Leadership

Inside the mind of an Olympic gold medalist before a game

Jennings is from Santa Clara, Calif. and has been playing volleyball since she was a kid.
Source: Mpu Dinani | Association of Volleyball Professionals.
Jennings is from Santa Clara, Calif. and has been playing volleyball since she was a kid.

When three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings hits the volleyball court, it's war. And all wars come with battle cries.

So what's hers?

"My mantra very specifically is 'Breathe, believe, battle,'" Jennings told CNBC recently.

The 37-year-old volleyball star is currently competing in the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) New York City Open. In August, she'll be competing in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with partner April Ross.

Rio isn't the first time Walsh Jennings has taken the global stage. In fact, she took home the Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball three games in 2004, 2008 and 2012 with partner Misty May-Treanor.

To stay focused, Walsh Jennings listens to a playlist called "The Hunt" before each game.

"Our sports psychologist, he's like 'When you're out there, you're the hunters, so have that mindset,'" said Jennings.

'Dominate and kick butt'

Kerri Walsh Jennings, along with teammate Misty May-Treanor, has won three-straight Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012).
Source: Association of Volleyball Professionals
Kerri Walsh Jennings, along with teammate Misty May-Treanor, has won three-straight Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012).

So what's on this Olympian's playlist? Everything from 80s pop to Bruno Mars, Walsh Jennings told CNBC.

"Let me pull it up for you. So I have 'Eye of Tiger', I have 'Uptown Funk', I have a little Fergie, Lorde, I have Katy Perry 'Dark Horse', Nicki Minaj, I have the White Stripes, I have Journey. I kind of have it all," she said.

For the Rio Olympics, the sports star said that she wants to feel the excitement and pressure, but also wants to enjoy the experience.

"My goal is really to make it playful," she said. "I want to dominate and I want to kick butt, but I really want to, you know, kind of go back to the days of 2004 and remember why I'm doing this.

Focusing on her love of the game is a key to her success, she said.

"That's where greatness happens," Walsh Jennings said. "I think it's a fine line between wanting something too much and, you know, being too relaxed. There's a right amount of tension there and I want to bring that right amount of tension."

She added: "I also just want to bring so much heart and love."