The environment (very often) likes to shape our destiny in subtle ways. Often, it’s the people closest to us. They persuade us that such circumstances, environment, life, people, the state, politics, should not be disturbed, and so on. They tell us to adapt to what surrounds us if we want a chance to (more or less) achieve something in life. It’s bad if they say these things to harm us, to discourage us, and destroy our dreams. But I think it’s worse if they genuinely believe that what they’re telling us is right (the truth).
And we believe in what they say. You see, if you’ve been convinced of something from an early age, you grow up believing it’s the truth. And later, when you grow up, the wider environment takes you under its wing, telling you similar stories.
But it happens that (suddenly) someone appears who deviates from the environment with their beliefs. They start telling you that it may not be a problem with you but with the system that is flawed and doesn’t promote the development and well-being of people, for various reasons (often involving politics or money… most commonly both… or the lack thereof). And that, with discipline and effort, you can achieve much more than you could ever imagine. Much more than the environment could have imagined…
Ken Carter (Coach Carter) received an offer to take over the job of a basketball coach at “Richmond High School” in the city of the same name in California. Mr. Carter had left a mark on this high school as a basketball player, so it’s safe to say he knows basketball. And since he grew up in this area, he knows what life is like here. Not great.
The students at this high school are mostly Latino, Hispanic, or African Americans. Their families are fairly poor and can provide only the basic necessities of life. The police don’t frequent this part of town much (or at all). Gangs dominate. Drug dealing. Not an inspiring environment, as you can imagine.
And the school is no better. The teachers are not motivated, and it seems they don’t care if some students skip their classes. Even the principal has given up on the idea that things will get better.
But for one group of kids, there’s a small escape. And that’s basketball. A group of high schoolers who love playing basketball and make a good team. But they are a losing team (very few victories). And Ken Carter noticed that. He also noticed that they were very rude, uncultured, arrogant (“Do you know who I am, bro?“), and undisciplined.
So Ken Carter offered these kids a kind of (individual) contract. But not the kind you might expect. He promised to teach them how to really play basketball (and win, too), on the condition that the players:
- Attend classes regularly (no more skipping)
- Sit in the front rows during classes
- Wear shirts and (even the cheapest) suits on game days
- Address each other, especially the coach, as “sir,” as a sign of respect
- Maintain grades at a 2.3 or C+ level (in other words, a strong passing grade)
Of course, the basketball team saw Coach Carter as if he had just fallen from the sky, and they even showed a fairly hostile and aggressive attitude towards him. But once the coach showed them he meant business, he started teaching them a painful lesson in discipline.
However, there are reasons why these kids are the way they are (far from being model children or community members). They have their problems that go beyond the economic situation in their families. Many of them face family and life dramas (like the team captain, torn between a pregnant girlfriend and a potential basketball career; or a guy who is quite aggressive and involved in the criminal world because he doesn’t know any better; or a white kid struggling in that environment). And then there’s Ken Carter’s son, who leaves an elite school (and their basketball team) to transfer to “Richmond High” because he wants his father to continue coaching him (to which Ken makes it clear that he won’t receive any special treatment… and indeed, he faces greater challenges than other players).
However, Ken Carter, alongside his discipline, has faith in these young people. He believes they are not losers for whom the only hope of survival is to get a basketball scholarship (a few percent of them) or turn to crime and hope no one shoots them. He believes that everyone deserves a chance at academic education and that playing basketball is not just for those who are naturally good at it but a privilege for academically educated people.
In short, he believes that the kids at this high school are not idiots or dull as rocks, and they don’t deserve to be treated as such.
Slowly but surely, changes start to appear in the team. They start winning game after game, culminating in winning a local school tournament. They become a kind of local stars, loved by both students and teachers. They become arrogant.
And that’s when Coach Carter’s shock and disappointment in the team come into play.
Although they seemed (more or less) disciplined on the court, outside of it, they were still misbehaving. Starting with sneaking out after the tournament and going to a party (and getting quite drunk, even Ken’s good son), to the coach’s realization that they hadn’t fulfilled one important aspect of the contract.
Grades. You see, one of the conditions was that teachers would send Coach Carter reports on his players’ performance in class (attendance, grades, and the like). At first, the teachers didn’t care about it, but later, under his pressure, they started sending him the reports.
Except for two or three, all of them had very poor grades (below the agreed-upon level) or didn’t even attend classes.
And they hid it from their coach, even though the agreement was different.
That’s when Coach Carter decided to make a radical move.
He put a padlock on the basketball court… literally.
“Richmond High School” would not participate in any more championships until further notice, and he put his players in the library. They wouldn’t play basketball until they improved their grades. The players were furious, thinking Coach Carter was ruining their lives.
This led to a scandal, which the media also covered. While academic circles applauded Coach Carter’s decision to prioritize education over sports, the school and its teachers (along with the rest of the city) turned against Ken Carter. How could he have the right to forbid his players to play in the midst of this high school’s historic success in basketball? Was he a fool?! What’s worse, these thoughts came from people you would least expect… the parents of those young basketball players.
This led to the famous “hearing” of Coach Carter in front of the school board, attended by both the parents of the players and other concerned individuals. They all attacked Coach Carter for not letting the kids play but instead “bothering” them with studying, something these boys weren’t capable of.
Did Coach Ken Carter succeed in his endeavor, and what fate awaited him and the young basketball players? You’ll find out if you watch the movie “Coach Carter.” 🙂
For me, this was a great film, for many reasons.
Firstly, the plot. This is actually a biographical-documentary-sports film based on the true story of former basketball coach (now a businessman) Ken Carter, who made the decision to prohibit his team from playing until they improved their grades. Translating a true story into a film is a challenging task, but I believe this film succeeded wonderfully. It’s a great blend of drama and family film with a touch of sports.
The music perfectly fits the storyline and the period in which the movie “Coach Carter” is set. Rap dominates, accompanied by R&B and hip-hop, featuring some prominent music names. Fans of these genres will recognize artists like Fabolous, Ciara, Kanye West, Van Hunt, DMX, Anthony Hamilton, Nina Sky, Akon, Avant, N.E.R.D, Black Eyed Peas, Tyrese, and many more… all in all, excellently composed songs for this film.
As for the acting… it’s almost needless to say that the legendary Samuel L. Jackson did a fantastic job. This is undoubtedly one of his better roles in his career, and I don’t think I need to say much about what he has done for Hollywood. Interestingly, “Coach Carter” was the film debut for singer Ashanti (and she did quite well). There are also some recognizable names like Rick Gonzalez (you might know him from the series “Arrow”) and Channing Tatum (cue the thunderous sighs of women worldwide… yes, he’s in it). Overall, the acting is excellent.
Of course, the most powerful aspect is the universal and strong messages that this film conveys. Some of them include:
- Education should be an opportunity, and not all kids are as incapable as their environment (and sometimes their parents) believes.
- We shouldn’t be afraid to stand out and lead the way, rather than conform to our adversaries.
- Failure in some things can actually be a great victory if we extract the right lessons.
- Don’t be arrogant in your victories! And definitely don’t humiliate your opponents!
- Just because someone tells us to give up on something and that we won’t succeed doesn’t mean they’re right, and we should give up! Some things in life are simply a test of our will and dedication.
- If you’re part of a team, then the team is part of you. You share everything, both the good and the bad moments.
- Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure, and it’s our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. This quote, often attributed to Nelson Mandela but actually by Marianne Williamson, is one of the most powerful inspirational texts ever written.
And there are many other wonderful thoughts woven into the film.
This film has a certain weight to it. Somehow… you won’t experience it as a typical inspirational-motivational film… at least, I didn’t. There’s something empowering about this film. That’s why I recommend people to watch it carefully. Everyone. It doesn’t matter how things are going for you in your life right now. Are you struggling with studying? Facing career challenges? Wrestling with doubts about your (sports) future? Can’t muster the strength to deal with family problems? Not sure if you can escape poverty? Watch this film. “Coach Carter” might just give you some answers. 🙂
A recommendation from me. 🙂
And you, dear reader, have you ever encountered someone like Ken Carter in your life?
(Originally reviewed: 15/03/2020)
Release date: 2005. godina
Runtime: 136 minutes