LaDontay Bell's coaching adventure began when his wife, Markiesha Bell, sent him an email.
"Coaching actually found me. I didn't find coaching. I was around the game when there was a coaching position that was open, and my wife sent me the email. She told me to check it out. I actually interviewed for the job in a janitor's closet. And here I am today," said Coach Bell, who began his coaching career as the running backs and special teams coach at Chester High School.
Bell has been coaching since 2010 and he is in his sixth year as the head coach for the Clippers. Being able to motivate his players to be the best they can be on and off the field gets him excited as he heads into work every day. One thing Bell is most proud of is bringing more buzz to his program.
"To just see the program turn around from where it was to where it is now. So many people would speak about other sports such as basketball in the City of Chester, but now football is getting so much recognition," explained Bell.
The Clippers deserve that recognition as they are 7-0 this season. Coach Bell is being honored as this week's Eagles High School Coach of the Week, presented by Hyundai.
"It's an awesome accomplishment. I'm always thankful to be a part of the program that the Eagles have put together for high schools and coaches, such as myself," Bell said. "It gives us a bit of motivation and encouragement to be better coaches and players."
For the Chester community, it only took Coach Bell a couple of years to get people talking about his program. In his first two seasons as head coach, it was a hard for the Clippers to find their identity as they were 2-8 for back-to-back seasons (2016 and '17). In 2019, the pieces of the puzzle came together, and the Clippers became a top competitor with a 7-3 record. The Clippers continued to flourish this past spring as they were the champions of the United X League. Coach Bell says his team is still feeding off that championship win.
"I think that's what really helped us get to where we are today, 7-0. One of the biggest words in our locker room is momentum," Bell said. "We use that word often. I think in the locker room that helps our players help our program. We look for any momentum we can find to really motivate our players for the upcoming games and throughout the season."
Motivation has been something the team has needed this year with distractions in the community. Gun violence is something that has affected Chester in the past, and it has interrupted high school football games this season. Just last month, there was a shooting a block away from a Chester football game.
"Another distraction within the community is gun violence. We have to make sure that our players get to school, get to practice, and get home from school safely. It's been something we have to maneuver around in order for us to continue moving forward," Bell explained.
Although football comes second to academics, it has the ability to bring these players together and helps keep them off the streets.
"Some young men just love the game of football and if they could just play that they would, but there's a school component to it. Football is really driving young men to come to school and stay in their books," Bell said. "What we do is we encourage them. I'll tell them, 'You want to play this game that you love, first get your academics together and then let's play the game of football.'"