SANDCAST: The sweet music of trainer Mykel Jenkins

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SANDCAST Mykel Jenkins 2/12/2020-Tri Bourne
Trainer Mykel Jenkins with Tri Bourne

A GARAGE IN AN UNKNOWN LOCATION — It was all wrong. Mykel Jenkins is all about the soundtrack of not just sports, but life. He wants it to be beautiful, and when something is done right, it doesn’t just look beautiful, it sounds beautiful. It’s a symphony, with violins and cellos and tubas, all working in perfect harmony.

And here was Tri Bourne, “thundering in here with his heavy feet, ‘Boom! Boom!’” Jenkins said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “And I was like ‘Oh, my God, he’s going to break my self-made floor.’”

Jenkins looked at John Hyden, the only beach volleyball player he was training at the time, and asked him what in the world he was doing, bringing Bourne in there. Hyden was 40 at the time, and he was taking on a project as a partner?

“Just look,” Hyden told him.

Jenkins saw some things in the 22-year-old Bourne, yes. But it was maybe one out of every three jumps. Hyden wasn’t going to be beating Phil Dalhausser with this kid. Bourne had been walking out of the gym when he heard Jenkins say that. The PG version of this story reads that Bourne simply disagreed with that sentiment, and if you’d like the R-rated one, you can listen to the podcast. Either way, “once he did that,” Jenkins recalled, “I turned to Johnny and said ‘That’s the dude.’ From that point on, I knew.”

And Mykel Jenkins had his second beach volleyball player as a client.

He’s a difficult guy to track down, Jenkins. He is at once well-known and a secret in beach volleyball circles, and he likes it that way. He joked – maybe – that he was breaking protocol by having a podcast in his garage, the location of which we’re just going to keep secret because it seems that’s what Jenkins would like. Jenkins is the man responsible, in large part, for Hyden’s unprecedented longevity and Bourne’s blink-and-you-missed-it rise from 22-year-old kid who was barely qualifying to, in the span of a single season, a regular finalist.

Initially the trainer for Hyden’s wife, Robyn, Jenkins was “always inquisitive about an Olympic athlete with his notoriety and skill set,” he said. “And she’d talk about how certain things were hurting [Hyden] and I’d mention a few things I’d do. As fate would have it, he got into a few situations where they were nagging him so she talked him into coming to see her ‘actor friend.’”

Yes, the ‘actor friend’ is Jenkins. He’s appeared in 17 movies and had a 13-week contract on General Hospital as Officer Byron Murphy. He’s currently in post-production on two of his own films where he’s producing, directing, and starring. You might say he’s a man who wears many hats, though here Jenkins will shrug and say that no, it’s all one hat. It’s all art, all an effort to make something beautiful, be it on the big screen or Amazon Prime.

“The next time you watch an average athlete, listen to the sound of the game and listen to how sloppy it is,” Jenkins said. “It’s like somebody with a drumset who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Then go watch someone special and close your eyes and listen to the way that music plays in your ear. You don’t realize it because you’re caught up in what you see. The soundtrack of that – if you took the soundtrack off Rocky, you’re not watching it. It’s like (Floyd) Mayweather: There’s a sweet science. If the music is beautiful — that’s how I know you guys are playing well.”

Which is why he hated Bourne’s thunderous feet that first afternoon in the gym. There was nothing beautiful about his boom booming all over the garage. While Hyden was flitting over the mats, fast and soft, Bourne was providing an unwelcome percussion section. But then five months passed, and when Jenkins closed his eyes, listening to his team work out, he couldn’t tell who was who.

“I knew we were onto something,” he said.

And he was right. Bourne would pile up accolade after accolade: AVP Rookie of the Year, AVP Most Improved, FIVB Top Rookie, AVP Best Offensive Player. He and Hyden would win the AVP Team of the Year in 2015 and make nine finals from 2012-2016. They qualified for the 2016 Olympics but, because of the country quota allowing only two teams per country to compete, were left off, despite finishing the year ranked fifth in the world.

Jenkins joked that Bourne needed a plight. While Hyden had “worked in oblivion” for ten years on the beach before reaching the peak, Bourne had been hand-picked straight to the top. And then that plight came, in the form of an autoimmune disease that sidelined Bourne for the better part of two seasons. Recalling that moment, Jenkins paused, quelling tears. And it is there that you can see why he only trains a select few, why he won’t take dozens of players and train them as he has Bourne and Hyden and, now, Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman.

“I don’t like heartbreak. I like Hollywood endings,” he said. “So if I don’t see a Hollywood ending, I’m not participating. I like champagne.”

Which is why his list of players he trains includes three – Bourne, Stockman and Larsen – who are contending for the 2020 Olympics, who are contending for Hollywood endings and champagne, even though Jenkins, who treats his own body as a temple, doesn’t even drink champagne.

“Once you see something special, God takes over,” Jenkins said. “If I don’t see you in the movie, you’re not going to be on the set. But if I do, we’re going to see it through, until we’re going to be on the big screen. I want to build characters who can handle any situation, and then watch them handle it. That’s captivating to me.”

Jenkins, through rigorous workouts that, Stockman said, “will absolutely kick your ass,” is preparing his athletes to find their music among chaos. When he’s watching Bourne or Larsen or Stockman on Amazon Prime, he turns the volume down.

“I know when to turn it up,” he said, “because I can see the violins lining up and the tubas because you can hear the beauty of the game.”

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