Inspiring 815: 'Freeport Future' founder James Cooley - – Rockford’s News Leader

Inspiring 815: 'Freeport Future' founder James Cooley

James Cooley Jr. James Cooley Jr.

Working with kids can be a rewarding job for many educators, but sometimes their job ends once the bell rings.

That's not the case for one basketball coach in Freeport.

James Cooley Jr. is taking his responsibility to his students above and beyond the court. 

"He just goes out of his way to make sure everybody has what they need, and can access what they need." said Lannie Lehman, one of Cooley's coworkers.

James is so dedicated to his students, that on top of being a basketball coach for two schools and running security, he started 'Freeport Future'.

A traveling competitive basketball team that boys and girls in Freeport can afford.

"We have a lot of low income families so we do a lot of payment plans, a lot of things and guidelines in place, to make sure we get as many kids able to play. We never want finances to be a reason why a kid can't participate." said Cooley.

He started the group three years ago with just one team, and says he never expected it to grow to what it is now, 8 teams and counting.

"I initially just wanted to start it with the one team, and just do what I could to coach middle school, and continue to help these kids grow and feed into our high school talent base." said Cooley.

But his coaching doesn't end on the court. 

"They know if they need something they can call me, they know if they're having an issue they can talk to me, and they know I'm not gonna be judgmental or anything. I'm gonna help them. And a lot of them that's all they need, is somebody to listen to them, relate to them and understand them." said Cooley.

And his dedication to his students shows not just through his fellow teachers, but through the kids as well.

"He calms me down a lot and is easier to talk to because he actually listens." said one student.

The team is something James says he hopes can help keep the kids on the right path.

"I really honestly believe a lot of these kids would really be lost, in trouble, whether that's with the law or in school.  A lot of them need something like this, because we hold them accountable." said Cooley. 

James Cooley Junior, Inspiring 815, one hoop at a time.

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