‘Coach Jake’: A new documentary on an inspiring man’s battles, on and off the field


‘Coach Jake’: A new documentary on an inspiring man’s battles, on and off the field


Gaby Kirschner
Gaby Kirschner

The winningest high school soccer coach in New York City history faces what may be his toughest season yet.

Martin Jacobson has had one hell of a life.

The man now famous as one of the, if not the, best youth coaches of all time has taken his Martin Luther King JR. High School team to new heights — those that both he, as someone recovering from years of heroin abuse and living with a 1994 diagnosis of Hepatitis C, and the underprivileged, troubled kids he coached might never have thought possible for themselves.

A new documentary from filmmaker Ian Phillips, which premiers tomorrow at the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York City, is a peek into the past-and-present of the now-70-year-old ‘Coach Jake,’ from drug addict to unstoppable winner and, now, to a man with cirrhosis of the liver and a legacy on the line.

“I think he lives for us and this sport,” one of his players says about him.

Both parts of that statement are equally true when it comes to Coach Jake; he’s helped his kids celebrate much more than just winning games. As Timothy Williams wrote in 2007:

Some of the players who join his team are from Senegal, Mali and Haiti, and they sometimes arrive illegally and without a place to live. He has helped several get housing in city group homes and has been able to help a few get green cards. He has transformed King into a soccer powerhouse, even though the school has no field. The team practices on the school gym’s basketball courts, and occasionally, the coach and players hop fences to use locked fields. And although some of his players arrive without speaking English, he said about 75 percent of them graduate within four years, higher than the city average of 50 to 60 percent. Several players have received college scholarships and several play in professional leagues around the world.

Watch the full trailer below:

COACH JAKE: A Film by Ian Phillips – Full Length Trailer from Ian Phillips on Vimeo.

You can catch the film premiere tomorrow, September 21, at the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York City. It will also be shown at the Heartland Film Festival in Indiana and the Yonkers Film Festival in New York.

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