Aaron Hostetter

Why You Should See “When the Game Stands Tall” With Your Teens

When you see the title and watch the trailer, you think back through all the football movies you have seen. I understand why your first reaction might be rolling your eyes over “another football movie.” I did, but then there’s the obvious “well Jim Caviezel is in it so it must be at least interesting” thought process.

As a former high school football player, the football storyline appealed to me. Anyone who has ever rooted for or attended a local high school football game or team can jump right into the movie in that aspect. However, this movie is about way more than just football.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis of the movie.

The film is based on the true story about a football program at De La Salle high school in Concord, California. After 12 consecutive undefeated seasons, the current team faces adversity with a young roster and the pressure of a community that has grown accustomed to perfection during the high school’s national record-setting win streak of 151 games. After suffering losses on and off the field, Coach Ladouceur (played by Jim Caviezel) inspires the team, showing them that in the midst of trials and difficulties, they can stand tall through their brotherhood and trust in God.

Personal side note: Caviezel played coach Ladouceur, a man who leads not with an animated hype man demeanor, but rather through a “quiet strength.” I couldn’t help but be reminded of former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, a man of faith who lived by many of the same principles as a coach and a man (and was viewed as a notably different style of coach vs. the prototype in the NFL). It came as no surprise to me that Dungy was featured in the resources for the movie (link below).

Here are 3 reasons why you should consider taking your teens to see “When the Game Stands Tall”:

1. The movie challenges the viewer to wrestle with things we all face in our culture: questions of doubt in times of loss, the obsession with performance, perfection (individual and team records) and adulation (trophies/fame) as indicators of our success and personal worth. We see the allure and conflict from turning our focus completely on the materialistic things of life. The movie points us to Matthew 23:12 as a strong counter to this way of thinking. Don’t take it the wrong way though. This movie isn’t suggesting that excellence and winning are bad things. When the Game Stands Tall gives us an opportunity to reflect on placing our hope and priorities in the things that are far less temporary: faith, family, and authentic brotherhood. You see that those other things (the records, fame) can be blessings to a person who seeks God first (Matthew 6:33).

Yet at the same time you learn the harsh reality of how we can lose sight of who we are and why we are here when we place our identity and worth in worldly things that can quickly be taken from us.

2. It can be a great lesson in teaching teens to support good causes and values (like a good movie that promotes virtue). Right now everyone, from former President George W. Bush to Shakira calling out Pope Francis, has become aware of the ice bucket challenge for ALS research. It shows that where we spend our money and our energy can make a positive impact on the world around us. We often look for “teachable moments” in youth ministry. Times when Truth can be drawn from an event or occurrence that life presents us with. This movie is an opportunity for one of those moments.

3. It’s a good movie. I’m a fan of things that are well made, creative and beautiful. Without getting into specifics, I know that I personally have a harder time when a movie with religious implications comes out heavy on the cheese and light on the art. I assure you that this movie is excellent in production and acting. It’s a good movie with a message, not a good message with a movie. You can feel confident that a diverse group of teens will enjoy this movie, not just the ones in your youth ministry program that are “all-in.”

You will laugh and be entertained, finding yourself tensely wrapped up in the competition of the games, and the lives of the players. It’s an incredible story, and a good use of a couple hours of life.

For group sales, ministry resources, and phenominal exclusive interviews with the cast and coach Ladouceur, visit http://standtallresources.com/

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Aaron Hostetter

About the Author

I love writing Catholic hip hop music, Philly sports, swing dance, and general tomfoolery. I'm inspired the most from the life and writings of Blessed Pope John Paul II.