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Sugar House Journal

Utah native and three-time Olympian returns to showcase volleyball

May 16, 2018 14h13 ● By Catherine Garrett

Pro beach volleyball player Jake Gibb, from Utah, has been a top player on the world circuit for several years. The three-time Olympian will appear in an exhibition match and then host a clinic during a Wasatch Beach Volleyball Juniors tournament Saturday, June 16 at the Utah Sports Mall. (Photo courtesy Jake Gibb)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

Three-time Olympian Jake Gibb, 42, who hails from Utah, is coming home for an exhibition beach volleyball match and clinic Saturday, June 16 during a Wasatch Beach Volleyball Juniors tournament at the Utah Sports Mall, located at 5445 S. 900 East in Murray.

“I love interactions with kids who want to learn about volleyball,” Gibb said. “It’s a cool position to be in with the wealth of knowledge I have and to be able to share a little bit of that. I just want to share my passion and help people see that and feel that.”

“Jake is a global icon in the beach volleyball community,” said WBV Juniors Director Warren Van Schalkwyk. “He is also one of the most down-to-earth people you’d ever meet. To have Jake participate in this event speaks to his love for the game and his willingness to give back.”

Gibb grew up in Bountiful, the youngest of 11 children, and played basketball and golf in high school until he tried boys volleyball on a club team his senior year. Following an LDS mission, he played with his twin brother, Coleman —who is 6 inches shorter than the 6-foot-7 Jake—in a Utah Outdoor Volleyball tournament in the “B” division and took second place.

“We thought that was pretty good,” Gibb said. “So, there was my real competitive start to outdoor volleyball, in a ‘B’ tournament on grass.”

While playing on grass, Gibb said he often watched the players on the sand and thought they were “pretty cool cats with their tattoos and everything.” One of those players—a Utah legend named Joe Famasino—asked Gibb if he wanted to play with him.

“Here I was, this big clunky kid, and I literally was so nervous that Joe was talking to me that I couldn’t even remember my phone number to give him,” Gibb said.

And, that was just the beginning of Gibb’s rise in the sport while he studied business at the University of Utah and married his wife, Jane.

Following graduation and working toward becoming a loan officer, his wife encouraged him to give professional beach volleyball a try. So, the pair moved to California in 2002 for a two-year trial run to see if the sport could become their livelihood.

“That’s the scariest move I’ve ever made in my life,” Gibb said. “I was comfortable being where I was at as the best in Utah. Good thing I was young; I don’t think I would do it now.”

Gibb said he showed up at a beach in California for the first time, trying to get into a game and was told there was a six game wait. “I left the beach that day without getting a game and with my tail wagging between my legs thinking, ‘Nobody knows that I’m pretty good,’” he said. 

Gibb’s wait for a court paid off, and by 2004, Gibb won his first Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) tour title and was named the Most Valuable Player the next season. He has since won 27 more titles with several partners —most notably, Sean Rosenthal and Casey Patterson—and competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, placing tied for fifth twice and 19th. For the past year and a half, he has been partnered with Taylor Crabb and feels “fortunate to get a young kid who doesn’t know how good he is yet.”

Gibb, who is the father of 6-year-old Crosby and 3-year-old Cora Jane, said, “This sport has given me my entire lifestyle,” he said. “I feel like I’m the most fortunate guy on the planet.”

The June 16 match and clinic in Murray is free although seating will be limited. Spectators will be able to take pictures with Gibb and hear about his experiences from over two decades in the sport.