By Emmaneul Morgan
HUNTERSVILLE – Bobby McLaughlin was hired as SouthLake Christian Academy’s football coach in February. The upcoming season will be his 23rd coaching football, and he is excited for the season ahead.
“There are great kids here at SouthLake,” McLaughlin said. “They stay out of trouble and make good choices. They’re the reason why I love it here.”
McLaughlin has an impressive resume heading into his new coaching position. The Lincolnton native played varsity football at Lincolnton High and then at Catawba College. After college, McLaughlin coached at several high schools around the state including West Iredell, Mooresville, South Iredell, North Iredell and Lincolnton. Some of players McLaughlin coached continued their football careers in college and the National Football League.
“Being around the kids and the team is the most enjoyable part about coaching for me,” he said. “I love seeing them improve and get better.”
McLaughlin stumbled upon the SouthLake coaching position while searching for a new school for his kids. After talking with Joe Haney, the school’s athletic director, and various school administrators, McLaughlin was hired.
Soon after McLaughlin’s hiring, SouthLake’s athletic department went through a period of upheaval. For reasons the school and church haven’t revealed, McLaughlin and Haney were fired. The anger and uproar caused by the situation created chaos. Many students and parents felt that both of these men were fired unjustly. After a week of protest, McLaughlin and Haney were re-hired.
McLaughlin said he learned much from the situation, and he feels he can use what happened to help bring the football program and the school forward.
“Life’s a continuous journey and you never give up,” he said. “When bad things happen, you have to keep trying to work through it and turn it into a positive and always do the right thing. … These kids have been through a lot and dealt with the situation as much as we have … when we face adversity it makes us stronger and hopefully we can use what happened as an advantage to bring us together.”
McLaughlin inherited a team that is accustomed to winning. The Eagles only lost three times in the last two seasons, while winning 21 times. Last November, SouthLake won the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III state championship against Victory Christian. The momentum of winning and pride has been swinging in SouthLake’s favor, and McLaughlin intends to enhance it.
“We have everything we need to be successful,” he said. “We have a good solid core of players. My expectations are to be as good as we want to be. We can be as good as we were last year. Given a few breaks here and there, we’ll be fine."
McLaughlin wants to win like everyone else, but he says that wins and losses aren’t what is really important for his players.
“I want them to be a part of something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” he said. “Whether we win the state championship or not, that’s not the win-all, beat-all. I want to make sure that I help put them in a position to make good grades, graduate on time, and be in a place to have success outside of football and high school.”
“When the season is said and done, I want my players to say that they learned how to be the kind of person to represent a school and the community the right way.”