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Discussion Guide: We Are Marshall


Movie Synopsis

Football is a game that knocks you down, then expects you to get back up. Life hit the West Virginia town of Huntington and its Marshall University even harder. When it did, Jack Lengyel came by to help pull them onto their feet by taking the job no one wanted: rebuilding the Marshall football program only months after a plane crash wiped out Marshall's beloved Thundering Herd. Matthew McConaughey portrays Lengyel, the energetic, compassionate coach of inexperienced players whose chances of victory are slim and none. They'll go with the slim. And as they do, their true-life story of heart, healing, and football will thrill and inspire you. It's game day. Time to play till the whistle blows!

We are marshall movie poster


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Discussion Questions

  1. What is Coach Lengyel’s biggest challenge in rebuilding the Marshall University team?
  2. Marshall loses several prospects to West Virginia because of the accident. This is one of many challenges. How does the team and coach respond to this?
  3. Coach Lengyel recruits players who played other sports to join his program. Is this effective? Do their overall athletic talents translate to football?
  4. How do the efforts, not on the scoreboard, help heal the devastated West Virginian community?
  5. Was it the correct response to continue moving forward with the football program after the accident? How would you respond to this tragedy?
  6. Marshall eventually became a powerhouse football program again, recruiting the likes of Randy Moss, Chad Pennington and others. How do the actions of Coach Lengyel and the Huntington community impact the program’s success even years later?
  7. Coach Lengyel did not focus on ‘scoreboard winning’ but instead emphasized effort. Do you think this approach eventually translated to scoreboard winning anyways?

What Parents Need To Know

Parents need to know that tweens and teens who like sports movies may very well want to see this emotional drama, which is based on a real-life 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people from a small West Virginia university, including football team members and staff. The crash is rendered in an instant (as an electrical "zap"); viewers then see flaming wreckage in the woods as firemen shake their heads (no bodies, just sadness). Mourning, often angrily expressed, takes place at funerals, over meals, and during football practice. The film includes some iffy language ("damn," "s--t," and "hell"), as well as tension among players, coaches, and boosters. In one scene, players drink a case of beer, bonding in their drunkenness.

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Our partner, Positive Coaching Alliance, provides a collection of movie discussion guides, which aim to help you make the most out of movie viewing with your team or child. Movies provide many of "teachable moments" parents can share with their young athletes helping them be successful, contributing members of society.

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