, your shirt is like, I'm pretty sure I've done some interviews where I'm like, oh, my God, can everyone see that my heart is pounding out of my totally the little shake in your hand.
Yeah. So that was happening the whole time. But I just played and we were like when we were in the points I was just in the points you know, and just like busting my ass and doing I feel like what I do best is hustle. Yeah. So I was just in it and we had some kind of synergy and rhythm and it was fun and certainly I had so much potential. And so I think they saw that, which was good.
Yeah, for sure. So the tryout goes well. So at what point did she call you? Did you get a text being like do they even the president have to do that texting back now? Well, I think I had a flip phone for sure.
Totally text to do so.
So at what point after that one day of just playing, did you say, all right, let's make this official, let's be partners?
You know, she had signed up for some tournaments with Holly, so and that was like a couple of months down the road. And I was going to be nowhere near ready and I'm still going to Stanford. And so I drove down every weekend, I'm pretty sure, and I would live with Misty. Wow.
That's dedication. That's not a that's not a short drive.
No. So you were train you would drive down and train with her, but she is still competing with somebody else.
Yeah. And not like kind of took the. Fresh off a little bit because she was still committed, so focused, we I can't remember how soon after we had that tryout that they're like, yeah, let's make a go of this, because she didn't tell the partner she was playing with yet, you know, and it's just such a tricky thing. Oh, it's the most awkward thing. I'm so thankful I'm not a beach volleyball player because of that.
So while she eventually breaks up with Holly. Yeah. And yes, I literally our first tournament, we were in Cagliari, Italy, like an island off Italy, and I submitted my final Stanford paper while I was Italy fax machine. I remember I took a to go through and then I was like, I'm free, you're free. I missed graduation. And yeah, and it was just go. And we traveled the world together, going to at least 10 to 15 tournaments a year together around the world.
Just her and I living out of suitcases and getting to know each other like it was the coolest.
And did you guys have initial chemistry on and off the court, or do you think that it was over time build sort of thing? I think it was very helpful that we're the same age for sure, we had on the court chemistry, no doubt, off the court. Yeah, I think we're comfortable being quiet. And then the second year we're together, her mom passed away and she she had been sick. And and so we went through that together.
And I feel like I was one of the support systems for sure and not for sure brought us together, you know, so I feel like that really, really solidified us. Not that we didn't have issues after that, but going through life stuff together, obviously, that intimacy and that depth and trust is formed and that served us forever. Yeah, I feel like when it comes to beach volleyball, it's you and one other person. The closeness you just can't get around.
You have to have that to be successful. I really believe you have to. Yeah, no, absolutely. I don't know how you would enjoy how you could be successful with somebody that you didn't enjoy or like like as a person.
No, it's true, but it happens all the time because people are like, I'm going to settle for the lack of connection because we're good athletes together. Makes sense. It's a small community. Yes.
And if you do connect with someone as a as a partner and a friend, like, that's a beautiful gift because that's not normal and it's worth fighting for. Yeah.
I mean, it makes sense. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But it worked for you guys. And you went on the most insane run you in 2003 when a then record 90 matches in a row, including the world championships. Fun.
And then you go on to the 2004 Olympics and you don't drop a single set and all seven matches. What is incredible and you take them gold.
So what were your what was your mindset going into those games?
That was the first time you were going to be going in one as partner with MMA and in a not new sport, but new. Yeah. Silow, what do you what do you want to call it? Discipline of the sport and beach volleyball. So, yeah. What was your mindset going into those games?
When we first of all, we got together 2001 and so we had three years of traveling for really three and a half seasons of traveling the world, competing against the best, the first two years really up and down. And by the time we got to Athens, we were just ready, like we were winning a lot, like you said, and we were firing on all cylinders. We are young and hungry and confident. And it was just the most fun.
And the pressure was like pressure that, like, made you like, smile, really, you know. Yeah, because we're like, no, we know better, you know, and and this is how it should be. And it just like when I think of Missy in Athens, for some reason, I want to think of it like a Michael Jordan, like when he's like screwing with his competitors. Not that we did that basically feel like we can't lose, we're too good.
We were too in-sync. We've got this. It's almost like this is this is fun. This pressure is fun because we know we're going to come out on top.
And yeah, we never once thought about losing ever. We don't talk about losing ever misses. Dad was like you guys a twenty one to five matches too close and we carry that mentality with us. There are a whole ten years together. Wow. Certainly in Athens because it was our first time together, the the pressure wasn't as big as trying to repeat, you know, and when you live a life and you get more experience. So we came with that determination and we literally want to crush people down and we did.
And it was awesome.
I think that's one hilarious. Twenty one to five is too close of a scoreline because greed. Yeah, that's like basically nine zero and soccer nine to one in soccer. So you guys you guys crush you guys are on top of the world. You go on the next four years and completely dominate again over and over. You go into two thousand eight Olympics and you've won one hundred and one consecutive matches in a row and everyone wants to break that streak.
So how was twenty eight different than twenty four? When I think about it, it's like you won before. So is the pressure.
Are you guys still having that pressure of oh this is smile's like we're going to win or are you feeling more stressed because you have something that you need to double down on, you need to back it up.
Yeah, well it was really interesting because like immediately after Athens, it was like we're doing this again. We're going to go and kick ass. And so we had this focus of four years out. Well, we wanted to do and we both lived that journey to Beijing very differently. So I got married in at the end of 05 at early two thousand six, I was pregnant, OK, nine weeks and I had a miscarriage. And that crushed me because I couldn't get pregnant right away.
The decision was made for me that we're going to basically wait till after Beijing got it. And so everything became about winning. Like I just could not enjoy where I was because I wasn't winning gold. Yeah. And so for four years, I was just so fixated on winning that we won a lot in a self fulfilling and missing our supertight and our coach, Troy Tanner, was so amazing, like our little trio was so on point, but my life was suffering.
And that reared its ugly, ugly head right after Beijing and the walls came crashing down, but we won and you won in Beijing.
Do you think that it was unhealthy that you won in 2004? Do you think winning in 2004 made you almost just like Yorn and strive towards another gold? And that's all that you were fixated on, like you said like that, and you found that to be unhealthy? Well, I don't think the winning of the gold made me that way. I think I think the lack of balance in my life made me that way. I was going through stuff I didn't even know how to navigate and the focus became winning everything.
Do you think that because things were falling apart outside of the lines of sand volleyball court, that's what made you so focused and just win at all costs?
Because that was the only thing that you could control maybe for for sure. I didn't realize my life was falling apart. I don't know the exact perfect storm of I wanted it. I wanted to win with all my heart. And for sure, winning makes you greedy, you know? And I knew that Misty Knight could be just so dominant. And so, I mean, all of those things for sure. But it's just like there's a there's a way to win.
There's a way to lose. You spoke about excellence earlier. And to me, it's so hard to speak to because it's the feeling, you know, you're going and I. Yeah, so. I don't know, the feelings were a lot and I was immature and I just like, how do you handle these things? And when you're an athlete, when you can't control anything yet, you for sure go internal. Yeah, like, I know how to focus on what I can control and I know how to show up and set the tone and do these things.
And I think I just had to live that, you know, and realize that dude, you might be going through this, but there's another human right. And what your choices of what to do or don't do impact them. So don't be so self-absorbed, like be compassionate, share your grief, which I didn't do because I didn't know how to and lean on your people, you know? And I learned that because I didn't do it in one of the hardest times of my life.
And so winning that gold was awesome. It made me happy for about 30 seconds. And then my life fell apart. And then it was like two years of learning the lessons of everything I had neglected.
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So but you win in 2008 with Misty, and after 2008, you give birth to your first child, were you pregnant at those games or were you did you get pregnant right after we got pregnant in Beijing? Got it. OK. Yes. OK, so you have you have your first child and I so I got pregnant back to back school. So it basically gave you kind of this pause in your career. It did. I so I had Joey and then I was back to the court right away and I played in between the time I had Joey and where I couldn't play anymore with Sundance.
God, if I played in a couple of turnovers for the boys. And then when Sundance was born, it was like, I want London. When you got pregnant. Back-To-Back at any point did you think about retiring or were you always thinking, I'm having these kids and I'm starting a family, but I'm going to keep playing much longer?
The dream was traveling circus because my husband is probably a SO and we did that for two years until the kids weren't free anymore.
OK, so plan was to always keep playing. Yeah. Which is super cool. So how, how, how much time was there between having Sundance and going into twenty twelve Olympics.
So Sundance was born May 19th, 2010. OK. Yeah. So, so you have a two year lead up to your lead up. Misty had retired or she was like getting ready to. I can't remember. And then so I chose another partner to go to London with. I was fully committed with Nicole Brown, who's a dear friend. OK, and then Misty changed your mind. So I remember Misty called me and she's like, Carrie, I've talked to you and Missy, that's like unheard of.
And I thought I had passed her off in some way in some article or something because, you know, it's really touchy. Before you tell a story, can you tell me how she told you she was planning on retiring?
What was that like?
She just said it. You just know. So I can't remember when I what I do remember I remember distinctly, but I think I remember when she retired and I was picking a partner being like, Miss, are you done? You know, like for real, because I'm going to I'm going to move on. You want to keep going. And she's fully committed. Yeah. And so she yeah. She's like, I'm done.
And it was super casual, you know, I was like, oh my God, I was so excited for her. And so I made the choice to play with someone else. And then a couple of months after, like, I think it was February two thousand and eleven, which is the start of the qualification period. Misty had a change of heart and she called me and left me a message. I need to talk to you. And we talked on the phone and I was like, well, let's meet in person, because I know these questions because I'm like, I need to be able to trust if I'm going to go and devastate this human being, like I need to be able to trust that you're a million percent and like you want this as badly as is required, like, you know how long it takes.
Like, sure, you cannot be looking in any other direction. And we had this conversation and it was really emotional and she was very open and like those things are like life to me. And so she came back. Things changed. I could not I could not say no, but I prayed on it. I talked to my advisers. I did not make it willy nilly because Nicole Brown is an amazing human and deserves honesty and truth.
And so I remember I called Nicole was a cake. We made it for coffee. I sat outside and I grabbed her hand and said, she's like, what's up? She could tell is right. And I'm like, I'm about to break your heart. Oh, jeez.
Oh, and it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my professional life, like Times and Jillian, because I was not lying to her when I said I'm committed, I, I did not lie to her when I said we can win and I believe in us and I'm all in, you know, and then just things shifted and it was misty.
So so you guys get back together and you go into twenty twelve. How was the reunion of the two of you? Did you did you go back into your old ways? You cook very quickly. It was easy or was there an adjustment period the second time around? It was it was super easy. That being said, one of the first things, one of the really important things for me before we agreed to move forward, I'm like, Miss, I want us to work with a performance psychologist.
Cool. She was willing to do that for me, which is nice because that's not her her shtick, you know. And then two thousand twelve early on, she didn't want to see him anymore, really. And so I kept seeing him. Yeah. But it was like we had the foundation totally. But the second tournament back in 2011, Misty tore her meniscus and we didn't we were in China. She went down in the semifinals or finals and she was balling.
And Missy just not ball. And we're getting carried off. We're going to see the physio. And she's like she looked up at me like, I'm so sorry. I'm like, what are you talking about? I'm literally the first words out of my mouth, Kelly. We're like, if we don't play one more match, I am just so grateful that we were reunited and then Misty's missing and she bounces back like a champion and better than ever.
And 2011 was great. We won a lot. We were in contention a lot.
Twenty twelve as a pup show leading into the Olympics.
Yeah. Because you guys, I guess we're underdogs for the first time, I mean, to you're going to concede on that.
You know, did you guys feel that way?
We felt like we had something to prove because we weren't the number one seed, certainly. And we didn't we didn't deserve the number one title that year. But we knew what was inside of us and we knew who we were. We literally forgot who we were for most of 2012. Interesting. We literally lost our mojo. It's like an asked Austin Powers movie. And then we found it together at the Olympics. Right. Like, we won the last tournament pre London.
And that was the shift and the just the method of going there. We had some weird matches. We always stuck together. A coach just kept firing us up. And he's like, OK, that was great. Now can you do it again? You want again? Now can you do it? And we just were started like this. Tension was building in this, like confidence was building. Then we won and then we had three weeks of training at home where we were just so balls to the wall.
So in our little sacred circle, my husband was training us every day, just sharpening our tools. And it was so fun and lighthearted. And we turned the corner like whatever we were lacking. It was emotional and which played into our mental kind of like construction. And we lost it in those three weeks and then it was game on.
So you head into London feeling confident, even though you haven't been all year and you win again. Yeah, which is just insane. Three gold medals in a row.
I wish to retire. It could happen, but.
So this is your third Olympics. You're defending two back to back gold medals. What's your mindset this time? We're just going to win. We have we have something to prove because we haven't shown it this year. What is what is it what are you feeling this time? You know, is because twenty twelve is so weird for us, like so not normal, not winning. We did the hard work before London, you know, and then we turn that corner and I felt it every day like I literally had this knowing like we've got this is not the big.
Got it. It's the I want that right. I'm working toward that because most of our career we won the match before we got out there because of because of who we were together, like we just had this knowing and this trust and we could be down eleven points. And you're still dead. You're gone, you know. And so I had that one hundred percent in London. I had that. And it was shocking to me that I had it kind of and there was a tentativeness in the first couple of matches that were not missed.
But she's such a gamer and she's so legit and she's just so persistent, you know, so she just we just stuck together and then it was game over. Once we got to the playoff rounds, like Misty was next level and it was just game over. We got really challenged in the semifinal match getting her ass. I got to ask about that. So we were down fourteen seven against the number one team in the world. And that year the Chinese were awesome.
They were the number one hands down. I have a distinct memory within the match. We're getting her ass kicked. It's a time out. But I felt their nerves. I know they just comfort, like, you know, that sixth sense we have when you're on point. I felt it and I talked about it and it was just we just outlasted and that's what we did better than anyone, you know. And then once you crack the armor and you stick together, like people start falling apart, you know, and we never fell apart, which was a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Even if we lost, we didn't fall apart, you know, like we were just always coming after you and going for your throat. And that's an art form. But it was a huge win. And to me, we weren't going to lose. No. What do you have any specific thing that you can point out that you were like, oh, they're nervous?
No, it was just like feel it in the air. Gosh, I remember looking through the net and just like I mean, they were dominating.
We couldn't do anything right. And they can do no wrong. And I just remember looking at them and they know they're not they're not sound. And I just I just I felt it. I don't know. It's I just felt it in the a couple of interactions and eye contact in these things. And and I think I was looking for it because it's like you have when you're down, it's like I need to use everything I have, like every ounce of my everything and it just showed up.
Makes sense. I feel you on that.
But so you think that the semifinal match against China was not more difficult, but it was just it was a completely different feeling than playing that final.
Because you played China in the finals of 2008. Yes. So it's kind of like you you got over that hurdle of who you typically playing final and then you're playing another American side. And that I mean, were you nervous?
Were you like, oh, my gosh, if we lose, we're losing to an American like, is it worse to lose to another American team or another country? Because I know I would feel like it'd be worse lose to another American team. Yeah, no disrespect to the team we play in the finals April, who are incredible. And that was more stressful than the Chinese match, actually, because you like another American team to get out of here like we're the team.
You know, it's a different emotional battle. For sure, I was just going to say it's like 50 50, but it might be 60 40 words, but, you know, obviously you want you want your country to be the total total. So, you know, yeah, that's just really petty. But it's honesty. It is petty. Yeah. No, I feel you on that. That's so true. Well, you win and. But you were pregnant during.
I was twenty twelve. Yeah. I really counted.
The Olympics is just like your magical one. He was always trying to thread the needle. Well it's true. I mean as a female athlete you kind of have, especially if you're trying to start a family like kind of have to because you have to time it perfectly. Totally. And that was the perfect timing. That's true.
Well, you guys win gold. You're pregnant. You have your third child post Olympics. Misty retires. At this point, are you thinking I'm done competing or are you still.
You want more. You always want more.
I always want more. Yeah, well, like on the stand until you die. And then I'll be down on the sand in London out of nowhere. We're hugging April and June after the match. I hug April and I literally say, no, let's go win gold in Rio. No way. It was like I was possessed. Don't know where that came from. I knew Misty was retiring. So obviously they were in the Bible world so small, like I knew who I'd want to play with, but it came out of my mouth, you know, and then leading up to Rio, that was the conversation that all media outlets had, which hurt Misty, that you heard that you hurt Misty because it's like we were we a team at that point or you were ready to play April.
Because you said that. Because I said that.
Oh, that's interesting. Yeah. And then with her APR's partner is you retiring? Misty is retiring. So all of that was established. Yeah. So but anyhow, we're you know, we're human and these things hurt us. And so that plays into my guilt, too. But no. So I was clearly already ready to go to Rio to win. Yeah. Well while in London that. Is that obnoxious.
No, it's not it's not noxious because people ask me about World Cup wins and I've always said that. As soon as we win, I'm thinking about the Olympics next year, because for us it's back to back and literally on the field, standing on the field where the crowd's still there, everyone's celebrating. And I'm thinking in a year we got to go when Olympic gold. So I get it. That's right. It makes sense. So you end up partnering with April Ross, which you decided on right when you ended 2012.
And you guys.
Worked together for years, head into twenty sixteen into Rio. What what did that feel like going into an Olympics without Misti and with a different partner? Like was it did you have a different mentality? Again, this is your fourth time doing it. Yeah, well, first of all, like after missing, I won in London. I did not want to let go of her hand, like, you know, you do the postgame like interviews. And I like every picture is like I don't because it was just me and it was just it was so heavy and so beautiful.
And if you like, asked me one, if you look at me on the podium like I can't control myself, like, really it was so emotional to me because it was just that part of our lives together was over like. And I just I had I live I just love her so much. And I just so enjoyed our last two years to get their whole career. But the last two years were so meaningful. And so that was devastating.
I had to grieve it and I did it in real time, you know, and then, you know, and I feel like when you live things sincerely, you can transition faster.
At what point did you say I'm retiring after London early? So is. Yeah. When you guys decided to go to London, she said, I want to go one more time. Yeah. So you knew this was this was like the the victory lap with you. Two hundred percent. Yeah. Yeah. So that and it was awesome, you know, and it's just and it was really meaningful for her because she was wrapping up and I'm so, it's so rad.
She got the ending she deserves. And to be part of that was just so special. So so yeah. So moving on to April, I was ready mentally and emotionally. I'd grieved Misty, but Misty's with me, you know, so I take Misty with me everywhere I go. Certainly she goes with me as a partner with April and April. Super easy. She's a worker. She is a taska. She wants to dominate. She wants to win.
She believes she will. It was so easy to play with her. Yeah. So going with April was awesome. The easiest part was training and being on the court with her. Like our kind of connection off the court was awesome. Easy, not a lot of depth, but does it mean that the love wasn't real and the result real. Yeah, makes sense.
How was it I remember watching you in Rio in 2016.
We had lost at that point in the quarterfinal, so we didn't even get to the village or to Rio.
Man But you guys lose in the semis. This is the first time that's happened to you and your. Olympic career in Beach Beach, you end up going on and getting a bronze medal, which is no easy feat because you you come off of a huge loss. And so, you know, the the dream of a gold medal is over, but now you have to turn around and go for a bronze. That's something you'd never had to do before.
So how did you go through that?
It was harder than I can ever put into words. It's like and it might sound dramatic to people who this isn't their living, but it was just so it was so devastating. Like, that's not even exaggerating. It was just it was so confusing. It was just like what the F just happened. There's a lot of shame involved because I had a real tough night and I just was the hardest part about that loss was walking outside and like, my parents didn't know how to handle me.
My whole crew, like they there is there's so much love, but there was no eye contact. You know, I forced myself and I wanted you to go over to April's family and friends. And it was so hard for me to look at them, their eyes. And all I could say was, I'm sorry, you know, and it just it just hurt me so badly. I feel like, you know, again, everything I do affects other people.
And so I just that was really heavy on me in the way I framed it was not healthy. And so the twenty four hours between matches was just it was horrific.
So how did you how did you like, put on your uniform and go back out there.
And my husband was my hero. Did I. He stayed with me all night and he eyeballed all my I have maybe slept maybe two hours like I was just like and he just held me. And at some point I and I had a video session scheduled with my coach in the morning so I could, like, try to transition into my mindset. But my husband, he's like he's like, you got it. You got to stop this. Like, it's it's kind of ridiculous at this point because you get to fight for a medal and you're an American.
And the American spirit is you're going to go and kick their ass. Do not forget who you are. And he just would say these things. And he made it. He took it my my focus off of me and made it a broader like think about your partner, think about your family, think of all your army behind you, your country, and go for sure. And that helped me so much. And he made me realize I was just wallowing and I couldn't get out of it like I was still I was still numb and still whatever devastated.
But that helped me turn the corner, you know, and April lived it her own way. Was there was there did you guys come together the day of and sort through emotions or were you both just kind of like, we're both going to handle this, however we're going to handle it, compartmentalize and go out and try to win?
Yeah, well, we each had video sessions. We didn't hang out together during the day because it's like we finish. I mean, I didn't sleep that night. She couldn't sleep that night. So we're just trying to, like, recover and get our minds right. We had a team video session like we did before every match. At some point that was like our first coming together. I just remember before, you know, when you're kind of your holding area, we warm up where the holding area get ready to go out.
Our coach, Martius Taculli, who's incredible, he's like, you guys, whatever happens tonight, whether you're up by a billion or you're down by fifteen, like just stick together. Like, he he kept saying that, like, that was the one thing he wanted to get across to us. The first game and half is happening. And it's kind of how the night before ended. Not good volleyball, getting our butts kicked, like just really just disconnected.
And at some point halfway through the game two we're losing. April comes up to me, grabs my hand. I'm just like being a robot, like I have to where I have to score like not I'm all there, but I'm not all there. And she stops me, grabs my arm and like makes me look at her face and her eyeballs. And that was it. Like that changed. I love that. And then we'd never turn back from there.
That's dope. Just stick together. Totally. I mean thing with my marriage, like it's just like the best piece of a marriage advice ever. Kelly, it's when you want to run away from each other, you have to run toward each other. And I love that. And it's the hardest thing in the world. You have to run on a track that's circular.
So you get to the other side, you think you're running away, but you just me, because that space is important, too. And these are true. Yeah.
So you win bronze, which is obviously I mean, I didn't get a medal in twenty sixteen so jealous. Yeah. After twenty sixteen.
Was there any point where you thought about retiring or were you all in again on twenty. Twenty.
Well it took me, I mean actually won. There's so much relief and after a win like the last thing I want to feel is relief because then it's like we eked by really I don't, I don't really every time I. Well yes. Oh yeah.
Because I understand that every tournament, major tournament you're on a knife's edge of like if one thing goes wrong.
Yeah. You could lose and it's over in the blink of an eye and everything has to go right to win. So there is some sort of relief, because I do think there's a there is a bit of no, you're right, but I appreciate you saying that. Yeah, because yeah, you're right. But I don't I don't think of it that way. I feel like if we can handle it, we're fine. We got it. You know, that's true.
You probably have a better mental fortitude than I do if I'm being honest. Do you think that you still have the same competitive fire? Do you think it's evolved over time? What do you what do you think? Oh, what a question. Let me start by saying I think this pause, this delay in the Olympics and I haven't played I haven't practiced since mid-March. This is the longest I've ever been without playing volleyball, even when I'm nine months pregnant, you know, so this has served such a great purpose to rebuild that fire.
That's a and you feel like this party has rebuilt it for one hundred percent because I miss it and I haven't been able to miss it for 30 years. So I started. So I think as you get older, you can hear Kobe talk about it. And Jordan, it's like you can probably relate, like if you played for so long, it gets harder to get up for things. And I love training. You know, it's interesting where it's almost like I'm to a point in my career where competing almost pisses me off and I like it not in a good way.
Like I used to be pissed off for greatness. And now it's just kind of the irritant. And I don't know where that came from. Do you think you're irritated because you're like, man, I'm the best and I've proved on the best, but I've got to keep proving that on the maybe like I assume there's some fear behind that, which is just lame ass.
I want to whatever address that. But I think that the appreciation that I have, because I've been away from the game, not by choice and the hunger that's being re ignited, like I'm not satiated, like I want more. Those are awesome. My motivations, like throughout my career, it's always been to be the best I could be. That's been very consistent. But like my desire for the game certainly has waned over the years. Not that I don't love it, but it's just like, my gosh, it takes a lot, you know, and and everything.
Yeah. And you to want it. Yeah.
It's a big emotional and mental toll.
Yes. Yeah. Because there's so many ups and downs, you know, and everyone's a conscious sport. You're like, screw you. I spent sixty hours a week and eight weeks away from my family in a row like this matters, you know.
And so anyhow. Yeah. So very fired up. I've always even at my lowest I was pretty fired up to be honest. But like, I'm such a bad faker, bad actor, like I just wanted to be authentic and one hundred percent.
And they're happy to say, are you able to turn your competitive side on and off or do you think that you're competitive in all aspects of life because you're just you're the smiling assassin.
You're like you're like a golden retriever that turns into people.
I feel like, oh, I'll take that. I could have been way worse. Now it's a good thing. No, I like it.
You know, I, I don't I don't know how to answer that. Like, we went bowling and I was pissed I didn't win sunbeds, all of us. First of all, I beat him the second two games. No, I don't I don't think I can turn off. Let me let me just be honest. Like I can't let my son beat me in volleyball. And when I'm playing horse, I can't.
Or bowling or bowling.
So, no, I think I'm just competitive by nature. I think it's fun. I think a lot of people might think I'm obnoxious because I'm trying to win all the time. But it's like, what the hell? Well, yeah, if you're not trying to win, what are you doing? Why?
It's quite likely this is not for poops and giggles like it is, but winning. Is that time. Senzo so true. I agree.
All right. At the end of every conversation, we do these repeat questions.
So the first one is hard work.
First, look how much of success is predicated on luck.
I don't believe in luck. I don't know. I believe in law of attraction. OK, yeah. So I feel like what you focus on is what you invite in your life. I feel like what you what your soul wants to grow through. You invite in your life. I feel like everything is momentum and energy. And so I feel like the luck that comes is like you spent your time obsessing, thinking positively, like knowing this was coming and you manifested that moment that showed up as luck.
But I believe it's just more momentum carrying on from the work you've put in.
I love this answer, so a hundred percent hard work. One hundred, one hundred percent, but in hard work is not just like I'm going to go kick my butt in the gym or on the field. Right. It's like the mental stuff and it's like that. It's so interesting. Like, you can want something too bad, right. And you can suffocate it and you can over effort, you know, and then you're just not in the moment.
And so I just feel like luck is just kind of the magic space where you have positive expectations and you just go to work with that expectation. And then it turns out, you know, I'm saying I do. I totally do, because I feel like that's something that you talked about, to bring it back to what we talked about in the beginning in that speaking engagement. You talked a lot about manifestation mentality. And I really vibe with that.
I love that. I believe in that. And I think it's so important. And I think that makes a I think a lot of athletes probably believe that, but maybe don't see it as plainly as you do or as specifically as you do, if that makes sense. Yeah, well, I listen to a lot of people, so I feel like I can articulate my understanding of that and in my life has shown me that that's the truth for sure.
Like, I believe heaven on earth and hell on earth are here on this planet. And I think it's all what I make of it. I'm saying and I feel like athletes in general are problem solvers, the elite of the elite. We all focus on the solution, you know, and I feel like you work your butt off in combination with that and then you get self-worth and self-confidence and then these expectations and all of that leads to the manifestation.
Yes. All the you know, it's not just daydreaming. Yeah. It's like I'm taking care of every side of this because I truly believe and I love it. And hard work to me is fun. Like Michael Jordan to me is the ultimate manifesto, you know, and he helped his team to believe more. And, you know, like, I want to be that so much feel like you have.
Oh, well, I don't. Thanks. I'll just leave it there.
I don't want to argue for my own limitations, and I just. Yeah, that's true. Yeah. All right. So I like that you're the first person to say one hundred percent hard work, which with an asterisk and all the other things underneath it. But I like that your first hundred percent. OK, that's nice. All right. So you're the most decorated beach volleyball player in Olympic history.
Congrats. You're the most career victories.
You're a woman.
OK, well, I can't wait to get rid of that. I need like sixteen more I can do. You could do it.
It's coming your secularly the go of your sport. Let's just be clear. Male or female. So are you telling me that that's lot coming from you. I mean, I mean uncomfortable.
Like I feel like that's. But that can't be contested, but maybe, maybe it is subjective coming from I knew I liked you.
OK, so where do you want to go next and how do you keep pushing?
I firmly believe the best is yet to come and my competitive career. So I want to live that. And by living that, I want the results to show that meaning I get the fourth gold medal, I become the winningest, you know, I get those 16 tournaments, whatever I need with Brooke, because we had that expectation and we rose to those expectations, like I'm so pumped for that there's so many things that drive me. But like fundamentally what's kept me going for so long and why I'm confident and more playful now with regard to Tokyo is I love it like that is to me the ultimate fuel.
Like, there is no kryptonite to me that exists with something I love. I can endure and sustain and keep going. Do you think that you would be pushing as hard if you had the most career wins and you had a fourth gold medal? Like, do you think that you'd still be chasing after what you're chasing after? I'd either be retired like I feel like had April and I won in Rio, I probably would have retired and I would have been bummed and unretired like most beachball do.
But no, but Kelly, what I think if I if I made the choice to be in, I think I'd be in the same spot. Like, I just there's one way to do something, and that's with all your heart. So and, you know, I'd be there and you still want it. That's awesome.
I'll carry this has been incredible. I really appreciate you taking the time and sitting down and chatting and just telling us your story and giving us a look into your your brain and how your heart works in your mind and just your mentality, because it's it's very special and it's different and there's no one else like you. So thank you for taking the time.
This was this is really enjoyable for me. You're rad.
And everything you just said to me. Thank you. And I feel the same like surely this was fun. Cool. I'm good. Thank you, everybody. Yeah. This is awesome. Thank you. Thanks so much for listening to the show this week. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcast. And also don't forget to sign up for the women's sports newsletter. It's everything you need to see and know in women's sports, delivered straight to your inbox.
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Our show is co-produced by Jessamine Sports and Boom integrated a division of John Marshall Media. Big thanks to our executive producers Hayley Rosen, Adrian Glover and Robin Lynn, Jawn Murray and Sidney Qadoura. Research postproduction is by Jen Grossman and Clint Rhodes. Special thanks to Jesse Louis, Sarah Storm and Hayley Cotliar. I'm Kelly O'Hara and you've been listening to the Gentleman Sports Podcast. See you next week.