Coach Carter: It Begins on the Street. It Ends Here. (2005)

Posted: March 20, 2013 in Drama, Sport
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coach_carterFacing a troubling time for the high school’s basketball program, former high school star Ken Carter agrees to take on the coaching responsibilities. Initially met with a lot of attitude, his strict rules and unusual tactics help him begin to weed out the undedicated players and turn his attention to the remaining students, including his son who transferred to play under the coaching of his father. Having come off of a losing season, Carter starts the team from the basics and reconditions the young men to believe in playing as a team. As the wins start to pile up, the energy of the school rises alongside them. It is as the team and the students are on the rise that Coach Carter realizes that his students are mostly failing classes and breaking his player contracts. Locking out the gym and forfeiting a set of games gets the community’s attention and bring to light the question of the culture around sports and academics.

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson (Coach Ken Carter), Rob Brown (Kenyon Stone), Robert Ri’chard (Damien Carter), Rick Gonzalez (Timo Cruz), Nana Gbewonyo (Junior Battle), Antwon Tanner (Worm), Channing Tatum (Jason Lyle), Ashanti (Kyra), Texas Battle (Maddux), Denise Dowse (Principal Garrison), Debbi Morgan (Tonya), Octavia Spencer (Mrs. Battle)

Playing the controversial coach was the talented Samuel L. Jackson. Bringing his loud yet effective personality to the role, he was able to bring both an entertainment factor and an intensity to the role to make this particular film stand out. As the main focus of the students, Rob Brown displays a quiet struggle in his multiple relationships with the coach, his girlfriend and his mother, as he navigates a possible future he did not know he had. Antwon Tanner presented an equally engaging story as he tried to exhibit the difficulty in getting pulled into a dangerous world.

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Though not related to the man represented by this film, Thomas Carter wanted to direct this story of recovery and triumph. Coach Carter did not know that he was going to take over the team but he seemed to be quite prepared to take on the challenge. Developing a set of contracts, Carter wanted to prove how highly he valued the academic experience with the athletic competition. As he deconstructed the team and worked from the basics, he was able to get the players to take a hard look at their decisions and start to play more as a team. The bumps along the road mostly came from their lack of attention to their status as students and getting too confident in their gameplay, but Carter locking out the gym took a strong toll on the community and helped snap the players back into shape academically. While the team may not have accomplished everything they hoped to, the efforts put forth that year rippled out to opportunities beyond their time playing the game in high school.

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The one most intriguing element of this story was the debate of the value of athletics versus academics. The reality in high school is that athletics are generally not a profitable endeavor for the academic program, yet they are important from the community perspective and can be a gateway for some kids to continue their education. The film provided a glimpse of this conversation. Carter addressed the media by talking about his value for education and the need for the players to meet certain standards. Many would argue that athletics and academics need to be two separate conversations, as commonly gets highlighted at the collegiate level. The reality is that they are irrevocably joined and there are more opportunities available for students who use sports to explore further academic pursuits than there are professional careers for athletes.

The film has a great main storyline while trying to give more backstory into a few of the characters, between dealing with high school pregnancy, gang violence and abandonment. While some of these elements are managed fairly well, there are too many smaller story lines to be able to give each their due attention. There are also some of the stereotypical urban high school movie elements that feel a little less natural in their presentation.

Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5

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