Photo by Rick Watson.
0812 Coach Chris BellCoach Cris Bell is implementing a new vision for the football program at Oak Mountain High School.
Oak Mountain High School football finished 2-8 the last two years. They haven’t had a winning season since 2007.
This year, new Coach Cris Bell intends to change things for the program, but his philosophy doesn’t start with strategies and plays. It starts with character.
“Athletics, and especially football, is a vehicle to teach young men how to become better husbands, fathers, workers, employers and citizens,” said Bell. “The scoreboard is the least important thing we have to worry about, but unfortunately, it’s the way we are judged more so than anything else.”
Bell expects his players to put out a phenomenal effort. He expects them to act with class. He expects them to make decisions and be responsible.
“If we can get them doing that in the football program, they can take it to math and biology class,” he said. “We expect them to sit in front of the classroom, and say ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir.’ We expect them to be leaders in the school. We want our kids to be the type of student that has the school administration saying, ‘That’s how an Oak Mountain student is,’ and be proud of it.”
One of the biggest challenges coming into a struggling program is changing the mindset. When a team loses consistently, over time, they sometimes forget that they can win.
“You have to convince the kids that they can compete and there’s value in competing,” said Bell. “Often times, our biggest opponent is ourselves.”
The coaches will not accept anything less than the best the team can give.
“I expect these kids to be leaders in the school, and the last few years, for whatever reason, that hasn’t been happening,” he said.
Entering into his 23rd year as a football coach, Bell has a wealth of experience. He attended Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and later served as defensive coordinator there for five years. He went on to coach high school ball in Virginia for 15 years before moving to a private Christian high school in Georgia. Last year before landing at Oak Mountain, he coached at Marietta High School in the Atlanta area.
Bell and his wife of 22 years, Kim, have four children. Their daughter, Haden, is a sophomore at the University of Alabama, so the family was excited about being closer to her. “Much to my wife’s dismay, all the kids bleed crimson and white.”
Daughter Pearson is entering the tenth grade at Oak Mountain, where she will play volleyball and either play lacrosse or run track in the spring. Daughter Evie is entering the fifth grade, and son Reese celebrated his eighth birthday in June.
Coach Bell said his family loves the Oak Mountain area, and they are excited about their future here, especially with his vision for Oak Mountain football.