I had the opportunity to finally watch a movie I’ve been waiting for a long time to watch, and it was better than I thought it was going to be. It was a documentary about a high school football program in inner-city Memphis called Undefeated.
This is the type of movie I get pretty excited about, because it reminds of my football days and the great coaches that influenced my life. Coaches can end up playing a significant role in helping young people define who they will become as they grow older. The coach featured in Undefeated was an exceptional leader of young men and did an exception job in helping his students make lives for themselves.
The movie is a documentary that follows the football program at Manassas High School. Manassas High School is located in the inner-city of Memphis and its football program has struggled for years. The movie explains that Manassas hasn’t won a playoff game in its 100 year existence. The reason the school has struggled so much was that many of the talented inner-city kids would transfer to other power programs believing Manassas was a doormat of a football school. Add in the fact that many of these inner-city kids had to deal with real life problems that nobody should have to deal with and the school’s football program took a back seat and its ability to win games took that seat right along with the program.
The football coach, Bill Courtney, is an individual who grew up without a father. His father abandoned his family long ago and he explains to the cameras that experiencing that pain caused him to feel worthless or unworthy. He wanted to know why he didn’t deserve to have his dad help carry his football equipment after a game when other kids had their fathers right there with them throughout their entire life. As a result, Courtney uses that experience to help his football players, many of whom come from homes without fathers or without mothers.
Courtney is seen going to players homes to help resolve issues that players are having with other players. He deals with his players’ criminal convictions and he teaches them about life and the importance of character. He explains that football doesn’t develop character, but that football reveals character. In his opinion character does not come from someone’s successes but how he/she reacts from his/her failures. It’s a powerful message that many of his players needed in their troubled lives.
There is one particularly powerful moment when a player known as Money struggles through a football injury. Money was a good high school football player who knew he wasn’t going to be able to play college football. His goal was to become a lawyer so he could represent football players in the NFL. The kid was smart and was getting good grades. However, when he got injured halfway through the season and had to sit out for the rest of the regular season, his life began to crumble apart. He stopped going to school and he stopped going to physical therapy. He was making bad choices and he was on the verge of throwing his life away.
Part of his decision to throw everything away came from his inability to afford college. He had done everything right in school and had good grades, but in the end he couldn’t afford to pay to go to college. And he believed college was a dream that would never be realized no matter how hard he worked towards that goal.
Courtney worked with Money and told him to make good decision and do right things and good things would follow. Money eventually followed his coach’s advice and went to school and physical therapy. Eventually Money was able to come back to the team and was allowed to play in the school’s playoff game.
During a practice leading up to the playoff game, Courtney pulled Money aside and reminded him that if he made good choices and did right things that good things would happen. Courtney then revealed to Money that a wealthy acquaintance of one of the volunteer coaches offered to pay Money’s way through college. The acquaintance offered to pay every college expense Money incurred and Money could choose any college in the country and his tuition and other expenses would be paid.
After hearing the news, Money dropped his helmet and collapsed to the ground in tears of happiness and relief. He was going to go make a life with that gift and it was all because he did right things as his coach asked him to do. It was a strong reminder of what people can do to help those in need and how much that help can be to someone in need.
Whether you are a football fan or not, I would strongly recommend watching Undefeated and learn a little about life and others’ struggles.
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