Making the Grades
The football field may be the venue, but bigger life lessons are being taught on the gridiron at Memphis, Tennessee’s Manassa High School.
As the volunteer head coach for the past five years, Bill Courtney has made huge family and professional sacrifices to build the school’s sports program. But despite the team’s dismal record, he refuses to give up on his players or their futures. Coming from a fatherless home himself, he understands these young men need a positive male role model, someone that cares and has expectations. On and off the field, he demands discipline, personal responsibility and commitment from his players to their schoolwork and team.
Unfortunately these students are a tough bunch. Many live in broken homes and houses best suited for demolition. Their inner city community is littered with garbage, deserted dwellings and abandoned businesses that have left much of the neighborhood’s population struggling financially. The school’s underfunded football program earns money for equipment and travel by hiring out to bigger schools as a practice team. The games provide much needed cash but deflate the players’ confidence even more with every trouncing.
This documentary follows a number of the team member of the Manassa High School Tigers, O.C. Brown, Montrail “Money” Brown and Chavis Daniels, and their coaches for an entire season as they work through wins, losses and setbacks. Frequent cussing on the practice field and a strong expletive during a tense game will be the film’s biggest content concerns for some family viewers.
However, for football lovers and non-sport enthusiasts alike, Coach Courtney focuses more on building these underprivileged boys into “uncommon men” than on having them just memorize the playbook. “Football doesn’t build character,” he tells them, “It reveals character.” Luckily for parents and teens in the audience, these character-building lessons apply equally on and off the sports field.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Undefeated.
How does the Uncommon Man award recognize achievements of individual players? What are the benefits of such acknowledgements? Are the demands Coach Courtney makes of the boys reasonable?
Why does Coach Courtney feel so strongly about a father’s role? What sacrifices does he make to mentor and direct these young men? What is the cost to his own family? How might one individual change a community?