Jason Bell feels most at home on a football field guiding his impressionable athletes toward manhood through athletics.
“Sports are a great vehicle where a man can scream at a kid and it turn out positive,” explained Bell, 43, who resides in Stanton Heights but was born in Midland, PA and moved to East Liberty while in middle school. “That kid trusts you from an athletic standpoint because that’s what they love to do. I use football as a vehicle. It’s not all about sports. We’re not all going to make it into the NFL—there’s only about one percent that make it into the NFL—but we can all have a good quality of life.”
That’s why he’s so excited to be joining the Imani Christian Academy Saints football team as its head coach.
Imani Christian Academy is a small, private school located in the East Hills of Pittsburgh. It played its first WPIAL game in 2012 under former head coach, Harvey Smith who coached the team for one season and was not rehired. Imani Christian Academy is ranked 136th in the state and 3103 nationally. The school was started in 1993 as an alternative to public education.
“At Imani, the foundation is about the kids. The whole focus is about the kids academically and athletically and how they affect each other. It’s a great fit because I love working with kids and seeing that light bulb go off. You can say something a thousand times and when that light bulb goes off and they get it, it’s a wonderful feeling,” said Bell who played offensive guard for Peabody High School before attending Thiel College and playing the same position. From there he transferred to South Carolina State, graduating in 1995 with a degree in business management with a minor in marketing.
He returned to Pittsburgh and landed a job as a buyer-in-training for Finish Line before landing an assistant coaching position at Carrick High School. Bell held that position from 1997 to 1999.
From 1999 to 2003, Bell worked as assistant coach at the now-defunct South Votech School located on Pittsburgh’s South side.
Bell landed a position as defensive coordinator at Schenley High School in 2004. He took over as head coach in 2008 and served in that position until the school closed in 2010.
Under his leadership, Schenley, which was mainly known for its basketball program, won the City championship before closing its doors.
He plans on helping Imani’s Saints earn the same accolades.
“We’re going to have a program versus a team. We all grew up in the inner city and we all realize how smart the kids are. They can be stars if someone works with them. I use athletics as the hook to get them ready for life,” said Bell who will retain his job as a behavioral specialist at University Prep 6-12 at Milliones during the day and coach at Imani Christian Academy after school.
“I don’t envision us having any problems with the WPIAL,” said Bell who enjoys cooking and riding motorcycles when he isn’t coaching. “Clairton’s there and they are a powerhouse, but I’m excited to compete in the WPIAL because I didn’t have that opportunity at Peabody. Right now we have about 20 kids on the team; usually there are 20-30 on a single A team. We are kind of small but that’s alright. It builds character and makes them stronger.”