Pat McLaughlin is the biggest cheerleader on the men’s gymnastics team. He can’t help it.
“That’s completely natural,” McLaughlin said. “I can’t see myself not doing that, because it’s the most enjoyable part…For me, it’s exciting seeing what they can do in practice, and then letting them show all the work that they’ve done. So as long as I coach, that’s where I’ll be and what I’ll do.”
McLaughlin is in his third year as assistant under head coach Fred Turoff. With the cuts looming, many have focused on what the loss of Turoff and his legacy would mean to the Temple community. But the university will also be losing McLaughlin.
At the 2011 NCAA championships, he placed seventh on the parallel bars, and was named an All-American. That same season, he was the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference’s Senior Gymnast of the Year, as well as Temple’s Male Student Athlete of the Year.
Now as a coach, McLaughlin faces new challenges.
“Watching is much more difficult,” McLaughlin said. “It’s changed, because in my first year coaching, I was blown away how hard it is in a competition, because you have no control. As an athlete, you have some kind of control in the success of the team. Now I have no control over anything. Can’t tell them anything that they’ve already done, so now I think competitions are even more nerve-wracking for me.”
But these challenges have also helped the third-year assistant see the sport in a new light.
“As a coach, I can see the bigger picture,” McLaughlin said. “As an athlete, I can try and see the bigger picture, and as a captain I did in some ways. But now I’m kind of worried about everyone, spending a lot of time with each guy on this team.”
Fred Turoff didn’t see much trouble with McLaughlin in his transition from athlete to coach. In fact, McLaughlin brings several new things to the table that have impacted the program positively.
“He’s made the transition from training athlete to assistant very nicely,” Turoff said. “He has plenty of good ideas, and he’s studying sports marketing, so he has many thoughts I haven’t had. He also set up the videos that we show at our meets, so I give him free reign on that pretty much. The only thing I do is keep the music volume down.”
One of McLaughlin’s greatest qualities is the energy he shows at each home meet. Because of this, Turoff lets his assistant do most of the coaching during competition.
“Patrick is very enthusiastic and I let him exercise all the influence that he can,” Turoff said. “I’m busy watching the whole team perform from a distance, seeing how well they’re dealing with the pressure of competition.”
“When I was younger, I was out there as well [motivating the team],” Turoff added. “But now I let Patrick and them do their thing, and hopefully the team is enjoying his enthusiasm.”
But McLaughlin isn’t just a cheerleader when it comes to Temple gymnastics. His success and knowledge of the sport has paid dividends and is a huge reason the Owls have won back-to-back conference championships.
And with Turoff fighting the cuts scheduled to start after this season, McLaughlin has shown to be capable of handling more of the coaching responsibility.
“In terms of lineup, we always talk about who’s doing what this week, what things could work in this competition,” Turoff said. “So we’ve collaborated on training plans. He’s somewhat taken over the strength circuit of work, and that’s fine, because it’s something I don’t have to do. And I have had some other work to do this year.”
Another key way that McLaughlin has contributed is by bringing new workout plans that suit Temple’s teams.
“It’s just his work ethic and dedication to Temple as a whole,” senior co-captain Scott Haddaway said. “You can tell that gymnastics is more than just a part of his life. It consumes him and you can see that dedication.”
And it doesn’t hurt that he had a successful career as an Owl himself.
“The All-American status just shows the dedication to the sport, and the amount of effort into everything he does,” Haddaway added. “Every aspect of his life, he puts more than 100 percent into.”
But if the gymnastics program is demoted to club status next season, McLaughlin won’t continue his coaching career. He said he feels it is an injustice to not only himself, but all the athletes that compete for him and Temple.
“I’m not satisfied with the club status,” McLaughlin said. “I feel like it’s very different, and these guys have trained their entire lives to be Division I athletes. They’re almost professionals, and I don’t know if that will be enough for all the work that they’ve done.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.