In every aspect of football, this coach makes it a point to let his players have fun. Abraham Lincoln High School Head Coach Hakeem Cooper focuses on finding ways for his players to enjoy their time while they are out on the field.
"With things getting back to normal, I just want my boys to have fun and enjoy the sport that they love. They get to work hard and have fun," said Cooper.
Grateful to be coaching at his alma mater in Northeast Philadelphia, Cooper is in his third year as the program's head coach. He started working with the Railsplitters' defense six years ago. Last Saturday, Cooper led his team to a huge conference victory (55-6) over Kensington High School. Coach Cooper was proud of how well his team played.
"My guys have been working hard and they played even harder. We have a great group of seniors that are great leaders," said Cooper, specifically mentioning wide receiver Xavier Irizarry, offensive lineman Alexander Martinez, and defensive end Jason Dawkins.
To celebrate the win, Coach Cooper is the Eagles High School Coach of the Week presented by Hyundai. Cooper is also a finalist for the Eagles High School Coach of the Year, and if he is selected for that honor, he will then be one of 32 league-wide nominees for the Don Shula High School Coach of the Year award. After adding a bunch of new players to his roster this season, Cooper is excited to use the $1,500 grant from this program for more helmets.
"We ran out of helmets early on, so we had to order some more," Cooper continued. "We definitely want to use the money to purchase more helmets so that we can get some more guys out on the field."
Not only is Cooper thankful for the extra help, but he says this Eagles Coach of the Week program will support other local youth football organizations.
"I think it is great," Cooper explained. "It also keeps a lot of the kids off the streets and into these programs, especially with everything going on outside of the city."
While Coach Cooper has been on the sidelines for years, he would not trade it for the world. The best part of his job is watching his players grow throughout their four years and graduate.
"The success and smiles I see on my student-athletes' and their parents' faces when they graduate," said Cooper about what makes his job so great. With some of his students moving on to train for college football or just continue their education, Coach Cooper knows his players made those lifelong relationships with each other on the field.
For people who do not know Cooper, he is quite the workaholic. Cooper says his locker room is like his second home, and when he has free time, he likes to watch film. Everything he does is for the benefit of his players.
"I coach because I love the kids. I love giving back to the community. I'm grateful to coach at the high school that I attended. It means a lot," Cooper said.