Six feet two inches of lithe muscle and golden skin, Kerri Walsh folds her lanky frame into a black leather chair at the Diagnostic and Interventional Surgical Center (DISC) in Marina del Rey, California, and tucks her knees to her chest. She towers on beach-volleyball courts, but in a baggy sweatshirt and pink flip-flops she seems more guarded than dominating. It’s May 2012, and the London Olympics loom. Alongside teammate Misty May-Treanor, Walsh has already won two gold medals, and she wants another. But after a frustrating week of practice games against international competition on Manhattan Beach, she needs a mental tune-up.
“I’m holding on too tight,” she says, “and when I make a mistake, I’m pissed.”
Kicked back in a matching chair a few feet away, index finger on his cheek, psychologist Michael Gervais listens with a trained intensity born of years spent discerning deeper meanings and motivations. “Bring to life a time on the sand when you were in a great space,” he says. “A moment that’s amazing.”
Walsh is quiet for several seconds, then shrugs. She says she can’t think of a perfect moment.
“Did I say perfect?”
“No,” she says, “but ideal.”
Gervais’ eyebrows rise. “Do those words mean the same thing to you?”