Coach enjoys helping out camp

Published 11:37 pm Friday, June 8, 2018


Daily News

The way Al Bell sees it, if you’re an adult, if you’re someone in a position to have young people looking up to you, then you’re a role model.

“A lot of people say I’m not a role model, but I say as long as you’re an adult, they’re going to be looking up to you,” said Bell, who teaches physical education to elementary-school students in DeKalb County. “They’ll watch everything you do. If you do things that aren’t supposed to be done, they’re going to emulate it. So don’t ever say you’re not a role model, because you are.”

That’s a philosophy Bell has adopted during his four decades as a teacher and a coach, and it’s a belief he carries with him each year to a baseball camp at LaGrange College.

Bell has been helping out at the camp as an instructor since 2003, and he was back on the turf of Cleaveland Field at Phil Williamson Stadium last week for the five-day camp.

Bell began working at the camp when Kevin Howard was the Panthers’ head coach, and he has continued to come back since David Kelton took over the program in 2014.

“Coach calls me (each year) and says I’ve got to have you,” Bell said.

And Bell, who is assigned the task of working with the youngest campers, is always happy to answer the bell.

“This is a blessing,” Bell said. “I love this type of thing.”

The youngest of the campers have just finished kindergarten, so keeping their attention for three hours a day, for five days, can be a challenge.

“The young kids, they lose their attention quick, and it’s hot,” Bell said. “They’d rather be at home playing a game or in the pool. If you can do the little things to get their attention, and then make it fun while they’re doing, they’ll learn.”

Bell is a New Jersey native who made his way to the Georgia in the early 80s, and he has been the Peach State ever since.

Bell recently completed his 40th year in education, and he plans on teaching for two more years before retiring.

One of the things Bell loves about teaching, and coaching, is the opportunity it affords to have a positive impact on young people.

“You try to be a role model and make a difference,” he said. “If you just change one life, that changes another life, and it’s a snowball effect. But don’t ever give up on anyone.”

Kelton’s hope is that, even when Bell leaves teaching behind, he’ll continue to help out at his camp.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have him,” Kelton said. “He’s so patient, and so good with the kids. I just think those little ones grow up so much whether it’s one or two weeks they come because of how good he teaches them. He’s been able to do this all five years with me, and I hope I get to keep him.”