BEACON FALLS — After three decades in education — and sometimes interminable hours at fields and courts — Brian Fell decided that it’s finally time for him to come out of the game.
Fell, Woodland’s athletic director since 2008, is officially retired from his career as a teacher, administrator and athletic director. His last day at Woodland was June 28.
While the 58-year-old admits he had his “eye on the date for a few years,” he finds it a bit difficult to leave a place like Woodland, where he praised the culture and the people.
“The people I’ve worked with are great people to work with,” Fell said. “It’s probably those people, the coaches, the administrators — I’m going to miss that. That type of companionship was the best part of the job. We have great kids. We have pretty good parents. The coaches are a solid group. It’s hard to leave a job when you’ve had a good relationship with so many people involved.”
Fell, a 1982 graduate of the United States Naval Academy with degrees in oceanography, nuclear engineering and educational leadership, was a teacher, dean of students and athletic director during his 20-year tenure at Rocky Hill High.
He had to juggle his teaching load with his AD duties at Rocky Hill, so when Dan Scavone left Woodland in 2008, Fell applied and earned the full-time administrative job as a combined AD and assistant principal.
His 11-year tenure in the Woods featured plenty of highlights — especially in 2013, when the Hawks won the Class M girls volleyball state title and hosted more than 2,000 football fans for the inaugural George Pinho Trophy game.
Despite all the responsibilities that come with being an athletic director — scheduling games, buses, officials, and staff, ordering equipment, and dealing with unruly fans — Fell said those types of memorable moments reminded him why he began the job in the first place.
“I’m a sports guy. I like watching sports,” Fell said. “Whenever you get these big games over the years that have had a lot of meaning, those are just fun. They’re exciting to watch. When you look back at some of the individual events when the excitement was high, that was one of the reasons I’ve been in this job.”
Fell also cited Woodland’s honor as a Class M recipient of the 2011-12 Michael’s Achievement Cup for overall excellence as a highlight. Woodland was one of 18 schools honored that year for excellence in sportsmanship, participation, athletic scholarship, athletic personnel, equity, chemical-free initiatives and athletic achievement.
“I thought that was a great honor for us,” Fell said.
Fell’s impact during his tenure at Woodland extended well beyond Region 16. He served as the president of both the Naugatuck Valley League and the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors, and he was on numerous committees for the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.
“There’s so much turnover among the athletic directors in our state and our league, so the people who have been around and have that experience in those areas need to step up,” Fell said. “If they don’t, nobody else will. I felt it was particularly important that I step up and take some of those roles to provide some stability to both the league and the state.”
Longtime Woodland history teacher Chris Decker took over as the new athletic director and dean of students, and Fell doesn’t think Decker will encounter any dramatic changes in the local high school sports landscape anytime soon.
“High school sports in a lot of ways is like the big, lumbering supertanker. Nothing is changing dramatically. It’s a slow, gradual process,” Fell said. “If I’m concerned about any one area, I’m concerned about the numbers of kids playing football. But there’s a lot about high school sports that stays the same, and as long as people keep looking at why kids play high school sports, I think a lot of it will remain the same.”
As for his personal future, Fell plans on downsizing and traveling with his wife, Laura, on a little bit more of a normal time schedule.
“I’m not going to miss waking up at 6:30 a.m. and getting home at 10 at night,” Fell said with a laugh.
Wherever his travels take him, though, Fell said he probably won’t be able to stay too far away from Woodland for too long.
“It’s hard to pour your heart and soul into an athletic program like I have for the last 11 years and not keep some sort of interest in what’s going on,” Fell admitted. “I’m sure I’ll be back to watch a game.”
That might be a new challenge in itself.
“It’ll be nice to see if I can come back and sit in the bleachers, enjoy a game,” Fell said, “and resist the urge to tell a parent to behave.”