STEENS — Bill Beck is used to wearing a lot of hats.
From coaching football, working as athletic director, and coaching boys basketball, track and field, and cross country in the last 15 years at DeSoto School in West Helena, Arkansas, Beck has learned staying busy isn’t a problem.
Jay Watts knows finding things to do is easy at small schools, too. Beck and Watts, who worked at North Sunflower Academy in Drew, started their teaching and coaching careers around 30 years ago in the old 10-team North Central Conference, so the men have known each other for a long time and have crossed paths at numerous sporting events. When the DeSoto School and Columbus Christian Academy boys basketball teams faced off in the Mississippi Association of Independent School Class A tournament in February at Delta Academy, Watts and Beck, who is now heaadmaster at CCA, talked about an opening for a football coach at CCA. That conversation led to an offer Beck ultimately accepted to become the new football coach and athletic director at CCA.
“It gave me an opportunity to get back closer to my parents. They are in the mid 80s,” said Beck, who was born and raised in Eupora. He said his parents still live there. “Knowing Jay and knowing what he stands for and having worked closely with him before, I thought it was a good opportunity to make a move.”
On Wednesday, Beck was at CCA to meet all of his players officially for the first time and to set in motion plans for the offseason. Beck said DeSoto School is moving from 11-man football to eight-man football. He said he always has been an 11-man football guy, which was part of his thinking for taking the job at CCA.
Beck said taking the job at CCA also gives him a chance to spend more time with his wife, Melissa, and his fifth-grade daughter and his third-grade son. He said he has worked year round for the 30 years, so it will be nice to take a break between sports seasons.
“It was kind of a no-brainer knowing Jay,” said Beck, 53. “I have known about the school and I followed it when it was known as Immanuel (Christian School). I always thought it was a good school and stood for the right things.”
Beck will replace Greg Watkins, who was 22-53 in seven seasons as football coach at CCA. This past season, CCA went 2-9 and lost to West Memphis Christian 49-0 in the first round of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class A playoffs. He will remain as the school’s boys basketball coach and will assist Beck with athletic director duties.
“One off the things that always impressed me about Bill was his work ethic,” Watts said. “Bill may not always have had the greatest athletes, but they were always going to be prepared and they always were going to be in shape and they always were going to believe they could win.
“His work ethic and his character are just unbelievable. It is a great addition to the staff.”
Watts said adding Beck will give the coaches more time between seasons to plan and to prepare for offseason programs and to have more direct interaction with the student-athletes. He also is excited about Beck’s style of coaching and his ability to get the most out of his players and what it will add to CCA.
CCA had its best season under Watkins in 2014, when it went 7-5 and won the program’s first 11-man district title. The campaign included a 34-14 victory against DeSoto School and Beck in the first round of the MAIS playoffs. It was the program’s first home playoff game in 11-man football. The finish helped the Rams earn their most wins in a season since 2003.
Beck led DeSoto School to a 3-8 finish in 2017. Trinity Episcopal beat DeSoto School 34-0 in the first round of the MAIS Class A playoffs.
At CCA, Beck will teach four classes of math. He started his stint at DeSoto School in the 2003-04 school year. He left for a year to work at Marshall Academy in Holly Springs before returning to DeSoto to take over the football program.
In taking over for Watkins, Beck said he hopes to build on what has been accomplished. Like Watts, Beck said he has crossed paths with Watkins numerous times through the years. He anticipates running programs that will ask and demand a lot of their student-athletes. Beck believes student-athletes flourish when their coaches demand excellence from them.
“You can do a lot of things if you have somebody who you believe you can do it,” Beck said. “I think that might be a lost art in society today. Success comes after hard work. We live in a society where we’re told things are going to be easy or they should be easy, but you have to work before the payoff comes. That is what I try to instill in my players. In doing that, once you pay the price, it’s a whole lot harder to give in if you have offered up more for the prize than the other guy. You can call that old school, but you have got to pay the price to be successful. We’re going to try to instill that in them more than it already has been.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.