Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Kerri Walsh breaks a huddle with about 65 participants at a volleyball clinic on Friday evening at the Suwanee Sports Academy.
SUWANEE -- Even just watching Kerri Walsh Jennings do something simple like coach and instruct at a girls volleyball clinic, there is no mistaking her work ethic.
That's one main reason she is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in search of her third later this summer at the 2012 Olympics in London.
But along with that drive and determination that makes her so successful in volleyball comes a passion and focus in life that sets her aside from others.
And on this particular Friday night at the Suwanee Sports Academy, Walsh Jennings worked with 65 girls ages 10 to 18 who also share her love of volleyball at the Kerri Walsh Indoor Volleyball Clinic presented by Invincible Volleyball.
"We've been doing these clinics for about two years now and we are living a dream," Walsh Jennings said. "My husband (professional volleyball player Casey Jennings) and I, we love this sport so much and this sport has given us so much. So we want to go and share our secrets and talk about volleyball around the country. We have learned so many of life's most beautiful lessons because of this sport."
Walsh Jennings captured gold with Misty May-Treanor in beach volleyball at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, and again in 2008 in Beijing, China.
But that hasn't stopped a world-class athlete from being down-to-earth and a role model for others, including the girls who came to this clinic for a chance to learn about volleyball and life.
Kerri Walsh Volleyball Clinic
Two-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh hosts a clinic for local players at the Suwanee Sports Academy. Walsh and her partner Misty May won both the 2004 and 2008 gold medals and are considered the greatest beach volleyball team of all time.
"It is really fun to get in front of these girls and say everything's going to be all right," Walsh Jennings said. "Keep fighting, don't worry about getting frustrated, push through it and it's going to be OK. Keep working."
Walsh Jennings, along with a dozen coaches and staff, worked the girls through three hours of volleyball drills. But the positive influence that Walsh Jennings provided through her presence as well as her instructions were just as good as the gold in Athens and Beijing.
"My mom works here (at the Suwanee Sports Academy) and she told me about the clinic," North Gwinnett High School junior Miller Howard said. "And when I found out Kerri Walsh (Jennings) was coming, that was exciting. I've been playing volleyball for as long as I can remember, so this was a good opportunity to meet and learn from someone like her."
The clinic has been touring since late November and will conclude tomorrow in Mobile, Ala. Walsh Jennings is ready to deliver some great volleyball tips and a strong message, which captured the attention of everyone in attendance.
"It's a honor to be here," Dacula freshman Sada Leconte said. "I've already learned a lot and it's exciting to be around Kerri Walsh (Jennings).
Walsh Jennings has also set up the Chase the Stars Foundation to support the notion that every child should have the opportunity to chase their dream.
Founded in 2004, the foundation has high-quality programs and events that directly improve the well-being, health and quality of children's lives.
But on this night in Suwanee, everyone was here to learn from a pro -- both on and off the court. Or, in the case of Walsh Jennings, on and off the sand.
"I've been playing volleyball for four years and there's a lot of good instruction," North Gwinnett eighth-grader Sydney Lee said. "And it's good because Kerri Walsh (Jennings) is out there with us. She has a lot to tell us."