Add Kerri Walsh Jennings to the list of celebs who landed in Austin this week during South by Southwest.
The professional beach volleyball player, who has three gold and one bronze Olympic medal to her name, came to launch her new p1440 beach volleyball event series. The organization was a title sponsor of day parties at Waterloo Records.
We intended to catch up with her Thursday morning at Aussie’s Grill & Beach Bar, where she and her coach had planned a training session, but Jennings had to catch an early flight back to California to deal with a family matter. We talked by phone instead.
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First things first. Yes, Jennings, a 6-foot 3-inch California native and Stanford graduate, is still competing. She hopes to add to her Olympic medal haul in the 2020 with teammate Nicole Branagh, but that will depend on how they play during the next two years. (Jennings won those three golds with Misty May-Treanor in 2004, 2008 and 2012, and the bronze with April Ross in 2016.)
In the meantime, Jennings, 39, and husband Casey Jennings want to expose more people to the growing sport of beach volleyball, which isn’t just played on the coast anymore. Here in Austin, you can knock volleyballs around a sand court at Aussie’s, 306 Barton Springs Road, and Wooly’s, 440 East St. Elmo Road at The Yard.
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That’s where the new organization – p1440, named to inspire people “to live every minute of the day with purpose, all 1,440 of them” – comes in.
“My husband and I were talking to our sports psychologist about the importance of quality time,” Jennings said. “He said, ‘Did you know there are 1,440 minutes in a day? Be mindful of them.’ That’s a slap in the face, isn’t it? I thought, ‘That’s it? Just 1,440?’”
Now the Jennings are planning a series of volleyball-a-palooza-style festivals, complete with top-level competition, a health and wellness village, personal development experiences and a music festival. Eight events are planned for the 2018-19 season, starting with a festival in Chicago in September and followed by events in the San Jose Bay Area, San Diego and Huntington Beach. A Texas event may take place next spring, but probably not in Austin.
“Texas in general is a very big volleyball state, and it’s always been near and dear to my heart. I wanted to honor that community,” Jennings said. “Austin knows how to have fun, they’re a sports town. Beach volleyball suits the lifestyle there.”
A digital component of p1440, where users can get training tips, stream volleyball matches and workouts, get recipes from nutritionists, discover new meditation practices, find athlete’s curated music playlists and chat with others, will launch this summer, too.
Jennings says she wants p1440 to be bigger than just sports. “It’s community and character and so many beautiful things,” she said. “We really want to honor and cherish everyone’s time.”
“Everybody is super busy, overburdened, and ill-equipped to handle the load we’re carrying. We want to give people the resources to handle the load they carry, from physical training to personal development. We all want to feel good while we’re alive.”
It’s something she and her husband, who have three children, try to do every day.
“None of this works without my husband,” she said. “We both like to chase very big dreams and we like to kick butt. He has been amazing unconditional support system for me, not just in volleyball but in life. He’s also an athlete and he’s leading this charge.”
The goal is to attract between 20,000 and 30,000 people to each three-day event and 4 million to the online platform by 2021. Currently, at least 25 million Americans play volleyball, she said.
“Currently in beach volleyball, people show up, watch the games and leave,” Jennings said. “We want them to show up in the morning, stay engaged all day, listen to live music and come back the next day.
“We believe we will attract new eyeballs to sport. We’re not a small undertaking. We’re a big deal.”
As for that bikini she wears while competing? People ask about it all the time. It’s functional, she says.
“It’s my uniform. I take my uniform very seriously. It’s a very sports performance specific choice I made. I’m allowed to wear pants or tights, but when it’s 90 degrees I work really hard to get something I’m comfortable in,” she said.
She pays equal attention to sunglasses and a visor, which provide sun protection while she plays. She encourages youth picking up the sport to learn to play early on in shades and a hat, too.
“They’ll stay more youthful longer,” she said.
Other tips for staying healthy?
Stay mindful of what you fuel yourself with – from the food you eat and drink to the social media you ingest and the books you read.
“All of these things make an impact on my mental and physical state,” she said. “Staying mindful of what we’re putting into our systems is important.”
For more information about p1440, go here.