Fulton coach to bring passion, dedication to varsity football team

Jeff Rothrock looks to improve on last year's 1-6 regular season record by bringing discipline and hard work to the playing field.

For Jeff Rothrock, coaching football is not a hobby or even a job. It’s a way of life.

When his second daughter was born, he even left his wife and newborn in the hospital just more than an hour after her birth to make it to the football practice on time.

“I had Kate at 8:45 in the morning, seven weeks early,” said his wife, Megan Rothrock, a teacher in the Central Square Central School District. “He left me, literally left me, at like 10 o’clock because it was the first day of preseason and his first day as head coach.” She said she defended him to the nurses, telling them, “It’s very important to him.”

Almost 20 years later, football remains important to the 48-year-old Rothrock, who grew up in Avon, N.Y. A former high school football player, Rothrock has been coaching football since 1986, when he began working as a middle school coach and teacher in Canastota, N.Y. After spending a couple of years at the modified level, Rothrock worked his way up to head coach of the varsity team at Canastota before starting at G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton, where he also teaches biology.

This year, Rothrock will take over as head coach of the Fulton varsity football team, the Fulton City School District confirmed. Fulton posted a disappointing 1-6 regular season record and went winless in league play in 2011. After serving as an assistant coach for 15 years in the district, he will replace Mike Conners, who left Fulton for a position as athletic director and varsity football coach at Oswego – Fulton’s biggest rival.

Rothrock says he spends about 20 to 30 hours a week on coaching alone. For Rothrock and his coaching staff, “Football is our lives.”

Rothrock’s plan is to serve as the head coach at Fulton for one year while they groom the new junior varsity coach, Matt Kimpland, to take over. But his wife doesn’t think he’ll call it quits.

“He’s not staying for a year,” Megan Rothrock said. “He won’t be able to do it.”  

While Rothrock does like to spend his spare time riding on snowmobiles and four wheelers, hunting and teaching vacation Bible school at his church, Megan Rothrock said the family is “nervous” about his pending spare time. “He has to be busy all the time,” she said.

One way he keeps busy is through watching his children’s sports. The couple’s oldest daughter, Emily, is a lacrosse player at Nazareth College, in Rochester. Their middle child, Kate, plays volleyball and lacrosse for Fulton, where she was an Academic All-American in the 2012 lacrosse season. Their youngest, Cole, a middle-schooler, likes to play football and lacrosse.

When his children were younger, Rothrock coached them in youth soccer, but his coaching is not limited strictly to sports.

As teachers, Megan Rothrock said both she and her husband see examples every day of what they do not what their own children to become. “He has high expectations for everyone,” she said.

In preparation for the upcoming 2012 football season, which began Aug. 13 for Rothrock and his team, he has developed a “creed” for his team to focus on every day.

This creed focuses on six main points: loyalty, commitment, brotherhood, dedication, responsibility and trust. Each of his players and their parents will receive copies of Rothrock’s mission statement that they will need to sign and return to the coaches. Rothrock said he hopes his players follow this creed in all aspects of their lives, whether it is at home, on the field or in the classroom. Megan Rothrock said this mission her husband developed for the players is much like his expectations for his own family. “Those are the things that are important to him,” she said.

This intensity is perhaps best felt by those who are on the field with him during practices and workouts.

Senior Fulton middle linebacker and center Cody Dick described his new head coach as “a hard-nosed coach who is discipline first.” But Rothrock is not all grit and force. “He cares more about players than winning,” Dick said. “He’s always sticking his nose out for us.”

Dick said offseason workouts that used to draw only a handful of players now fill up with more than 20 players four times a week.

Kimpland, the junior varsity coach, played under Rothrock in high school. Kimpland said Rothrock has really helped bring the program together.  “He’s probably one of the most dedicated men I’ve been around in sports,” Kimpland said.

This sentiment was echoed by Megan Rothrock, who said, “He’s the hardest working man I’ve met in my life.” She says he gets up early to work on his coaching plans for the day before he goes to school to teach.

Whether Rothrock’s hard work will pay off on the field has yet to be seen. At the end of the 2012 season, four teams will make the playoffs; two will have home field advantage in the opening game. To be one of those two teams, Rothrock said, is a priority.

Another priority is to improve the players who look to the coaches for direction on or off the field.

“Our goal is to make every one of our players better in some capacity,” Rothrock said.

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