Jen Kessy and April Ross have been working their entire lives to reach their goal of representing the United States at the Olympic Games. As they currently hold the number two spot for women’s beach volleyball in the U.S. (behind Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh), the pair finally became Olympians this August. Miraculously, Volleyball magazine found a gap in the team’s impenetrable schedule and snuck in a quick lunch before the Olympics at the duo’s favorite Corona Del Mar haunt, Rose’s Bakery, in order to get the scoop on their Olympic preparations.
Your schedule is insane. What’s in store for you two in the next few months before the Olympics?
Jen We have six or seven tournaments on our plate in the next few months before the Olympics. It really gives us a lot of time to get better. We have Brazil, three tournaments in China, then three weeks at home, one tournament in Baltimore, and then a tournament in Russia and one in Rome.
Wow, that’s quite a bit to think about and get through! So now that you’ve got the bid and you are for sure going to London, what will the Olympic experience mean for you both?
Jen It will be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. To play for the United States is ultra-difficult; you have to absolutely be on top of your game. I’ve wanted this since I was a kid.
April It’s the highest level you can reach in our sport, and I always want to be at the highest level. It’ll be another stepping stone, another accomplishment on the way to reaching that point.
You guys have been partners for six years now, how do you remain in sync with each other? Is it difficult to spend as much time as you do together, or do you feel like you are family at this point?
Jen We are constantly improving and talking about everything. Each day is so challenging that it really keeps us motivated. We are unique in that we enjoy traveling together and we like to hang out outside of volleyball as well.
April Partnership gets easier with time. It’s great because we know how the other is on the road, we know how we are in practice, what each person’s quirks are. It’s nice knowing each other so well.
What’s your training schedule like?
Jen We are 8-5, Monday through Friday. It truly is a full-time job. We take our weekends off to do social things and decompress. But during the week, each day consists of volleyball practice, cardio, lifting, physical therapy, and brain training as well.
April It’s very different than someone training at the Olympic Training Center where everything comes to her. We have to arrange all of our different training on our own. We’re lucky to have Jeff Conover as our coach. He’s great, we have been working with him for four years now (Conover also coaches the New Zealand men’s team).
How do you feel about the state of the sport right now? Do you think its gaining popularity despite the ups and downs of the AVP being bought and sold? What do you think about the new ownership and the direction it’s going in?
Jen I think it’s really great that college beach volleyball has taken off. Right now, this is our feeder program. If we didn’t get this started at the college level, people would still keep going indoors.
April I think the new AVP ownership is very promising. Donald Sun (Managing Partner of AOS Group, LP, the new owners of the AVP) has played volleyball at a high level, he has a good business background. We are hopeful. Between the NVL, USA Volleyball, and the AVP, the money is out there. We want to have something to come back to instead of always going over to Europe. It’s hard to say no to better money over in Europe.
Jen, you just picked up a contract with CoverGirl. That has to be incredible to be in the same celebrity league as Drew Barrymore and Taylor Swift. It’s also great promotion for the sport. How did this all emerge? Will we be seeing the commercials and ads soon?
Jen My agent, Lindsay Kagawa, called me and told me about the opportunity. And I was like, “Oh yeah, sure.” And then it actually happened! We shot the commercial months ago, but it just started airing in May, and the ad will begin appearing in magazines when they start doing the Olympic editions. I think it will hopefully bring more opportunities for April and me and also help to promote the sport. It was crazy shooting the commercial though! I got there at like 11 o’clock in the morning and stayed until 11 o’clock at night. It was shot at Will Rogers State Beach and when I arrived, I could not believe how many trailers were there solely for my commercial. It was surreal and very exciting.
Are Misty and Kerri the team to beat? Obviously all of the competition will be high caliber. Who else is going to be a challenge?
Jen Juliana and Larissa are the number one team by a substantial amount. They will most likely have the number one seed in the Olympics. And then you have China (in addition to Misty and Kerri). Those are the top three ahead of us now.
April Anyone in the top sixteen is an absolute challenge.
What is the post-Olympic relax and indulge plan looking like? Perhaps a giant cheeseburger?
Jen I’m hoping to spend about a month in France. And I’m going to take a trip to Africa as well.
April I’m taking a really long vacation. I’m not starting pre-season until February, not until after Valentine’s Day!
What is your favorite naughty treat?
Jen Goat cheese pizza.
Apri Orange ricotta Haute Cakes.
Last book you read?
Jen “Hunger Games.”
April “Woodworking for Dummies.” I’m working on a TV console right now, I have to exercise the other side of my brain!
Other beach player that you admire most?
Jen Barb Fontana. She is really knowledgeable, very professional, and a really smart player.
April I agree with Jen. She is the ideal woman: has a law degree, a great family, she has traveled the world. She’s set the bar pretty high.
Typical travel entertainment? Ipad, Kindle, Ambien?
Jen Ambien and Kindle. I also watch movies, the whole plane can hear April and me laughing out loud.
April Yeah, I like to watch movies that I miss in theaters while overseas. I don’t really watch them here, so it’s nice to catch up.
Jen I would like to have a family sooner than later, probably live in Europe for a bit, maybe get involved in real estate here.
April I would like to have a family and start my own business with my sister and husband. We all have different talents. I’m thinking a boutique of some kind, maybe a coffee, flower, or clothing boutique, a creative store in Newport Beach.
Originally published in August 2012