June 26, 2002

Editor’s Note:
June is a big month for the senior high school athletes. There is graduation and the end of their scholastic careers, plus Father’s Day. During previous Junes, Tom Williams has turned over his column to Stephanie Vanderslice Gaitley, Matt Woolley, Jeff Boyd, Allison Rinck and Tracey LeFever, among others, to write about their fathers.
This year, Shaune McLaughlin, who scored more than 1,000 points for the Mainland girls basketball team as a four-year starter, writes about her father, Paul, a longtime assistant coach in every season at Ocean City High School.

A special thank you to my father

Guest Sports Columnist

Webster’s Dictionary defines father as a male parent. My father, Paul McLaughlin, goes above and beyond that simple definition.

Ever since I started dribbling a basketball at two or three years old, my dad has been my biggest supporter and fan. Being my biggest fan may seem typical of any loving father, but not every loving father has 11 other children to care for. My dad doesn’t have favorites and dedicates his time equally among all of us.

It is easy for me to answer the question so commonly asked - “Who has had the biggest impact on you as a basketball player?” Without hesitation my answer is, “my father”. Although his schedule from September to June is busy being a high school mathematics teacher and the coach of three different sports at Ocean City High School, my father has never missed any of my games.

Without my father, my success in basketball would not have been possible. During my seventh and eighth grade years, my father was my coach. Together, we understood the importance of those two years in my development as a basketball player and a person. Not only did he help me play to my fullest potential at that time, but he also helped everyone on the team do the same, thus bringing the first Diocesan championship to St. Joseph’s in Somers Point.

When I graduated from eighth grade my father realized he could no longer be my coach on the floor, but that didn’t stop him from being my coach at home. This is where my father’s teaching went beyond X’s and O’s. He and my mother taught me how equally important academics and social behavior were to my overall career. My parents always instilled in my siblings and me the importance of being humble, grateful and never taking anything for granted. Because of them, I realized that what I had was God-given and I should never let it go to waste. Because of their guidance, I am where I am today.

When I entered high school, my father never missed a beat. He found a way to get to every one of my games, no matter what he had to do in order to get there.

After my sophomore year, I was asked to play for the Mid-Atlantic Comets, a very successful Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) organization. Even though the practice sites were an hour and a half away, my father realized the significance of this opportunity in relation to the upcoming year. Without hesitation, my father brought me to every single practice that summer, plus the spring and summer of the following year.

My father and I made many sacrifices but the biggest sacrifice was made by the rest of my family. Not once did anyone say anything negative, even though, for the first time, my father was spending more time with me. Through this, my family actually became even more supportive of me.

The biggest thrill for me now is to witness my father’s unconditional love and generosity towards my younger siblings as he helps them pursue their athletic careers. In two months, I’ll be heading off to college (LaSalle University) to continue my basketball career.

Once again I can expect my father and mother and 11 brothers and sisters to be at my games. Once again I might be asked, “who has had the biggest impact on you as a basketball player?”

And once again I will answer, “my father!”