McLaughlin leaves with enviable track record
Ending his 15-year prep track and field coaching career was an easy decision for Dan McLaughlin. The passion with which he coaches teen-agers still burns, but it can’t be compete with his family.
“I’ve had a heck of a run, but it’s time to start spending time with my children,” said McLaughlin, who has a 13-year-old son, Shawn, and a 10-year-old daughter, Shaylene.
“They see me coaching everybody else, and they say, ‘Daddy, why don’t you coach me? OK.’ And that’s the way it should be.”
The Whittell High assistant coach who has trained track and field athletes at both area high schools, was nearly brought to tears watching some of his pupils collect zone titles last Saturday at the Nevada 3A Division II meet at Reed High in Sparks.
“What a great way to end my career, coaching a kid like that,” said McLaughlin, reflecting on Bob Linkul’s title in the discus and runner-up placing in the shot put. “In fact, all of the field events have been like that today.”
During his annual spring ritual since 1984, McLaughlin has seen some great athletes come through STHS and Whittell. Their success was based on three ingredients: athletic ability, work ethic and trusting the coach’s instincts.
“Everyone had natural ability to begin with, but they were all willing to pay the price,” he said. “The nice thing about track and field is you get what you put into it. I used to always want to be successful and have a lot of kids doing well, but what’s been so enjoyable for me under (Whittell coach Dan) Makley is that we’ve had the attitude that the kids who want to are going to be the ones we’ll deal with. If you want to, here I am, I’ll coach you. If you don’t want to, I’ll give you basic instruction and let you go out on your own. Every one of the kids who’s been successful are the ones who have grabbed you by the arm and said, ‘Coach, teach me the right way. I’ll try my best.’
“My philosophy is that you can’t be afraid to fail. If you have to change something, change it because it’s the right thing. You don’t run conservatively, you don’t jump conservativley, you always give it your best. If you fail, you fail.”
Some of the many highlights of his track and field coaching career are winning back-to-back state high jump titles in 1991 and 1992 with STHS’s Sam Matthews and Brett Long; two-time high jump state champion Steven Haase (1987 and 1989); the unexpected state title by South Tahoe high jumper T.J. Durham (6-8) in 1994; the 1997 upset triple jump title of Mark Witte, who didn’t settle on the event until the final three weeks of the season; and most recently the successes of Linkul, Erin Zaskoda, Luke Forvilly and Sarah Sufka at Whittell.
McLaughlin’s field event pupils recognize his worth.
“He’s helped me out so much. The support from him means so much, and I’m happy he had some faith in me,” said Linkul following his unexpected second place in the zone shot put. “Usually we just work on the discus, but he pushed me and made me practice the shot.”
McLaughlin would have liked to coach one final week at the state meet, but his sister-in-law is getting married this weekend in South Lake Tahoe. The state meet is in Las Vegas.
McLaughlin, a city of South Lake Tahoe Parks and Recreation Department chairman, will continue coaching his very successful Warrior volleyball program and assist with Babe Ruth and American Softball Association teams.
“I love coaching volleyball and I want to spend more time developing that program,” said the fourth-year WHS coach.
But what about when his children enter high school and decide to go out for the track team. Will that bring him out of retirement?
“Only if they want me. I just want to enjoy life with my kids while they’re at these ages,” he said.
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