Jim Skirboll is a busy man.
He coaches swimming at a dizzying list of local schools and pools, including Oakland Catholic, Central Catholic, Pine-Richland Aquatics, the Fox Chapel Racquet Club and the North Hills Aquatic Club.
This summer, he’s going global.
Skirboll, a Pittsburgh native, is spending the summer coaching the Maccabi USA junior boys and girls swim team. The 15-member team ranges in age from 15 to 18 and comes from all areas of the country. Selection to the team was based on factors including official times, swimming experiences and recommendations.
Between July 27 and August 5, Skirboll and his team will travel to Berlin to compete in the 2015 European Maccabi Games, an event held once every four years. Considered the Jewish Olympics, the Games will welcome nearly 2,000 athletes from 36 countries worldwide. With its convergence of athletes, coaches and supporters, Berlin will host its largest gathering of Jews since World War II. Skirboll is excited for himself but more so for the young athletes.
“For a lot of these kids, it is their first international experience. I think this will help them grow, going to this environment and representing their country. It’s their first shot at representing their country.”
Skirboll said that Team USA will don patriotic garb throughout the competition. While working with staff from Maccabi USA and the Games’ sponsor Adidas, Skirboll helped create his team’s swimcap. On it will be a Star of David and the words “Maccabi USA.”
Additionally, like other American athletes, Skirboll and his team will wear an Adidas-designed uniform consisting of a sweatshirt, sweatpants, shirt and hat.
“I’m really excited about these because they look good, we look good.”
The 2015 Games are Skirboll’s first involvement with Maccabi. Nonetheless, the coach is already predicting victory. “I’m hoping to win every event, men and women. I’m expecting us to not only win the events but take 1, 2, and 3.”
Skirboll’s confidence is not without support. The veteran coach boasts several WPIAL Championship team titles and has coached more than 50 high school All Americans during the last two decades.
But if there is a nick in Maccabi USA’s armor (or a hole in its suit?), it is the omission of one swimmer.
Skirboll’s daughter Zoe, 10, does not meet the age requirements.
“She’s too young, but if she were old enough, she would have made the team.”
Skirboll’s daughter is a national and regional record-holder in numerous swimming events.
Coincidentally, while Skirboll is coaching in Berlin, his daughter will be competing at the Eastern Zone Swimming Championships in Richmond, Va. With the Games ending Aug. 5 and his daughter’s competition beginning the same day, there is little room for delay if Skirboll wishes to see her compete.
“[From Berlin] I fly into JFK and I have to fly right away to see her swim.”
If Skirboll hopes to make it to Virginia on time, he might want to emulate his daughter — and move fast.
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.