By the time Jake Gibb graduated with a business degree from the University of Utah, he knew exactly where he was headed: the beach.
Gibb BS’02 began playing volleyball on a neighboring high school’s club team when he was 17, practicing with his fraternal twin, Coleman, on a makeshift court in their backyard in Bountiful, Utah. And, he says, he wasn’t very good back then.
But Gibb fell in love with the sport and kept playing—right on through his student days at the U, where he played indoor club volleyball and grew another three inches to top out at 6 feet 7 (Coleman stopped at 6 feet 1). Gibb’s future was set after he qualified for the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP), the premier U.S. volleyball tour, in 2000.
“I knew I wanted to move to California and pursue a beach volleyball career when I graduated,” says Gibb, the youngest of 11 children.
And so he did.
Today, Gibb is a three-time Olympian (2008, 2012, and 2016). And this past July and August, he represented the U.S. at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Austria, playing with teammate Taylor Crabb. It’s the biggest event in the sport outside of the Olympics.
“I keep telling myself and others that I’m not 41 years old and that I’m just a young buck out here, but no one seems to believe me,” Gibb jokes.
Gibb’s climb to the pinnacle of his sport has come with challenges. He is a two-time cancer survivor, having fought melanoma in 2004 and testicular cancer in 2011—just as he was preparing for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London and the birth of his first child with wife Jane (a former college volleyball player herself whom he met on a volleyball court).
Gibb was initially told he would need three rounds of chemotherapy, a crushing treatment plan that would have cost him his chance at the Olympics. But after the surgery, he learned he didn’t need chemo after all. It was, Gibb said, game on.
Gibb was able to compete, and 2012 proved a spectacular year for him career-wise. Playing with former partner Sean Rosenthal, Gibb took home first at the 2012 AVP Championships and finished 5th at the Olympics that year, feats that earned him recognition as FIVB’s Most Inspirational Athlete in both 2013 and 2014.
More recently, Gibb and Crabb had two fifth-place finishes on the 2017 FIVB World Tour and then competed in the 2017 FIVB World Championships this late July to August in Vienna. He and Crabb were among eight U.S. pairs (male and female) who made the cut for this summer’s World Championships, Gibb's seventh straight appearance (and Crabb's first).
“What keeps me going is my love for the sport of beach volley,” Gibb says. “If I had a regular office job, I would be out on the weekends playing with friends. I love playing, and I love the life it provides for me and my family.”
Oh, and did we mention Gibb’s middle name? It’s his mother’s maiden name, one he shares with all five of his brothers: Spiker.
— Brooke Adams BS'91 MS'12 is a communications specialist at University Marketing & Communications.