By Greg Gielczyk

FERRYSBURG–Not long after graduating from high school, Jeff Cooling enlisted in the United States Air Force.

Cool, a 1987 graduate of Joliet Central in Joliet, Ill., served his country for 10 years.

An E-5 staff sergeant, Cooling was an electrician maintaining all the buildings on the base. He did not have any duties servicing airplanes.

He was stationed on Rhineland Air Base in Germany, and later at Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Greene County, Ohio, which includes both Wright and Patterson Fields. Those fields were originally Wilbur Wright Field and Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot.

While in the Air Force, Cooling took leadership courses, which later served him well in civilian life.

He was on Jolieit’s first soccer team, and carries a love for the sport that has led to a lengthy career as a soccer official. His officiating career encompasses youth club soccer, high school, college and semi-professional levels, including the Muskegon Risers.

“I grew up playing soccer probably since I was about 5 or 6 years old,” Cooling said. “I’ve just loved it ever since.”

Cooling has been married 28 years to Kim and they have two children, Josh, 24, and Caitlyn, 22. They live in Ferrysburg.

Officiating college games is a joy for Cooling.

“I love it,” he said. “The pace of the game, just the level of play that they’re doing out there. Not to belittle what the youth teams do, but to see the players grow up and develop into that college player and being involved in a game that’s that high level is really rewarding.”

Naturally, there’s a good deal of traveling involved.

Cooling says he travels as far north as the Cadillac and Big Rapids areas, and as far south as Kalamazoo or Michigan City, Indiana.

While he has not officiated a high school state final yet, Cooling has done boys and girls state semifinal matches in the past.

Cooling officiates the Grand Haven Admirals games as well as the Risers.

“It’s very intense,” said Cooling. “At that point, these young men and women are professionals trying to move up to the next step.

“The pace of play is, of course, even more intense. But, just the excitement and thrill of doing it, plus the energy you feel from the spectators that are so involved in the game is awesome.”

Cooling, 52, typically doesn’t make any road trips to do Admirals or Risers games.

He’s still going strong, but realizes there will come a time when he’ll have to step away.

“Either until my body says no more, or my wife tells me,” Cooling said. “I’ve been very involved in it every spring and fall, six and sometimes seven days a week.

“She knows it’s my passion, and I just love being out there working the games,” he said. “Occasionally, I have to clear my schedule to do family events, of course. She’s very supportive.”

Cooling is the maintenance manager for the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids.

His time in the Air Force has benefited him in life.

“The things I learned in the service – structure, just following processes, following instructions I carry with me,” Cooling said. “Even what I do on the soccer field.”