Given his past, Derek Fulk might be the most experienced assistant coach in the history of Lebanon County athletics. And that extensive experience may have made him one of the most qualified first-time head coaches ever hired locally.
In many ways, Eastern Lebanon County’s Fulk recently took the head-coaching plunge. After more than 15 years of coaching – much of the time year-round – five different sports, Fulk became Elco’s next head girls’ soccer coach.
Athletic director Doug Bohannon’s recommendation of Fulk was approved at the Elco school board’s Feb. 11 meeting. Fulk replaces Steve Keller, who resigned after the 2012 fall season, his fourth year on the job.
“I enjoy it tremendously,” said Fulk of coaching. “I wouldn’t do it as long as I have if I didn’t. I love sports. I’m a huge sports fan, of many different sports. Part of it is the family I’m from. Sports were a major topic of discussion at the Fulk dinner table. I definitely enjoy being around kids. That’s what make it so much fun.
“I think a lot of times in the past, it (applying for head coaching positions) had to do with my employer and how they would handle it,” added Fulk. “I never actually thought about it. Other things always seemed to be there. There were other people there, there were other people ahead of me. They (his employer) seem like they’re pretty good with it.”
Fulk reached his decision to apply for the Elco head girls’ soccer coaching position during a family gathering in Florida over the holidays, while visiting brother Keith. Keith Fulk, the head coach at Division Two St. Leo’s, was a member of a national championship-winning team as both a coach and a player, and played the game professionally. And Fulk’s father Bill was an All-American player at West Chester, back in his day.
“Well, originally when I knew Steve had resigned, I first thought about it (applying for the opening), but I assumed, I was thinking, Katie (Lamm) was going to take the job,” said Fulk, a native and resident of Myerstown. “So I didn’t even think about applying. Not too long after Steve tendered his resignation, I got a chance to talk to Keith and told him it wasn’t going to work out.
“But over the holidays, he really pushed me,” Fulk continued. “He (Keith) was the turning point, he and my parents. Then I started definitely thinking about it, talked to Mr. Bohannon and got the ball rolling.”
Except for last season when he assisted head coach Kirk Keppley and the Elco boys’ soccer team, Fulk had been involved with the girls’ program since its inception, having served under Paul Kline, Keppley and then Keller. Fulk has also been instrumental in helping coach the Elco football team, the Raider girls’ basketball program and Myerstown American Legion baseball during the summer.
With both girls’ and boys’ soccer now being contested in the fall, Fulk is in his spring of assisting with the Elco baseball program.
For the last 21 years, Fulk has been employed by Kountry Kraft Kitchens in Newmanstown, where he runs a computerized machine.
“I would probably say ‘No’,” said Fulk, when asked if he had ever come close to becoming a head coach. “But the only time I probably came close was when Kirk (Keppley) resigned and Coach Keller got it. I considered it, but Kountry Kraft didn’t like the idea. I knew Steve wanted it and I would stay involved.
“I did have to run it by them (his employer),” continued Fulk. “I sat down with my manager and my plant supervisor and I told them I needed to know. I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal. For away games, I might have to get out of work early.”
A 1987 graduate of Elco, Fulk matriculated to a junior college and then ultimately West Virginia University, where he earned a degree in sports administration.
“I’d like to stay involved as I can (with other sports),” said Fulk. “Obviously being in charge changes some things. Some of those things I’m doing on a volunteer basis. But when I commit to something, I commit to something. Even with football, I still helped last year. I’m going to try to get there as much as possible.
Elco is coming off a season in which it won a Lancaster-Lebanon section championship for the first time in a decade. The Raiders also enjoyed appearances in the Lancaster-Lebanon and District Three Class AA tournaments.
“We lost a really good group of seniors who will be tough to replace,” said Fulk, who will be assisted by Lamm, among others. “But there’s talent coming back, and coming up. I definitely don’t think the cupboard is bare.
“I want to strive to make our program the best it can be,” Fulk added. “It’s definitely on the right track. It’s been on a good path. I just want to attain the level we’ve had, and maybe strive to be a little higher.”
There are those in eastern Lebanon County who believe the Raider girls should compete for section and district titles annually.
“We went through those couple of years when (Lancaster) Mennonite was really good and won a state championship,” said Fulk. “And Donegal won back-to-back state championships. Yeah, it goes in cycles. When I heard about it, it was like ‘Wow, it was ten years since we last won a section title.’ Our goal is to win the section each year.”