February 2020 ROAR

jeanniegregory

Coverage of Rockford athletics at all levels.

PROUDLY PRESENTS

Where Are They Now?

JEFF COLE

CLASS OF 2002

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

There are plenty of lessons that RHS boys freshman basketball

coach Jeff Cole likes to teach his players. Those lessons are

not all about the sport of basketball; plenty are about what life

hands you and how to handle those challenges, as well as how

that impacts the person one becomes.

“For me personally, coaching has been much more about

the opportunity to develop impactful relationships with my

student-athletes,” Jeff shares. “I enjoy competing at a high

level as much as anyone, but it’s been far more rewarding to

help mentor my players to be the best version of themselves,

emphasizing the importance of developing a high standard of

character, to be an active role model in their community and

to help achieve their dreams and aspirations. A life coach, if

you will.”

Jeff had to handle his own life lessons at a young age. He

grew up as a Ram, living in Rockford since he was 4. He set his

sights on being a three-sport athlete, playing football and basketball

through the fall and winter his freshman year while

eyeing the baseball team for the spring. Those plans had to be

shelved, however, when he started experiencing some issues.

“Unfortunately, during football season I received some very

tough news,” he shares. “I was experiencing lower back pain

at the time which eventually resulted in seeing a neurologist.

An initial MRI revealed that I had an acute disc herniation and

also discovered I was dealing with sciatica of the lower back.

At the age of 15 I was told that my prognosis was quite rare and

in all likelihood my dreams of competing as a three-sport athlete

were extremely unlikely. I remember feeling completely

devastated. I was informed by the medical specialists that I’d

be fortunate to have the opportunity to compete in even one

sport.”

He kept with basketball and played under the guidance of

coaches Steve Majerle and Ryan DeKuiper. He was a shooting

guard for the Rams, wearing No. 42, inspired by his admiration

of the likes of Jackie Robinson and Jerry Stackhouse. His

Rams freshman basketball head coach Jeff Cole talks to one of

his players. ~ Contributed Photo

junior year found the Rams crowned as district champions. In

his senior year, which he fondly recalls as a magical season, his

team earned an OK Red title and posted a perfect 20-0 record

during the regular season. That feat was a first in the basketball

program’s history.

“Basketball has been a huge part of my life since I was quite

young,” he shares. “Having lived in Rockford most of my life

I had the opportunity to play this great game as a young boy

in our Community Education program on through my junior

and senior years of high school. I’ve been extremely blessed

to have played for many phenomenal coaches and teammates

that certainly had a major impact on my development as a student-athlete.

Playing under the leadership of head coach Steve

Majerle and assistant coach Ryan DeKuiper was special to say

the least. I firmly believe both coaches developed the high

standard of success and winning culture that our basketball

program strives for to this day.”

30 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020

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