Most professional beach volleyball players look forward to a well-earned break from the beach at the end of the season.
Jake Gibb wanted to keep playing after winning the FIVB four-star event in Chetumal, Mexico with partner Taylor Crabb on Nov. 17. It was the team’s first gold on the FIVB World Tour and Gibb’s seventh as an individual since beginning international play in 2005.
“I attribute the victory to a year of really hard work and playing really good volleyball,” Gibb said. “We were trending that way (toward a big win)… If I could play in 10 more tournaments right now, I would.”
Besides the gold in Chetumal, Gibb/Crabb took first at the NORCECA Tour finals in October in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic and fourth at the FIVB World Tour Finals in September in Rome. They won AVP Tour events in August in Chicago and in September in Hawaii.
Gibb/Crabb finished 2019 as the top-ranked U.S. men’s team in the FIVB world rankings (eighth overall) also leading U.S. teams in the provisional Olympic rankings (eighth overall).
For his continued success and endurance, Gibb has been named the 2019 USAV Male Beach Player of the Year for the fourth time (2012, 2013, 2018).
Gibb, who turns 44 in February, did take a mental break over the holidays, but kept up his strength and endurance training and will be back on the beach with Crabb playing volleyball this month. The pair is hoping to make it to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which would be Gibb’s fourth trip to the Olympics and Crabb’s first.
“The best thing I can say about Taylor is he makes volleyball easy for me,” Gibb said of his partner. “He’s a great passer and setter and his court coverage on defense is among the best in the world.”
Besides Gibb/Crabb, Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb and Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena are hoping for one of the two possible U.S. men’s Olympic slots. The final qualifying event will be the 2020 Rome five-star on June 10-14.
“I feel confident we are going to keep battling,” Gibb said. “There are three really good teams fighting for two spots. I think it’s going to be a dogfight. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came down to Rome.”
The 2019 season had its own challenges. Gibb/Crabb finished ninth in three straight FIVB tournaments, including the World Championships in Hamburg and the Gstaad five-star, then tied for 17th at the Espinho, Portugal four-star and 19th at the Tokyo four-star.
“We were in the heat of things,” Gibb said. “We were playing well, but not getting the finishes. That was frustrating. That was a really tough part of the year.”
The team came back to finish tied for ninth at its next two tournaments in Vienna (a five-star) and Moscow (a four-star) before taking fourth in Rome.
Gibb credits the team’s coach, Rich Lambourne, an Olympic gold medalist on the indoor side, and USA Volleyball Director of Coaching Tyler Hildebrand with helping Gibb/Crabb’s at tournaments as well as during training.
“On the road, we have the collaboration of Rich and Tyler for scouting reports,” Gibb said. “That’s been a really nice team strategy and has worked really well for us.”
Perhaps the most important part of Gibb’s continued success is the fact that he is still having fun.
“I wish it would stop being fun and I could retire,” he said with a laugh. “I love it. It’s an addictive high that I am going to have a tough time letting go of.”