- Kerri Walsh Jennings is preparing for her sixth Olympic games.
- The beach volleyball legend is using a change in her personal and professional life to fuel her pursuit of a fourth Olympic gold medal.
- Jennings spoke to Insider about her new home in Nevada, promoting positivity through the Kindli app, and the “next level” importance of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
With five Olympic appearances and four podium finishes under Kerri Walsh Jennings’ belt since 2000, training to compete on the world’s biggest stage is practically second nature.
But this time around has come with some unprecedented obstacles: a global pandemic, a one-year postponement, and uncertainty in spades. Even still, the beach volleyball legend is feeling renewed happiness, tranquility, and confidence heading into the Tokyo games.
“Even though there’s some logistical challenges, our hearts are so full, and we feel so grounded,” Jennings told Insider. “And to me, that’s just going to pay dividends because the journey to the Olympics is so gnarly.”
For some, consistency is key to peak performance. But for Jennings, change in both her personal and professional life has helped fuel her pursuit of a fourth Olympic gold medal and led her to make some profound life choices along the way.
She and her husband, Casey Jennings, made the difficult decision to pick up and move with their three children. They left their longtime home by the water in California where Jennings says her family was living a “restricted” life and transplanted to the mountainous terrain of Nevada. The kids enrolled in new schools, and the winningest player in the history of women’s beach volleyball began training many miles away from a beach.
“If we were just trying to survive in an environment that wasn’t filling us up, I don’t think we would have performed very well,” Jennings said. “So we kind of took the reins. We made some big decisions, and we’re excited about it, and we’re just letting that kind of guide us.”
Her positive outlook isn’t just happenstance. She’s worked hard at “focusing on the simple joys” and “making lemonade out of lemons,” and her new partnership has lent itself perfectly to those efforts.
Jennings is a founding member of Kindli, a social media platform that promotes kindness and optimism exclusively. The app is free to download, but users make a one-time, $US1 charitable donation in order to post, comment, and escape “the stress and the drama of traditional social media.”
“I was sold from the first word,” Jennings told Insider. “I spent too much time on social media. I love it, and I hate it at the same time. With Kindli, it’s such a great alternative … And so I really am 100% behind this.”
“I’m a really big believer that we are what we’re surrounded by,” she added. “So to be on team Kindli is such a no brainer for me.”
Kindli has the ambitious goal of generating 1 billion â€” with a “B” â€” acts of kindness through its platform and its signature “Kindli Cards,” which allow users to track their good deeds and recipients to issue “thank you” messages anonymously through a scanned QR code.
Jennings was on hand to witness her friend’s act of kindness when she gave away a restaurant gift card along with her Kindli Card, leaving a pair of strangers “taken aback in the best way.” And even though Jennings hasn’t doled out any Kindli Cards herself yet, she’s long seen it as her “duty in life to be a kind human, on and off the court.”
“If I ever got too big for my britches or I was not being a good human, my family always keeps me in check, you know?” Jennings said. “It’s been encouraged in my life to be a good human first athletics comes second. And, to me, it’s the ultimate encouragement when you’re inspired to go and do great things because you’re seeing other people do great things.”
To a certain extent, Jennings believes her role as a world-class athlete serves a similar purpose. Even in ordinary times, she inspires people of all ages, races, and genders to pursue their dreams and achieve at the highest levels. But this year, with everything going on in the world and an extra year of waiting, Jennings’ mission to bring joy and light to those who watch her compete is more meaningful.
“Certainly with the kind of big, huge, beautiful tidal wave that will be the Olympics that’s been delayed by a year, the typical emotion and inspiration and unity that comes from the games is going to be next level,” Jennings told Insider. “I think it’s a beautiful thing.”