The “Fulcher Impact”
Over the past six seasons, under the humor and guidance of Coach Jen Fulcher, the Williston Northampton girl’s varsity lacrosse team have maintained a 65-5-1 record, gone undefeated during both the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and rose, according to LaxPower, from #42 to as high as the #2 girl’s prep team in New England.
Such an impressive record does not come easily, however. While some students are headed to dinner the lacrosse players are on the field running offenses, practicing stick work, and sprinting.
“It’s not circumstance that her program is successful,” said Assistant Coach and Dean of Students Kathy Noble. “Jen runs a tight ship with high and unwavering expectations that her kids reach.”
In her coaching, Fulcher stresses the idea that when you want something you have to be willing to work harder than your opponents. “Conditioning is a high priority in the team’s schedule,” said Noble. “The girls work as hard on a daily basis as many college teams.”
“What’s special [about Fulcher’s coaching] is that it’s all done with some degree of levity and smiling faces,” she added.
At the core of Fulcher’s coaching ethos is the message:
“We will not meet a team who is willing to work harder than we are, who is fitter than us, or who wants it more than we do. You’re not tired.”
From the sidelines of a game, or during a particularly difficult conditioning exercise you can hear a chorus of “You’re not tired,” coming from the players.
That doesn’t mean Coach Fulcher expects her team to be perfect. “Part of improving and growing up is making mistakes, and we always want to grow,” Fulcher said. “I try to create an atmosphere where kids are not afraid to make mistakes. Kids who play afraid to make mistakes aren’t playing the way I want them to.”
Positive attitude and a team-first mentality are a must for members of this team. These girls work hard at practice to become the very best athletes they can be not for personal gain but because it will improve the team. On and off the field they support each other, carrying each other through the highs and lows of their high school years.
“As a motivator she is truly outstanding,” wrote Mark Conroy, the athletic director, in a recent email. “She has an extraordinary ability to inspire her athletes to become tremendous competitors and teammates.”
“I have no doubt that the life lessons our girls learn playing for Jen will serve them well far beyond their lacrosse playing days here at Williston,” wrote Conroy.
“There’s no better way to prepare for life than sport.”
Fulcher’s coaching does not stop when she steps off the field. It’s the bigger lessons that she gets to teach that matter more than the scoreboard.
“There’s no better way to prepare for life than sport,” said Coach Fulcher. The girls who have played in this program feel “empowered to take things on,” she said. “They can be whatever they want…mothers, coworkers, the President of the United States, whatever they want, and they learn that through the confidence they earn on the field and the resilience they gain from playing the game.”
Just as Coach Fulcher’s commitment to her players reaches past the field, so does the dedication that the alumni have for Williston’s lacrosse program. Coach Fulcher said what means the most to her is when she receives letters from former players reminiscing about how the lacrosse program changed them as a person, how they grew as a competitor, learned to believe in themselves, and to put the group before the individual.
Erin Davey, a former girls varsity lacrosse assistant coach, stressed the unique balance of Fulcher’s coaching style.
“She creates intensity on the field but instills a remarkable amount of poise in her athletes, and that is something that is very important when working with female athletes,” she said.
Jeff Simpson, father of Karly ’13 and Gracie ’15, both members of the team, notes that since Fulcher was named head coach, “Williston girl’s lacrosse has experienced nothing less than a meteoric rise in their dominance over the most elite lax programs in New England.”
“All of us should take a moment to think about the rare combination of talents, and commitment Coach Fulcher has brought to bear on this program,” he said.
“It’s like I tell my son Hudson,” Fulcher said. “You play Monopoly to win, but when you only focus on the hotels you miss the fun in between.”