ELKTON — Kelly Zimmerman announced today she is stepping down after two years as athletic director at Elkton High School to focus on her family.
“Honestly, being home with my kids last summer, I just saw how quickly they’re growing up and how much time I’m missing. I really knew at the beginning of the year that that would be my last year as AD,” Zimmerman said. “I was working really hard to see if I could stay home with them, to go one step further, and I figured it out. So I’m going to be a full-time mom, a part-time worker and I’m really excited about it.
“I don’t regret a day of doing the AD and really it was a great experience. It’s just not the right time in my life. I have a 7 and 10-year-old and I’ve just missed too many dinners, too many bedtimes.”
Zimmerman oversaw Golden Elks athletics during a period in which its football team advanced to the state championship game for the first time since 2000 and its boys’ basketball program made headlines across the state for its involvement in a brawl immediately following a playoff contest.
She will be replaced by Elkton volleyball and softball coach Amy Sexton, resulting in the school’s third athletic director since 2014. Zimmerman took over for Jim Leitgeb, who left the post to become assistant principal at North East High.
Zimmerman noted that she will be leaving Elkton high school entirely, stepping away from education and her position as head girls’ lacrosse coach and girls’ lacrosse region director.
“I loved the experience of it and what the job entails. I love sports, I love helping the athletes and I love to see them succeed and moving on. I love just tracking them and helping them with grades and behavioral things. I like being around it,” Zimmerman said of being an AD. “There’s a lot behind the scenes and I have so much respect for every athletic director out there because the amount of work that there is, it’s something that nobody knows until you’re in it.”
When she took over the position as AD, Zimmerman noted that she hoped to “paint the town purple” with Elkton pride. She noted that the football team’s journey to the title game helped rally the town around its high school and aided her vision.
“That was amazing. It brings a lot of spirit to the school and a lot of pride to the athletes. That was really cool to be a part of,” she said. “It was also [meaningful] to be able to explain to [the players] that not everyone get this chance. Just being able to be on the field and be a part of it was really neat. I think they got a good taste of it and they have a good chance to get back there.”
Only four months later, members of the school’s boys’ basketball team were charged by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office for their involvement in a post-game brawl featuring Elkton players and fans at Harford Tech High on Feb. 28. Part of the fight appeared in a video on Twitter and resulted in coverage by various news outlets in Maryland.
The Feb. 28 incident was the second fight of the season involving the Elkton boys’ basketball team. The first occurred following a home game against Joppatowne on Jan. 4.
As a result, Elkton athletics announced scheduling changes at a March meeting, forcing this year’s lacrosse teams to play Harford County teams on neutral sites and committing next year’s boys’ basketball team to play its games in an earlier time slot. Student-athletes identified to be involved in the Feb. 28 brawl received criteria to meet in order to rejoin their teams next school year, but are banned from playing in any athletic contests on Harford County property for one year.
“It really comes down to management and having a plan. You can’t prepare for those things. We obviously had no idea that would happen. So just having a plan in place [will help alleviate possible incidents],” Zimmerman said. “I think Elkton High School has learned a lesson in that and I think things will be a lot different, sportsmanship obviously being the biggest key.
“I think it’s just a shame because we do have such great sportsmanship in most of our sports. With 95 percent of our athletes, everything goes smoothly and everything goes well but everyone will remember that night and attach that to Elkton High School and that’s the part that makes me sad. I feel for all the great athletes that come out of Elkton High School who are attached to that simply because they go to school with them.”
Sexton will be the fifth athletic director at Elkton in the past 37 years. She’s already begun taking over the duties previously held by Zimmerman.
“She is by far the best candidate for the job,” Zimmerman said. “She’s going to be fabulous.”
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig