McLaughlin steps away from the court after two decades coaching volleyball at South Tahoe, Whittell
For nearly two decades, Dan McLaughlin has been a fixture in South Shore high school volleyball. The long-time local coach, however, won’t be on the bench at South Tahoe or Whittell for the foreseeable future.
“It was time for me to move on,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin decided not to return to South Tahoe following the 2015 season in which the Vikings finished 9-9 and made the Div. I-A Northern Region playoffs. He has coached volleyball for 18 years combined between the programs at STHS and Whittell — and is stepping away from the court.
“Volleyball is my true passion,” McLaughlin said. “Being able to share that passion and look back at the successful career I’ve had — and the number of people whose lives I was able to have some sort of an impact on — makes me a very rich person.
“I have a great affection for every single kid that played for me, and I wish the ones that are there now well.”
The decision to step down as head coach at South Tahoe wasn’t an easy one for the 65-year-old McLaughlin, but he said he is at peace with it with the current season underway. External conflicts with his coaching style last season were at the root of McLaughlin’s choice to move on.
“I don’t know what the future is going to hold,” McLaughlin said. “But stepping away this year was the right thing for me to do. I had no choice.”
McLaughlin’s tenure coaching South Shore high school volleyball spanned nearly two decades, and included six state championships at Whittell (2000, 2004-08) and one at South Tahoe (2012). He also coached 10 seasons of track and field at STHS before taking over Whittell’s volleyball program, in addition to four more for the Warriors.
“Every team was special, regardless of the record,” McLaughlin said. “You remember mostly the championships because they are most fulfilling, but I remember more the journey we embarked on every single year and the relationships that were built. I’m still very close with the vast majority of my players and I hope that will always be the case.”
From his time at Whittell, McLaughlin said the first state title of his career stands out. In the Class 2A championship, the Warriors’ victory included 13 straight service points from Jessika Purdy in the second game.
At South Tahoe, the Div. I-A State championship was the match that McLaughlin remembers the most. The Vikings swept Chaparral (Las Vegas), or as their coach put it, “We obliterated them.”
“That was one of the most impressive victories I have ever seen, and one of the most impressive displays of how volleyball can be played,” McLaughlin said. “That was truly a complete team victory and very rewarding.”
McLaughlin also looks back fondly on the rivalry the Vikings and Warriors had on the court while he coached at Whittell. During that time, matches between the cross-town rivals filled South Tahoe’s Blue Gym to capacity — creating an unforgettable atmosphere.
“It was one loud, crazy entity,” McLaughlin said. “That was probably the highlight of my entire career.”
Players from McLaughlin’s teams routinely went on to play at the collegiate level, but that’s something he wouldn’t take credit for. During his coaching career, he said he prided himself in making sure the success of his players and teams came first.
“I’d like to think I did more than just teach the sport of volleyball,” McLaughlin said. “I tried to be a role model of the way to help guide them on their path to how they’re supposed to act as adults — give them the discipline and tools necessary to compete in this world.”
McLaughlin won’t stray too far from the game, with plans to coach at Silver State Volleyball Club and referee matches in the area. He is also competing in a different arena — running for South Lake Tahoe City Council in the upcoming November elections.
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