By Kathy Carlson
Later this month, Michael Eskind will participate in his second Olympics – as a coach.
In each Olympics, Eskind – a Montgomery Bell Academy graduate, standout decathlete and track and field coach – has coached an American female triple jumper. He worked with 2008 Olympian Shani Marks and has been working with Amanda Smock in her quest to compete in the London games. Smock recently took the gold at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field trials in Eugene, Ore., and qualified for the Olympics.
The Summer Olympics begins on Fri., July 27, and ends on Sun., Aug. 12. The qualifying round of the women’s triple jump takes place on Fri., Aug. 3, and the finals are Sun., Aug. 5.
Eskind, the son of Laurie and Steven Eskind and grandson of Annette Eskind, credits “great coaches at MBA and before that at Ensworth” with leading him into coaching.
“There are lots of different types and styles of coaching,” he said in a phone interview. “Understanding your sport and the athletes you’re working with certainly are important. I’m trying to study as much as I can and learn as much as I can about each individual event.”
Eskind and Smock met “in 2006 out at a coaching education clinic we were both doing. She was a 43-foot jumper at the time and she continued to train.” At the time, Smock and Marks were working out together with the goal of making the 2008 Olympics in the triple jump but didn’t have anyone formally coaching them, Eskind recalled. He told them that if they ever needed someone to work with, he was willing to fill the role, and began coaching the two that year.
Marks went on to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and competed there. She retired after competing at the World Championships in 2009. Smock is still at it, Eskind said, and works out with Marks.
Eskind has largely been a long-distance coach for both Smock and Marks, because he was coaching college athletes elsewhere and couldn’t spend all his time in Minnesota. He has coached track and field at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville for the past four years.
He said he e-mails workouts every two to three weeks initially, and then almost every week as a competition nears. The athlete films the workouts and e-mails them to him to study and use to develop new routines after texting and talking it over.
The triple jump has been around for men since the 1896 Olympics and became a women’s event in 1996. It was originally called the “hop, step and jump,” for the three phases of the jump, according to information by Mike Rosenbaum on about.com. “Jumpers take off in the “hop” phase and land on the takeoff leg. They take one step onto the other foot (step phase), then jump,” Rosenbaum wrote.
“Overall I would say my coaching style is fairly laid back and relaxed,” Eskind elaborated in an email. “I’m not a yeller or a screamer. Coaching at practice and coaching in meets can be different, especially since we are rarely able to be together for practices. I try to stay as positive and upbeat as possible and am always encouraging my athletes to improve, whether it’s within a meet or to perform better than they ever have in their life.”
Smock has “continued to get better and better. She stuck with it,” he said. Her passion and work ethic have driven her. Watching Smock progress has been rewarding for Eskind.
“I don’t treat Amanda, or Shani before her, any differently than I do my other athletes, or differently than I did before they were Olympians,” Eskind said. “The only thing that’s different is that there are more people in the stadium when they are competing.Editor’s note: Eskind is blogging about his Olympics experience at http://destinationlondon12.blogspot.com/. •