Some movies have good messages, but they are obscure, hidden within the action and the drama. This is not one of those movies. When the Game Stands Tall is full of good messages, challenging ideas, and inspirational themes, but they aren’t hidden—they’re obvious—and it’s refreshing. It’s refreshing to go to a movie and come away challenged to be a better person, live a richer, fuller, better life. If the movie were fictional, you might accuse it of being a little preachy, even, but it’s hard to accuse it of that when it’s a true story. It’s not some manipulative opportunity, but rather a recounting of the way Bob Ladouceur coached his team. He just happened to be a godly man who saw football as an opportunity to teach his players about a better way to live…and this film is an opportunity to do the same to those who see it. Don’t miss the opportunity to talk to people who see When the Game Stands Tall about some of the themes and messages in the movie! Here are a few to get you started…
Return for your Giving
Coach Bob and his students and players talk about the meaning of Luke 6:38 “’Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ What does that really mean?” He asks. Some kids think it means that they are promised success if they give in various ways first. Tayshon challenges that. He has seen drug dealers who get ahead and appear to be “blessed,” while an honest, hard working nurse he knows gets fired and struggles to survive.
- What do you think this means?
- Do you think God’s word is true?
- If God’s word is true, as He says it is, then how can this verse be true, when reality is often as Tayshon says?
Chris Ryan has to choose between two very different ideologies, two different voices in his head and in his life—his coach and his dad. His dad tells him that success will make other people respect him. His dad says that he has to look out for himself, promote himself, that winning and being the best is everything in life. His coach tells him that there are more important things than winning. His coach says that it’s not about him or his record, but about the team. His coach says that it’s not about football, but about the character he learns while playing football because that is what will make him a man and help him as he goes out into the world.
Since the dawn of time, beginning in the Garden of Eden, there have been two voices competing for our attention—that of the Lord and that of Satan. Satan’s voice tempts us with pride and self-promotion. The voice of the Lord is always in opposition to that. He cautions us to set aside our pride and self-promotion. He tells us that the last shall be first, and that he who desires to be the greatest in God’s kingdom must become the servant of all. Satan tempts us to think that our success in a given area is critical to our future, our life, our everything. God says it’s not about our success, but about our character and that whatever our “thing” is, it’s only a means to an end. It’s not about that “thing” but about the character we learn while doing that “thing” because that is what will make us more like Jesus and help us as we go out into the world.
- Have you ever felt torn between two voices, two ways of thinking about the world?
- Have you ever felt torn between God’s way of looking at the world and Satan’s?
- What is that “thing” in your life (for Chris it was football) which you are tempted to think will make or break your future?
- How can that “thing” become less important to you, and the character you gain from it become more important?
Giving Up the Record
Because Chris realized that it wasn’t about his record, it was about the team, he gave up the opportunity to break the record. When he did this, it was a public declaration of whose ideology he was going to follow. He sided with his coach and against his father in this act. It was kind of like baptism. It was a public statement to all of his allegiance. Sometimes you have to take a stand and make it public. Sometimes that’s the only way to free yourself. His father kept pushing him because, until that point, he still felt he had an opportunity to influence his son. And until that point, Chris had always given in to his father’s pressure. That was the defining moment. The Bible says to “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7)—that’s what Chris was doing when he turned down the opportunity to break the record.
- Why do you think Chris refused to break the record?
- Do you think it would have been wrong for Chris to have played out the game and broken the record?
- How do you think Chris’ public stand changed his relationship with his father moving forward?
- Have you ever had to make a public stand like that? Why?
- Have you ever taken a stand to resist the devil and to stand with Jesus? How did that change things in your life? (Or how might it if you did?)
Coach Bob told his players, “We’re not asking you to be perfect on every play. What we’re asking you is to give a perfect effort on every play from snap to whistle.” It’s an important distinction about perfection. A lot of people ask for perfect results, but that isn’t always controllable. What is controllable is our effort, and effort is far more important, because it’s about character. Perfect results without character are ultimately useless. If we are honest, we are in a world that values results more than the character involved in getting those results. The consequence of this is that we have a significant decline in character and in results. It’s a matter of foundation—a beautiful building on a bad foundation is worthless. It’s just a matter of time before it collapses and people are hurt in the wake of it. Few people give perfect effort to anything. If you want to get ahead in the world, Coach Bob is right, don’t worry about results, just focus on giving perfect effort.
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. – Colossians 3:23-24
- Explain the difference between perfection, and perfect effort.
- Which do you focus on more, perfect results or perfect effort?
- Why do you think giving perfect effort made such a difference for Coach Bob’s team?
- Do you think working for the Lord and not for men would make a difference in your life? How?
- Which do you think God cares more about, perfect effort or perfection/perfect results? Why?
It was either Coach Bob or the assistant coach who said, “Some people don’t know who they are, all that they have. They just know something’s missing in life.”
- Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
- What do you think most people are missing in life?
- Would you say that you know who you are? Do you think you really realize all that you have and how blessed you are?
- Do you feel like something is missing in your life? What do you think it is? Could it be Jesus?