Fred Turoff is a gymnastics legend.
Inducted into the United States Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2009, Turoff is heading into his 38th year as head coach of the Temple men’s gymnastics team. Coming off of back-to-back titles in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, he boasts a career lifetime coaching record of 432-184. He will be coaching a younger team than usual in 2014.
“We graduated eight last year and six before, so we lost most of the regular guys who led us to those two [ECAC] titles,” Turoff said. “This year is going to be a lot more difficult. Some of our opponents have gotten considerably stronger, and I think the team to beat this year is William and Mary, so we’re going to do our best, put a good product out there and hopefully be the cleanest team on the floor.”
Even though the team is young, Turoff said he wouldn’t necessarily call 2014 a rebuilding year.
“We have a younger team, and the guys have to learn a lot of skills and get up to the level that the previous championship teams were at,” Turoff said.
Leading Turoff’s squad are co-captains John Leonard and Scott Haddaway. Despite the lack of championship experience on the team, both said they’re confident the team will be competitive.
“Obviously we’ve lost a lot of guys,” Leonard said. “But there’s a lot of potential with the younger guys, so hopefully we can win the ECAC for a third time.”
Leonard said he leads through his work ethic rather than being vocal.
“I like leading better by example,” Leonard said. “I think if the younger guys see what I do in the gym and then copy me, that’s better than just telling them what to do.”
Even though Haddaway tends to be more outspoken, he said he agreed with his fellow captain.
“I guess I tend to be a little more vocal than John is,” Haddaway said. “But I don’t think that works unless you can back that up with leading by example.”
One of the younger guys on the team this year is sophomore Evan Eigner, who also is the coach’s only son.
“Coaching Evan is no problem because I’ve coached him for many years,” Turoff said. “He’s responded well to the team situation and I let other coaches talk to him. I don’t monopolize his time because he has a lot to hear from a variety of opinions.”
On the women’s side, coach Aaron Murphy leads a squad that finished fourth at the ECAC Championships last season. He said he’s optimistic about what his team can accomplish in 2014.
“We’re just hoping to be consistent and clean, just try and hit our routines at that point,” Murphy said. “And then from January leading into March, just kind of building off of every single meet. If we can get a little bit better from each competition leading into the conference championships, which we’re hosting, I would love to put on a good showing. If we can get that No. 1 spot, I’d love it.”
Murphy won the ECAC Coach of the Year award last season, the second time he’s won the award in his career. Murphy said he feels that he’s been lucky to have such hardworking athletes under his wing.
“I just tell them, ‘If you’re in here, I want you to give me 100 percent every day,’” Murphy said. “If you can do that, myself and my assistant [Deirdre Mattocks Bertotti] are going to make you a better gymnast. But after receiving all these awards, I don’t feel that they come from me truly, it comes from the great teams that I’ve had.”
One of Murphy’s captains is fifth-year senior Jean Alban, who looks to end her college gymnastics career on a high note.
“I just want to go out there and give it my all,” Alban said. “I really hope the team does as well also, and as long as we go for it giving 100 percent, we’ll be successful.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams open their season in January. The men will compete in the West Point Open Jan. 17-18. The women will start at the George Washington Invite on Jan. 12.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.