In Blog
Coach Gary Fulmer has been an AD for long enough to know that success comes from acting today, preparing for tomorrow, and planning for the future. His focus on working with a clear head, trusting his people, and passion for strategy helps him to make sure he’s building more excitement around Richland Northeast every year.
As told to Ken Czop



It’s always been my life’s dream to be doing what I’m doing now. When I was a kid, even with friends, I’d be drawing up plays on pieces of paper! My head was always in the strategy side of things. I’ve been in this line of work for a long time – almost 32 years in education already.

My Dad always said that the biggest thing in life is to find a career that your really enjoy doing so that it doesn’t feel like work. And so early on, I knew I wanted to be in sports, but how? It’s such a competitive field for jobs. That’s why I minored in math. I knew that math teachers were in demand, and having that degree would help me first get a teaching job and then start coaching. For 18 years, it was all math and basketball for me.

I remember being asked to interview as AD. At the time, I was still coaching the basketball team and I wanted to keep doing that, too. Basketball has always been a sport I loved, but after a couple years of pulling double-duty, it started to be so stressful! Managing a large school, over 30 teams, coaching basketball, teaching, that’s when I knew it was time to retire from coaching. And now, here I am.


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I see myself as a one-stop shop here at Richland Northeast, because there’s always so much to do. Most of my days start around 5:30. Making sure I wake up early gives me a chance to clear my head, read my Bible, walk the dog, and put some time in at the gym before I head to the office, somewhere around 7:45-8.

Email is always the first thing I take care of. Depending on the games, sometimes I end up working a 12-15 hour day, but even if we don’t leave the office until after 8, there’s still messages that come in later! They’re not always urgent, but I aim to take care of those things first before moving on to getting logistics settled. Getting tickets ready, paperwork, requests for bus transport, all things I need to do to make sure things run smoothly, and I always do them with an eye on preparing for the next day. After a while of doing this, you come to the realization that you know that there will always be something more to do, so you’ve got to plan to create a good finishing point. Mine is always when I feel confident that the next day won’t sneak up on me.

Sometimes, the best way to keep yourself healthy in this job is a matter of simply taking a deep breath. It can be very hectic, and there are days when I’ll look up at the clock and it’ll be 1:30-2pm and I haven’t had lunch! On those days, I try to slip away for 20-30 minutes and clear my head. A benefit to being an athletic director is that I’ve never had a problem sleeping!

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This job is very day-to-day, but I always try to keep the future in the back of my mind. How can we showcase our kids in a way that’s out of the ordinary? How can we get more people to see what they’re doing? I’m always looking to create more excitement about our programs and generate revenue for them. Our varsity football team plays games at a district stadium, and it’s been the same for the past 35 years. This past year, we wanted to change that, and planned out a way to get a game on our campus, with the support of the community. The first ever Richland Northeast home game drew about 2,000 people. When you pull in about 500 for normal district games, it was a huge attendance jump, which was a great success for everyone involved.  It also brought the community together around our kids. That’s what it’s all about. You don’t always need to plan the most elaborate event to create the most impact. 

I’m not a tech-savvy guy. I’ve never really been. I’m a visual learner, in that I can watch something, take notes, and give it a shot. Occasionally, you mess things up! But you get better. I do know that to build a better department, we need positive publicity, and technology is the easiest way to get it. It’s amazing the amount of publicity we’re getting now that we’re focusing on a website. Things like spring sports tryouts. We never had that information online! How crazy. And physicals. Now it’s all there, where our community can keep up, plan their day, and get engaged with us. Delegating to my coaches has been important in making this work. I let them own their sport, publicize their sport, and they’re learning more everyday. This is year one for us, and we will get better. My goal is to build the platform this year, get people used to the tools we have at our disposal, and then next year, we’ll amplify it and build on our growth.

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This job allows me to be around people all the time. I love having contact with other ADs, and the opportunity to learn from each other. Our district is tight, and having schools in the immediate area gives us a chance to talk. Have other ADs faced the same challenge I have? The same goes for coaches. Being a coach myself, knowing what they go through, I spend a lot of time interacting with them, and trying my best to be a positive influence in their lives so they can do the same for kids. That trickles down to the community members too. Being an AD is a job where you get to see a lot of people, and I run across them everywhere, whether I’m grocery shopping or golfing. The people here are so great. Richland Northeast is a special place because of the people. We’re a Cavalier Family.


Curious about other tips to help you work smarter? We’ve interviewed several athletic directors about how they work. Find the whole series under our “How I Work” tag –

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