James Jackson set his goal in life to coach his favorite sport while starring for the Newton Rams’ basketball team back in the 1970s.
Fast forward 30 years later and Jackson has reached his goal – maybe not as a profession like he envisioned, but still just as rewarding nonetheless.
Jackson has been teaching the skills and fundamentals of basketball to Newton’s youth with the Newton County Recreation Commission for 30 years.
“I just enjoy the kids having a good time, realizing they can compete with anybody once they work hard,” Jackson said. “When I coach, I tell them my intentions are for them to play middle and high school basketball.”
He started playing basketball himself at a young age, up until his senior year in high school. Jackson even earned most valuable player honors for the 1978 Newton Rams, earning a scholarship to play ball at Morris Brown College.
Jackson didn’t make it to Morris Brown, but instead started working with the NCRC, where he first got into coaching. Since then, he has taken on several teams a season and spent some time coaching baseball. But his passion has always remained basketball, teaching the game to both girls and boys.
He even prefers coaching girls’ teams because, he said, they are more eager to learn the basics.
“I like to teach the girls because they learn the fundamentals,” Jackson said. “The boys already know more than you know, so they don’t want to listen. The girls are very competitive; they listen to you.”
Last season, he coached the 9-10 girls’ team, the 13-15 girls’ team and the 14-16 boys’ team. Every year, parents specifically ask for Jackson to be their child’s coach because of his enjoyment for instilling the fundamentals and basics of the game he loves.
“(I) just (like) to see the kids’ face when they make that first two points and they have never played basketball before,” Jackson said. “I like to see the parents holler and scream when their kids make a basket. I like to see the smile on their face.”
That smile is what keeps him coming back to the NCRC’s gymnasium six nights a week. On weekdays, he heads straight from work as a production planner with LioChem to the gymnasium.