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In 2005, Coach Carter, a sports drama based on the true story of Richmond High School basketball coach Ken Carter, who garnered national attention in 1999 after suspending his undefeated high school basketball team due to poor academics, was released in theaters. Directed by Thomas Carter, and co-written by “One Tree Hill” creators John Gatins and Mark Schwahn, Coach Carter focused on the coach’s (Samuel L. Jackson) daunting task of putting an emphasis on scholastic achievement in the face of indifference from not only his players, but the school faculty and community as a whole. While Coach Carter and his team endure a myriad of hurdles along the road, in the end, their determination pays off with the Richmond High basketball team recording their most successful season in history, and Coach Carter’s relentless fixation on academic success yielding admirable results.
Boasting a cast that also included Channing Tatum, Rick Gonzalez, Rob Brown, Robert Ri’chard, Nana Gbewonyo, Antwon Tanner, Ashanti and Octavia Spencer, Coach Carter was a runaway success, grossing $76,669,806 worldwide and was hailed as one of the more exceptional films of the year. Jackson’s role as Coach Carter received a considerable amount of accolades including the award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture at the 37th NAACP Image Awards in 2005, and remains one of the veteran actor’s more riveting performances. Fifteen years since its release on January 14, 2005, the film continues to resonate with viewers from all walks of life and is an example of the positive impact that a black man can have on his own community.
With the 15th anniversary of the film’s release upon us, REVOLT highlights five life lessons we learned from Coach Carter that still ring true today.
1. If You Play Like A Winner and Act Like A Winner, You’ll Be One
While making his formal introduction as Richmond High’s new basketball coach, Coach Carter lays down his ground rules, but finds opposition in the form of Jaron “Worm” Willis (Antwon Tanner) and Timo Cruz’s (Rick Gonzalez), both of whom mock their new authority figure. When the coach requests that Timo vacate the gym, things get heated with Cruz attempting to take a swing at him before being forcefully subdued by Carter. In addition to setting the tone physically, Coach Carter also sets his expectation that the rest of the team play like winners and act like winners in order to become winners, not only on the court, but in life.
2. A Team Struggles and Triumphs As One
Cast away from the Richmond High School basketball team for insubordination and attempted assault, Timo Cruz’s valiant attempt to rejoin the squad falls short after failing to complete 2,500 push-ups and 1,000 suicide drills in the allotted time. Unmoved by his effort, Coach Carter orders Cruz to leave the gym, but is persuaded by Cruz’s teammate Jason Lyle (Channing Tatum), who along with the other players, offer to help Cruz hold up the end of the bargain. “We’re a team,” Lyle reminds Carter. “One person struggles, we all struggle. One player triumphs, we all triumph.” Taking accountability for their teammate’s shortcomings, this gesture is one of the first instances where the coach’s words connect with his players and is a lesson in selflessness and the importance of working together as a team.
3. The Importance of Wanting A Better Life
Disgruntled by the media attention surrounding Coach Carter and his decision to lock down the gym in lieu of poor academic performance from the team, the players voice their displeasure during a team meeting. However, the coach turns the tables and points out the statistical evidence of what could become of their lives without pursuing a high school diploma and a college degree, with incarceration among the more bleak possibilities. Asking the team to look at the reality of their current station in life and decide if they’re willing to work towards a better one, Carter gets his troops back on track with his speech, which serves as a reminder that education is a key factor in success.
4. We All Have To Face Our Deepest Fear
Deciding to resign as coach of the Richmond High basketball team after his decision to lock down the gym is overruled, Carter is all packed-up and ready to vacate the premises. That is until he discovers that the team has taken it upon themselves to turn the gym into a make-shift study hall and improve their grades before returning to the court. Timo Cruz also answers the coach’s question about his biggest fear with a moving poem about his hesitance to reach his own full potential before thanking him for helping save his life and steer him toward a productive path. This scene is pivotal in the film and one that inspires all of us to face our fears and insecurities head-first in order to become the best version of ourselves.
5. True Champions Find The Victor Within
After recording a historic regular season, the Richmond High basketball team is selected to compete in the California state CIF high school playoffs, where they’re matched up against top-seeded powerhouse St. Francis in the first round. While the Oilers lose in devastating fashion due to a last-second buzzer-beater by St. Francis, their efforts are praised by Carter, who highlights that even more important than having a storybook ending is their discovery of the victor within. In life, we often look at how far we have to go or how we’ve fallen short without acknowledging how far we’ve come, and the inner-strength and perseverance that it took to get there, which makes Coach Carter one of the greatest coming-of-age films of its time.