The Three Letter Word That's Changing The Game For April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings
I recently sat down with Olympian April Ross, just before her departure for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Ross will be competing with teammate Kerri Walsh Jennings in beach volleyball beginning August 6. This will be the first Olympics for the duo to compete together. At the last Olympics, in 2012, Kerri Walsh Jennings and former teammate Mitsy May-Treanor clinched the gold medal, while April Ross and Jennifer Kessy snagged the silver medal. This Olympics, is not only significant because it will be the duo's first Olympic appearance together, but it is also placing Walsh Jennings in a position to be the second American woman to win team gold in four consecutive Olympics.
So, how are Ross and Walsh Jennings focusing on bringing home gold in an environment riddled with pressure and expectation? It's a three letter word, joy.
While attending the 2016 Gatorade Player of The Year Awards, ESPN Host Sage Steele referenced how Kerri Walsh Jennings writes joy on her hands during matches, when introducing April Ross.
Ross soon explained to me, the importance of that three letter word, and how it's carrying them through training and competing.
"It’s been a real goal of ours to enjoy the journey, and you can get so caught up in the pressure, the expectations, and all of that and what you’re trying to do, that you lose all the joy, and it just becomes a total job."
The Olympian continued, "We have to remind ourselves we’re playing a game, we’re playing beach volleyball, we get to travel the world! I mean this is our life when it comes down to it, it’s not like after we do this, then we can have fun, we can enjoy ourselves. It’s about finding joy in the journey, and that translates to the court, we found the more positive we are on the court, the more fun we have, the better we do."
In addition to all the training, nutrition, as well as recovery, it's
that's leading the mindset. "So, to go after that joy, and to always have that in our minds has been huge for us."
This road hasn't been an easy one for the duo on their pursuit to Rio, one specific challenge they've been overcoming is Walsh Jennings' shoulder injury.
"Kerri had to have shoulder surgery after qualifications started. We really didn’t get to start gaining points until this year almost."
The duo got creative when it came to matches, "we had to find ways to win, you know she was playing with her left hand, serving underhand which you know you don’t do unless you’re in 6th grade. So, just to find ways to win was a huge challenge, but it added to our toolkit, added to our cache of arsenal, and it’s definitely made us better. You know you hate challenges when you’re going through it, but it does always make you stronger.”
It's always the challenges that shape us into who we are today, and make us dig even deeper into our dreams. We finish our interview with some advice for dreamers,
"You just have to follow your passion, I think there are so many things out there that are cliché about following your dreams, you know 'go to the Olympics,' but if that’s not what you’re passionate about, it’s not going to work out. So, I think you just really have to listen to your heart. I love this game that’s why I still play, if I hated it I wouldn’t play. You’re not going to be good at things you’re not super passionate about. So, follow your heart, and stay in the moment, you have your end goal, but you’ve got to forget about it, and think about what’s next, what’s my small goal that I’m trying to achieve now, so staying in the moment, and doing the best you can."
Riddled with challenges along the way, amidst injury, the pressure to perform and succeed, these teammates are choosing to recognize there is joy in this journey. Even when they found themselves recently stuck in the Houston airport, and unsure if they would be able to get to Rio in time for the Olympics. Thankfully, they were able to clear the challenge, and you can catch these two competing in just a few days. Thanks April Ross, for being so candid about the journey towards your dream with If You Can Dream It Do It!