The decision to retire as head coach of the RDC Kings soccer team wasn’t easy, but it was one Steve Fullarton felt it was time to make.
After eight years as head coach, following three years as an assistant coach with Doug Holloway, Fullarton announced two weeks ago this would be his final season.
“It’s a demanding job, and the fact I’m working full time (at Southside Chrysler), I’m finding it more difficult to give the time to the team it needs. I’m also a new granddad and I want to dust off the golf clubs. I’m the kind of guy if I can’t give 110 percent I’d rather step away.”
But he’ll miss it.
“It definitely has been a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s been a big challenge but I really enjoyed the players and the teams and the people at the college have been unbelievable. I’ll miss that but what I won’t miss is the administration part of it. It’s a 12 month job. People see the two months we’re on the field, but there’s a lot that has to be done. You need to make sure the guys are in school and there’s recruiting and even the occasional game during the off-season.”
Fullarton was born and raised in Scotland and played at a high level, including professionally for two seasons. He also had a tryout with Sunderland of the Premier League. He started as a left forward and ended up as a left back.
“I saw everything, but I was always more comfortable facing the play than having my back to it.”
Thirty years ago he moved to Canada, settling in Linden.
“Our sponsor was from Acme so it just worked out.”
That was where he first got into coaching youngsters. From there he moved to Red Deer in 1988 and took over as the technical director with the Red Deer Minor Soccer Association. In 2004 he joined Holloway with RDC and was on board when they won the bronze medal in 2005, with a 3-2 overtime victory over Mount Royal. Gaelan Lavery, who is an assistant coach with Fullarton, scored the winning goal.
The following year the Kings fell to the bottom of the South Division and sat there for three years. Fullarton took over in 2007 and struggled for two years before he was able to start his rebuild.
The team has steadily moved up. Three years ago the Kings placed second in the Southern Division and fourth overall. The 2013-14 season saw them win the South and finish third with a 2-1 win over Lethbridge.
“Early on we did struggle, but we’ve become a force in the league,” he said, adding his approach toward recruiting has helped that a lot
“One year we really struggled to get the numbers so I decided to always look two or three years ahead so you always had the influx of players,” he explained. “This year we had 30 players at camp … that’s what we want every year.”
Besides the Kings, Fullarton also worked with the Red Deer Minor Soccer Association.
“One of the reasons I took a more hands-on approach with minor soccer was to see what was available and there are a lot of good young players coming up. The future with the college looks bright. Some of those players I’ve already recruited and hopefully they still come.”
Although Fullarton won’t be at RDC he plans on keeping his hand involved in minor soccer with the idea of building players to eventually play at the college level.
“I’m going to help out the youth program … the U12 to U18 boys teams,” explained the 50-year-old.
Fullarton will be missed with the Kings, but mainly by his players. Andrew Jevne has been with the team for five years and even changed programs so he could stay.
“He’s meant a lot to the program and to the players,” said Jevne. “He came in when we were one of the worst teams in the league and now we’re one of the most competitive. He installed professionalism and discipline and turned the program around.
“His influence on his players is obvious. A lot of us returned because of him.”
The Kings have two regular season games remaining, both at home this weekend as they host Medicine Hat Saturday and Lethbridge Sunday. The Kings go into the weekend tied with Lakeland for the third and final playoff berth out of the South Division.
“It would be nice to make the playoffs and have a good run with this being Steve’s final year,” said Jevne.
Fullarton isn’t looking ahead, but looking back he will always remember his time with the college, the players and especially the team two years ago.
“The year we won the south and won bronze will be a highlight,” he said. “It’s tough to win in this league.”