|Jennifer Kessy attends Gold Meets Golden at Equinox Sports Club on Feb. 21, 2015 in Los Angeles.
The details are nearly dizzying as beach volleyball star Jennifer Kessy describes her life.
There’s a new playing partner. And a precious 10-month old daughter, who is threatening to walk any day now. She needs to work out intense global travel schedules with her French husband, down to which grandparents will be babysitting on what continent.
It’s complicated, definitely crazy at times, but Kessy, who won a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games with former partner April Ross, feels it’s all worth it. Everything she is doing is building toward the big final goal: reaching the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games and winning gold.
Kessy and her new partner Emily Day are in 19th position in the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships main draw. The tournament, which has a $1 million purse, is being held in four cities across the Netherlands from June 26 to July 5.
Most importantly, the winning team’s country will receive a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games.
“I want to win every single tournament I am in — I am just that competitive — but I know the big picture is what matters most for us right now,” Kessy said about her hopes for worlds. “We want to win that spot in the Olympics for the U.S. But we have mini-goals: We want to win our pool, finish in the top 10 and push ourselves to be better in every way.”
Kessy and Day make up one of three American women’s teams and four men’s teams competing in the tournament. The other U.S. women’s teams are No. 3 Ross-Kerri Walsh Jennings and No. 15 Lauren Fendrick-Brooke Sweat.
On the men’s side, No. 2 Ryan Doherty-John Mayer, No. 9 Tri Bourne-John Hyden, No. 14 Jake Gibb-Casey Patterson and No. 15 Nick Lucena-Theo Brunner will represent the United States.
This is Kessy’s first full season since 2013, after taking a year off to have daughter Aïla with her husband, French beach volleyball player Andy Ces. The time away from volleyball helped her come to terms with the hurt from losing the 2012 Olympic beach volleyball final, as well as reconsider her career.
She emerged from the time away still loving the sport of beach volleyball, carrying a strong desire to try for Rio with Day, and now, negotiating being a globetrotting mom.
“Emily is fantastic, and we’ve been thrown into the fire trying to build ourselves,” Kessy said. “I needed to think about everything, because after London I was devastated and crushed. I was mad. I want to win gold. I want to go through everything that it takes again to reach the Olympics one more time, because it is something special.
“Emily and I want to peak in Rio. We are building to that with every match we play, because I see us getting better.”
Kessy said she enjoys playing with Day, serving as a partner and mentor. Kessy is 37, and Day is a decade younger. Learning each other’s tendencies, how to gain those small but significant reads and instincts, are all part of their development curve.
“I really see a lot of parallels to where I was when I was her age: I was with a veteran player like Barbra (Fontana), having a lot of stuff thrown at me,” Kessy said. “I think that is what makes us strong. We are going to teach each other things and make ourselves better individually and as a team.
“My life is definitely more complicated now, but all in great ways. I love being a mom, I still love my sport and I want to keep going until I reach my goals. It’s all good stuff right now.”
Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for the New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.