Born: November 1, 1938 in Los Angeles, California (USA)
Country: United States
Category: Female Indoor Player
In 1949, the United States Volleyball Association (USVRA) created a division for women at the U.S. Open. The Santa Monica Manners team that won the inaugural tournament, and dominated the women's division for the next ten years, featured the best women players in the country, including Jane Ward and Jean Gaertner. Gaertner, a native of Southern California, grew up playing all types of sports with the boys in the neighborhood. She started playing volleyball at the age of 16 at a local park with a group of recreational players 10 years her senior, and picked up the game so quickly that she was soon invited to play with the Mariners.
Jean joined the Mariners in 1956 and played with them from 1956 to 1960, when they dominated the Women's Division. After being selected for the U.S. Women's National team, she won two silver medals, the first in 1959 and the second in 1963, at the Pan-American Games in Mexico and Brazil. She was also a member of the National Team that competed at the 1960 World Championships in Brazil.
Gaertner developed an interest in track and field through her teammate Jane Ward and competed as a high jumper with the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. Not being one to focus on one thing at a time, Jean received her BA in education from California State University at Los Angeles while competing at this high level internationally.
She moved to the Ahern Shamrocks after the 1960 Olympic Games and played with many of the great early women players, including Hall of Famers Patty Bright and Mary Jo Peppler. Along with members of the Shamrocks, she participated in high school and college volleyball clinics throughout Southern California to promote volleyball. Gaertner was part of a playing revolution in California, in the early sixties, which embraced the International Rules of the Game. She left the Shamrocks in 1964, with a group of forward looking players, to form the L.A. Renegades, whose goal was to implement techniques innovated by the Japanese Women's National Team.
She was on a National Championship team seven times, five times with the Santa Monica Mariners in 1956, 1957, 1968, 1959, and 1960 and two times with the Ahern Shamrocks in 1962 and 1963. Gaertner was named All-American by the USVBA eight times in 1957, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966. She won Outstanding National Player three times and Outstanding Regional Player three times. Her most memorable achievement was playing with the U.S. Women's Olympic Team in the 1964 Olympic Games. This accomplishment made Gaertner the first female athlete to compete in two Olympiads in two non-related sports.
At the crossroads of her career in 1965, she decided to settle down as a high school physical education teacher and broader horizons beckoned. She has traveled the globe visiting mountains in four corners of the earth. She has rock climbed for many years, played tennis for many more, took up skiing in Colorado and finally, in her retired years, has taken up golf to fill her free time.