Employee Q&A: Associate Athletics Director Becky Bell

Employee Q&A: Associate Athletics Director Becky Bell

By Amanda BallardUniversity Communications
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Associate Athletics Director Becky Bell is also director of the C.A.T.S. Life Skills program for student-athletes and creator of the Step UP! Be a Leader Make a Difference program.
Associate Athletics Director Becky Bell is also director of the C.A.T.S. Life Skills program for student-athletes and creator of the Step UP! Be a Leader Make a Difference program.

Name: Becky Bell
Position: Associate Athletics Director, C.A.T.S. Life Skills Program Director
Number of years at the UA: 29
Favorite thing about working at the UA: Well, I have the greatest job in the world. There's no question. I love my job because it's so diverse. Working with the incredible student-athletes that we have and the staff and Greg Byrne as our athletics director. I'm very passionate about what I do. I'm one of those lucky people that loves to come to work every day. I believe with my heart and soul in what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.
Favorite moment in sports history: I could pick a few, but I'll say winning my first tournament with my dad at the tennis club. I still have the trophy. I was around 10 years old.

When Becky Bell attended a presentation on bystander intervention in sexual assault situations in 2006, it got her wheels turning.

"I left there thinking, 'That's a neat idea and neat approach, but why is it just for sexual assault?'" she recalled.

That nugget of an idea eventually grew into Step UP! Be a Leader Make a Difference, a bystander intervention program at the UA that teaches students to be proactive in helping others. Bell, along with other national experts, developed the program to cover many issues, such as depression, alcohol, eating disorders, hazing and other problems commonly faced by college students. The program provides students with foundational trainings and ways they can intervene before an issue gets out of hand. It was the first program of its kind in the country.

The program has since won national recognition, including a National Association of Student Personnel Administrators-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Excellence "Gold" Award. (Read more about national attention for Step UP! in this UANews article.) Over 200 colleges and universities are now using the program in some capacity.

The idea behind Step UP! is simple. "This is our UA family, let's look out for each other," Bell said. "Let's be there for each other. Let's Step UP! if we notice a situation where someone could use some help."

Bell main job is overseeing the Commitment to an Athlete's Total Success Life Skills program, which provides student-athletes with personal counseling, health and wellness education, career development and leadership opportunities.  She serves on multiple campus groups including one that is part of a national hazing coalition. Among other duties, she also meets with new recruits, hosts other life skills workshops, and organizes new student-athlete orientations.

"It's a very diverse job," she says.  “Every day is different."

Outside her office hang four NCAA Women of the Year Award plaques, a significant recognition Bell says is a testament to the successful collaboration between student-athletes, the C.A.T.S. program and other athletic department units. She is hoping that former Wildcat Brigetta Barrett, a track and field Olympic silver medalist in the high jump and top 30 nominee for this year's award, will add a fifth plaque to the wall. For Bell, such national recognitions become success stories for the C.A.T.S. program.

"We're the only school in the county with four winners, and no other Pac-12 school even has a finalist," Bell said. "It's great to win national championships, but this award is basically saying you're the most well-rounded student-athlete in the country. That's an accumulation of a lot of people's hard work."

Bell grew up in Riverside, Calif., and attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned an undergraduate degree in kinesiology and was an All American and team captain on the women’s tennis team. She worked as assistant tennis coach at UCLA until 1985, when she was hired as head tennis coach for the UA. She has been in her current position for 16 years. She's also earned master's degrees in sports administration and counseling from the UA and Chapman University, respectively.

When she isn't hustling to presentations or meeting with students, Bell enjoys her downtime by relaxing and doing low key activities like reading, swimming, watching TV and her latest hobby: making iMovies. Her pup, Champ, is always by her side. "He's my baby. He's as spoiled as you can get," she says.

Bell recently took time to speak with LQP about her career.

What was your first job?

I worked at the Riverside Swim Club when I was 14 or 15 cooking hamburgers, french fries and Apple Annies (a fried dessert with apples). It was great. I think ultimately it taught me about responsibility, having a job and saving money – the types of life lessons that you don't really think about at the time, but upon reflection you're glad you learned those lessons early in life. Mostly, I competed as a tennis player. I was traveling and playing national tournaments.

Describe what you do.

My job is really multifaceted. Sometimes I say I do everything but academics.  I don't do academic counseling, I don't help with classes or eligibility, but I do all of the extracurricular things. I run our leadership groups. I do career development – resumes, cover letters mock interviews, grad school prep, and post grad scholarship applications.  The Step UP! program keeps me very busy. I help with community service and do some personal counseling. We sometimes host speakers and I do lots of workshops. I organize and run the new student-athlete orientations – this summer we had four. I coordinate the Faculty Fellows that have office hours in the McKale Memorial Center (Donna Swaim and Bill Neumann). It's a very diverse job and every day is different, which is great.

If you didn't have this job, what career would you have?

I don't know. I can't imagine. I've had different jobs, some during the summer coaching national teams and running professional tournaments. I would guess it would probably be somewhere in athletics. But I can't imagine not doing this. Sometimes, people say they were born to do a particular job. I feel that this is what I was born to do.

Who have been your best mentors and why?

My dad. He passed away in 1993. He was, and is, my guiding light. He taught me so much about so many things. Mainly always give your very best effort, do the right thing and that you can always learn something – from the good and the bad, the wins and the losses. I've also had a lot of people that have helped me along the way by giving me opportunities. Gayle Godwin at UCLA gave me the opportunity to coach there and then to help coach the National Jr. Fed Cup Team (for the United States Tennis Association). Without Gayle, I wouldn't have had those opportunities. And certainly Rocky LaRose here at the UA. There have been a lot of people I've learned from in different ways.

What career advice would you offer to someone just starting out?

I would say to always keep learning. Keep learning and keep growing. Always strive to get better and seek out those that can make you better. Give your best effort. Be willing to fail. Be honest. Go the extra mile. For people that want to advance, stand out. Be different. Show your value. Change with the times.

How would you like to spend your retirement?

I think I'll probably travel more than I do now. I mean, when I get time off now, I just want to be at home and rest. So I'm sure I'll travel a little bit more and go places I haven't been. Certainly, it will revolve around a four-legged friend. There are some places in the states I haven't been. I've only been to Europe once and I may want to go back there. It's a ways off, so I don't want to think too much about it.

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