Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Walt Bell is using social media to his advantage

The new head coach is an active presence on Twitter and Instagram

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Walt Bell is using social media to his advantage

Caroline O'Connor

Caroline O'Connor

Caroline O'Connor

By Ben Painchaud, Collegian Staff

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At his introductory press conference, new Massachusetts football head coach Walt Bell announced his intentions to revamp the team’s culture, and part of what he’s done to work towards that early on is by being an active presence on social media—and without assistance, too.

Bell said after spring practice on Thursday that he runs his social media accounts himself. “It doesn’t take a long time,” he said.

Bell has replaced the gruff, old-school style of Mark Whipple with a youthful energy that is revealed in part by his Twitter and Instagram feeds. One way that Bell has sparked engagement and excitement through social media is with a brief video segment he dubs “One Take With Coach Bell,” which has evolved to “One Take,” more simply.

Frequently since last week, Bell grabs a player and asks him four random questions, to which the player gives his response (or take) without any do-overs. His most recent sit-down was with defensive lineman Jake Byczko:

View this post on Instagram

@jakebyczko and I post-practice on One Take! #NoDoOvers

A post shared by Walt Bell (@coachwaltbell) on

Defensive coordinator Aazaar Abdul-Rahim joked that Bell’s “One Take” segment “creates a little bit of nervousness for the players,” who don’t know what they’re getting into when Bell calls them into the room where the interviews take place.

“Any type of positivity you can bring to the program I think is great for the kids,” said Abdul-Rahim. “Just to hear themselves, see themselves on social media. That’s the day in age that we live in, and I think it’s great for our program.”

After each spring practice, Bell assigns Player of the Day awards to the most outstanding member(s) of the offensive, defensive, and special team units. The most recent recipients were Zak Simon, Logan Darby, and Claudin Cherrelus:

Bell engages with Twitter in many other ways besides his “One Take” and “Player of the Day” bits. He uploads GIFS—often of a fiery explosion complemented with the #MassMen—and retweets fan posts, his coaches, UMass football’s official account, and miscellaneous motivational posts.

Also, Bell very frequently engages with potential recruits through Twitter, retweeting players when they announce an offer, commitment, or official visit. Not only is his social media presence an indication of his youth and with-it-ness, but it’s an effective recruitment tool to the 34-year old head coach.

“The kids we’re recruiting, they’re on their phone,” said Bell. “The more that we’re on their timeline, the better off that we’ll be. So, it’s a huge part of our program, all of our coaches are active on social media to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to create our own momentum.”

Yet, for as active as Bell is on social media, offensive lineman Ray Thomas-Ishman, Sr. does not believe Bell’s Instagram and Twitter tactics have created extra buzz among the players.

“We know that we got to start with unity first, so it’s more about the family,” said Thomas-Ishman. “Ain’t nobody like ‘oh, I want to go, I want to go [on One Take].’ It’s more like we don’t really want to go, because we’re trying to build our family.”

Whether they feed off Bell’s social media presence or not, the Minutemen will look to continue building culture and chemistry with their annual spring game on Saturday, April 20th.

Ben Painchaud can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Ben_Painchaud.

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