Have you ever watched a movie and its message stayed with you long afterwards? Recently, I watched the movie “Undefeated,” a documentary based on the true story of a high school football team, the Manassas Tigers, who when the movie begins, have yet to have a winning season. The high school serves a very poor and Black area of Tennessee, and many of these Black youth are being raised by single mothers or grandmothers. For many of these kids, one or both of their parents are deceased. There is little hope of rising above their circumstances and the morale in the school is low–much like the community’s. The football coach is one of the movie’s central characters who volunteers his time to coach his players into a winning team. His goal is to have his team play in the playoffs–something that has never happened before for this school.
I won’t spoil the movie for you if you haven’t seen it, but I would like to bring up some issues a lot Americans tend to ignore.
What of our Black youth who live in impoverished areas?
What hopes do they have of living their best life, a meaningful life; of working hard to achieve the American dream?
How do you do hold onto your dreams when you’re lucky if you graduate high school?
When the school is so bad you can barely read or write?
When you can’t focus on your school work because you’re too focused on your basic needs like your next meal or a roof over your head?
When you can’t afford college or can’t pass the SAT or ACT?
When you have to support your family?
When selling drugs or taking them helps you get by?
When your girlfriend is pregnant?
Think about this for a minute: Would you lose hope for a better life? Would you feel defeated?
One young man in the film, Money, is an honors student at the school, but his hopes of attending college are unrealistic because he can’t afford the cost. Another player wants to play football at college, but his grades are terrible and he needs a tutor–which he can’t pay for. Another player comes back on the team after being incarcerated for over a year. His anger issues probably stem in part because he lacks hope for a bright future and instead focuses on the unfairness of his past and present. The frustration erupts in angry and sometimes violent outbursts; he has not been taught an appropriate way of expressing it, which is why he landed in jail in the first place.
The football coach in this movie provides his team hope–hope for academic success and for athletic success (like my husband says, “All you need is one person in the world who believes in you, who supports you, who lifts you up and doesn’t put you down.”)
Hope is so important to have in life. To have hope is to look to the positive side in life and have faith that things will work out.
This is what life coaches, counselors, and therapists provide their clients with–hope. Hope for a better future, a better tomorrow, a better NOW.
As long as you have hope, you can move forward in life despite anything that tries to get in your way.
“Undefeated” is a movie about hope. By the end of the movie, the players weren’t feeling defeated–not just in a sports sense, but in an emotional and psychological sense. They were inspired because one man, their coach, helped them to see another perspective, to focus on their dreams and to work hard. They had to overcome a lot of obstacles and their lives still weren’t “perfect” (by our standards) but they felt accomplished. Good individual and team effort + focus + a good attitude = success.
This movie also raised the subject of another challenge these kids had to work through–being fatherless–and how lost and angry they felt. The coach in this movie provided much needed role modeling and guidance for these young men–something they weren’t getting in their homes. Boys need strong male role models and many of their role models were either deceased or incarcerated. (I couldn’t help thinking too about parental alienation with some fathers being rejected and shut out of their children’s lives intentionally. Here you have a father who is willing and able to be a parent to their children and unfortunately, their child is used like a weapon to punish their dad for whatever their mother perceives he has done–and this goes both ways, but in this instance we are talking about rejected fathers. My point: Children need both parents in their lives! The more love, the better!).
Watching the movie, I realized that although we have come a long way with the Civil Rights movement, we still have a way to go. And this goes not just for race, but for gender, culture, and other aspects of diversity and disabilities. We are all human underneath this body we possess. We all want a good life for ourselves and our family. We all want to feel loved and to love. We all want to feel we are valuable in this world. We all want to know we matter.
Humans suffer when their most basic needs aren’t met–food, shelter, clothing, love…I think we all need hope, too. We’re lucky–if you’re reading this, you probably don’t have to worry about your basic needs met. However, there are people who do in this country.
Here’s my challenge to you: How can we provide hope to others? How can we leave the world a better place than how we found it–even if it is in our own little corner of the world?