Just in time for the season to begin, Lyman Ward Military Academy officially named its new football coach last week. Roland Bell, who was a strong candidate due to his background in arena football, will take over as the Fighting Rangers’ head man in charge.
“I’m looking forward to the possibilities,” Bell said. “Working with student-athletes again and being a military school, that’s something that’s always intrigued me. So I’m just looking for the opportunity to make Lyman Ward more of a household name for good stuff, for winning.”
Winning hasn’t been easy for the Rangers lately.
After going winless in 2016, LMWA picked up a win to begin last year’s season — a 54-42 victory over People’s Baptist — but it was all downhill from there.
“It’s going to take getting more players out there and trying to get together a good enough coaching staff that can teach and coach my style and work with the kids year round,” Bell said. “It’s going to be super difficult during the summer because most of them leave and they’re all spread out. But we can do a school year-round workout program and give them expectations for when they come back — a weight test, a running test, things like that like we had in college during the summer.”
Bell was born and raised in Alabama, graduating from Zion Chapel then Troy University. He started his coaching career at Russell County, then went to Smiths Station and LaFayette with the junior high programs. For eight years, Bell worked at Notasulga, starting as the offensive coordinator then working his way up to head coach and athletic director.
Following his stint at Notasulga, Bell started a traveling arena football team, coaching some of the talent he had coached over the years who had trouble getting opportunities at the next level.
Bell said he’s always had Lyman Ward on his radar, as he visited the school many years ago during his time with the National Guard. When he saw the Rangers’ job posting online, he couldn’t resist trying to take advantage of the opportunity.
“I feel like he’s a good fit,” Lyman Ward athletic director Keith Elliott said. “He understands a little bit of the process of what we’re up against from a private-school standpoint. He’s experienced, and he’s been at a small program before. He knows X’s and O’s, and I think that’s where we’ve been lacking in the past.”
Over the years, Bell’s coaching style has changed to the point he’s at now where he feels he relates well to the kids and tries to adjust to their strengths. Although he’s always been a spread offense type of coach, he’s adaptable to the ability of the players on each of his teams.
The same goes for his coaching style.
“When I was younger, I was a fireball out there,” Bell said. “But I’ve read a couple Phil Jackson books, and it really changed my style of coaching to where I’m tough but I’m also understanding that they’re going to get it better if I make them think about it until they understand it.”
During his stint at Notasulga, Bell also was the girls basketball coach and led the Blue Devils to back-to-back Final Fours.
Lyman Ward begins practice next week and has its first game of the season Sept. 7 at New Life Christian.