This sports film, set in Alexandria, Virginia in 1971, is based on the true story of Herman Boone, a newly-appointed black coach of a high school football team’s first season as an integrated team.
Coach Boone has replaced Bill Yoast who was asked to step down from his longtime coaching position. Needless to say, tensions were pretty high at this time. The community, used to their old ways, rallied against the integration at every turn, demonstrations, picketing, and clashes with police. Not only that, there was tension throughout the school between Coach Boone and his new assistant coach and also between the players (both black and white).
Even with all odds against him, Coach Boone sets out to produce a winning team, because that’s what he’s there to do. He puts his team through exhaustive training, and constantly tells them that they must always perform with the goal of being the best. He also says that if they have passion and stay committed, they can beat the odds and win.
Although there are many themes highlighted in this film, the overall theme is teamwork. A couple of specific scenes come to mind:
When the entire team ran to the Gettysburg battlefield, the coach compared the teammates to the Gettysburg soldiers. He explained that they were fighting among themselves just as the soldiers did so long ago. Coach Boone warned them that they had better learn to work together or be destroyed as the soldiers were. The teammates definitely learned a lesson from that exercise.
As the season went on and the players had won a few games, many of them were no longer practicing as hard and didn’t seem to be working to their fullest potential Because of this, a few of the players took ownership of the situation, called a team meeting, and reminded the entire team that everyone needs to pull their weight and come together if they wanted to keep winning. At the beginning of the next game, the team warmed up with a newly-learned choreographed song and dance. Without teamwork, this never would have happened.
Coach Boone’s task of bringing the team together and teaching them valuable lessons along the way was another obvious example of teamwork in action.
It was not just about the principles of football and being their best at the game. It was also about a journey from prejudice and intolerance to understanding and tolerance of others. This was evident in the various training scenes. The difficulties they faced during the training sessions made them bond together as a team because they truly felt each other’s pain. They realized that no matter what their individual difficulties and their sometimes misguided perceptions of each other did not matter on the football field.