A memoir about battling adversity, by the winningest high school soccer coach in New York City public school history! In the Fall of 2018, Martin Luther King Jr. High School’s boys soccer program won its 18th New York City public school championship to culminate a 19–0 season in which it was ranked no. 3 in the country. Martin Jacobson, whose first championship team was in 1996, three years after he became head coach, had put together yet another winning squad, continuing to make history in the process.
But Coach Jake’s story is more than just a soccer tale. In his time as coach at MLK, he has given hundreds of immigrants—from places like Mexico, Columbia, Senegal, Mali, and Haiti, and some of them homeless or parentless—an opportunity to gain some direction in both the classroom as well as on the field. Becoming Coach Jake highlights some of those individuals’ stories and brings to light how, with Jake’s guidance, many of them have gone on to achieve great success in their adult lives.
Along the way, readers learn how Coach Jake got to MLK after a drug-filled past that included multiple failed marriages and near-prison sentences, before quitting drugs and alcohol cold turkey in 1985 after several stints in rehab proved unsuccessful. Jacobson teams up with seasoned journalist Bill Saporito to detail the triumph achieved both on the field and far beyond.
"Gritty and inspiring, this is a great contemporary story of a junkie school-teacher who saved himself and hundreds of immigrant New York kids with hope and a soccer ball.” --Robert Lipsyte, author of SportsWorld: An American Dreamland
“Martin Jacobson’s journey is a very personal one, but it uniquely intersects with two of the largest global issues of our time. We have an opioid epidemic that tears families apart and kills thousands every year alongside the largest human migration in the history of the world forced from their homes by war, gang violence, ‘ethnic cleansing,’ and economic devastation. For Martin, soccer became the key that helped unlock both his getting and staying clean and giving hundreds of immigrant kids from nations around the world an opportunity to have a future. It’s a story of the power of one person. It’s about hope when everything seems hopeless. It’s about being a flawed human being, as are we all, but overcoming, moving forward, and taking us along for the ride. Martin is my friend, but Coach Jake is my hero.” --Lynn Berling-Manuel, CEO, United Soccer Coaches
“What Martin Jacobson has achieved with his New York City players places him permanently into the American soccer coaches' pantheon.” --Mike Woitalla, Executive Editor of Soccer America