Fred Turoff is in his 37th year as coach at Temple, the second-longest tenure of any gymnastics coach in the country.
The Temple and USA gymnastics Hall of Famer, having been there and done that in the sport of gymnastics, has still not even thought about retiring from coaching, or at least not for the next four years, considering that his only son Evan Eigner is a freshman on his team.
Turoff is Eigner’s stepfather and has been since Eigner was 3 years old when Eigner’s mother Diane remarried to Turoff.
Following in the footsteps of his stepfather, Eigner chose to pursue gymnastics. In high school, Eigner was a four-time junior Olympic national qualifier and finished in second place on rings as a senior at the Pennsylvania State Championships before entering into his collegiate career at Temple.
For Eigner and Turoff, balancing a father and son, player and coach relationship has not been an issue.
“We have a great relationship,” Eigner said. “I know that some sports may have some issues between son and coach, and that father/son stuff can interfere in the gym, but I think that we have a great relationship. If we have issues we talk about it, there is no tension there.”
“If we have issues we talk about it, there is no tension there.”
Senior Alex Tighe has witnessed the father and coach relationship many times throughout his gymnastics career, he said, and can attest to both the success and failures from the relationships.
“There have been a lot of father/son relationships in the past in the gymnastics world and I’ve seen both sides,” Tighe said. “To where it’s blown up in their faces and the kid ends up hating the sport and I’ve seen it thrive just as well. Fortunately, I think that [Turoff] and [Eigner] have a great relationship.”
Tighe said he initially thought Turoff might give his son special treatment, but those concerns were quickly alleviated.
“I was a little worried that [Eigner] might distract [Turoff] and give him a lot more attention than the other guys, but he really doesn’t treat him any different,” Tighe said.
“At the end of the day he might give [Eigner] a hug, when he might not give the other guys a hug,” Tighe added. “But he doesn’t treat [Eigner] any different, not at all. He hasn’t given [Eigner] any more harsh words, or any more kind words than anybody else.”
Turoff also said that coaching Eigner is nothing new. Turoff has been Eigner’s coach for years now.
“You have to understand that I coached Evan on the Temple boy’s team as well,” Turoff said. “So it’s not [as] if I’m a brand new coach for him, and I worked with him throughout his junior Olympic career.”
The fact that Eigner is the coach’s son is something that he said has never brought any ridicule, teasing or even mild joking around, from any of his teammates.
“They haven’t given me a hard time at all,” Eigner said. “I think that they think that it’s kind of cool I’m on the team being the coach’s son.”
“The guys appreciate the fact that [Eigner] is a hard worker,” Turoff said. “They know that he is serious about his training, and that he is serious about his gymnastics.”
Eigner has already worked his way into the starting line up as a freshman for the rings event. In his first collegiate appearance at the Navy Open on Jan. 19, Eigner scored a 13.40 on rings.
Samuel Matthews can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.