Jennifer Kessy Video Interview, U.S. Olympic Volleyball Player
U.S. Olympic beach volleyball player Jennifer Kessy defied the odds and won a medal in London with partner April Ross. You might never guess that she almost chose swimming over volleyball. “I actually did swim in high school, it was kind of on a whim that I decided to try out for the swim team,” Kessy told Uinterview in our exclusive interview. “It was the opposite season of the volleyball season and I said, ‘I think I’ll try out.’ I could jump really far off the block, and that was it. I didn’t like the 4:00 am practices, and my hair was green. It just wasn’t for me, but it was definitely a good reprieve from volleyball. I always knew that I was going to get a scholarship to play volleyball; that was my definite dream.”
Born in San Clemente, Calif., Kessy has always been a competitor. She credits her two younger brothers, Ryan and Travis, for her crazy competitive attitude. Growing up, Kessy was always an active kid who could be found playing all kinds of sports — gymnastics, swimming, softball and soccer. Kessy started playing volleyball while attending San Clemente High School — excelling right away as she was named the team’s Most Valuable Player in her senior year.
After high school, Kessy received a scholarship to play for the University of Southern California (USC), where she continued her athletic excellence. During her college years, Kessy earned an All Pac-10 selection every year she played, was named a member of the U.S. Junior National Team, as well as being named All-American her senior year. After graduating from USC with a bachelor’s degree in history, Kessy continued her career upon deciding to play professional beach volleyball in 2000 and indoor volleyball in 2002.
Kessy played in both the United States and Puerto Rico, establishing herself as one of the world's best throughout the 2000s. Before pairing up with current partner Ross in 2007, Kessy also had experience with other established players such as former Olympian Barbara Fontana, and Olympic Bronze medalist Holly McPeak.
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I actually did swim in high school, it was kind of on a whim that I decided to try out for the swim team. It was the opposite season of the volleyball season and I said, “I think I’ll try out.” I didn’t want to try out for the softball team because I’d done that forever, so I tried out and made it and I was actually pretty fast, at least for high school. I could do the fifty and the hundred. I qualified for CIF by just being athletic, and I could jump really far off the block, and that was it. I didn’t like the 4:00 in the morning practices, and my hair was green. It just wasn’t for me, but it was definitely a good reprieve from volleyball. I was going from swim practice to club volleyball in the afternoon — I don’t know when I found time for homework. I was definitely done with swimming my senior year — I just did it for high school. I always knew that I was going to get a scholarship to play volleyball; that was my definite dream.
My fitness regimen is really kind of diverse. We do a lot of beach training, of course in the sand. We also do a lot of cross-training in the gym. I do a lot of hot Yoga, I do a lot of running in the sand, I do stairs. Anything you can think of to win us a gold medal I think I’ve probably tried.
Beach volleyball as opposed to indoor volleyball for me was that I was too small, really. The way the national team was picking their athletes at the time was: Can you reach this high? How high can you jump? How tall are you? It wasn’t necessarily about your skills, and that’s what I need them to look at. I need them not to look at how tall I am or how high I jump. You need to look at the intangibles that I give. And my college coach always told me that I was better suited for beach volleyball, and I guess he was right.
My morning ritual is waking up about three hours before we play, and then I shower every morning or, actually, before every single match of the day. Get my uniform out, get everything laid out and put it in my bag. Walk down to the court, have some music on. You know, I try not to be too regimented with it, because you're in different places all the time. I bring my pillow with me. That’s kind of my big routine. I make sure I have that with me. I think that’s about it. I’m not like a baseball player who has to sit there and tie his laces exactly the same or put his socks on the same foot at the same time, or whatever. That’s about it.
Some power foods for me, I love blueberries, yogurt and granola, that’s what I have every morning. I’ve got to do my protein shakes with my carb and glutamine. That’s something that I do after every single game. I eat salad. A lot of spinach salad and lean meats and stuff like that. And what am I going to splurge on after? Vacation? No, probably a few bottles of wine here and there — some good bottles — and pizza. That’s for sure.