Double front, Yurchenko, Arabian.
These are skills that symbolize evolution in the sport of gymnastics, as it has blossomed over the years with one person right there to witness — coach Fred Turoff of the men’s gymnastics team.
After graduating from Temple with a Bachelor of Arts in physics, becoming coach in 1976, winning his first conference title as a coach in 1981 and being inducted into the Temple Hall of Fame in 1984, Turoff’s 33 seasons at the helm of the Owls helped him receive perhaps his highest honor last week.
He was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame with a lifetime record of 367-162.
“You smile all the time. It’s the biggest honor given in USA gymnastics,” Turoff said.
Turoff’s raw attitude and perseverance helped him earn NCAA Eastern Region Coach of the Year nine times (1981, 1985, 1986, 1991, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2008) as well as the College Gymnastics Association Honor Coach Award in 2003.
But even with all those honors, Turoff simply passes along accolades to those who have helped him along the way.
“I’ve tried to take the best methods from everybody I’ve seen and develop my own methods of teaching,” he said. “And I’ve been able to have great success.”
That success has also found its way to many of Turoff’s disciples in the coaching ranks, including women’s gymnastics coach Aaron Murphy and coach Miles Avery of Ohio State, which is currently ranked in the Top 10.
“[Avery] said a number of times that I gave him a good start,” Turoff said. “And there are a number of other athletes who have come forward over the years and made me feel very proud of what they’ve done, [saying] that I was one who gave them a start toward what they’re doing.”
But Turoff’s career isn’t just limited to coaching. He made the 1970 World Championship team, which was the pinnacle of his career as a competitor.
Turoff also represented the United States at the 1969 Cup of the Americas, 1969 Maccabiah Games and the 1970 World University Games.
In 1968, Turoff won the EIGL all-around championship as a competitor for Temple, and his team won the EIGL team championship – except Turoff competed in South Hall located on the corner of Broad Street and Columbia Avenue (now Cecil B. Moore Avenue).
“Temple was a lot smaller,” he said. “McGonigle Hall wasn’t built yet, and none of the high rises were around.”
But Turoff’s real legacy is apparent in what he’s done for young gymnasts.
The Owls’ leader is someone who’s always gotten a thrill out of seeing not only his team perform well, as it’s won three straight conference titles, but seeing his players go on and succeed on an individual level as well.
Outside of coaching, Turoff received the Frank Cumiskey Award in 1980 for contributions to the boys’ Junior Olympic Program and the Robert Stout Service Award in 1984 for his work in the Region Seven Boys’ Program.
“Each time the team wins is a high point of the season,” Turoff said. “Having someone make the national team and make a major meet internationally is always a thrill for any coach. I’ve been fortunate enough to have that happen.”
Eric Pellini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.