Every once in a while a film comes a long that inspires those of us who work with youth—you can make an impact in the lives of kids!
does just that. Based on a true story, Samuel L. Jackson plays the controversial high school basketball coach who benched his undefeated team due to their collective poor academic record in 1999.
This film gives a realistic glimpse at the world that many of our kids live in and the struggle they’re facing. More so, it shows a good example of how a man doesn’t budge on his values, but shows love in his discipline and care for the teenagers he’s working with.
Coach Carter isn’t just a good story . . . it’s a good film. Performances are strong across the court. You wouldn’t expect less from Samuel L. Jackson, but the supporting cast came through as well. Rob Brown brings another strong performance, just as he did alongside Sean Connery in Finding Forrester. (Which, if you haven’t seen . . . do so now!)
And Rick Gonzalez really delivers as the rebellious Timo Cruz. (Ashanti isn’t too shabby either.)
Audiences also like Coach Carter
because it’s a “feel good” film—a success story. It doesn’t leave you depressed or in limbo walking out of the theatre. The conflict works itself out. We don’t always see a lot of that, especially in films based on true stories. It’s nice to hear a true story with a happy ending.
But the highlight of the film is truly Samuel L. Jackson’s character Coach Carter. The Coach’s strict style reminded me of stories I’ve heard of John Wooden, the UCLA coach who won 10 NCAA championships at UCLA and 88 straight games. No one has come close.
Rick Reilly writes this about Coach Wooden:
You played for him, you played by his rules: Never score with out acknowledging a teammate. One word of profanity, and you're done for the day. Treat your opponent with respect.
He believed in hopelessly out-of-date stuff that never did anything but win championships. No dribbling behind the back or through the legs. ‘There's no need,' he'd say. No UCLA basketball number was retired under his watch. ‘What about the fellows who wore that number before? Didn't they contribute to the team?' he'd say. No long hair, no facial hair. ‘They take too long to dry, and you could catch cold leaving the gym,' he'd say.
That one drove his players bonkers. One day, All America center Bill Walton showed up with a full beard. ‘It's my right,' he insisted. Wooden asked if he believed that strongly. Walton said he did. ‘That's good, Bill,' Coach said. ‘I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them. I really do. We're going to miss you.' Walton shaved it right then and there. Now Walton calls once a week to tell Coach he loves him.
gave the same feel. When kids needed help, it was his doorstep they were at. Many of us have experienced the same thing in youth ministry.
This film is a gem for a staff retreat. Watch this with your staff and talk about the balance between love and discipline. No, this film doesn’t illustrate how to run a youth group. But it’s principles of love and conviction carry over.
Should Kids See It?
Little kids? No. The film drops a couple “f” bombs, 30 “s” words, some slang terms for sex and more. Although there is no sex or nudity, there are a few scenes that start to get intimate. Once, the team finds themselves at a party with a swimming pool. The guys say they don't have any bathing suits—the girls say they don't either. Two of the girls then strip down to their small bras and panties, while one of the guys strips down to his boxers. Moments later, we see some passionate kissing in the pool.
Should Teenagers See It?
How do we decide what’s appropriate? This film probably isn’t appropriate for a church youth group setting because of the language and some of the sensual scenes described above. But I would probably take some mature high school kids to see it. For me the most important thing is the message of the film. And the message of this film comes through strong: don’t give up on life, just living for the moment. Think about your future.
That’s a strong message . . . one that needs to be heard. If the film had sex or nudity . . . I wouldn’t show kids. But this one will have to be your call. And you could always use CLEAN FILMS (use the link above) to rent it, getting rid of any sexual situations and profanity.
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):
- What are some of the messages or themes you observed in this movie?
- How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this movie?
- How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this movie to actually living out those opinions?
, president of The Source for Youth
Ministry, is the author of numerous books including the new
Should I Just Smash My Kid's Phone?
, and youth ministry books like
Ministry By Teenagers
Connect: Real Relationships in a
World of Isolation
, and the award winning book
Do They Run When They See You Coming?
speaks and trains
at conferences, churches and events across North
America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his
. You can follow Jonathan on
, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help.
Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live