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McLaughlin brings dreams of future success to Irish

| Thursday, September 3, 2015

Over the last year, the Notre Dame volleyball team has seen massive turnover. With eight departing players and a coaching staff change, this year’s team is heading in a new direction. First-year head coach Jim McLaughlin, however, thinks he knows how to bring the Irish back to its winning past: humility and hard work.

McLaughlin brings an unprecedented level of success to the program, as he is the only person to coach both a women’s and a men’s volleyball team to NCAA championships. Having coached the USC men’s team to a title in 1989 and 1990 and the University of Washington to the 2005 women’s championship, his resume also includes a revival of the women’s program at Kansas State and recognition as the NCAA Coach of the Year in 2004.

But McLaughlin said he understands the past does not necessarily mean success in the future.

“You know, I’m just a coach,” McLaughlin said. “I think when I’ve studied the success of people in any industry — the film industry that I’ve studied, music, business, athletics — what I see is, I don’t see this genetic component like everybody thinks. I see great conditions with mentors that can teach. Even Mozart had a great teacher, was in great conditions and practiced extremely hard, and part of the conditions are how you think and your emotions. Those are the key things.”

McLaughlin’s success will come only with hard work day in and day out and, above all else, the understanding that the mental game is just as important as the physical.

“Every day we just have to make a little bit of improvement, to get better, to learn how to learn, and be able to measure it,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll be a very, very good team, and we hope to be a great team in November. That’s always been my goal, and we’re on our way. If we can think the right thoughts and get our bodies to move the way we want them to move and respond to situations we need to respond to, we can win here. We should win here, at Notre Dame. So it’s just a process of getting stuff in place, and the girls, today, there were some lessons learned and we had a good practice.”

McLaughlin said perhaps the most exciting aspect about the beginning of his tenure at Notre Dame is his knowledge that success cannot be measured by wins and losses alone, and keeping in mind that at the end of the day, his players are more important than championships or accolades.

“Coaching is about a lot of stuff,” McLaughlin said. “Yeah, [winning championships at USC and Washington] were great days, but you know what? It was wonderful when one of my players became an attorney. When I get phone calls like that. Or when one of my players had a baby. Or when one of players called me and said, ‘Hey Jim, I just made the U.S. Olympic Team. I’m playing in the Olympics.’ Or one of my players just said, ‘I’m getting married.’ Those stories are great because you’re invested at such a high level with these people, and at the end of the day it’s about people.

“You know, I’ve had teams that shouldn’t have gone to a Final Four and did. The gratification, you can’t put into words. When you work hard and get the right people on the bus, I can’t put that stuff into words. We’re understanding how hard it is, but what makes it so hard makes it great, and I think we’re figuring that out here.”

The program hopes the future of this team trends up under its new leader. McLaughlin said if he can keep focus of what truly matters, his players, in the long run this team should expect success on the court as well.

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